The State Financial Officers Foundation (SFOF), a membership group of 37 Republican state treasurers, auditors, and financial executives weaponized to fight “woke” capitalism, more than doubled its revenue in 2022 — to over $2 million — according to its latest IRS filing obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD).
Prior to 2022, SFOF had only cracked $1 million in revenue once — in 2019. The organization maintained a low profile until CMD published a February 2022 report on its annual meeting, which exposed its agenda of fighting so-called “woke” capitalism and “defend[ing] the market economy” against the growing environmental, social and governance (ESG) movement among corporations to consider their potential impact on climate change, social justice, and other community interests (instead of just shareholders) when making business decisions.
SFOF has deep ties to both the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the pay-to-play, corporate bill mill, and CRC Advisors, a far-right PR firm catering to the fossil fuel industry and founded by Trump’s “court whisperer” Leonard Leo.
In 2021, SFOF held its national meeting “in conjunction” with ALEC’s own national meeting in Salt Lake City, where the first anti-ESG model bill was circulated. Many ALEC leaders also hold key positions with SFOF, attend SFOF meetings, and work with its members to draft legislation designed to curtail ESG practices.
The Leo network is “leading the anti-ESG push” and has “spent more than $10 million on the effort so far,” The Wall Street Journal reported in February. CRC serves as a consultant to SFOF and its members, helping to place op-eds and other messaging. SFOF touts that “state financial officers have the public’s trust,” which makes its members attractive investments for messaging against sustainable investing.
CMD launched its SFOF Exposed project earlier this year to provide a central hub for information on SFOF members and the operatives, groups, and funders they work with to continue to manufacture an ongoing “crisis” around responsible investing.
Who Funds the State Financial Officers Foundation?
Until September 2022, SFOF listed its donor partners on its website in five categories, as CMD captured and profiled on the SFOF Exposed site. The majority were financial firms, except for the right-wing groups 1792 Exchange and Consumers’ Research.
Through an analysis of more than 50 IRS filings so far from 2022, CMD has identified 64% of the close to $2 million in contributions SFOF received last year in the form of seven grants from right-wing foundations, donor advised funds, and nonprofits.
The 2022 IRS filing from 1792 Exchange, a “gold sponsor,” is not yet publicly available. However, an Ohio disclosure examined by CMD shows that its revenue jumped from $225,000 in 2021 to $2.3 million in 2022 and that it spent $1.6 million last year. The grants the nonprofit made were not listed in the Ohio disclosure.
The Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and its donor advised fund, the Bradley Impact Fund, contributed $522,813 to SFOF in 2022, accounting for more than a quarter of the total the organization raised that year, CMD reported.
In its latest strategic plan, Bradley calls ESGs “distortions that inhibit free enterprise.”
In addition to its support of SFOF, in 2022 Bradley sent cash to 12 other key actors in the right-wing’s war on sustainable investing and responsible business practices, including SFOF funders Consumers’ Research and The Heritage Foundation.
Consumers’ Research contributed $317,500 to SFOF, making it the second largest donor to the organization in 2022. Having given a total of $467,500 (2021–22) to SFOF, it is clearly a major ally of these Republican financial officers. The Leo-tied group has produced reports for Congress, campaigns against corporations identified by the Right as too woke, promoted anti-ESG model bills at ALEC, and sent Executive Director Will Hild to rail against woke capitalism at ALEC and Heritage conferences.
The Sarah Scaife Foundation gave $125,000 to SFOF in 2022, making it the third largest known donor last year. The foundation, which contributes tens of millions of dollars to fund right-wing organizations every year, was built on wealth inherited from the Mellon industrial, oil, aluminum, and banking fortune.
DonorsTrust, the preferred donor conduit of the Koch political network, chipped in another $105,000 to help support SFOF in 2022, CMD reported last month. Donor advised funds purposefully mask the identity of donors, meaning that the precise origin(s) of the cash grant is unknown.
The Heritage Foundation and Searle Freedom Trust each gave $100,000 to SFOF in 2022. The Heritage funding was awarded as an “Innovation Prize,” as CMD previously reported. Like Consumers’ Research, Heritage has been a staunch ally of SFOF in its fight against woke capitalism and has played an integral role in elevating the SFOF brand among other right-wing networks.
Searle Freedom Trust, like Bradley and Scaife, is a major funder of right-wing infrastructure, sending tens of millions of dollars in grant funding to tax-exempt groups on the Right every year. The foundation is an outgrowth of wealth inherited from the pharmaceutical firm G.D. Searle & Company, which created the artificial sweetener aspartame (marketed as “NutraSweet”) and is now part of Pfizer.
Searle Freedom Trust has announced that it intends to spend down its assets and close shop on December 31, 2025.