DonorsTrust & Donors Capital Fund
DonorsTrust is a Virginia-based donor-advised fund that dispersed almost $30 million in grants in 2011. Along with the connected Donors Capital Fund – whose 2011 grants totaled more than $56 million – DonorsTrust offers its account holders a degree of anonymity unavailable to private foundations. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, “not even the IRS knows where a particular donor’s money goes after it gets to DonorsTrust.”
Reflecting a commitment to “supporting groups that promote liberty,” DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund have provided significant financial support to a variety of conservative think tanks and advocacy groups. Their top beneficiaries include the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, the Heartland Institute, the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity, and the State Policy Network. DonorsTrust is also the parent organization of the Project on Fair Representation, which opposes “government distinctions and preferences made on the basis of race and ethnicity” and bankrolled the lawsuit that led the Supreme Court to strike down part of the Voting Rights Act. DonorsTrust additionally provided $1,500,000 in funding to the Government Accountability Institute in 2013. GAI was run by conservative author Peter Schweizer, who used GAI staff and funding to write the extensively debunked “Clinton Cash.”
While most of DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund’s contributors are unknown, several major conservative funders have reported contributions to them, including the Searle Freedom Trust, the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and the Charles G. Koch Foundation.
It appears that, in addition to the CKF contributions, the Koch network has provided DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund with most of its backbone; it is widely noted that DT & DCF are a part of the “Koch Network.” As the Center for Public Integrity reported, “At a private Koch fundraising meeting in the summer of 2010, Donors Trust hosted cocktails and dessert for what [DonorsTrust CEO Whitney] Ball called a ‘target-rich environment’ of wealthy donors. Several wealthy conservatives who have attended Koch fundraising parties have Donors Trust accounts…” Additionally, DonorsTrust employees have extensive histories within the Koch network:
- CEO Whitney Ball previously served as Director of Development at the Koch-founded Cato Institute, and served on the board of the State Policy Network.
- Chairman of the Board Kimberly Dennis served as Executive Director of the Philanthropy Roundtable, worked for the Institute for Humane Studies and the Pacific Research Institute, and served on the boards of George Mason University and the Property And Environment Research Center (PERC).
- Thomas Beach, another board member, served as Chairman of the Reason Foundation and of PERC.
- Board member William Hume served on the boards of the Foundation for Teaching Economics and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, both recipients of extensive Koch funding.
- CFO & Chief of Information Technology Jeff Zysik was a graduate of George Mason University, the primary recipient of Koch academic funding.
- Outreach Manager Lauren Skiver previously “worked as a grants coordinator and policy analyst with the Charles Koch Foundation.” Skiver played a role in Soon-gate, where a Smithsonian researcher received extensive fossil-fuel industry funding (including from the Charles Koch Foundation) as he published materials questioning climate science.
- Director of Growth Strategies Peter Lipsett worked “in donor development… at the Charles Koch Foundation and Koch Industries” and “served as vice president of special projects at Freedom Partners.”
DonorsTrust is additionally the parent nonprofit of Talent Market, an entity which provides “free consulting and recruiting services to free-market think tanks, policy organizations, and research centers dedicated to advancing the principles of limited government and free enterprise.” The New York Times describes Talent Market as “the Right Wing’s Casting Agency,” and notes that DonorsTrust provided it with at least $120,000 in funding from 2011 through 2013. Talent Market says it “has helped over 160 organizations find personnel since its founding in 2009, including prominent ones like the Cato Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Charles Koch Foundation.”
The director of Talent Market is Claire Kittle Dixon, an activist and protege of former DonorsTrust CEO Whitney Ball. Kittle Dixon worked in recruiting for the Koch Foundation, where she ran the Koch Associate Program. After leaving the Koch Foundation, and prior to setting up shop at the Koch-affiliated DonorsTrust, Kittle Dixon worked as Director of Research for the Buckeye Institute, an SPN member.