Donors Capital Fund
Learn more about how the State Policy Network aids ALEC and spins disinformation in the states.
Donors Capital Fund (DCF), formed in 1999, is a 509(a)(3) supporting organization associated with DonorsTrust (DT). Both DCF and DT were, in the funds' words, "formed to safeguard the charitable intent of donors who are dedicated to the ideals of limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise." Along with its parent organization DT, DCF is a spin-off of the Philanthropy Roundtable, a coordinating body for conservative foundations run by DonorsTrust co-founder, president, and CEO Whitney L. Ball. Both funding organizations are called "donor-advised funds," which means that the funds create separate accounts for individual donors, and the donors then recommend disbursements from the accounts to different non-profits. They cloak the identity of the original mystery donors because the funds are then distributed in the name of DT or DCF, contributing another step to what has been called a "murky money maze."
As a rule, Donors Trust refers clients to Donors Capital Fund if they expect to open donor-advised funds of over $1,000,000.
The twin Donors organizations are advertised as a way for very wealthy people and corporations to remain hidden when "funding sensitive or controversial issues," creating a lack of accountability Please see DonorsTrust for more.
- 1 What Donors Funds, and How Much
- 2 DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund Grant Recipients
- 3 Personnel
- 4 Contact
- 5 Resources and Articles
What Donors Funds, and How Much
In total, almost $311 million was granted through DT and DCF between 2002 and 2010, according to an in-depth report by John Mashey published by DeSmog Blog. The Koch brothers and other ultra-wealthy industrial ideologues appear to be cloaking an untold amount of their donations to conservative political outlets through DT and DCF. The obscure Knowledge and Progress Fund, controlled by Charles G. Koch, with Richard Fink as president, has given only to Donors since 2005, according to Mashey.
Coincidentally, the related Philanthropy Roundtable chose to honor Charles G. Koch with its 2011 William E. Simon Prize for "Philanthropic Leadership," enabling him to choose a non-profit to receive a $250,000 grant. The Roundtable explained that Koch is at the "forefront of strategic investment in ideas, think tanks, and academic research. . . . Having benefited from the capitalist system, he wants others to prosper in the same way."
According to Robert Brulle, a Drexel University sociologist featured on PBS Frontline in October 2012, "by 2009, about one-quarter of the funding of the climate countermovement [of climate change denial] is from the Donors Trust [and] Donors Capital Fund." He added that "what you see is that as the contribution of Donors [to climate change denial groups] has increased over the 2003-to-2010 timeframe, the contribution of other foundations has declined. Koch went from a high of 9 percent of the funding flow in 2008 to 1 percent in 2010. We do know that the Koch brothers have made significant contributions to Donors Trust through their foundation called the Knowledge and Progress Fund. They gave $1.25 million in 2007, $1.25 million in 2008, and then $2 million in 2010 to Donors. We don’t know where it went after it goes to Donors, because it’s not necessarily a one-for-one giving."
DonorsTrust promises to only funnel money to groups with an extreme anti-environmental bend, so industrial billionaires need not worry about their money winding up at Greenpeace, for example, as DonorsTrust co-founder Whitney Ball explains:
- "...if a donor names his child a successor advisor, and she wants to give to Greenpeace, we're not going to be able to do that."
Groups that received funding through Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund in 2010 include:
- Americans For Prosperity Foundation (AFP Foundation), $7.6 million from Donors groups in 2010, 43% of its budget (AFP Foundation is chaired by David H. Koch and has received millions in direct funding from Koch Family Foundations since the Koch brothers founded it);
- Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), $1.3 million from Donors in 2010, 45% of its budget;
- Cornwall Alliance (through the James Partnership), $339,500 from Donors in 2010, 75% of its budget;
- Heartland Institute, $1.6 million from Donors in 2010, 27% of it's budget (coming from Chicago billionaire Barre Seid; and
- State Policy Network (SPN), 36% of its 2010 budget ($4.8 million) from Donors (SPN's regular and associate members include climate-denying organizations and many of the country's conservative think tanks and advocacy organizations, including AFP and Heartland).
Funding State Think Tanks' ALEC Membership
In the mid-2000s, SPN began to secure funding for more of its member think tanks to join ALEC in order to help develop model legislation. In 2011, some of this "secured funding" for SPN members' participation in ALEC came from DCF. According to DCF's 2011 IRS disclosure, it funded Michigan's Mackinac Center, North Carolina's John Locke Foundation, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Pennsylvania's Commonwealth Foundation, and six other member think tanks "for participation at American Legislative Exchange Council meeting," providing a total of $200,000 to the groups for that purpose.
