Stories: Foundations for Activism

This series looks at a number of foundations that have tilted the balance of power in certain debates by funding an army of activist organizations or directly engaging at political levels. It will try to change the public perspective from considering all of these groups as sources of good, giving and charity to ones manipulating spheres of political influence while creating non-representative activist interference.

1. Introduction

The Introduction sets the scenes of how foundations work, how NGOs try to get their supporters to infiltrate foundation boards and how they use donor-advised funds to generate dark money for their campaigns.

2. The Dark Money in Donor-Advised Funds

Donor-advised funds allow activist groups to receive unlimited donations from undisclosed sources. This is important in cases where an NGO, activist, researcher or tort law firm is acting on behalf of the interests of the funders and where disclosure of the source might discredit the campaign outcome or reveal a conflict of interest. This article looks at the transparency NGO, US Right to Know, and shows how, ironically; almost all of their funding is now dark, donor-advised funding.

3. Today’s Robin Hood: Effective Altruism

The collection of donor-advised foundations built around the Effective Altruism philosophy have become quite controversial since the case of Sam Bankman-Fried, a former board member, used their earn-to-give cult mantra to steal from FTX and Alameda Research investors to donate via Effective Ventures funds to “save the world”. This article questions how the foundation operates and whether they manipulate tech billionaires to 'redistribute’ their wealth.

4. Anatomy of a Scam

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) published a report claiming that a little-known pesticide, chlormequat, is present in 80% of urine samples and in Quaker Oats products. Two working days later, a New York law firm files a class action suit against Quaker Oats based solely on the EWG report and further unpublished information. Research for this report was funded by The Skyline Foundation which offers dark, donor-advised funding. Should we assume that law firms funded the EWG via this third-party tool to tailor a study to be used for lawsuits?