Obama bundlers’ foundations bankroll gay marriage, abortion, unions, ACORN, ‘racial justice,’ anti-coal campaigns
President Barack Obama’s campaign “bundlers” — big-ticket donors who combine their own contributions with those of wealthy friends and family members — include at least 138 individuals who sit on boards of charitable foundations or other grant-giving charities, a Daily Caller analysis shows. And those foundations include many whose grant making focuses on far left-wing causes that mirror Obama’s policymaking decisions.
Those foundations, whose leaders include Obama bundlers, are on the forefront of funding liberal social-issue groups including those concerned with gay marriage rights, union organizing, abortion, immigration and “racial justice” issues and opposition to energy from coal and other fossil fuels.
Capital Research Center executive vice president Scott Walter told TheDC that those funding streams “speak volumes about the givers and the receiver. For the President to receive so much hard Left money puts the lie to any claims of moderation and centrism.”
The president has already weathered a few embarrassing episodes involving his bundlers. In February his campaign pledged to return at least $200,000 collected by brothers of a casino owner who was linked to violence and corruption in Mexico after he jumped bail while appealing a five-year prison term for telemarketing fraud.
In January the liberal Center for Public Integrity reported that 68 of Obama’s top 350 bundlers already had high-status jobs in his administration, and that 30 were tied to government-related companies in the green technology, defense or banking industries.
And in his controversial May 13 Newsweek cover story, writer Andrew Sullivan drew a clear line of connection between the president’s sudden gay-marriage conversion and his bundlers’ ideological preferences.
“There was, of course, cold politics behind it,” Sullivan wrote. “One in six of Obama’s fundraising bundlers is gay, and he needs their money.” (RELATED: Complete coverage of Barack Obama’s campaign finance bundlers)
That one-in-six figure refers to a May 9 Washington Post investigation which focused only on the president’s top-tier bundlers — those who have brought in at least $500,000, the top amount disclosed on the Obama For America website.
TheDC’s analysis, based on IRS records and other data provided by FoundationSearch.com, shows that the president’s liberal bundlers with foundation ties have broader interests than just whether gay marriage will become the next national civil rights watershed.
“I don’t usually think of campaign money bundlers as charitable folks,” Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise executive vice president Ron Arnold told The Daily Caller.
“Obama’s bundlers include an astoundingly big crowd of foundation board members … that funnel cash to the far left.”
Arnold’s 1999 book “Undue Influence” was among the earliest and most comprehensive non-profit follow-the-money exercises, tracking millions from left-leaning foundations to environmental activist groups.
The moneyed political left, Walter added, “sees giving as an extension of politics. You can spend days among donors supposedly interested in, say, environmentalism, and hear very little about the environment and very much about how ‘we’ can elect more liberals.”
The bundlers themselves were identified by the Obama re-election campaign on its website in three quarterly statements. Information about their occupations and employers, which was crucial in identifying their foundation ties, came from the Center for Responsive Politics.
TheDC provided the campaigns of both Obama and his presumptive GOP challenger Mitt Romney with an overview of this investigation. Obama’s staff did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Romney for President press secretary Andrea Saul replied, “I don’t have anything to add.”
Gay rights, including the controversial gay marriage question, is represented more consistently than any other issue in the foundation giving of Obama’s bundlers. One of the movement’s biggest funders, desktop-publishing software entrepreneur Tim Gill, is also one of President Obama’s biggest bundlers.
Along with UBS financial adviser Scott Miller, whom he married in Massachusetts in 2009, Gill is part of the group of bundlers who have provided the president’s re-election campaign with at least $500,000. He also hosted a Feb. 9 fundraiser for the president whose total haul was reported at $1.4 million.
The Gill Foundation, whose work is now Gill’s primary occupation, discloses on its website that it has handed out more than $118 million in grants, about 80 percent of which has gone to organizations that advocate on behalf of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people. At least 64 of those grants were payments in excess of $10,000 specifically earmarked for campaigns related to “marriage equality.”
Gill also chairs the Gill Action Fund, a nonprofit advocacy group whose 501(c)(4) status permits it to spend as much as it pleases on legislative campaigns. Through 2010, that spending totaled more than $7.9 million across more than 20 states — including at least $442,000 to the Log Cabin Republicans — all seemingly aimed at promoting same-sex marriage equality.
