By Dave Andrusko
Over the years, pro-lifers have read story after story about billionaires pouring millions upon millions of their virtually limitless resources into advancing abortion both at home and abroad. Their favorite beneficiary is, of course, Planned Parenthood (and International Planned Parenthood) but there are many others.
The names are familiar and a who’s who of big time philanthropy. George Soros and his Open Society Institute (OPI); The Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, named after Warren Buffett’s late wife; and the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, run by the heirs of one of the founders of printer manufacturer Hewlett Packard, to name just three heavyweights.
Another name that has cropped up with less attention paid to it is the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. A quick look back (thanks to the indispensable web.archive.org) we read this description: “Laura and John established the Laura and John Arnold Foundation in 2008. They believe philanthropy should be transformational and should seek through innovation to solve persistent problems in society.”
According to influencewatch.org, “The foundation focuses on criminal justice, education issues, public pensions, dietary policy, and scientific research reform.” But whatever other initiatives are funded, if you look at their giving (corporate and personal), you see bundles going to the usual pro-abortion suspects.
For example, under “personal advocacy and political contributions,” between December 2015 and December 2017, we find Planned Parenthood Action Fund [under the category $5,000,000 to $9,999,999] and “Planned Parenthood Texas Vote” [under the category $100,000 to $499,999].
Under “Charitable Contributions” for the same time period
- Planned Parenthood Federation of America [$5,000,000 to $9,999,999]
- Center for Reproductive Rights [$1,000,000-$4,999,999]
- Guttmacher Institute [$1, 000,000-$4,999,999]
- National Network of Abortion Funds [$50,000-$99,999]
Back to the Laura and John Arnold Foundation itself and recent major changes.
In January, writing at Inside Philanthropy, David Callahan observed “But those who closely follow the billionaire couple behind this operation know that they’ve long engaged in political giving alongside their foundation’s grantmaking. …Now, the Arnolds are bringing their philanthropy and political giving together in a new limited-liability corporation called Arnold Ventures. The goal is to create a more integrated push for impact on the wide range of public policy issues that have long animated the couple.”
When you go to the list of “public policy issues” at Arnold Ventures, you see “health,” which includes a link to a story headlined, “State lawmakers pass trio of reproductive-rights bills.”
In the first sentence, Jennifer Henderson writes about New York’s “Reproductive Health Act,” which she inaccurately describes are merely a law “to protect reproductive rights and abortion access even if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.” As we have written dozens of times at NRL News Today, the RHA not only went miles beyond Roe v. Wade, it also eliminated the state’s protections for abortion survivors.
Callahan’s story—“When Philanthropy Is Not Enough: A Top Donor Couple Takes a Broader Approach to Impact” —is telling not only about the ambitions of the Arnolds but also other billionaires who eagerly fund abortion groups. He writes, “Some of today’s savviest mega-givers strategically blend philanthropic and political giving.” Callahan dubbed them “hybrid entities.”
“private foundations in the United States are limited under most circumstances to making grants to recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofits. …
That’s driven many prominent philanthropists to structure their giving differently, through limited-liability corporations rather than nonprofits. That’s what the Arnold Foundation did last week [January 2019], when it announced that it would be combining its philanthropy and political giving under Arnold Ventures.
Grant making/traditional philanthropy, is, as Callahan observes,
a famously limited tool. The sums involved are small change compared to what moves through capital markets or the amounts government spends. You can see why so many wealthy people who want to change the world have lately embraced impact investing in an effort to harness the power of markets to achieve their goals. And you can see why so many donors try to influence government policies. To do that, however, grants to 501(c)(3) groups will only get you so far. You can have much more impact if you also back ballot initiatives, help to elect candidates who favor your causes, and engage in other electoral activities. [Underlining added.]
So which party is almost all of the Arnold’s money to elect candidates going to?
Another source of criticism is the Arnold’s political partisanship.
The Arnolds were top donors to both of Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns, and they have given extensively to the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. They’ve teamed up with other liberal philanthropists like Michael Bloomberg on the soda tax, George Soros on the Brennan Center for Justice, and they back Patients for Affordable Drugs, an organization managed by former Clinton and Obama staffers.
The Arnold Foundation have also turned to Democratic politicos for guidance in their giving. Firms headed by Obama strategists Robert Gibbs, Ben LaBolt, and Joel Benenson were collectively paid $1.5 million in 2015-2016, the two most recent years for which disclosures are available.
While it’s true that, in this election cycle, they have contributed to several Republican House candidates in safe GOP districts, they’ve simultaneously given the maximum allowed donation to Democratic candidates in key races: Claire McCaskill, Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Donnelly, Beto O’Rourke, and Conor Lamb.
Mr. Arnold’s concise response to criticism came in a tweet:
I’ve now been called the next Koch brother by the far left press and the next George Soros by the far right. I’m an equal opportunity special interest pot stirrer.
But by supporting for all practically purposes only Democrats and by pouring millions into the coffers of the Abortion Industry, a better description would be pro-abortion Democratic partisan.
As Callahan shrewdly concluded,
The model behind Arnold Ventures is also a reminder that the lines between different forms of influence spending by the super-wealthy keep blurring. Yet while there are multiple organizations dedicated to limiting one form of such spending—political campaign donations—there is no comparable push to rein in philanthropic giving that often aims to achieve the exact same legislative goals that animate campaign donors.