DonorsTrust is a 501(c)(3) public charity founded in 1999 by Whitney Ball, a libertarian who had held key roles at the Cato Institute and the Philanthropy Roundtable, as well as being a board member of the State Policy Network (SPN). Mother Jones calls DonorsTrust the “dark-money ATM of the conservative movement” since it was set up explicitly to allow investors to bankroll institutions and activities while obscuring their own identities. Its website states that the organization aims “to ensure the intent of donors dedicated to the ideals of limited government, personal responsibility and free enterprise.”
DonorsTrust and its sister group, Donors Capital Fund, are known for funding some of the most notorious climate denial groups in the U.S. Major long-time funders include the Koch, DeVos, and Mercer families.
DonorsTrust is the biggest known funder of white nationalist groups in the U.S., as the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) first reported. It funds the VDARE Foundation and the nonprofit behind American Renaissance, both of which the Southern Poverty Law Center considers white nationalist hate groups, along with several anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ organizations.
DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund handed out $188.3 million in grants in 2020, a 52% increase over their 2019 giving. In 2020, a single donor contributed $158 million—accounting for 44% of DonorsTrust’s revenue that year. Long-time Trump allies Robert and Rebekah Mercer, who also support the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and have invested in Breitbart News, gave roughly $20 million to DonorsTrust in 2020.
January 6, 2021
- DonorsTrust gave $580,000 to the pro-Trump youth group Turning Point USA, which helped make sure that protesters would be out in force at the Jan. 6 Save America rally at the Ellipse in Washington, D.C.
The Big Lie
- In 2019, DonorsTrust gave more than $20 million to at least 12 organizations that propagated misinformation and doubts about the legitimacy of the 2020 election.
- During the 2020 election cycle, the group’s largest grant recipient was The 85 Fund, which received $48.7 million. Created by Leonard Leo and recently renamed in order to evade scrutiny, the group is largely credited with radically moving the federal judiciary—including the Supreme Court—to the far right during the Trump administration.
- The 85 Fund also runs the voter-suppression-focused Honest Elections Project (HEP), which worked to undermine trust in the election before ballots were even cast. It broadcast a TV ad nationally after Wisconsin’s 2020 primary claiming that the results had been rigged and filed lawsuits to block the expansion of mail-in voting and other pandemic-inspired election reforms.
- In July 2020, HEP collaborated with ALEC on an “academy” filled with disinformation about voter fraud and strategies for suppressing the vote.
- Constitutional Defense Fund, which focuses on voter fraud and “protecting” the Electoral College system, received $4.3 million.
- DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund donated $15.1 million to the SPN, which helped pass state-level voter suppression legislation, including bills drafted by ALEC.
- The controversial Project Veritas, which conducted undercover stings to undermine absentee and mail-in voting in the run-up to the 2020 election, also received more than $1 million from DonorsTrust.