Island of Influence: Report Details Impact of Koch-funded Donors Trust in New Mexico

March 10th, 2013 · 2 Comments · environment, journalism, role of government, tax policy, voting rights

By Arthur Alpert

Remember when Secretary of State John Foster Dulles refused to “recognize” China because he disapproved of its Communist government?  A wedding of stupidity and arrogance was sufficient to wipe a colossus from the world atlas.

The Albuquerque Journal’s inability to recognize the existence of a continent of the wealthy – where cash has created a complex of organizations out to impose a rightist agenda on governments – probably isn’t stupid.

More likely, it’s clear-eyed calculation, but whatever the reason, exempting a powerful political force from scrutiny perpetrated a journalistic travesty and begs for attention.

This attention is merely an update; my colleague Denise Tessier laid the foundation with a post tying the Rio Grande Foundation and Journal to that wealthy web last August 20.

In the process, she noted the Journal had taken to describing the RGF, under its Op Ed essays, as a beneficiary of the Donors Capital Fund.

Of course, that doesn’t mean much unless the reader knows where the Donors Capital Fund and its sibling, Donors Fund get their cash and where they funnel it.

Since (with the exception of one Thomas Cole column) the Journal won’t cover the story, we must seek facts elsewhere. Happily, the Center for Public Integrity recently reported Donors angels and beneficiaries.

From reporter Paul Abowd’s first, Feb. 14 article:

“Conservative foundations and individuals use Donors Trust to pass money to a vast network of think tanks and media outlets that push free-market ideology in the states, $86 million in 2011 alone. The arrangement obscures the identity of the donors wishing to keep their charitable giving private, especially gifts funding sensitive or controversial issues, according to the group’s website.”

He says Donors Trust includes 193 contributors, the majority individuals. “A lot of donors are flying totally under the radar,” says president and CEO Whitney Ball.

Industrialist Charles Koch, however, is one of several wealthy contributors who haven’t hidden their use of Donors Trust and Capital Fund as vehicles for tax-exempt giving.

In his Feb. 26 report, Abowd reported Donors Trust ”has funded a nationwide network of free-market think tanks, media outlets and university programs to the tune of nearly $400 million since 2002.”

Much of that, the Center reported “has gone toward state-based policy efforts. For example, Donors Trust provided 95 percent of the funding for a conservative media clearinghouse called the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, which runs a network of state-based blogs.”

One of them, you should know, is NewMexico.watchdog.org. Its  website explains:

“After being originally funded by The Rio Grande Foundation, New Mexico Watchdog is a project of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. Through New Mexico Watchdog we hope to better inform the citizens of New Mexico how their state and local governments work and how their money is being spent. We welcome tips about government waste, fraud, abuse and corruption, regardless of the political affiliation of the politician or official involved.”

So wealthy rightists finance the Donors Trust (or Capital Fund), which finances the Franklin Center, which finances New Mexico Watchdog, formerly financed by the Rio Grande Foundation, whose essays are regular features of the Journal.

Oh, and separately, the Donors Fund finances the Rio Grande Foundation.

But where else does Donors’ money go?

Turns out, according to the Center for Public Integrity, that Donors abetted organizations promoting climate change denial, including the Heartland Institute (whose columns the Journal has published once or twice); the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity; a documentary on radical Islam and the efforts of a “free market” economist who favored a libertarian takeover of the state of New Hampshire.

DCF grants also backed organizations fighting affirmative action and the Voting Rights Act.

We’re near the end of this update on the Albuquerque Journal’s inability to locate the Plutocratic Islands on its political map, but first a word on think tanks, real and disguised. We all use the term carelessly, of course, but our statewide daily makes absolutely no effort to distinguish between, say the Santa Fe Institute and the Rio Grande Foundation.

Which reminds me – a Feb. 19 New Republic piece by Ken Silverstein inspired by Jim DeMint’s jump from the Senate to Heritage Foundation, describes the confluence of lobbies and think tanks.

You’ll find an exploration of that topic in the Journal, I suppose, the same day its editors discover the Lost Continent of the Wealthy.

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Cheryl Everett

    How does the Journal prostitute journalism? Let me count the ways.

  • Peter Katel

    What the United States did in the 1950s was to withhold diplomatic recognition of China. Regardless of whether you favor that approach, a decision to renounce diplomatic relations with a country does not amount to pretending it doesn’t exist. President Obama has not reversed U.S. non-recognition of Iran, but he refers to that country fairly frequently. In living memory, there were Middle Eastern countries that refused to show Israel on maps – now that’s non-recognition that goes beyond the diplomatic.

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