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Koch-Related Fund Gave $18-Million to Distribute Clarion Fund’s ‘Obsession’ During Presidential Campaign

donors trust fund

Donors Trust Fund: 'building a legacy of liberty' by spitting on America's Muslims and meddling in a presidential election campaign

Counterpunch has published an exposé about the Clarion Fund that takes the story to the next level.  This is a development I’ve been awaiting for two years.  We knew that Clarion was the ostensible producer of the three anti-Muslim films, Third Jihad, Obsession and the latest, Iranium (watch the unintentionally hilarious trailer).  But we didn’t know who specifically financed the films.  Now, we still don’t know specifically whom, but Pam Gartens has taken us right up to his doorstep and rung the doorbell.

iranium movie

Iranium: the movie

Turns out that in 2008, when Clarion sent 20 million copies of Obsession to households in swing states a few weeks before the presidential election, they didn’t do this alone.  Gartens estimates that the DVD reproduction and advertising costs amounted to somewhere in the neighborhood of $17-million.  This money came to Clarion via the Donors Capital Fund, a non-profit libertarian front group (“providing asset management for…capital dedicated to the pursuit of liberty”) closely associated with the interests of the Koch family:

There are shades of Charles Koch all over Donors Capital and Donors Trust.  Two grantees receiving repeat and sizeable grants from Donors Capital are favorites of the Koch foundations: George Mason University Foundation and Institute for Humane Studies.  Another tie is Claire Kittle.  A project of Donor’s Trust is Talent Market.org, a headhunter for staffing nonprofits with the “right” people.  Ms. Kittle serves as Talent Market’s Executive Director and was the former Program Officer for Leadership and Talent Development at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.  Then there is Whitney Ball, President of both Donors Capital Fund and Donors Trust.  Ms. Ball was one of the elite guests at the invitation-only secret Aspen bash thrown by Charles Koch in June of this year, as reported by ThinkProgress.org.  Also on the guest list for the Koch bash was Stephen Moore, a member of the Editorial Board at the Wall Street Journal.  Mr. Moore is a Director at Donors Capital Fund.  Rounding out the ties that bind is Lauren Vander Heyden, who serves as Client Services Coordinator at Donors Trust.  Ms. Vander Heyden previously worked as grants coordinator and policy analyst at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.

Its 990 form reveals (page 33) that it gave an $18-million grant to Clarion Fund in 2008.  It was by far the largest grant distributed that year, amounting to about 25% of the total grants.

There are several aspects of this that shock me.  I always figured Shelly Adelson or Irwin Katsof, billionaires much more closely associated both with pro-Israel and anti-jihadi political forces, to be the suspect donors.  This latest news takes things in a far more radical libertarian direction, and generally Jews have stayed clear of right-wing libertarianism because it’s always had a whiff of anti-Semitism about it (cf. Rand Paul).  While the Koch family is Jewish, their philanthropy has never been visible in that community nor has their interest in far-right Israeli politics been evident.

I can tell you one person who ain’t the donor: George Soros.  But I wonder if Eli Lake will be as dogged in pursuing the identity of Clarion’s sugar-baby as he was in pursuing J Street’s?

Though Garten has done a great service in tracing this as far as she has, the problem is that DonorsTrust (minimum gift: $1-million) has created yet another veil behind which another donor is concealed.  We thought all we had to do before was figure out which individual funded the Clarion films.  We didn’t realize that there could be further subterfuge.  And, in fact the Trust trumpets as one of its primary benefits that it shields it’s participants identity behind a shroud:

Privacy is very important to me and at times it’s been hard to do my charitable giving in a way that’s discreet.

My private foundation was beneficial for tax benefits and administration but completely failed when it came to privacy since all private foundation tax forms are available to the general public on the Internet. That’s why I set up a DonorsTrust donor-advised account. My contributions to DonorsTrust are not public information and the grants I recommend from DonorsTrust can remain completely anonymous.

It makes you wonder why such a donor would feel the need for secrecy (or “privacy,” as they call it)?  I’m just an old-fashioned former non-profit fundraiser who believes in transparency and standing behind your philanthropic commitments.  I find secrecy in philanthropy to be objectionable.  It just makes you wonder what they’re hiding and why.

In the case of the Clarion gift, this is even more evident and problematic since a grant from a non-profit charitable foundation was used in an overtly political manner to influence a presidential election.  Given the Koch family’s massive presence in the current election cycle, the fact that DonorsTrust used non-profits it funded to produce films assaulting Islam and endorsing a presidential candidate (one of the Clarion websites promoting Obsession rated McCain far better on security issues than Obama) stinks to high heaven.

CAIR has already demanded that the IRS investigate Clarion for these reasons.  Now it seems it should expand the demand to include DonorsTrust as well.

I have to say Garten’s speculation concerning David Horowitz as a donor suspect seems far-fetched.  He doesn’t have that kind of dough and I doubt he has access to it from well-heeled allies either.

I have been surprised by the fact that Clarion hasn’t used Iranium in the same way this election cycle that it did Obsession in 2008.  I expected another DVD blitz in voters’ mailboxes right about now.  So far it hasn’t materialized.  Could it be that their Obsession donor didn’t spring for another $18-million PR blitz?

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • uncle joe mccarthy October 27, 2010, 12:19 AM

    unless the non profit specifically campaigned for or endorsed a specific candidate or party, im not sure there is anything the irs can do to them….its issue based

    this is how right wing churches get around tax law too

    they campaign for issues…like going around talking about abortion

    • Richard Silverstein October 27, 2010, 1:21 AM

      On Clarion’s website it compared McCain’s & Obama’s security agendas & specifically endorsed McCain’s. An outright violation of non profit law.

      • Sayid October 27, 2010, 6:15 PM

        On Clarion’s website it compared

        Richard, could you provide a link to this?

        • Richard Silverstein October 28, 2010, 12:44 AM

          I wrote this in 2008:

          Shore’s other website, Radical Islam, featured an editorial endorsing McCain for president. When an enterprising reporter pointed this out to Clarion’s PR flack, he was ‘appalled’ and promised it would be removed. But before he did, the reporter did us the favor of quoting it:

          The article discusses both candidates and concludes:

          McCain’s policies seek to confront radical Islamic extremism and terrorism and roll it back while Obama’s, although intending to do the same, could in fact make the situation facing the West even worse.”

          Ross said the article “crossed the line” into an endorsement of sorts and would be taken down. He added he had not been aware of the article on the site, which he said will be officially launched next week.

          “I was completely appalled and taken by surprise at the article … put on our Web site. It will be taken down immediately,” Ross said. “If I had seen that article, it would never have gone up.”

  • dickerson3870 October 27, 2010, 1:10 PM

    RE: “I wonder if Eli Lake will be as dogged in pursuing the identity of Clarion’s sugar-baby as he was in pursuing J Street’s?” – R.S.
    MY COMMENT: Don’t “bet the farm” on it!

  • rebmoti October 27, 2010, 6:33 PM

    I don’t think the Kochs are Jewish, Richard.

    • Richard Silverstein October 27, 2010, 7:13 PM

      Did some research last night & one of the magazine articles I read said David is. Pretty sure David is Charles’ brother.

  • Robin October 28, 2010, 4:18 PM

    They are Roman Catholic. Yes they are brothers.

    • Richard Silverstein October 28, 2010, 11:51 PM

      My error. It makes sense that they’re Roman Catholic. If you look at the grantees a massive number of them are clearly right wing Catholic.

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