How the Kochs funneled millions to climate deniers through a secretive nonprofit
Donors Trust, Inc. works “to help alleviate, through education, research, and private initiative, society’s most pervasive and radical needs, including those relating to social welfare, health, the environment, economics, governance, foreign relations, and arts and culture.”
Read that sentence twice. Unintentionally, Donors Trust is giving away its actual goal: Working to alleviate society’s most radical needs, including the environment. Alleviate the environment? That, according to a report from The Independent, it very much does.
The Donors Trust, along with its sister group Donors Capital Fund, based in Alexandria, Virginia, is funnelling millions of dollars into the effort to cast doubt on climate change without revealing the identities of its wealthy backers or that they have links to the fossil fuel industry.
However, an audit trail reveals that Donors is being indirectly supported by the American billionaire Charles Koch who, with his brother David, jointly owns a majority stake in Koch Industries, a large oil, gas and chemicals conglomerate based in Kansas.
Millions of dollars has been paid to Donors through a third-party organisation, called the Knowledge and Progress Fund, with is operated by the Koch family but does not advertise its Koch connections.
The Independent notes that the Koch-directed fund gave Donors Trust $4.5 million between 2007 and 2010. By 2010, the nonprofit was sitting on $18.4 million dollars, according to its IRS Form 990 filing. Over the course of that year, it paid out hundreds of grants to a number of organizations, including:
$23,550 to the pro-oil, anti-fact American Enterprise Institute
$7,577,000 to the Koch-linked Americans for Prosperity Foundation (right)
$1,280,000 to the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, whose director called global warming “man-made hysteria”
$58,200 to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which is being sued by climate scientist Michael Mann for defamation
$41,000 to the anti-environment FreedomWorks Foundation
$2,250 to the notorious climate-denying Heartland Institute
$49,300 to the conservative Heritage Foundation
$82,000 to the pro-fracking Manhattan Institute
$21,500 to Montana’s Property and Environment Research Center, focused on “improving environmental quality through property rights and markets”
$30,650 to the anti-wind Reason Foundation
Donors Trust also gave massive grants to libertarian organizations, nonprofits pushing to break down the separation of church and state, anti-labor organizations, and, unexpectedly, animal care nonprofits like “Feline Rescue.” We’ve uploaded the full set of recipients; feel free to see if you can find anything else interesting.
This is the tip of the iceberg, one year’s worth of grants out of a decade. The role of Donors Trust appears to be, in part, to mask who’s doing the funding. The Independent:
The Donors Trust is a “donor advised fund”, meaning that it has special status under the US tax system. People who give money receive generous tax relief and can retain greater anonymity than if they had used their own charitable foundations because, technically, they do not control how Donors spends the cash. …
[Robert Brulle, a sociologist at Drexel University in Philadelphia, said,] “By becoming anonymous, they remove a political target. They can plausibly claim that they are not giving to these organisations, and there is no way to prove otherwise.”
Donors Trust is clear on the scale of its investments.
To date, DonorsTrust has received over $400 million from these donors who are both dedicated to liberty and to the cause of perpetuating a free and prosperous society through philanthropic means. Since inception, DonorsTrust has granted out over $300 million to over 1000 liberty-minded charities.
Your definition of “liberty” — and, for that matter, “charity” — may differ.
Philip Bump writes about the news for Gristmill. He also uses Twitter a whole lot.
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