05 October 2017

Progressive funders fund progressive group. Also, water is wet.

The Washington Free Beacon is an online newspaper based in Washington, DC, with a decidedly conservative bent. It published an article Wednesday revealing the funders supporting the progressive organization Center for Community Change:

The hidden donors to a prominent anti-Trump “resistance” organization are revealed in unredacted tax forms obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

The Center for Community Change Action, a Washington, D.C.-based 501 (c)(3) progressive community organizing group that does not reveal its donors, has been involved in direct action against President Donald Trump and Republicans before and after the November elections. The organization’s members sit on the boards of other prominent liberal activist groups…

The Center for Community Change’s largest contribution was $3,000,000 from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which was initially created by Will Kellogg, the food manufacturer and founder of Kellogg Company. The Ford Foundation, which was first created by the founders of the Ford Motor Company, added a $2,350,000 donation. The Open Society Foundation, a foundation run by liberal billionaire mega-donor George Soros, gave $1,750,000 to the Center for Community Change.

Other donors to the organization include the California Endowment, which gave $524,500; the Marquerite [sic] Casey Foundation, which gave $515,000; Fidelity Charitable Gift, which donated $505,100; and the National Immigration Law Center, which gave $316,000.

Among other problems with the article, it insinuates that there is something nefarious going on in the fact that the Center for Community Change doesn’t routinely disclose its donors. But that’s fairly normal in the world of 501(c)3 charities, and for a variety of reasons as I outlined in a recent paper (Protecting Donor Privacy: Philanthropic Freedom, Anonymity and the First Amendment).

The article also seems to overlook the fact that, at least for the donors it identifies, all of this information is already available in the tax forms filed by all of these organizations and that is accessible on platforms like GuideStar.

Finally, I wonder about the utility of this information. Is it really supposed to surprise anyone, or provide anyone with useful information, to know that a nearly 50-year old organization (the Center was founded in 1968, it appears) with a progressive orientation is being funded by donors who often fund progressive causes? Are people who have in the past thought well of the work done by the Center supposed to view it with suspicion now that they know that George Soros is funding it?

Some believe mandatory donor disclosure, at least for groups engaged in public policy activity (such as by being part of the “resistance”) provides useful information to the public. As this article demonstrates, it’s hard to see how.