Stewart Rawlings Mott

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Stewart R. Mott, (died in June 2008), philanthropist

"Mr. Mott’s philanthropy included birth control, abortion reform, sex research, arms control, feminism, civil liberties, governmental reform, gay rights and research on extrasensory perception.

"His political giving, often directed against incumbent presidents, was most visible. In 1968, he heavily bankrolled Senator Eugene McCarthy’s challenge to President Lyndon B. Johnson. Four years later, he was the biggest contributor to Senator George McGovern, the Democratic presidential nominee.

"When Charles W. Colson, the White House chief counsel to President Richard M. Nixon, included Mr. Mott in the famed “enemies list,” Mr. Colson said of him, “nothing but big money for radic-lib candidates.”

"After the 1974 campaign finance law outlawed exactly the sort of large political gifts in which Mr. Mott specialized, he joined conservatives to fight it as an abridgement of free expression. They argued that limits on contributions given independently of a candidate’s organization were unconstitutional. In 1976, the Supreme Court agreed, while keeping other parts of the law. Mr. Mott then became expert on devising ways to give to candidates under the new rules. Following conservatives’ precedents, he formed political action committees and became an expert on direct mail, using both as methods of collecting many small donations.

"Still, his ability to help the independent presidential candidacy of Representative John B. Anderson of Illinois in 1980 was curbed somewhat; gone were the days when he could simply write a big check and directly hand it to Mr. McCarthy or Mr. McGovern. Some argued that the financing restrictions diminished the chances that surprise candidates could emerge from the grass roots and be propelled to national prominence by well-placed benefactors...

"Mr. Mott seemed to relish poking his finger in the eye of General Motors, a company that his father, Charles Stewart Mott, helped shape as an early high executive. In the ’60s, the younger Mr. Mott drove a battered red Volkswagen with yellow flower decals when he drove at all. He lambasted G.M. at its annual meeting for not speaking out against the Vietnam War. He gave money to a neighborhood group opposing a new G.M. plant because it would involve razing 1,500 homes.

"Mr. Mott broke into politics in 1968, when he used newspaper advertisements to pledge $50,000 to the as-yet-nonexistent presidential candidacy of Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller of New York if others would contribute double that amount. When Mr. Rockefeller rejected his efforts, Mr. Mott turned to Mr. McCarthy.

"In 1972, Mr. Mott ran what some regarded as a scurrilous ad campaign against Senator Edmund S. Muskie, a rival of Mr. McGovern’s in his own Democratic Party. This led to Mr. Mott’s being called before the Senate Watergate Committee, which was investigating political “dirty tricks.” It found no wrongdoing by him.

"Mr. Mott devoted himself to military reform by financing the Project on Military Procurement and the Center for Defense Information, among other left-leaning projects. In 1979, a report by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research group, said these activities added up to an “anti-defense lobby.”

"In 1974, Mr. Mott started the Fund for Constitutional Government to expose and correct corruption in the federal government. His mansion in Washington has long been used to raise funds for candidates, as well as causes from handgun control to gay rights. At a 1982 soiree, he brought in an elephant and two donkeys, presumably to demonstrate political balance...

"In the academic year of 1963-64, he taught English at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Mich. His philanthropy began when he returned to Flint and started the city’s first branch of Planned Parenthood. He then traveled the nation on behalf of Planned Parenthood." [1]

“Stewart Mott originally bought 122 to house the various activities and projects of the Fund for Peace. Over the years, the building has been the first offices of the Center for Defense Information, In The Public Interest, the Center for International Policy and the Center for National Security Studies. The house was the birthplace of the Women's Campaign Fund and Friends of Family Planning PACs. Other tenants of note include the Campaign Against Nuclear War, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Pax Americas and the Military Families Support Network. The most recent tenant was the national DC office of the American Civil Liberties Union.” [2]

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch articles


  1. Stewart R. Mott, 70, Offbeat Philanthropist, Dies, New York Times, accessed January 10, 2009.
  2. History of the Home, Stewart R. Mott Charitable Trust, accessed January 10, 2009.
  3. National Abortion Rights Action League. Records, 1968-1976: A Finding Aid,, accessed November 21, 2011.