He isn’t the only Obama bundler with that priority. In October 2011 the Center for Responsive Politics identified more than a dozen on its OpenSecrets.org website who are gay or lesbian. They include two, aside from Gill, who serve on the boards of foundations with gay-rights policy objectives.
Portland, Ore. real estate developer Terry Bean is chairman of the Charles M. Holmes Foundation. He has bundled between $200,000 and $500,000 for Obama. bean was also the first openly gay fundraiser to serve on Obama’s campaign finance committee five years ago.
Bean did not respond to requests for comment, but he told Forbes magazine on May 14 that Obama’s conversion a week earlier on the marriage question would energize gay donors.
“People already know that he’s done so much, like repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Bean said. “There’s such a distinction between him and Romney. Romney would take us back many years. I think it’ll remind people to give, and how big the stakes are.”
Under Bean’s leadership, the Holmes Foundation has put nearly all of its $3.2 million in grant awards into gay advocacy. The Human Rights Campaign has received more than two-thirds of the total.
New York City public relations counselor Jeff Soref also made the OpenSecrets list. He has bundled between $100,000 and $200,000 for the president. He’s also the only bundler who sits on two foundation boards. Both, the Allan Morrow Foundation and the Calamus Foundation, devote large percentages of their grantmaking to gay rights causes.
And Paul Egerman, who co-founded a computer-aided medical transcription company, now serves the Obama administration’s Department of Health and Human Services as a member of its Health Information Technology Policy Committee. Egerman bundled between $50,000 and $100,000 for Obama’s re-election.
His family foundation’s priorities run the gamut from temples and hospitals to museums and universities, but also included supporting the MassEquality Education Association, a gay-marriage advocacy group, with a $50,000 grant.
The Hollywood Left
In addition to Tim Gill, seven other Obama bundlers — the campaign calls them “volunteer fundraisers’ — whose foundation ties are the subject of this report have delivered at least $500,000 for the president’s re-election effort.
That group includes Harvey Weinstein, the movie mogul whose Miramax Films studio, a unit of the Walt Disney Company, which has brought cash cows like “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” “Pulp Fiction” and “Good Will Hunting” to theaters.
Weinstein sits on the board of the Robin Hood Foundation, a liberal philanthropy whose leaders include Guggenheim Partners executive chairman Alan D. Schwartz, Maverick Capital hedge fund chief Lee S. Ainslie III, Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw, former NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Zucker, General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt and actress Gwyneth Paltrow.
At the end of 2010 the foundation’s net worth was nearly $375 million.
Robin Hood gave away more than $105 million that year, a typical one, funds which went largely to an unremarkable mixture of community centers, religious charities, charter school initiatives and other New York City-based grantees. Most received six-figure checks.
Two 2010 grants stand apart from the rest, however. One was a $575,000 grant to a non-profit unit of the Service Employees International Union local 1199 healthcare workers union. The program delivers benefit services to nurses and other home care workers.
The other, a $133,528 check, went to the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York. That organization has become known among Big Apple restaurateurs for its aggressive, in-your-face protest tactics aimed at forcing eateries to accept unionized — and therefore higher-paid — work forces. Weinstein’s foundation gave it another $95,000 in 2008, earmarked for “job training.”
ROC-NY’s politics, like those of some other Robin Hood Foundation grantees, are on the far left. The group formally endorsed a May Day march and protest organized in 2012 by Occupy Wall Street.
President Obama has long praised the anti-capitalist Occupy movement. “We understand their struggles and we are on their side,” he told ABC News in October 2011.
Obama’s campaigns and messaging breathe union air and display a bias toward organized labor matched by some of Weinstein’s most generous grants.
The Robin Hood Foundation’s overall giving to the SEIU program totaled $1,040,000 between 2006 and 2009.
Under Weinstein’s direction, it also lavished $821,000 on ACORN, the controversial Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, in 2003 and 2004.
In its heyday, during the same stretch of years it was cashing checks from Weinstein’s foundation, ACORN was an idealized form of the sort of community organizing muscle that brought Barack Obama his first political victories.
But in 2010 ACORN lost its federal government funding and closed its doors, after its employees were caught on camera advising walk-in clients how to hide prostitution activities and avoid taxes. In 2011 the group pleaded guilty to violating election law.
Conservatives had long argued that the organization collected and processed tens of thousands of invalid and fraudulent voter registration forms in several states.
