Following Foster’s Buddies’ Money

NOTE: This is the continuation of a series — asking “who’s funding The Daily Caller?”listing at the bottom. Or, you could join the circular firing squad.

Money talks: from the 2009 Goldwater Institute Annual Report .pdf

We were talking about Foster Friess (the “eccentric” zillionaire) who ponied up $3 million so that his Jackson Hole neighbor (and former Cheney advisor) Neil Patel and once-more-unemployed media guy Tucker Carlson could found The Daily Caller. How and allegedly WHY Friess funded them (The Washington Post [emphasis added]:

As for his new partners, Friess says by e-mail: “Tucker and Neil present a huge opportunity to re-introduce civility to our political discourse. They are mature, sensible men who are very thoughtful and experienced with pleasant senses of humor and do not take themselves too seriously. They want to make a contribution to the dialogue that occurs in our country that has become too antagonistic, nasty and hostile. . . .

Which seems, in light of the recent Daily Caller personal attack on Keith Olbermann and the series of selective “smears” of anyone on the “Journolist,” well, perhaps not entirely genuous.

And we were talking about that gargantual “National Christian Foundation” that most of Foster Friess’ latest documentable charitable “family foundation” gave its cash to:

Nice chunk of change (click for larger)

Which was barely a drop in the bucket to the NCF’s  exchequer (from “The Biggest Foundation You Never Heard Of“):

in 2008, one of NCF’s 40+ interrelated charities handed out $421,155,901 That’s more than double the size of the American Red Cross, whose FY 2008  charitable expenses equaled $182.3 million.

I need to make a correction here, and I will leave the original error intact, and won’t suddenly “change” it in the middle of the night, as has become so common in internet “news.” Here is my error:

In FY 2008, the American Red Cross received $79.3 million in revenue. Our expenditures totaled $182.3 million, including $41.9 million for core international programs (23%) and $129.3 million for our Tsunami Recovery Program (71%)1. Because effective programming often spans multiple years, we anticipate providing more than $45.0 million to support disaster recovery activities, primarily in China, over the course of FY 2009 and FY 2010.

But, I took my figure from the International Services of the American Red Cross, which you can find here. The ACTUAL annual budges of the American Red Cross for FY  2008 was, according to their 990 tax return, $3,183,957,741. That’s three BILLION. OK. It was simply a silly mistake, looking for a big fish to compare the National Christian Foundation with. How about instead we compare it with the 2006 “Philanthropy 400” rankings (the far right column is “Private support.” The American Red Cross is ranked number 2 that year, BTW.

It should be noted that the 24th-ranked National Christian Foundation gives a big chunk of its  largess to Campus Crusade for Christ, International, ranked 23rd. Notice it’s bigger than Goodwill Industries and the American Heart Association? And MIT, CARE, USC, NYU, PBS and the Boy Scouts of America?

Not bad for a very closely held charity with a small board based on lifetime membership.

I’m going to borrow some big chunks of a hell of an investigative piece published in 2006 by Michael Reynolds on Political Cortex dot com. (And reprinted here.) Here’s his bona fides:

Reynolds’s work on the secular and religious right has been featured in the Nation, Mother Jones, Playboy, Rolling Stone, The Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists, US News&World Report, Searchlight (UK), the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report, and CBS’s “60 Minutes” and “48 Hours.”

Just so’s ya know. The NCF is the “National Christian Foundation”

Inside The #1 Religious Right Money Machine

By mreynolds [Michael Reynolds] 10/29/2006 10:04:19 PM EST

[…] Millions of dollars flow from NCF into every major and minor ministry, broadcaster, policy tank and advocacy group on the Christian Right. Since 1999 James Dobson’s Focus On The Family has received more than $10 million. The Family Research Council, co-founded by Dobson and led by Tony Perkins, was awarded $4 million.

NCF was even more generous to Campus Crusade For Christ, founded by Religious Right pioneer Bill Bright and to Atlanta’s star evangelist, Egyptian-born Michael Youssef’s Church of the Apostles and his international broadcast ministry Leading The Way with each receiving $22 million. The Religious Right legal powerhouses– the Alliance Defense Fund and the American Center for Law and Justice– lapped up $2.7 million. Another $1.5 million was channeled from Atlanta into “creation science” proselytizers–The Discovery Institute, Answers In Genesis and Institute for Creation Research.

NCF’s gift list to the politically charged Religious Right goes on and on–from the predominant groups headed by Dobson, Chuck Colson, D. James Kennedy, Gary Bauer, Don Wildmon, Ted Haggard, Beverly LaHaye and Jerry Falwell to the outright theocratic ministries led by Christian Reconstructionists Gary Demar, Doug Phillips and Mark Rushdoony.


