By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 14, 2018 ~
In 2010 we broke the news that a secretive nonprofit called Donors Capital Fund (with the fingerprints of billionaire Charles Koch all over it) had forked over $17,778,600 to fund a widely distributed race-baiting film in the weeks before the 2008 election – an election in which the first black man, Barack Obama, was the Democratic candidate for President. Donors Capital Fund accepts donations from multiple donors and keeps their identities secret, so exactly who funded the actual payment for the film is still unknown.
Recently, we decided to see what Donors Capital Fund has been up to lately. We went to the publicly filed tax returns available online at the Foundation Center and Guidestar. The most recent available tax return is for 2016. Curiously, the schedule of the tax return that shows to whom disbursements were made was missing on both the tax return at the Foundation Center as well as at Guidestar. We have never seen that happen before. We became suspicious.
We called Donors Capital Fund and requested both the schedule showing recipients of donations as well as Schedule B, which shows the dollar amount from each donor. (Schedule B redacts the names and addresses of those donors, as allowed under current law.) When that material arrived, we quickly figured out why this dark money nonprofit was reluctant to provide this material to public outlets. One individual had provided 96 percent of all funding for Donors Capital Fund in 2016, a staggering $68,250,000 out of $70,783,659 in total contributions.
Can we tell you unequivocally who this $68 million mystery person is? Absolutely not. But we can tell you this: his pattern of giving is closely aligned with the pattern of giving by Charles Koch and Koch Foundations over the years. For example, out of the $68 million received by Donors Capital Fund, $5.5 million went to the George Mason University (GMU) Foundation School of Law.
On May 1, 2018 Inside Higher Ed reported that the Charles Koch Foundation has given GMU $50 million cumulatively through 2016 and that “some of its past donor agreements with Charles Koch Foundation have afforded the organization a say in faculty appointments, in violation of the norms of academic freedom.”
Another big donation that came out of the $68 million was $5.2 million disbursed to the State Policy Network, bringing its haul over the years from Donors Capital to more than $20 million. DeSmog reports that the State Policy Network supports the work of many of the most vocal think tanks that are promoting climate change skepticism,” which includes the Heartland Institute. Notably, the same $68 million donation funded a gift of $2,175,000 in 2016 to the Heartland Institute.
At this point we should note that Charles Koch and his brother, David, are majority owners of Koch Industries, a sprawling multinational fossil fuels company which has a vested interest in repealing fossil fuel regulations. Koch Industries is a recognized greenhouse gas polluter. Greenpeace reports that the “Koch Brothers have sent at least $100,343,292 directly to 84 groups denying climate change science since 1997.”
Another large sum, $3,687,000, was donated out of the $68 million to a nonprofit that hasn’t ranked high on the radar screen of watchdog groups. It’s called the Market Research Foundation. Its website says its mission is to “combine big data and predictive analytics with grassroots contact methods to provide citizens with highly targeted, relevant information to make informed civic decisions.” (Civic decisions like voting apparently.) According to the Market Research Foundation’s 990 tax return for 2016, the money it got from Donors Capital represented 82 percent of all contributions and grants it received from outside parties in 2016. It, in turn, paid $463,283 to a firm called Paramount Ballot and List Inc. for “data management”; another $417,978 went to Platinum Circle Technology, also for “data management”; $391,975 was paid to Norman Analytics and Research for polling; and another $125,000 went to Alpine Analytics for “analysis.”
As we explained earlier, Donors Capital is clearly tied to Charles Koch and as we reported on July 23 at CounterPunch, Charles Koch is building a vast voter data mining and targeting platform for this year’s midterm elections. The so-called “Koch network” of wealthy donors have committed to sluicing $400 million into this year’s election according to CNN.
Another big chunk from the $68 million, $4,600,000, went to the American Media Institute (AMI). In 2016, the media watchdog group, Media Matters, reported that “News outlets have been running investigative features authored by the American Media Institute (AMI) without disclosing that the organization receives large amounts of funding from right-wing organizations.”
Techopedia defines “echo chamber” as “a term widely used in today’s lexicon, that describes a situation where certain ideas, beliefs or data points are reinforced through repetition of a closed system that does not allow for the free movement of alternative or competing ideas or concepts.” That same definition would seem to apply to the front groups that make up the Kochs’ dark money network.