Ron Arnold, the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise free-market advocate, called Weinstein “hypocritical” for supporting the SEIU and ACORN while “sit[ting] with money mavens who throw a huge annual glitterati bash begging big bucks ‘to help New York’s poor.'”
He also criticized the union-friendly Weinstein for including Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein among the Robin Hood Foundation’s board members. Blankfein, he said, “oversaw his firm’s major interest in Burger King as it screwed Florida migrant tomato pickers who wanted a pay raise of a penny a pound on their 35-cents-a-pound buckets.”
Weinstein Company publicist Selena Saldana told TheDC on Thursday that her boss would not be able to respond in one day to questions about his grants to ACORN, the SEIU and a New York City group called the Council of Peoples Organization — formerly known as the Council of Pakistan Organization. That group, which focuses on promoting Muslim issues, collected $362,042 from the Robin Hood Foundation between 2006 and 2009.
The Council is a reliably left-wing megaphone for Pakistanis living in the U.S. It sprang up after the 9/11 terror attacks as a response to what its website says were “racism, racial profiling, and selective immigration enforcement” among “isolated and poverty stricken” Pakistani immigrants in New York City. Former Queens, N.Y. Democratic congressman Anthony Weiner delivered a $150,000 earmark for the group in a $20.7 million Department of Health and Human Services funding request in 2010.
After TheDC extended its deadline by 72 hours, Saldana stopped responding to emails. Instead, Robin Hood Foundation managing director Patty Smith wrote with the claim that her organization’s more than $1 million in SEIU grants were for “job training programs.” Its $821,000 in funding to ACORN, she said, paid for “professionals [to] prepare tax returns … [for] low-income and moderate income working New Yorkers.”
The foundation’s $362,042 in grants to the Pakistan-related organization, she insisted, “provided low income immigrants from South Asia with literacy and computer training … and assistance in preparing for citizenship exams.”
According to Department of Homeland Security reports covering the years of those grants, Pakistani nationals accounted for less than 1.4 percent of all new naturalized U.S. citizens. Those settling in the state of New York were a smaller fraction, less than one-quarter of one percent — an average of barely 2,000 people every year. Still tinier numbers for those in New York City, where the Council of Peoples Organization operates, are too small for DHS to report.
The Racial Justice Bankroll
The movie mogul’s grants to controversial left-wing activists are not unique among Obama’s cash-cow bundlers. The Salesforce.com foundation, chaired by billionaire Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, lists among its grants a $25,000 donation to the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.
That organization, based in Oakland, Calif., was founded by former Obama White House ‘green jobs’ czar Van Jones. Like ACORN, Jones himself was forced to retreat into relative obscurity — and left his government position — amid embarrassment and controversy.
First, news broke of his signature on a petition alleging George W. Bush administration officials “may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war.” Then he publicly expressed support for Mumia-Abu Jamal, a death row inmate convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer.
The Ella Baker Center has also expressed its solidarity with anti-capitalist protesters, asking its members at one point during 2011 to “Stand Up for Occupy Oakland.”
Benioff, like Weinstein, has bundled at least $500,000 for Obama during the current presidential election cycle.
The Daily Caller asked Benioff, through his representatives at the Hill & Knowlton public relations firm, whether the polarizing nature of Jones’ work made him regret sending him money and whether he still supports him today. Despite three days of attempts, they offered no comment.
But Benioff’s $25,000 is small potatoes; most of the bundlers’ giving that aligns with their favorite president’s values comes in six-figure amounts. Another foundation tied to an Obama bundler has made a cottage industry out of funding the Ella Baker Center and other organizations like it.
The Akonadi Foundation, whose board secretary is Obama $500,000+ bundler Wayne Jordan, says on its website that its funding is “guided by our vision for a racially just society.” That vision includes grant dollars for a variety of far-left “racial justice” organizations, and for others whose mandate is to support amnesty for illegal immigrants.
Obama himself made news on June 15 by endorsing a selective-deportation policy that will deliver a sort of amnesty to young illegal immigrants whose parents brought them to the United States when they were children. Some conservatives have suggested that the move will be the beginning of a longer policy arc toward a broader amnesty.
Akonadi’s grantees read like a laundry list of conservatives’ racial-policy bogeymen and advocate for many of the same progressive positions that Obama brought with him to Washington in 2009.
