07.06.2012 0

How Tides Washes the Left’s Money

Tides FoundationBy Rachel Swaffer — In 2010, a collection of the most radical progressive organizations in the United States received a total of $113,900,000 in charitable donations, all stemming from one foundation: Tides– the grant-making non-profit that has been taking care of liberals’ dirty laundry for over 35 years now, helping obscure the money trail to radical activist organizations.

Tides’ 2010 list of grantees includes extreme left-wing and progressive organizations: Media Matters, Planned Parenthood, PETA, the American Civil Liberties Union, ACORN, Democracy Now, Healthcare for America Now, and Taxpayers for Common Sense (and many, many more).

The genius of the Tides foundation is that it allows donors to support radical activist groups while maintaining near complete anonymity – crucial for groups and individuals with their fingers in multiple, possibly contradictory, political pies.

In short, Tides accepts money from progressive and left-leaning donors – both individuals and large corporations – and then grants these donations back out to radically progressive groups, bank-rolling the left while preserving the anonymity that is so important to their donors.

All of this from a movement that prides itself on transparency!  Tides grantee Media Matters even maintains a website (PoliticalCorrection.org) dedicated solely to holding conservative organizations and politicians accountable and transparent.

Because the Tides Foundation is 501(c)3 non-profit, it is not required to release a list of grants that it receives; it only reports funds granted out.  Therefore we know how much money goes in to Tides in a given year, the specific grants it is giving out, and some of the larger donations that it receives (private charitable foundations like Ford and Pew are required to report their donations); however, there is no way to connect incoming funds to outgoing funds.

Tides has two types of philanthropic methods: general donations and donor advised funding.  The donor advised fund system puts donated money into a Tides fund advised by the original donor group, but dispersed in the name of Tides rather than the organization where the money originated.  In other words, donor advised funding allows funders to tell Tides exactly what to do with their money while still maintaining complete donor anonymity.  Many well-regarded grant-making philanthropies donate heavily to the Tides Foundation in this manner; in 2010 the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation gave $2,725,000 to the Tides Foundation, Ford Foundation gave a total of $6,077,121 to Tides-related organizations, the Advocacy Fund donated $786,486, and Pew Charitable Trusts gave $200,000 (all according to respective 2010 990 tax forms).

On a more micro level, Individuals have the option of donating directly to one of  the Tides Center’s 230 pet “projects” or giving to Tides, generally, for Tides to invest at its discretion.  Either way, the money is granted out in the name of Tides and, as always, the original donor remains anonymous.  For individual donations, the transaction can occur online.

Though Tides claims to be bipartisan in order to maintain their status as a tax-exempt public charity, their official list of grantees includes organizations representing the full spectrum of progressive causes.  Tides is particularly dedicated to funding and incubating environmentally focused activist groups.  According to their official 2010 grant list Tides gave $615,947 to the National Resource Defense Council, $570,000 to the Sierra Club, $2,000,000 to the World Wildlife Fund, $250,000 to the Western Conservation Fund, and $145,000 to the National Wildlife Fund.  Not to mention a whopping $4 million granted to NatureBridge – an organization responsible for providing environmental education programs in America’s national parks.

Unlike more traditional political bank-rollers like the Ford Foundation, Carnegie Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, or Rockefeller Family Fund, Tides has no real capital of its own; it survives on the 3% administrative and handling fee that it charges donors and serves solely as a magic eraser, facilitating anonymous funding of progressive institutions.

Though not criminal in origin, the funds that pass through Tides cannot be tied back to original donors.  This information asymmetry creates a “black hole” ripe for corruption and fraud, a liberal Laundromat scrubbing away responsibility for donations to radical organizations.

The end result of this complicated trail is that, thanks to Tides, it is increasingly difficult to link original donors to activist progressive groups.  So the next time you hear a group like Media Matters complaining about transparency, ask them “where did you get your money washed?”

Rachel Swaffer is a staff writer for Americans for Limited Government.

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