Donors Capital Fund

Donors Capital Fund


Donors Capital Fund is a not-for-profit donor advised charity that distributes millions of dollars in grants each year to groups, organisations and projects that are “dedicated to the ideals of limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise.” [1]

Between 2002 and 2013, Donors Capital Fund (DCF) distributed some $170 million to conservative causes, many of which deny the science and impacts of human-caused climate change or the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Much of DCF’s income comes from unknown private entities with some $347 million of untraceable and unknown income since 2005.

DCF creates accounts known as “donor-advised funds” for conservative philanthropists and groups and then distributes that money to projects that match their ideologies on their behalf. This arrangement has the effect of concealing the identity of the original donor and also distances donors from specific projects or groups.

DCF is related to its sister organisation Donors Trust (DT). Funders looking to set up accounts of $1 million or more are directed by DT to DCF. Donations to both organisations are tax deductible.

DT and DCF share the same address in Alexandria, Virginia, and share a number of directors, including Whitney Ball, the late CEO of DT. [14] DonorsTrust announced that Lawson Bader, CEO at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, would take over as CEO for DonorsTrust in November of 2015. Bader joined CEI in January of 2013 after spending 16 years at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. [17], [18]

A 2013 investigation by Mother Jones described DT and DCF as the “dark money ATM” of the conservative movement in the US. [2]

Documenting the growth of DT and DCF, Mother Jones found that in 2002 DT and DCF brought in $1.4 million and gave out $1.2 million.

By 2010, the two funds attracted $44 million in funding and handed out $63 million of grants.

Donor Capital Fund's tax forms as of March, 2015 show that in 2013 the organisation declared $48.7 million in income, handed out $52 million in grants and had $35.6 million in assets. [3]

Stance on Climate Change

As a funding organisation neither Donors Trust, nor its sister organisation Donors Capital Fund, take positions on the science of human-caused climate change.

However, the groups and projects given grants from DCF and DT are among the most active in questioning the link between fossil fuel emissions and climate change and blocking attempts to legislate against greenhouse gas emissions.

These groups include The Heartland InstituteAfrica Fighting MalariaAccuracy in MediaBeacon Hill Institute,Cato InstituteFreedomWorksGrassroot Institute of HawaiiHudson InstituteJohn Locke FoundationMercatus CenterNational Center for Policy AnalysisNational Center for Public Policy Research, Reason Foundation, State Policy NetworkThe Heritage FoundationStatistical Assessment ServiceState Policy NetworkPacific Research Institute, and many others.

A 2013 study in the journal Climatic Change, by Professor Robert Brulle, of Drexel University, found that between 2003 and 2010, DT and DCF were the “single largest funders” of the “climate change counter-movement” providing more than $78 million in funding. [4]

Looking at DT and DCF, Brulle wrote in the journal: “Because contributions to a donor directed foundation are not required to be made public, their existence provides a way for individuals or corporations to make anonymous contributions. In effect, these two philanthropic foundations form a black box that conceals the identity of contributors to various CCCM (climate change counter movement) organizations.”

Brulle’s study found that DCF and DT’s contributions to the funding of the  “climate change counter movement” had risen dramatically from 3.3 per cent in 2003 to 23.7 per cent in 2010.

Funding Income

Donors Capital Fund is a vehicle for rich conservative philanthropists and their organisations to distribute money to projects that match their ideology of low government regulation and “free markets.”

A DeSmogBlog analysis of DCF tax forms shows that much of the organisation’s income is hidden. [5]

Between 2005 and 2012, DCF declared $349 million of income from donations into its funds. Yet data from Conservative Transparency, which tracks money flows between conservative groups, suggests that over the same time period only $2.75 million of the $349 million came from other non-profit groups and foundations that have to declare their funding. [6]

Some $2.725 million of that came from the Knowledge and Progress Fund, staffed by members of the Koch family and a Koch company director.

KPF have not made any donations to DCF since 2007, but have been a key funder of DT in recent years, over which time KPF has not donated to any other organisations. Virtually all of DCF’s income has come from unknown private entities.

As DCF’s website states, “gifts funding sensitive or controversial issues” can be kept anonymous.

The website adds: “Know that any contributions to your Donors Capital Fund account that have to be reported to the IRS will not become public information. Unlike with private foundations, gifts from your account will remain as anonymous as you request.”