The Partnership for Immigrant Leadership and Action, for instance, has collected nearly $250,000 for projects that enable “community-based immigrant organizations across California to do progressive movement-building and electoral organizing.” The Movement Strategy Center has received $585,000, mostly to leverage “the power of youth and communities of color to engage and transform media” and to build them into “a permanent political electoral infrastructure.”
After three attempts to reach Jordan at the Akonadi Foundation, an employee there told TheDC that he was “out of the country and unreachable” for comment.
Next to race-based advocacy organizations, President Obama’s arguably most reliable source of institutional approval comes from organizations that support the right of U.S. women to choose abortion. His administration recently opposed a Republican-backed bill, which later failed, that would have made it a crime to perform an abortion on the sole basis of sex-selection.
“The government should not intrude in medical decisions or private family matters in this way,” White House deputy press secretary Jamie Smith said May 30.
Many of Obama’s bundlers share this all-out support of abortion and the industry that practices it. Naomi Aberly, a Texas investment manager who has bundled in excess of $500,000 for Obama, is also vice president of the Lebowitz Family Foundation. That philanthropy donated $155,823 to Planned Parenthood of North Texas in 2010. At the time, Aberly chaired the regional abortion provider’s capital campaign.
That same year, the foundation donated $12,000 to the Texas Equal Access Fund. “If you want an abortion and don’t have the money to pay for it,” the group’s website offers, “the TEA Fund may be able to help you.”
Aberly was later chosen to join the national board of Planned Parenthood’s advocacy and political arm.
Reached for comment, Aberly would only tell TheDC, “Thank you for your interest in my work. I am not interested in commenting.”
At least four other top Obama bundlers are trustees of foundations that donate heavily to abortion advocates.
Dean Phillips has bundled between $50,000 and $100,000 for the president’s re-election. The recently retired leader of the Phillips Distilling Company brought bar-hoppers ubiquitous brands like UV vodka and Phillips Union whiskey. He is also a trustee of the Jay & Rose Phillips Family Foundation, named for his great-grandparents.
While the foundation’s stated priorities revolve around poverty, employment and housing, it has also distributed at least $1,694,000 to pro-abortion groups including Pro-Choice Resources, the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) Pro-Choice Minnesota Foundation and three different Planned Parenthood franchises.
Its grants have also included a total of $455,000 to People For the American Way, a liberal message group that loudly applauded Obama’s May 2012 endorsement of gay marriage, and whose political arm was among the president’s loudest endorsers in 2008.
Fred Eychaner, a reclusive Chicago media mogul and Newsweb Corporation CEO who gives lavishly to Democrats and hides from publicity like a latter-day J.D. Salinger, is president of the Alphawood Foundation. Eychaner has bundled at least $500,000 to support Obama’s bid for a second term.
At his direction, Alphawood has poured $265,000 into Planned Parenthood chapters in Illinois. It has also given $135,000 to the gay-rights Lambda Legal Education Fund — Eyechaner is openly gay — and $525,000 to the Denver left-wing media company Public Communicators, Inc.
That firm operates Free Speech TV, a liberal public-access channel that airs on the DISH Network. Its programs include Russia Today’s “Thom Hartmann Program,” “Gay USA,” “Democracy Now!” and several offerings from Al Jazeera English.
TheDC was unable to reach Eyechaner for comment.
Smaller abortion-rights donors include Gerald Rosenfeld and Judith Zarin, more modest bundlers in the $50,000 to $100,000 range. They make charitable gifts through their Zarin/Rosenfeld Family Foundation — including $106,500 in all to the NARAL Foundation.
Robert Mailer Anderson and Nicola Miner bundled the top-tier amount of at least $500,000 for Obama. Mrs. Miner is a director of the Baker Street Foundation, whose grants have included $50,000 to Planned Parenthood.
The Media Matters Connection
Anderson and Miner also operate a second private philanthropy, called the Miner Anderson Family Foundation. Most of its grantmaking serves educational and arts-related organizations in San Francisco, but in 2010 it wrote the tax-exempt liberal messaging group Media Matters for America a check for $100,000.
Media Matters’ practical goals include waging a self-styled “war” against the Fox News Channel and rallying corporate intimidation campaigns against the broadcast sponsors of conservative media figures.