Then there are those on NCF’s gift list that one might not readily associate with the foundation’s pledge to exclusively support groups that proclaim “the gospel of Jesus Christ.” These include The American Conservative Union, The Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, Free Congress Foundation, Accuracy In Media, The Federalist Society, Judicial Watch, The Center for Public Justice, The Capital Research Institute, the American Foreign Policy Council, The Center for Libertarian Studies and The Ludwig von Mises Institute

And, this is where the photo of Foster Friess and the Goldwater Institute comes into play, albeit not directly. The Goldwater Institute is another “State Policy Network” member (like, say, the Illinois Policy Institute that John Tillman now heads, or, the Conservative Caucus.)

NCF is also consistently generous to the groups within the State Policy Network, an extension of Weyrich’s American Legislative Exchange Council. The SNP has 40 state-based right-wing organizations in 37 states that are linked to Focus On The Family, The Heritage Foundation and Free Congress Foundation. NCF has spread more than $3 million among 11 of these groups, with half that amount going to the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

Here’s a press release by “The Conservative Caucus,”  from April 16, 2010, from their own blogger “Howard Phillipsat their own(ed) blog:

Repeal ObamaCare! New Website Launched  | April 16, 2010 | Digg This
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE For further information: contact:
Charles Orndorff: 703-938-9626

Americans ‘Send Them a Message’ to Repeal ObamaCare! The Conservative Caucus (TCC) launched today the “Pledge to Repeal ObamaCare” campaign at Americans are urged to visit and print thePledge to Repeal ObamaCare and get their Senators, Representative and candidates for the House and Senate to sign the pledge.

Howard Phillips, TCC’s Chairman, announced the new campaign and the launch of, “This is a vital step in repealing Obama’s Socialist medicine scheme, to help keep the pressure on members of Congress to resist the influence of special interests and liberals in both parties who will be lobbying to avoid repealing ObamaCare.

Make no mistake, there are many powerful individuals and companies who will quickly learn how to profit from health care rationing and other elements of Socialist medicine; they will fight efforts by Americans to repeal this dangerous scheme.” “We will post the signed pledges on, list who has refused or not signed, and, as the new Congress convenes in 2011, post updates about signers’ fulfillment of their pledges,” Mr. Phillips continued, inviting Americans to pass the word to their friends; “As concerned citizens, your action and that of your friends can make the difference, and I invite you to visit now and send ‘them’ a message.”

In conclusion, Mr. Phillips noted the effectiveness of videoing [sic] pledge signing and deliveries, “Under the scrutiny of a video camera, you may find members of Congress and candidates more willing to be courageous and sign the pledge to repeal ObamaCare, than in the quiet of their office with special interests looking over their shoulder.”

The Conservative Caucus (TCC) is a grass roots action organization, formed in 1974. It was active in opposing the ObamaCare bill, defeating the SALT II Treaty, repealing the Catastrophic Coverage Act, blocking the Clinton health-care takeover, and impeaching President Clinton.

Watch the video: Here’s HOW to Stop Obamacare Socialized Medicine

— 30 —

Happy bunch. But you’ll be hard-pressed to see where the “Christian” linkage is. Here’s a few others, grabbed from pages 38 through 150 of the 151-page 2008 tax return — That’s 112 pages of single-spaced grants from NCF:

The Center for Arizona Policy $ 190,400

The Conservative Caucus $ 30,000

The Cultural Commission $ 5000

The Federalist Society $ 9000

The Heritage Foundation $ 1,028,150

American Center for Law and Justice* $ 225,855.62

4 separate line items, totalling $ 225,855.62 (* founded in 1990 by Pat Robertson of “700 Club” fame)

American Spectator Foundation

Americans for Prosperity Foundation

(Koch – a ‘co-f[o]under’ of the Tea Party movement)

Freedomworks (ditto) $ 23,150

Family Research Council (James Dobson) $ 2,444,840 (2 line items totalling $ 2,444,840)

First Principles Press, Inc. (see their “American History Restoration Project“)

Oh, and the “Intelligent Design” anti-Darwinist Discovery Institute received $702,600 from NCCF in 2008, as did the “Institute For Creation Research” $36,000. etc. etc.

You get the idea … I could wade through the entire 112 pages of teeny type, but there are an awful lot of questionable contributions salted in among contributions to ministries, churches, charities and even the Boy Scouts. Investigative reporter Reynolds explains their finances:

Tax law and non-profit experts who reviewed NCF documents and their structure for this story were taken aback by this half-billion dollar, multi-layered money machine. Frances Hill described it as “a blending of capitalist entrepreneurship, Christian values and political muscle.”

J.J. McNab, a leading charitable and insurance analyst who recently testified before the Senate Finance Committee on donor-advised funds, described NCF as “Enron-like in its complexity … Its’ complexity is a big red flag,” said McNab. “Why so complex? Why so many layers, so many supporting organizations and murky connections?”

