Wednesday 14 February 2024

Here’s How Major Charities Are Blacklisting Conservative Groups, Cutting Them Off From Donations

 Charitable foundations across the country are using lists compiled by left-wing organizations to prevent donors’ funds from going to conservative and faith-based groups, according to a review of public records and documents obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

When screening grant recipients, some community foundations that run donor-advised funds (DAFs) rely on lists put together by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Horizon Forum that label mainstream conservative and faith-based organizations as “hate” groups. This designation effectively blacklists conservative groups, potentially cutting them off from funding they would otherwise be eligible to receive.

“‘Hate group’ is a serious charge, one very few donors would be keen to have their names associated with,” Robert Stilson, a research specialist at the Capital Research Center, told the DCNF.

Stilson said that while most conservatives “know not to automatically defer” to the groups’ designations, “the bigger risk is that charitable intermediaries and facilitators such as DAFs will continue to substitute the SPLC’s biased views for those of the donors themselves.”

‘Standard Protocol’

The DCNF identified 11 community foundations, collectively controlling more than $12 billion in assets as of 2022, using the resources produced by the SPLC or Horizon Forum to shape their donation policies.

These community foundations operate donor-advised funds, which is a type of charitable account that allows individuals to donate stock or cash to a foundation to distribute at a later date. After establishing one of these funds, donors can then advise the community foundation to disburse some or all of its assets to another organization of their choosing.  

The charity administering the DAF, however, reserves the right to deny a donor’s recommendation. Several major community foundations use the lists created by the SPLC and Horizon Forum to reject donor recommendations, according to grant policies and public statements reviewed by the DCNF.

For example, a May 2023 letter obtained by the DCNF shows the Pittsburgh Foundation denied a donor’s request to send a $5,000 grant to Turning Point USA (TPUSA) because Horizon Forum had flagged the organization as a “hate” group. 

Horizon Forum offers foundations a “research tool” that flags organizations “widely considered by academic, journalistic and advocacy organizations [to be] involved with hate activity,” the letter says. Horizon’s research tool, per the letter, flagged TPUSA as “an organization that is considered to be involved with hate activity.”

The letter did not lay out why, specifically, TPUSA was flagged as a hate group nor did it expand on the methodology used to arrive at that designation.

TPUSA is a conservative political advocacy organization that has worked with several elected officials. Running proposed donations through Horizon Forum’s database is the “standard protocol” for the foundation, according to the letter.

A spokesperson for the Pittsburgh Foundation told the DCNF that it “decide[s] an organization’s qualification for funding on a case-by-case basis” and does “not keep a list of organizations for which funding requests have been declined through that assessment.”

Similarly, several other community foundations say they use SPLC’s “Hate Map” or other materials produced by the organization to determine whether or not they will approve a donor’s grant recommendation.

Charities that reference SPLC materials when making decisions on where to send grants include the Greater WashingtonDelawareFox Valley RegionWestern MassachusettsNapa Valley and Stonewall community foundations, according to materials produced by the charities. None of these foundations responded to the DCNF’s requests for comment.

The Cleveland FoundationBoston Foundation and Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation also use SPLC materials to shape their grant-making policies, according to the charities’ websites. None of these foundations responded to requests for comment.

“The SPLC’s ‘hate map’ may discourage would-be donors from contributing to mainstream conservative and Christian causes, as it suggests these causes are hateful along similar lines to the Ku Klux Klan,” Daily Signal Managing Editor Tyler O’Neil, author of “Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center,” told the DCNF.

The SPLC’s hate map is published annually, plotting the approximate locations of organizations the SPLC flags as hateful on a map of the United States.

Some charities, like the East Bay Community Foundation, Hartford Foundation and the Connecticut Foundation “may” consult SPLC materials to determine if a donation recommendation will be approved, according to material on their websites. None of these foundations responded to requests for comment.

A spokesperson for Chicago Community Trust told the DCNF that it uses the SPLC’s hate list to ensure that it denies grant recommendations to “nonprofits that engage in hateful activities.”

Chicago Community Trust controlled $4.2 billion in assets as of 2022, according to its tax disclosures. None of those funds can flow to groups flagged by the SPLC.

‘Genuine Extremists’

Conservatives and libertarians have criticized the SPLC’s list for placing mainstream conservative and faith-based organizations, like the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), alongside infamous extremist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party. ADF is a conservative Christian legal foundation that supports parental rights, free speech, religious freedom and traditional marriage.