TheDC has reported extensively on the group’s long-standing working relationship with the Obama White House. Media Matters has taken credit internally for leading campaigns against Lou Dobbs, Don Imus, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, among others. (RELATED: The Daily Caller’s extensive series on Media Matters)
At least two other Obama bundlers share a Media Matters connection through foundations they control. Dan Berger, a managing partner of the Philadelphia class-action law firm Berger & Montague, is president of the David Berger Foundation. He has bundled between $50,000 and $100,000 for the president’s re-election bid.
The David Berger Foundation sent Media Matters Media Matters $340,000 between 2005 and 2010. It also donated $220,000 to People For the American Way and its youth offshoot during the same years.
Berger’s legal secretary gave TheDC his email address, but he did not respond to questions about the purpose behind his giving.
Another big Media Matters benefactor is a bundler-linked foundation with far broader liberal interests. The Wallace Global Fund II — a reorganized version of the original Wallace Global Fund — gave $175,000 to Media Matters between 2007 and 2010.
The Wallace Way
Scott Wallace co-chairs the Wallace Global Fund II. In an interview with The Daily Caller, he said he was surprised to learn that he was listed as an Obama bundler since every penny he presented to the president’s re-election campaign came from him and his wife. “You can give to the DNC and to the campaign,” he said. “We’re maxed out, but we stay within the limits under federal law.”
Wallace defended his foundation’s funding of Media Matters, and said he supported the organization’s sponsor-boycott campaigns aimed at forcing conservative broadcasters like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh off the air.
“We’ve been supporting them since they were founded in 2004,” he told TheDC. “[Boycotting radio sponsors] certainly is an effective tactic when you have some media that are uterly unaccountable and spreading misinformation like Glenn Beck.”
The fund’s website includes a feature article titled “A Salute to Occupy Wall Street.” Its grant recipient list reads like a parade from Beck’s nightmares.
In addition to Media Matters, it includes $282,500 to ACORN; $1.2 million to support the left-wing “Democracy Now!” broadcasts; more than $1 million to Planned Parenthood and its global affiliates, including $75,000 for “opposition monitoring”; $537,000 to the Center for Economic Research and Social Change, whose projects include the International Socialist Review journal and the “Socialism 2012” conference; at least $535,000 to People for the American Way; and $75,000 to the Van Jones-linked Apollo Alliance.
Another $160,000 went to Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Water Keeper Alliance charity. Kennedy famously alleged in 2002, and then reiterated in 2009, that American pig farmers are “a greater threat to the United States and U.S. democracy than Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network.” The Wallace Global Fund II’s grant was for Kennedy’s “Chesapeake Poultry Initiative.” (It may be presumed that he is no more fond of chicken farmers than he is of pork producers.)
But the fund’s most consistent drumbeat is against coal. The Daily Caller identified eight separate Wallace grantees whose earmarked projects explicitly target coal mining and coal-powered electric generation. Their names run the gamut from the Earth Island Institute’s “coal swarm” project to the Center for Rural Strategies’ “coal divestment campaign.” The eight projects received a total of $1,275,000.
Anti-coal policymaking has been the acknowledged backbone of the Obama administration’s environmental policy. Among the president’s campaign promises in 2008 was a pledge to force coal-fired power plants to adopt the same low-emissions standards that natural gas plants typically meet.
“If somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle while campaigning four years ago. “It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”
“That will also generate billions of dollars that we can invest in solar, wind, biodiesel and other alternative energy approaches,” then-candidate Obama added, in what now sounds like an embryonic pitch for Solyndra.
Obama’s reputation in America’s coal belt has become so precarious that he nearly lost the May 8, 2012 Democratic primary in West Virginia. Keith Russell Judd, a federal prisoner serving time for extortion, won more than 40 percent of the vote.
Reporters, pollsters and pundits agreed that Judd’s support was a protest vote, meant to draw attention to Obama’s “war on coal.” That war’s latest widespread estimate of casualties has 100 U.S. coal plants — one in five — slated for closure.
Wallace told TheDC that he and his foundation are pleased.
“We support what he’s doing and we wish he would do a little bit more,” he said. “We know he’s not perfect in terms of dealing with the fossil fuel industry and getting us to renewable energy, but he’s the best we’ve got in this cycle.”
“Obama may not be a Henry Wallace or a Howard Dean, but he’s a step in that direction.”