After reviewing NCF documents, Frances Hill* was stunned by the maze. “It may be they are trying to hide money trails, ” she said. “Such as every time they engage in a transaction there is a fee that benefits a financial advisor or broker. This complexity also is a conflict of interest signal. It’s utterly and completely unnecessary. I haven’t heard of anything quite like it.”

[* Dr. Frances R. Hill, a professor at University of Miami School of Law. A tax and campaign finance specialist , Hill has testified numerous times before both House and Senate committees on non-profit abuses.” from the same story]

The NCF’s finances are kind of flabbergasting to an expert on foundation abuse. Reynolds notes HOW the money is shuffled around:

[National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy President Rick] Cohen asked if he could see more about NCF, so a volume of documents were sent to his office. After several days Cohen was back on the phone. He was either excited or distressed. “I haven’t seen anything like NCF in all the years since I began been monitoring charities<,” he said. “They’ve created a money making machine far beyond anything. There’s certainly nothing comparable on the progressive side, nothing that comes close to generating this amount of capital.” Cohen was struck by the layers of interlocking relationships with the Religious Right. “This isn’t just coordination–these are the same people running the whole thing.” “It’s a one-stop shop for conservative funders,” he continued. “Here’s a place to park their money and put it to work. These people have discovered every conceivable mechanism to generate capital. Its unparalleled.”

There are layers of depth that there isn’t space or time to go into here, suffice this:

After reviewing NCF documents, Frances Hill was stunned by the maze. “It may be they are trying to hide money trails, ” she said. “Such as every time they engage in a transaction there is a fee that benefits a financial advisor or broker. This complexity also is a conflict of interest signal. It’s utterly and completely unnecessary. I haven’t heard of anything quite like it.” The huge fees paid by NCF to founder and board director Ron Blue’s company for investment management astonished Hill. Between 1999 and 2003 RB & Co.was paid at least $2.4 million, including payments of $751,584 in 2000 and $730,481 in 2001.

And, Mother Jones reported in 2005’s “Rendering Unto God “:

Until recently the NCF board consisted of just three directors: [Terry] Parker plus two other well-known evangelicals, authors/financial planners Larry Burkett and Ronald Blue. (Blue ran Gary Bauer’s 2000 bid for the presidency.) As part of its 2004 annual financial report to the IRS, the group notes payments of $464,595 to Blue’s firm for services rendered. But Blue’s company wasn’t the only one linked to a director who profited from business with NCF. During 2002, Parker’s law firm received about $180,000 for services rendered, in addition to his $150,000 NCF salary. Law firms connected to two of the foundation’s salaried officers received about $155,000 for work performed from 2002 to 2004.

Burkett died in 2003,  Terry Parker had left his law firm to run NCF full time, and Ronald Blue had vanished from the board of directors by 2008.

But Ronald Blue’s his imprimatur remains, with two NCF staffers having moved over from Ronald Blue & Co. And, while he’s listed as a “Director Emeritus” of the NCF (et al), Ronald Blue & Co. received $420,635 in 2008:

2008 National Christian Charitable Fdn, Inc. Federal 990 return, page 8

You’ll notice that Foster Friess’ company got more than double that: $873, 398.

Interesting: $8 million goes TO NCF from the Friess “Family Foundation,” while NCF is paying Friess Associates about $1 million.

Gee. What a long trip from Jackson Hole, Wyoming to Atlanta, Georgia, and back again to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Well, actually, nothing really happened, physically. No dollar bills boarded a plane to fly to Georgia from the extreme Northwest corner of Wyoming and then back again. Numbers moved over wires. That’s all.

But those are pretty BIG numbers.

As Reyn0lds reported the expert’s shock  in 2006, “This isn’t just coordination–these are the same people running the whole thing.”

Foster Friess’ photo on
the Friess Associates webpage




Homework: READ Michael Reynolds’ “Inside The #1 Religious Right Money Machine

Read the series in order.

  1. Tucker Carlson is Keith Olbermann; I am Glenn Beck (18 July)
  2. More Fake Cowboys (23 July)
  3. The Biggest Foundation That You’ve Never Heard Of (1 Aug. )
  4. Following Foster’s Buddies’ Money (10 Aug.)

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About Hart Williams

Mr. Williams grew up in Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and New Mexico. He lived in Hollywood, California for many years. He has been published in The Washington Post, The Kansas City Star, The Santa Fe Sun, The Los Angeles Free Press, Oui Magazine, New West, and many, many more. A published novelist and a filmed screenwriter, Mr. Williams eschews the decadence of Hollywood for the simple, wholesome goodness of the plain, honest people of the land. He enjoys Luis Buñuel documentaries immensely.
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One Response to Following Foster’s Buddies’ Money

  1. ian says:

    Putting millions of dollars in the pockets of already-wealthy trust fund babies in order to corrupt the political process with astroturfed demogoguery is somehow accounted for as charitable contributions… what is wrong with this picture?