Computer scientist John Mashey released a report finding much of the funding that was funneled through DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund to organizations skeptical of climate change in February, 2012 (PDF). [7]

According to Mashey, the “anonymous donor” that funds much of the Heartland Institute's climate science denial activity is most likely Chicago businessman Barre Seid.

A new funder to DT is the foundation of billionaire “vulture capitalist” and hedge fund manager Paul Singer, who donated $1.5m in 2012. Singer was revealed by DeSmog to have funded the think tank of Danish climate contrarian Bjorn Lomborg. [5]

DCF as Recipient

The following is based on the most recent data from Conservative Transparency. Note that not all individual values have been verified by DeSmog for accuracy. [19]

Groups Funded by Donors Capital Fund

According to the most recent data from Conservative Transparency, which includes tax data up to 2014, Donors Capital Fund gave out over $450 million to a range of organizations. Below is a subset of notable groups funded by DCF. Note that not all individual values have been verified by DeSmog for accuracy. [19]

View the attached spreadsheet for additional data on DCF funding, broken down by year (.xlsx).

The Heartland Institute

One key recipient of more than $17 million from DCF has been climate science denialist “think tank” the Heartland Institute, based in Chicago.

The Heartland Institute runs annual conferences for climate science denialists attended by contrarians from around the globe.

In 2012 Heartland launched a billboard campaign with a picture of Ted “Unabomber” Kazcynski alongside the words “I still believe in Global Warming. Do you?”

Heartland also produces the Non-intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Reports – purported to be an alternative summary of the state of climate change science designed to challenge the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports.

In 2013, DCF gave the Heartland Institute a $100,000 grant “for Climatism books & DVD projects.”  This appears to refer to the Heartland Institute’s effort in sending 100,000 copies of the climate science denial book “Climatism” to “educators, business and civic leaders, judges, environmental journalists, and elected officials.” [8]

The book claims that “man-made emissions are an insignificant part of global warming” and that “climate change is natural.”

Climate scientist Dr John Abraham critiqued the book, finding numerous glaring errors and misrepresentations of the scientific literature. [9]

The DVD “Unstoppable Solar Cycles” claims the sun could be driving climate change and features Dr Willie Soon, a fossil fuel funded part time researcher at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Laboratory who has also received funding from Donors Trust.

The top recipient of Donors Capital Fund money is the American Enterprise Institute, an organisation which has repeatedly challenged the need to act on greenhouse gas emissions.

In a February 2015 blog post, the AEI’s energy policy fellow Benjamin Zycher attempted to argue that concerns over sea level rise, global temperatures, floods, droughts and sea ice were overblown and that agreements to cut greenhouse gas emissions would be ineffective and too costly. Zycher has previously argued that subsidies for renewable energy should be abandoned. [10]

The Americans for Limited Government Research Foundation which received $2million in 2012 and another $2 million in 2013 from DCF, has been running a campaign to “Defund the EPA” to protect American business from what it says are “radical environmentalists.” [11]

990 Forms

Key People

Board & Officers

Name 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2016[16] Description
Adam Meyerson Y Y Y Y Y Chairman. President, The Philanthrophy Roundtable
Arthur C. Brooks Y President, American Enterprise Institute
Jeffrey C. Zysik Y Y Y Assistant Treasurer. Chief Financial Officer & Chief of Information Technology, DonorsTrust
Kimberly O. Dennis Y Y Y President & CEO, Searle Freedom Trust
Kris Alan Mauren Y Y Y Y Y Y Executive Director, The Acton Institute
Lawson R. Bader Y President & CEO, Donors Capital Fund and DonorsTrust
Roger R. Ream Y President, The Fund for American Studies
Scott G. Bullock Y President, Institute for Justice
Steven Hayward Y Y Y Y Y Y Fellow, Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs
John A. Von Kannon Y Y Y Y Y Vice President & Senior Counselor, The Heritage Foundation
Whitney L. Ball (1963-2015) Y Y Y Y Y Late President and CEO of Donors Trust
William H. Mellor Y Y Y Y Y President & General Counsel, Institute for Justice
Aurthur Burns Y Board Member.
Christopher DeMuth Y Y Y Board Member.
Stephen Moore Y Y Y Y Board Member.
Bruce H. Jacobs Y Y Y Vice Pres./BoD
Melissa Cliett Y Y Asst. Treas.
James S. Wachs Y President