The SPLC also lists the Family Research Council (FRC), a conservative Christian advocacy organization; the American College of Pediatricians, an organization of healthcare professionals; Gun Owners of America, a pro-Second Amendment group; and the Pacific Justice Institute, a civil liberties-focused legal nonprofit, on its hate map.

In 2012, a gunman attempted to enter FRC’s Washington, D.C. office in order to “kill as many people as possible,” according to prosecutors. The gunman, who was subdued after firing several shots and wounding a security guard, cited SPLC ‘s inclusion of FRC on its “hate map” as motivation for his attack, Fox reported.

The SPLC added a slate of parental rights organizations to its list of hate groups in 2023, attracting considerable controversy.

“These groups were, in part, spurred by the right-wing backlash to COVID-19 public safety measures in schools,” but have “grown into an anti-student inclusion movement that targets any inclusive curriculum that contains discussions of race, discrimination and LGBTQ identities,” the SPLC’s 2022 extremism report reads.

Groups like Moms for Liberty, Parents Defending Education, Army of Parents and No Left Turn in Education were among those designated as hate groups by the SPLC in 2023.

A group of House Republicans filed a resolution condemning the SPLC in 2023 for labeling parents’ groups as hate organizations, Fox News Digital reported.

“I introduced this resolution because I’m sick and tired of far-left groups demonizing folks who are just standing up for their rights,” Republican Michigan Rep. Lisa McClain said at the time.

The SPLC “lumps genuine extremists together with traditional mainstream conservative organizations that have no business being associated with one another,” Stilson said. He also expressed concerns about the SPLC having the power to effectively “veto” donations at more than a dozen major community funds.

The SPLC did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Horizon Forum

While the SPLC is open about who it places on its list of hateful organizations, Horizon Forum is more opaque.

Though Horizon Forum does not publicize the foundations it provides services for, the DCNF obtained documents showing that the Pittsburgh Foundation, which controlled over $1 billion in assets as of 2022 per its tax filings, uses the organization’s research tool hate groups to determine where donors can and cannot direct their money.

Horizon Forum does not publicly publish a list of organizations it labels as hate groups, nor does it publicly disclose its methodology for designating groups as hateful.

Horizon Forum did not respond to multiple requests for comment seeking clarification.

Horizon Forum conceded in a 2021 document that “an agreed upon definition of hate speech has eluded experts and practitioners across the world.”

The organization cited “activities that incite or engage in violence, intimidation, harassment, threats, or defamation targeting an individual or group based on their actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, immigration status, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability” as a sample definition of hate. Horizon Forum recommended that other foundations adopt definitions of hate speech to guide their giving practices.

The Proteus Fund, Horizon Forum’s fiscal sponsor, says that Horizon Forum had “supported close to 75 community foundations” as of 2021.

Proteus Fund is a left-of-center organization that offers DAFs and provides fiscal sponsorship services for groups that ensure diversity in philanthropy, seek to address racism and train future leaders of liberal organizations.

Fiscal sponsorship is an arrangement that allows a registered nonprofit like the Proteus Fund to process tax-deductible donations for another group without that group needing to register with the IRS, according to the American Bar Association. Groups receiving fiscal sponsorship services, like Horizon Forum, don’t need to file their own tax forms.

Proteus Fund “focuses on the interconnected goals of racial, gender, queer, and disability justice and an inclusive, fully representative democracy,” according to its website. In addition to its fiscal sponsorship services, it also provides DAFs, allowing donors to anonymously direct money to left-wing organizations.

Moreover, Abbas Barzegar and Zainab Arain, the only two staff members listed on Horizon Forum’s website, both previously worked at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a controversial pro-Islam advocacy group that has been repeatedly criticized for its leaders’ antisemitic speech.

An FBI special agent testified during a 2008 court hearing that CAIR was born out of a 1993 meeting of Hamas sympathizers in Philadelphia, according to The Dallas Morning News. Nihad Awad, the organization’s executive director, said he was “was happy to see” Palestinians break out of Gaza following the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks in Israel, remarks that led to the White House disavowing CAIR.


While foundations barred donors from donating to some mainstream conservative organizations due to their alleged status as hate groups, some allowed funds to flow to a group allegedly tied to Palestinian terrorists.

The Chicago Community Trust and the Cleveland Foundation allowed roughly $100,000 in grants to flow to Alliance for Global Justice between 2016 and 2021, according to tax filings. Alliance for Global Justice served as the fiscal sponsor of Samidoun, an organization allegedly tied to the Popular Front for Palestinian Liberation, a U.S.-designated terror group, according to the Washington Examiner.

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