February 21, 2013
by Theresa Riley
According to Mother Jones and The Guardian newspaper, over the past decade, a little-known group called Donors Trust has funneled hundreds of millions of dollars from wealthy contributors to a host of right-wing organizations, advocacy groups and think tanks. MJ‘s Andy Kroll dubs it the “dark-money ATM of the right” because of all the conservative campaigns the group had bankrolled. He writes:
Founded in 1999, Donors Trust (and an affiliated group, Donors Capital Fund) has raised north of $500 million and doled out $400 million to more than 1,000 conservative and libertarian groups, according to Whitney Ball, the group’s CEO. Donors Trust allows wealthy contributors who want to donate millions to the most important causes on the right to do so anonymously, essentially scrubbing the identity of those underwriting conservative and libertarian organizations.
The group bankrolled attacks on unions, public schools, regulating Wall Street and the veracity of global warming. The Guardian‘s Suzanne Goldenberg reports that climate change denial was a particular focus of the fund. By 2010, the Trust had “distributed $118m to 102 thinktanks or action groups” on record denying human involvement with climate change or “opposing environmental regulations.”
Recipients included some of the best-known think tanks on the right. The American Enterprise Institute, which is closely connected to the Republican party establishment and has a large staff of scholars, received more than $17m in untraceable donations over the years, the record show.
Smaller, less well-known groups also made out well. Goldenberg spotlights several that received major money from Donors Trust, including the Heartland Institute, which was given $13 million; and the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (Cfact) which reported half its funding came from the trust. Cfact produces Climate Depot, a website that CJR reports “regularly publishes misinformation about climate change.”
Watch Suzanne Goldenberg talk with Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman about her report and the different organizations that have received Donor Trust funding.