Arnold, of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, was more critical of what he called the “kill coal” campaigns Wallace is funding.
“Obama bundlers Scott and Christy Wallace can claim that unemployment is their greatest product,” Arnold said.
The Wallace Global Fund II is not the only environmental philanthropy steered in part by Obama bundlers. The Seattle-based Bullitt Foundation is entirely focused on “sustainable development” — a large component of which concerns energy.
Bullitt’s trustees include Michael Parham, an attorney whose minimum of $500,000 puts him in the top echelon of Obama bundlers. Parham is Associate General Counsel at the digital media company RealNetworks, Inc.
Listing its goals, the foundation says it aims to “accelerate and maximize the installation of renewable energy technologies” including solar power, whose support with taxpayer-subsidized loan guarantees has put the Obama administration on the hot seat more than once.
The Bullitt Foundation is uniformly vague when describing the purposes for its grantmaking, however, listing the goal of nearly every payout in its annual IRS reporting as “protecting and restoring the environment of the Pacific Northwest.” But a survey of its grant recipients, provided by FoundationSearch.com, shows that $1,133,000 has gone to environmental groups whose names include the word “energy.”
Nearly the same amount, $1,077,000, went to the Tides Foundation and its affiliated Tides Center. Scott Wallace’s foundation sent Tides about $2.4 million as well, earmarked for a variety of projects that serve liberal political ends. Tides incubates and administers a laundry list of “projects,” extending its tax-exempt umbrella to cover them even though they might not pass IRS muster on their own.
For its trouble, Tides keeps a percentage of each project’s incoming donations.
But Wallace’s $2.4 million pales in comparison to the $45.8 million Tides has received from the Chicago Community Foundation. And unlike most foundations, which are proud to announce the nature of the projects they fund, this $416 million philanthropy routinely makes $4 and $5 million grants to Tides without disclosing — even to the IRS — the money’s purpose.
Jesse Ruiz, a lawyer in the Chicago office of Drinker, Biddle & Reath, sits on the foundation’s board. He’s also the co-chair of his firm’s Diversity Committee, an Obama bundler in the $50,000 to $100,000 range, and vice president of the Chicago Board of Education.
That appointment came in May 2011, from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel — Obama’s former chief of staff in the White House.
Ruiz did not respond to multiple requests for comment via phone and email.
The Tides Foundation and the related Tides Center paid out more than $148 million in grants during 2010. Their combined net worth is more than a quarter-billion dollars. Tides bases its philanthropy on donor-advised giving, a model in which funders use it as a pass-through agent, erasing the public trail between grantor and grantee. The Akonadi Foundation, for instance, has moved more than $562,000 through Tides to projects that build “multi-racial movements for environmental and economic justice,” and other similarly described initiatives.
Tides has also received more than $6 million from the California Community Foundation, whose board includes Obama bundler Thomas Unterman. The Los Angeles venture capitalist has bundled between $50,000 and $100,000 in contributions toward the president’s re-election.
Most of the California Community Foundation’s donations to Tides were for no specified purpose, but one small $5,000 grant was earmarked for the Apollo Alliance.
In addition to doling out millions on its donors’ behalf, Tides also operates 155 internal projects. Most of these, according to its own publicity materials, were started at funders’ specific request because no organization already existed to advocate on a specific issue in a desired fashion. All of those projects operate under the umbrella of Tides’ tax-exempt status. Most are politically left-wing. Many reflect President Obama’s policy views.
Tides has become known on the political right as an organizing nexus on the left. Service Employees International Union Southern Conference founder Wade Rathke, who served on SEIU’s international executive board for eight years, is a former chairman of the Tides Center’s board and was a founding board member of the Tides Foundation.
Rathke also famously founded ACORN. When that organization discovered in 2000 that Rathke’s brother Dale had embezzled nearly $1 million from its accounts and those of its affiliated organizations, it was the Tides Foundation’s president who bailed ACORN out, The New York Times reported in 2008.
Obama’s historical connections with ACORN have been the subject of political point-scoring since 2008. It’s generally agreed, however, that the president organized Chicagoans for an ACORN affiliate called “Project Vote!” in 1992 and that his 2008 campaign paid $832,598 to Citizens Services Inc., an ACORN-affiliated consulting firm. That money paid for get-out-the-vote efforts.
Alex Myers provided additional reporting.