Donors Trust: The ATM for Climate Denial

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According to Mother Jones and The Guardian newspaper, over the past decade, a little-known group called Donors Trust has funneled hundreds of millions of dollars from wealthy contributors to a host of right-wing organizations, advocacy groups and think tanks. MJ‘s Andy Kroll dubs it the “dark-money ATM of the right” because of all the conservative campaigns the group had bankrolled. He writes:

Founded in 1999, Donors Trust (and an affiliated group, Donors Capital Fund) has raised north of $500 million and doled out $400 million to more than 1,000 conservative and libertarian groups, according to Whitney Ball, the group’s CEO. Donors Trust allows wealthy contributors who want to donate millions to the most important causes on the right to do so anonymously, essentially scrubbing the identity of those underwriting conservative and libertarian organizations.

The group bankrolled attacks on unions, public schools, regulating Wall Street and the veracity of global warming. The Guardian‘s Suzanne Goldenberg reports that climate change denial was a particular focus of the fund. By 2010, the Trust had “distributed $118m to 102 think tanks or action groups” on record denying human involvement with climate change or “opposing environmental regulations.”

Recipients included some of the best-known think tanks on the right. The American Enterprise Institute, which is closely connected to the Republican party establishment and has a large staff of scholars, received more than $17m in untraceable donations over the years, the record show.

Smaller, less well-known groups also made out well. Goldenberg spotlights several that received major money from Donors Trust, including the Heartland Institute, which was given $13 million; and the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (Cfact) which reported half its funding came from the trust. Cfact produces Climate Depot, a website that CJR reports “regularly publishes misinformation about climate change.”

Watch Suzanne Goldenberg talk with Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman about her report and the different organizations that have received Donor Trust funding.

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  • David Fechter

    More evidence of the Koch’s misinformation campaign against the science behind climate change. …………. These people are conspiring to spread information that is factually incorrect.Fox News is continuously providing airtime to these propagandists for the extreme right wing.

  • Socialmedic

    So make Koch and cronies financially responsible for all of the damage done by not doing anything about climate change. Certainly, as they do not believe it exists or will have any effect they would willingly sign such a contract and put their money where their mouth is.

  • Gerald Wilhite

    Let’s be fair! Exactly what did these bad guys do that is illegal? Do they or do they not have a right to pursue and express their own opinion and logic? Their expenditures represent a tiny fraction of the government funds that have been spent on PR aimed at casting CO2 as an evil pollutant.

    Sadly, a sound bi-partisan public climate policy is now being stymied by advocates of the CO2 driven AGW hypothesis. For whatever reason, they are desperately trying to hide some extremely important facts from their followers in organizations such as

    Global warming has not been occurring for 17 years. It has been flat since 1997. Today (21 Feb 13) even the chairman of the IPCC conceded this point. (See

    Everyone knows we’ve been in a general warming trend for the past 10,000 years or so. Hopefully it will continue. We have hard data evidence — not manufactured computer model data — showing that global temperature increases do not result from increases in man-made CO2, at least not for the past 17 years. That constitutes falsification for most serious research scientists. It is very unlikely that CO2 is the prime driving factor in climate, certainly not for the past 17 years.

    Hopefully we can at least now all agree that climate is not a settled science. Right? That in itself is a good point of beginning for an open, civil public debate that is embarrassingly long overdue.

  • Anonymous

    Only right wing people ever say things that are untrue. That is Suzanne Goldenberg’s message. Everybody knows that. Why can’t we all just agree to make the right wing illegal once and for all, and do away with it altogether?

  • Renaissance_Man

    So the challenge for ordinary Americans to to learn to differentiate between propagandists like Gerald or actual scientists not accepting money from fossil fuel godfathers. Here’s a good place to start:

  • Gerald Wilhite

    So you are saying, “Let’s kill the messengers.” Scary! Are you blind? Can’t you see that those messengers include your own leaders? People like Jim Hansen and IPCC Chairman Pauchauri (See

    Very, very scary! Your relentless vicious attack on highly respected skeptical US scientists (remember, skepticism is the hallmark of good science) reminds me of the ‘Walking Dead’.

  • Jack Wolf

    Heartland, etc, should lose their tax exempt status. Thay can not comply with IRS guidelines to maintain their tax-free charitable donation status, such as telling the truth in educational outreach efforts, not slandering particular individual and
    scientists, and not engage in openly political activities.
    And, you are wrong on your scientific points. Temperatures have risen with each decade warmer than the last. 9 of the 10 warmest years have been in the last decade. You have cherry picked graphs with a high start point to minimize the upward trend. All climate scientists agree that increased CO2 will increase temperature and that these changes are caused by fossil fuels.
    Of the 14,000 papers published on climate change, only 24 did not agree with the consensus. Why delay emission cuts and other action with more talk? Unless, of course, that is your agenda.

  • Jack Wolf

    Post WWII offers an excellent history lesson and an analogy to the near future.
    When France was occupied by the Nazis in 1940, the Vichy government was formed and worked hand in hand with the Nazis. After the War, members of that government were tried and convicted at Nuremberg. They either directly assisted the Nazi government or they knew and did nothing. They and their sympathizers later became the scourge of French society, behind bars, or dead. Many were killed outright and violent retribution was common. These trials and grievances went on for decades and allowed the birth of the Socialist Party in France. This behavior is known as the Vichy Syndrome. (Source: Henry Rousso, 1960).
    People are going to be really, really pissed when they find out how screwed they really are. They will have lost loved ones, their livelyhoods and their homes. And, that is a very bad mix.

  • Kayaker 007

    And Gerald Whilhite is another example of where Donor’s Trust money goes, I suspect. His diatribe has been proven false and he ends with “climate is not a settled science” prattle.