Secretive Donors Trust Pumps Far More Money Into Climate Denial And Inaction Than Kochs And Exxon Mobil Combined

A secretive funding organization called Donors Trust spent the last decade funneling vast sums of money to an array of think tanks and activist groups, all dedicated to undermining the science of climate change and heading off the progress of climate policy. That’s according to reporting last week by The Guardian’s Suzanne Goldenberg and a recent analysis by Greenpeace.

Working in concert with its sister organization, Donors Capital Fund, Donors Trust provided critical funding to some of the leading lights in the climate denial campaign: From 2002 to 2010, Americans for Prosperity received $11 million from Donors Trust, the Heartland Institute received $13.5 million, and the American Enterprise Institute received more than $17 million.

In 2010 alone, Donors Trust dedicated $30 million — 46 percent of all its grants to conservative causes — to climate denial groups, 12 of which owe from 30 to 70 percent of their 2010 funding to the organization. Indeed, some may not have even existed absent the largess; the Donors Fund boosted the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow from a $600,000 operation to $3 million over the years, to cite just one example.

According to Goldenberg, the total contributions of Donors Trust from 2002 to 2010 dwarfs the amounts given by Exxon Mobil or even the Koch Foundation:

By 2010, the dark money amounted to $118m distributed to 102 think tanks or action groups which have a record of denying the existence of a human factor in climate change, or opposing environmental regulations.

The money flowed to Washington thinktanks embedded in Republican party politics, obscure policy forums in Alaska and Tennessee, contrarian scientists at Harvard and lesser institutions, even to buy up DVDs of a film attacking Al Gore.

Throw in Greenpeace’s numbers for 2011, and the total contributions rise to $146 million.

Donors Trust is a form of organization called donor-advised funds, which are apparently not uncommon in America. According to Goldenberg, donor-advised funds offer wealthy donors a good deal of advantages: “They are convenient, cheaper to run than a private foundation, offer tax breaks and are lawful.” They also allow contributors an unusual level of control over where their money ends up going, an advantage that helps combat the tendency for foundation money to “drift left,” as Whitney Ball, the president and CEO of Donors Trust, put it. Finally, in the case of Donors Trust at least, there is complete anonymity for contributors:

“The funding of the denial machine is becoming increasingly invisible to public scrutiny. It’s also growing. Budgets for all these different groups are growing,” said Kert Davies, research director of Greenpeace, which compiled the data on funding of the anti-climate groups using tax records.

“These groups are increasingly getting money from sources that are anonymous or untraceable. There is no transparency, no accountability for the money. There is no way to tell who is funding them,” Davies said.

Ball told The Guardian that while the organization’s wealthy donors run the gamut of conservative ideologies, from libertarian to social conservative, Donors Trust has allowed them to find common ground in opposing action on climate change and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. “We exist to help donors promote liberty which we understand to be limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise,” she told The Guardian in an interview. The money “won’t be going to liberals.”

Recently, Donors Trust has been dedicating more of its resources to the relatively young Franklin Centre for Government and Public Integrity, marking a strategic shift away from activism centered in Washington, D.C., and towards efforts to scrap climate policy at the individual state level.

Here’s Goldenberg discussing her reporting with Democracy Now! and here’s an in-depth look at the Donors Trust money trail by the Center for Public Integrity, including more details on its state-level operations and a pretty slick interactive infographic.

13 Responses to Secretive Donors Trust Pumps Far More Money Into Climate Denial And Inaction Than Kochs And Exxon Mobil Combined

  1. Theodore says:

    Somebody needs to put up the prize money for the first hacker, infiltrator or burglar who can get the donor list.

  2. Merrelyn Emery says:

    More money going into denial and as the weather worsens and the demos get bigger, so it will increase. But all they can do is divide, not conquer. The world is coming together around and against them which is bad news for the USA if you do not get on top of this nonsense, ME

  3. Brian R Smith says:

    ME, for getting on top of this nonsense, my take, the updated usual, is here on another page:

  4. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Yes, I agree that is a major missing ingredient and could work wonders Brian. A collective campaign with adequate $s and great media savy would give them both a dose of their own medicine and capitalize on the accelerating disasters people are witnessing with their own eyes. Would love to see it, ME

  5. ME has it right. My own way of putting it is that climate change is writing its own story — money spent on denialism is going down a rat hole, because Joe and Mary can look at their window and see climate change in action.

    However, lobbyists at the state level are raising all kinds of havoc with our democracy. Witness ALEC. Maybe we need to have progressive watchdogs reporting on their activities?

    Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

  6. Paul Klinkman says:

    The story’s link to the donor list is pretty good. Naturally, Charles Koch’s Knowledge and Progress Fund is #1 on their “secret” donor list.

    #2 is the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation. DeVos founded Amway (now called Alticor) and owns the Orlando Magic and $5 billion.

    #3 is Richard Farmer of Cintas Corporation, uniform cleaning and rental. 1.3 billion.

  7. Will Fox says:

    These people are beyond evil.

  8. Merrelyn Emery says:

    The sun is shining! (although peole may not be seeing it). BHP Billiton, Australia’s first mutltinational and the world’s ‘biggest miner’ has just posted a loss of 50% profit. Whether it be the down turn in the global economy or the fact that China has capped coal useage for the next 5 years, the writing is on the wall. I know: it’s all too little too late but I don’t believe that. The evidence is accumulating now. There are so many countries that have a price on carbon; economic rationalism has failed to deliver the ‘great society’; a dying planet, disasters and depresed or unhappy people are costing; now people are seriously reconsidering their options and I have no doubt that they will choose life. I do not ignore the action of the enemy but we are seeing social change in action, ME

  9. Jan Freed says:

    Big money needs to get behind “the other narrative”to counterbalance fossil fuel forces. Lord, knows, many corporations will lose a bundle if AGW proceeds.

    For example, where is a $6 B offer to replace Keystone pipeline with wind and solar, so the President can “choose” that investment, creating more jobs than the KXL could. He needs political support, too. People want a superman, but we actually need entrepreneurs.

  10. Jan Freed says:

    Someone please draw this cartoon:

    Charles Koch to his doctor: “Doctor I am coughing up large quantities of blood”

    Doctor: “Charles, people have been coughing up blood for thousands of years. Get over it.”

  11. Jack Burton says:

    Rather funny to be spending so much money to try and further global suicide. Sometimes I wonder how evil man can be, then I look at people spending large sums of money to promote global suicide, and then I know how evil man can be!

  12. GrumpyDave says:

    “We exist to help donors promote liberty which we understand to be limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise,” she told The Guardian in an interview. The money “won’t be going to liberals.”

    Of course. Only conservatives understand “true” liberty: having the right of personal responsibility without having oversight to make sure that you actually act responsibly, or face consequences when you don’t. Free enterprise means freedom of big businesses to abuse the general population with out responsibility or transparency in order to make yet more money. The role of government is limited to doing what it is told by big business and big money.

  13. Grateful says:

    I wonder what is the true reason they desire to remain anonymous?