It does not come as a surprise that extreme conservative ideologue billionaires are working to spread misinformation and incite tension, this time in the form of more than 100 anti-climate groups working to discredit the science behind climate change. Two trusts, Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund were created as way for the wealthy of the extreme right to secretly invest money into anti-environmental and climate change denial groups, and they have collected millions of dollars from foundations backing the likes of the Koch Brothers and Richard Mellon Scaife. The funds, which were distributed to conservative think-tanks from 2002 to 2010, no doubt helped contribute to the backlash against president Obama’s environmental agenda.

Whitney Ball, CEO of Donors Trust, told the Guardian that her organization represents a wide range of opinion on the American right, but that they found common ground in opposing mandatory cuts to greenhouse gas emissions. And, like a good chief executive of a secretly-funded right-wing extremist trust, Ball assures her donors that their money “… won’t be going to liberals.” For instance, she stated, “… if a donor names his child a successor advisor, and she wants to give to Greenpeace, we’re not going to be able to do that.” The money has therefore gone on to fund 102 think-tanks that have a record of denying climate change and opposing environmental regulations. Among the groups that received large donations in 2010 from Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund are some of the main climate change science adversaries:

  • Americans For Prosperity Foundation got $7.6 million from DONORS groups in 2010, 43% of its budget. AFP Foundation is chaired by David Koch and has received millions in direct funding from Koch foundations since the Koch brothers founded it.
  • Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) got $1.3 million from DONORS in 2010, 45% of its budget.
  • Cornwall Alliance (through the James Partnership) got $339,500 from DONORS in 2010, 75% of its budget.
  • Heartland Institute got $1.6 million from DONORS in 2010, 27% of it’s budget, which came from Chicago billionaire Barre Seid.
  • State Policy Network got 36% of its 2010 budget ($4.8 million) from DONORS. SPN members include just about every climate-denying organization and every conservative think tank in the country, including AFP and Heartland.


These groups can now focus on working against Obama’s climate efforts in his second term, and the conservative billionaires can continue to safely hide behind their Donors trusts, with never a thought for accountability. Robert Brulle, Drexel University sociologist who studies networks of ultra-conservative donors, calls this the “counter-movement,” an organized effort of the US conservative movement, fueled by dark money. According to Brulle, “Donors Trust is just the tip of a very big iceberg.”

Matt Schultz, a shareholder with the firm of Levin Papantonio who has handled litigation against the tobacco industry and knows all about the history of dirty tricks by corporations, said the following regarding the new information:  “This fits the blueprint first laid out by the U.S. cigarette companies in the early 1950s—if the facts reveal that industry is harming the public, then industry need not change its practices if it can instead manufacture new facts.”

Alisha Mims is a Content Management Specialist for Levin, Papantonio law firm, a writer, and contributor to Ring of Fire.