    Donors Capital Fund Contact & Location

    As of June 2016, Donors Capital Fund listed the following contact information on its website: [15]

    Donors Capital Fund
    1800 Diagonal Road, Suite 280
    Alexandria, VA 22314
    Voice: 703.535.3563
    Fax: 703.535.3564

    Articles About Donors Capital Fund

    Secretive Donors Gave US Climate Denial Groups $125M Over Three Years - The Guardian

    Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund gave over $125m to conservative causes during these three years while working to oppose Obama's climate change plan, as reported by The Guardian in a June, 2015 investigative piece.  

    The funds went to building a network of thinktanks and activist groups that worked to defeat climate bills in Congress and mobilized against Environmental Protection Agency rules to reduce carbon pollution from power plants due to be finalised in the summer of 2015.

    • In 2011, 42% of funding, or $35.7m, went to groups promoting climate denial and opposed to environmental regulations, according to the tax filings.
    • In 2012, that figure jumped to 51% of the funds directed through Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund – a total of just over $49m.
    • In 2013, the last year for which tax records are available, 46% of anonymous funding to conservative groups through the two Donors channels, or just over $41 million.
    A secretive funding organization in the United States that guarantees anonymity for its billionaire donors has emerged as a major operator in the climate “counter movement” to undermine the science of global warming, The Independent has learnt.

    Exposed: The Dark-Money ATM of the Conservative Movement - Mother Jones

    Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund have dolled out $400 million to more than 1000 conservative and libertarian groups including the notorious Heartland Institute.

    Koch Family Uses Fund To Channel Millions To Anti-Climate Science Groups: Report - Live Science

    A British newspaper claims to have discovered the convoluted way oil billionaires in the United States can funnel huge amounts of cash toward climate change-denial campaigns, while reaping tremendous tax advantages in the process.


    1. What is Donors Capital Fund?” Donors Capital Fund. Archived July 23, 2015.

    2. Exposed: The Dark-Money ATM of the Conservative Movement,” Mother Jones, February 5, 2013. Archived July 23, 2015.

    3. Donors Capital Fund, Inc. Form 990 return (2013). The Foundation Centre. Archived July 22, 2015.

    4. Robert J. Brulle. “Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations,” Climate Change. December 21, 2013.

    5. Graham Readfearn. “Exclusive: Major Climate Denial Funders Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund Handled $479 Million Of Dark Money,” DeSmogBlog, May 12, 2015.

    6. Donors Capital Fund,” Conservative Transparency. Archived July 23, 2015.

    7. John Mashey. “Fake science, fakexperts, funny finances, free of tax,” DeSmogBlog, February 14, 2012.

    8. Heartland Institute Celebrates Earth Day with Release of New Book,” Heartland Institute (Press Release), April 22, 2013. Archived July 23, 2015.

    9. John Abraham. “Heartland Institute wastes real scientists' time – yet again,” The Guardian, May 20, 2013. Archived July 23, 2015.

    10. Benjamin Zycher. “The Kyoto Protocol: 10 years of triumph,” The American Enterprise Institute. Archived July 23, 2015.

    11. Urge Congress to Defund the EPA!” Americans for Limited Government. Archived July 23, 2015.

    12. Directors & Officers,” Donors Capital Fund. Archived July 23, 2015.

    13. Suzanne Goldenberg. “Secretive donors gave US climate denial groups $125m over three years,” The Guardian, June 9, 2015. Archived July 23, 2015. 

    14. A Tribute to Whitney Ball,” American Legislator (ALEC Blog), August 18, 2015. Archived August 20, 2015.

    15. Contact Us,” Donors Capital Fund. Archived June 13, 2016. WebCite URL:

    16. Directors & Officers,” Donors Capital Fund. Archived June 16, 2016. WebCite URL

    17. (Press Release). “DonorTrust's New CEO,”, September 22, 2015. Archived June 17, 2016. WebCite URL

    18. Graham Readfearn. “Climate Science Denier Lawson Bader Named CEO At Conservative Funding Arm Donors Trust,” DeSmogBlog, September 28, 2015.

    19. Donors Capital Fund,” Conservative Transparency. Data retrieved May 22, 2017.