Funding Islamophobia in the United States
Research from the Center for American Progress (CAP) indicates that DCF has funded various organizations and individuals contributing to an anti-Islamic hysteria in the United States. Between 2007 and 2009 the Donors Capital Fund contributed $21,318,600 to "groups promoting Islamophobia, some of which included the Middle East Forum, Clarion Fund, Investigative Project on Terrorism, and the David Horowitz Freedom Center. In 2008, Donors Capital contributions amounted to 96% of Clarion Fund's financial resources, which allowed the organization to distribute a controversial video called "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West," which attempted to persuade Americans of the supposed Islamist threat during the 2008 election cycle. 
Funding Climate Change Denial
In February 2013, the Guardian reported that nearly US$120 million dollars from "conservative billionaires" were routed through two trusts, DonorsTrust and the Donors Capital Fund, who used a "secretive funding route" to channel the funds "to more than 100 groups casting doubt about the science behind climate change." The trusts were "operating out of a generic town house in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington DC," and the funds "doled out between 2002 and 2010, helped build a vast network of thinktanks and activist groups working to a single purpose: to redefine climate change from neutral scientific fact to a highly polarising 'wedge issue' for hardcore conservatives."
The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) published a chart of the foundations and funds that gave money to DonorsTrust, and the organizations to which Donors Trust distributed the funds. In one example, DonorsTrust was a large supporter of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a think tank with a network of online media outlets in state capitals that covered climate change from a conservative point of view. According to IRS records, 95 percent of Franklin’s revenue in 2011 came from Donors Trust. The funding allowed Franklin to maintain tax-exemption as a “publicly supported” entity.
DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund Grant Recipients
For a the full list of 2011 and 2010 grant recipients, see the DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund Grant Recipients page.
As of April 2013:
- Adam Meyerson, Chairman - President, The Philanthropy Roundtable
- Kimberly O. Dennis, Vice Chairman - President, Searle Freedom Trust
- Whitney L. Ball, Director - President & CEO, DonorsTrust
- Arthur C. Brooks, Director - President, American Enterprise Institute
- Steven Hayward, Director - F.K. Weyerhaeuser Fellow, American Enterprise Institute
- Kris Alan Mauren, Director - Executive Director, The Acton Institute
- William H. Mellor, Director - President, Institute for Justice
- John A. Von Kannon, Director - Vice President, The Heritage Foundation
- Whitney L. Ball, President - President & CEO, DonorsTrust
- Kimberly O. Dennis, Secretary - President, Searle Freedom Trust
- Steven Hayward, Treasurer - F.K. Weyerhaeuser Fellow, American Enterprise Institute
- Jeffrey C. Zysik, Assistant Treasurer - CFO & CIO, DonorsTrust
- Bruce H. Jacobs, 1918-2010
As of October 2010:
- Christopher DeMuth, Director - D. C. Searle Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute
- Stephen Moore, Director - Economist; Editorial Board Member, Wall Street Journal; American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) "scholar"; Searle Freedom Trust board member
Resources and Articles
Related Sourcewatch Articles
- State Policy Network:
- American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
- Donors Capital Fund
- Koch Family Foundations
- Koch Industries
- Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
- Heritage Foundation
- Think tanks
- Whitney Ball
- Adam Meyerson
- Bridgett Wagner
- Philanthropy Roundtable
- William E. Simon Foundation
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- John J. Miller, Fifty Flowers Bloom: Conservative think tanks — mini–Heritage Foundations — at the state level, National Review, November 19, 2007.
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- John Mashey, Fake science, fakexperts, funny finances, free of tax 2, DeSmog Blog report, updated October 23, 2012, p. 67.
- State Policy Network, SPN & Alec: A Model Relationship, SPN News, organizational newsletter, July/August 2009, p. 4.
- Donors Capital Fund, 2011 IRS Form 990, fund's IRS tax filing, November 14, 2012.
- Paul Abowd, Donors use charity to push free-market policies in states, Center for Public Integrity, February 14, 2013.
- Wajahat Ali, Eli Clifton, Matthew Duss, Lee Fang, Scott Keyes, and Faiz Shakir, Fear Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America, CAB, August 2011. See specially pages 15-17.
- Suzanne Goldenberg, "Secret funding helped build vast network of climate denial thinktanks," The Guardian, February 14, 2013.
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