Is anyone surprised? I’m not….
The nation’s eighth-largest nonprofit donated $56.1 million to a series of organizations identified as hate groups from 2015 to 2017, according to a report from Sludge.
National Christian Foundation, which identifies itself as the largest Christian grant maker and one of the largest donor-advised funds in the nation, has served as a vehicle for individuals trying to anonymously send money.
Donor-advised funds allow individuals sending the tax deductible contributions to remain anonymous from the IRS and instruct where they want the payments to be sent. For those donating via NCF, this meant sending money to 23 organizations that the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled hate groups. Most of the hate organizations that received money from the NCF opposed LGBT rights. The report also found that the NCF donated to anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant organizations.
Organizations receiving the most funds from NCF included the Alliance Defending Freedom, which has advocated for sterilizing transgender individuals, and the Family Research Council, which has advocated conversion therapy. Members of the Family Research Council including Tony Perkins, the organization’s president, have sought to link pedophilia and homosexuality.
The NCF’s website says it has “accepted over $12 billion in contributions and made over $10 billion in giver-recommended grants to more than 55,000 charities.”
“NCF is a national network of givers who are working to further the generosity movement in the areas they care about the most. Like other donor-advised fund sponsors, NCF helps thousands of generous people give to the charitable causes they care about, and we help them do so in the most efficient and effective manner possible,” Steve Chapman, a spokesperson for NCF told Newsweek when asked about the Sludge report. “In 2018, we sent $1.7 billion in grants to more than 26,000 charities who are bringing clean water to the thirsty, homes to the homeless, food to the hungry, healing to the hurting, and much more. We are solely focused on helping people give generously and wisely to their favorite charities.”
Aaron Scherb, the legislative director of watchdog organization Common Cause, noted that conservative religious organizations have previously donated large amounts to groups that further their political interests.
“The Religious Right and certain conservative religious groups have significant resources at their disposable. As we detailed in a 2015 report, they often flex their political muscle to further enhance their ability to spend big money in politics to drown out the voices of dissenting views,” he told Newsweek.
“It’s interesting to me that big donors have a mechanism to give money to causes that would be unpopular, like going after gay rights…. It’s not always so much about the total amount as it is about the mechanisms for funneling money into politics,” Lisa Gilbert, the vice president of legislative affairs at consumer advocacy group Public Citizen told Newsweek. “This is like a shell-game funnel of corporate money. So it might be an organization that has an innocent name, that sounds like a good, upstanding, innocent group” but is being backed by wealthy donors, she added.
She emphasized that the dollar amounts weren’t necessarily the most important topic illuminated by the Sludge story. Instead she focused on the source of money influencing public and political messaging.
“It’s not always about the aggregate amount. It’s not always about that for influence peddling.”