The preferred donor conduits of the Koch political network DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund distributed $188.3 million in grants in 2020, $137 million of which was sent to litigation centers, advocacy groups, media outlets, extremists, gun rights groups, climate deniers and other tax-exempt organizations that make up America’s right-wing infrastructure.
DonorsTrust’s IRS filing details $360.2 million in revenue in 2020, with a staggering $158 million (44%) coming from one unidentified person.
Donors Capital Fund again reported no revenue.
The combined assets for the two donor advised funds now tops $619 million, according to the filings obtained by CMD.
CMD reported in March that DonorsTrust launched a new funding stream in 2020 in response to the COVID pandemic, called the “Growth and Resilience Project,” to “serve as a rapid funding catalyst” for speeding up the reopening of the economy, reducing regulations, and countering media and government “narratives” to “ensure the American citizen sees government intrusion into our lives and livelihoods as counterproductive and harmful.”
$60 Million to Remake Courts and Law
DonorsTrust and Donors Capital gave $60.2 million to legal litigation centers, advocacy groups promoting right-wing judges, and amicus organizers in 2020, CMD has calculated.
In addition to $19.9 million for general support and $6 million earmarked for judicial nomination fights under the guise of judicial or court “education,” The 85 Fund received millions more that appear to be designated for specific projects or regranting to a wide variety of groups, including the Honest Elections Project, Federalist Society, Public Interest Legal Foundation, Independent Women’s Forum, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Mercatus Center, and Turning Point USA. CNBC first highlighted this funding in a Nov. 18 report.
A project of Leo’s 85 Fund, the Honest Elections Project was formed in February 2020 to push for voter restrictions and spread disinformation about voter fraud. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) teamed up with the Honest Elections Project in July to hold a three-day “Academy” featuring a veritable who’s who of the right-wing leaders behind this year’s assaults on voting rights and independent elections across the country, CMD recently reported.
The next largest DonorsTrust grants in this category went to the Constitutional Defense Fund ($4.4 million), another funding conduit for litigation, and the Institute for Justice ($2.2 million), a long-time litigator and amicus filer on the right.
$51 Million for Right-Wing Policy and Advocacy
DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund contributed $51.4 million to national and state level policy and advocacy tax-exempt organizations that make up the national right-wing infrastructure strategically built and maintained by Charles Koch and the Bradley Foundation.
Of this amount, $15.1 million went to the State Policy Network (SPN) and 45 of its 65 state-based affiliates.
SPN groups play an integral role in passing legislation in state houses by providing academic legitimacy when called upon to testify at hearings, through the production of "studies" or model legislation, and in the media. That legislation is sometimes drafted as model bills by corporate lobbyists and lawmakers at SPN’s sister organization ALEC.
DonorsTrust funneled $362,100 to ALEC in 2020.
In 2020, many of the SPN organizations pushed back against public health restrictions to stop the spread of Covid-19, often through lawsuits. American Juris Link, described by its founder as "basically like the SPN for litigators," coordinated legal strategies and held a “regularly scheduled COVID Litigation Roundtable” for strategizing and collaborating against Covid-related public health orders.
American Juris Link also partnered with Ballotpedia to create a Covid-19 lawsuit tracker of every court case challenging public health orders due to the pandemic. DonorsTrust gave $361,000 to American Juris Link and $2.8 million to Lucy Burns Institute, the organization that manages Ballotpedia, in 2020.
Following funding to SPN, the next largest grant of $5.5 million went to the Catholic Association Foundation. Although Leo no longer serves on its board, the Foundation pays him $120,000 per year for "consulting" and another $123,000 per year to his Creative Response Concepts (now CRC Advisors).
DonorsTrust also gave $1.4 million to Fair Lines America Foundation, the sister organization of Fair Lines America (FLA). FLA conducts redistricting trainings with state lawmakers, such as the "Mapping America" series it did for ALEC lawmakers in 2020, and weighs in on redistricting litigation.
GOP megadonor and Koch operative, Art Pope, is president and treasurer of Fair Lines America Foundation, CMD revealed.
$15 Million for Right-Wing Media
DonorsTrust doled out $14.6 million in grants to right-wing media outlets in 2020, CMD found.
Top among all outlets was the $2.8 million the Lucy Burns Institute received. In addition to publishing Ballotpedia and tracking litigation to assist its allies, the Right's favorite pollster, Scott Rasmussen, serves as Ballotpedia's editor-at-large.
In 2020, Rasmussen was also given a platform at the secretive Council for National Policy's November meeting after the election to discuss "What Happened, Why & What now?" Lawson Bader, president of DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund, is also a Council for National Policy member.
The next three largest media recipients of DonorsTrust are American Independent Media ($1.3 million), Metric Media Foundation ($1.3 million), and Franklin News Foundation ($1.1 million).
John Tilman, a right-wing Illinois activist and CEO of Illinois Policy, chairs both American Independent Media and the Franklin News Foundation. Franklin publishes "The Center Square," a rebrand of its predecessor Watchdog.org.
In 2020, Metric Media grew its network to 1,200 "politically backed 'local news websites' designed to promote partisan talking points and collect user data," the Tow Center for Digital Journalism reported.
James O'Keefe's Project Veritas also received over $1 million from DonorsTrust in 2020. Project Veritas used undercover stings in order to undermine absentee and mail-in voting in the lead-up to the 2020 election.
$5 Million for Extremists
Extremist and gun rights nonprofits continue to be listed on DonorsTrust's "board-approved charities," and the donor advised fund moved over $4.6 million to them in 2020.
The anti-Muslim Middle East Forum again received the largest grant among these groups at $1.8 million. Middle East Forum "is one of the major roots of the Islamophobia network in America and a notable promoter of false facts about Islam," according to Islamophobia.
DonorsTrust gave another anti-Muslim group, the Center for Security Policy, $1.1 million, and granted $600,000 to the New Century Foundation, which promotes theories about the superiority of whites, and Solutionary, Inc. $400,000 for its anti-gun control campaign, "Black Guns Matter."
$4 Million for Youth and Women Influence Efforts
DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund gave $3.8 million to right-wing nonprofits working to expand the right's influence among youth and women.
Young Americans for Liberty Foundation topped all groups in this funding area with a grant of $1.4 million. Its sister organization, Young Americans for Liberty, identifies and trains youth leaders on university campuses, and also organizes get out the vote for state-level candidates it endorses.
Charlie Kirk's pro-Trump youth group Turning Point USA's also received a grant of $580,000. Turning Point is seeking to raise another $43 million to wage a culture war on campuses and in K-12 public schools across the United States, CMD reported.
DonorTrust gave $862,500 to the misnamed Independent Women's Forum (IWF) in 2020. IWF called paid leave proposals to allow workers time off during an unprecedented global pandemic "radical," and democratic governors "Little Tyrants" for issuing stay-at-home orders urged by public health experts, True North Research reported.
$3 Million for Climate Denial
DonorsTrust gave $2.8 million in grants to climate misinformation groups in 2020.
Right-wing billionaire Peter Thiel's "Inference: The International Review of Science" received $525,000 from DonorsTrust for its "journal" that publishes articles that cast doubt on climate change and evolution.