To hide their identities from public scrutiny, megadonors used the Koch political network’s favorite conduit, DonorsTrust, to funnel $134 million in 2022 to groups promoting the Right’s culture wars and spreading climate misinformation, Trump’s big lie, and hate, as indicated in IRS filings obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD).
The $134 million in donations calculated by CMD is up $11 million from 2021.
After a sharp spike in revenues in 2021 due to two huge gifts of stock, DonorsTrust’s revenue returned to a more typical $323 million last year. Its sister organization, Donors Capital Fund (DCF), continues to lose money and now only has $9.1 million in assets. DCF made only one grant to right-wing causes last year, giving $225,000 to the Cato Institute , according to the filing.
To add another layer of anonymity, DonorsTrust and DCF funneled a total of $13.2 million to other donor advised funds as follows: Bradley Impact Fund ($12.7 million); Vanguard Charitable ($420,572); Greater Horizons ($62,322); and Fidelity Charitable ($20,001).
$74.5 Million for Right-Wing Policy and Advocacy
DonorsTrust sent $74.5 million to tax-exempt national and state-level policy and advocacy organizations in 2022. This amount is down from the $87 million CMD calculated in 2021.
The largest grant of $9 million went to Consumers’ Research, which received $5.9 million from DonorsTrust in 2021. The Wall Street Journal reported that Leonard Leo’s Marble Freedom Trust is funneling money to Consumers’ Research, so these contributions strongly indicate that it is using DonorsTrust as an intermediary. DonorsTrust received $59.1 million from Marble Freedom Trust in 2020, its IRS filing shows.
Consumers’ Research has been a leader in the Right’s manufactured crisis around so-called “woke” capitalism, which demonizes companies that embrace environmental, social, and governance factors (ESG) in their business and investing practices.
The Teneo Network received the next largest contribution of $3 million. Teneo is chaired by Leo, and its CEO refers to it as the “talent pipeline” for “building the capacity to do for the broader culture what Leonard and others were able to do” with the courts.
The State Policy Network (SPN) and its state affiliates received $19.3 million from DonorsTrust in 2022. SPN is a web of right-wing “think tanks” and tax-exempt organizations in 50 states, Washington, D.C., Canada, and the United Kingdom.
SPN members in the states work to influence policy by providing academic legitimacy when called upon to testify at hearings, producing “studies” or model legislation, and attracting media attention. SPN is the sister organization of the model policy factory the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which received $185,100 from DonorsTrust.
SPN’s national organization received $8.7 million, or 42% of its 2022 revenue, from DonorsTrust.
The largest state affiliate contribution of $2.5 million went to Florida’s Foundation for Government Accountability, which advocates for loosening child labor regulations and kicking the vulnerable off Medicaid and food stamps.
$19.6 Million for Litigation
DonorsTrust moved $19.6 million to right-wing organizations that litigate or engage in legal advocacy, according to CMD calculations.
The Federalist Society — co-chaired by Leo — led all recipients with a $4.3 million grant. The Federalist Society is “an organization of 90,000 lawyers, law students, scholars, and other individuals” that has been influential in Leo’s push to capture the courts for the Right. Six conservative Supreme Court Justices are current or former members of the organization: Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Neil Gorsuch, and Samuel Alito.
The next largest DonorTrust grant — for $4.2 million — went to George Mason University’s Law & Economics program housed in the Antonin Scalia Law School. The program touts itself as a “nexus for academic research and education that focuses on the timely and relevant economic analysis of legal and public policy issues confronting policy makers worldwide.”
$16.5 Million to Support Right-Wing Media
DonorsTrust provided a total of $16.5 million to right-wing media outlets, CMD found.
As in 2022, Real Clear Foundation led all grantees with a $4.4 million grant, double what it received in 2021. The foundation provides support for RealClear Media Group and its array of projects, including the widely circulated RealClearPolitics.
The FDRLST Media Foundation, publisher of the misinformation hub The Federalist, received $2.3 million, the second largest media grant made by DonorsTrust in 2022.
$12.4 Million to Climate Deniers
DonorsTrust funneled $12.4 million to nonprofits misinforming the public about the climate emergency and pushing policies to prevent action that would improve the environment.
The Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine received a whopping $8 million from DonorsTrust in 2022. “Art Robinson, one of the founders of OISM, is known for his role developing the Oregon Petition, a list of approximately 17,000 ‘scientists,’ later building to 31,000, who disputed the existence of manmade climate change,” DeSmog notes.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) received $1.3 million in 2022. CEI claims it “has been instrumental in fighting decades of climate alarmism and anti-energy policies that constrict energy supplies, raise prices, and stoke unjustified pessimism about human adaptive capabilities.”
$6.6 Million for Right-Wing and MAGA Youth Groups
In 2022, DonorsTrust gave $6.6 million in grants to groups focused on training and mobilizing youth for right-wing purposes.
The Young Americans for Liberty Foundation received half of that — $3.3 million — for university campus-focused recruiting efforts.
$4 Million for Hate and Guns
DonorsTrust gave nearly $4 million to “charities” promoting hate or the use of guns, CMD calculated.
The Middle East Forum (MEF) received over half of this, with a grant of $2.3 million. MEF is “a think tank more known for its academic approach to fomenting anti-Muslim sentiment,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The U.S. far-right, anti-Muslim Center for Security Policy received the next largest disbursement in this category — of $719,500.
Close to $300,000 in grants were made to gun rights groups that advocate for deregulation of guns and policies like concealed carry on campuses.