Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Revealing Anti-Science Funding by Billionaire Donors

Shadowy Donors Trust Hides Millions in Anti-Science Funds From Koch Bros and Friends

A new report released last week on DeSmogBlog unravels a scheme that funnels money from the notorious Koch Brothers and the reclusive Chicago industrialist Barre Seid through a third party organization, which in turn makes anonymous donations in the millions to right-wing policy think-tanks.
In a nutshell, the 200+ page report by Silicon valley scientist Dr. John Mashey shows in great detail how the Koch brothers and Barre Seid flow money through two organizations called Donor Trust and Donors Capital Fund, which in turn passes that money on to major right-wing think-tanks like the American Enterprise Institute, Heartland Institute and Americans for Prosperity.
This money is then used for coordinated efforts to fight things like environmental regulations and the scientific realities of climate change.
In total over $311 million has been put through the Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund with much of that coming from David and Charles Koch and Barre Seid.
Here's a summary of findings:
- The report presents evidence that confirms the speculation that Chicago Industrialist Barre Seidhas pumped millions into the Heartland Institute's "global warming projects" to boost their efforts to fight climate change science [page 57].
- Money from Barre Seid was pushed through Donors Trust to funded a major expansion of the Heartland Institute to help in their public relations efforts to deny the realities of climate change.
- Shows how the majority of the Donors Capital Board is made up of right wing think tanks heads that also were heavily involved in the fight for Big Tobacco in the 1990's
- Exposes another philanthropic vehicle established by the Koch Brothers called the "Knowledge and Progress Fund" - this fund has moved over $7m through Donors Trust [page 71].
- All funds that go through Donors Trust become tax deductions for the donors with much of that money going to political causes and policy fights.
- Other major recipients of Donors Trust money are: Americans for Prosperity, American Enterprise Institute, Acton Institute, Cato Institute, Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy and the Media Research Center.

Fakery 2: More Funny Finances, Free Of Tax

by John Mashey

Follow the money. October 23, PBS Frontline's Climate of Doubt gave viewers an hour's coverage of the tactics of climate anti-science, its advocates and a quick look into the funding behind it. Read on to follow the money deeper into the funny finances, all free of tax.

Last February, Fake Science, Fakexperts, Funny Finances, Free Of Tax explored some of those issues in detail. More information has been unearthed since, especially on DONORS TRUST, which Robert Brulle discussed with Frontline. Charles Koch and others use DONORS TRUST to anonymize their funding of policy/advocacy groups. The attached revision exposes more detail of the $311 million given through DONORS between 2002-2010, managed by Whitney Ball.

1. Heartland Institute's Fakeducation from fakexperts is now integrated (Appendix Y.3).

2. Heartland Financials (H.1) is augmented with data from the February Heartland Exposed documents. It was known that much of Heartland Institute's funding came via DONORS, and that there was one large donor, speculated by some to be reclusive Chicago businessman Barre Seid. The combination of IRS Form 990s, February documents, and other information proves his identity, as the numbers simply do not work otherwise. (H.1.4-1). More detail on donations (H.1.5) shows explicit funding of climate anti-science activities whose tax-free status seems dubious.

3. DONORS TRUST (and DONORS CAPITAL FUND) have been studied in more detail. Robert Brulle found another Charles Koch fund, Knowledge and Progress, which seems to give money only to DONORS. Added to the others he controls (Charles Koch and Claude Lambe), money can flow through three separate funds. Then some of it goes through DONORS TRUST and DONORS CAPITAL FUND, which anonymize it, as Whitney Ball actually writes the checks. Some "Kochtopus" tentacles are difficult to see.

Some of this tax-advantaged money lands at George Mason University, including its Mercatus Center or even better Institute for Humane Studies ... Chaired by Charles Koch. See Funding and A.5-A.6 in the report there.

DONORS' grants have been analyzed in detail (I.4). Of ~500 "charities" examined 2002-2010, the Top 40 (I.4.2-1) got 66% of the total, and of that $205M, all but $43M went to policy organizations, such as the American Enterprise Institute ($17M) Heartland Institute ($14M), or Americans for Prosperity Foundation ($11M). About 75% of the $311M given over those 9 years went to policy groups, all tax-free, with real donors anonymized. They must like this, as 2007-2010 accounted for $265M, following a big expansion in 2007.

Finally, in "Whitney Ball, her brother and her father" (I.5) some strange history is explored. Barre Seid funds and Chairs the Chicago Freedom Trust, C/O John Ball (Whitney's brother), located in Salt Lake City. Trustees include Whitney Ball and Adam Myerson, who Chairs DONORS CAPITAL FUND. In tracking all this, I also found discussion of their father, a lawyer whose repeated financial manipulations lost him the right to practice law in West Virginia.

Next week, Frontline runs "Dark Money" Group Central to Citizens United May Have Misled IRS, also connected with attacks on climate scientists via the American Tradition Institute, David Schnare,Chris Horner. Once again, tax-free 501(c)(3) status seems to be abused for the sake of anti-science attacks.

Keep following the money.

UPDATE 10/26/12: people have asked to see the spreadsheet behind Figure I.4.2, which showed the top 80 recipients of funds from DONORS. The 480-recipient version is now attached. Besides TRUST+CAPITAL totals shown already, it has TRUST and CAPITAL separately, although people may want to HIDE columns. It is interesting to SORT by state and guess where the actual donors live, i.e., small donations to local charities may be hints, whereas many donations to the numerous VA + DC groups likley originate elsewhere.

Image Credit: Rraum / Shutterstock.
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