How the Koch Network Funnels Anonymous Millions to Fight Women's Rights

Politico once referred to Freedom Partners, a group that makes tens of millions of dollars in grants a year to conservative causes, as the "Koch Brothers' Secret Bank." By pooling the resources of wealthy investors, Freedom Partners acts as a pass-through between anonymous, big money donors and nonprofit groups with right-wing leanings.

For example, since 2012 Freedom Partners has donated more than $8.4 million to Concerned Women for America, a public policy-focused women's group whose stated mission is "to protect and promote Biblical values among all citizens." 

CWA goes to the mat for issues like fighting same-sex marriage, outlawing abortion, allowing prayer in schools, and criminalizing pornography. These are not policy initiatives I typically associate with nonprofits with the word "women" in their names. But then, most charitable endeavors focused on women and girls aren't funded by Koch affiliates, either.

IP has previously noted that Koch money also supports another conservative women's group, the Independent Women's Forum. While the Koch brothers and their funding vehicles tend to be associated with libertarian economic views, clearly these funders are also major players in the culture war. That's interesting, given that Koch-funded policy centers like Cato take a number of position quite as odds with CWA, which seeks to empower the state to police key areas of personal conduct in ways that many libertarians might find objectionable. 

The Freedom Partners' website is not overly forthcoming about how it allocates its millions, but the group's most recent available tax filings reveal that it has a lot to spend. It made more than $40 million in grants during the last 12 month reporting period. Recent recipients of Freedom Partners cash include the Susan B. Anthony List, a project to elect candidates who oppose abortion into office. 

The support of Freedom Partners for Concerned Women for America is significant, because this is not an organization that pulls in a lot of support from foundations. According to data from the Foundation Center, CWA has only received support from a handful of foundations since 2003, and most grants have been modest in size. CWA is like many ideological and religious groups in relying on support from major individual donors. In this case, it's hard to say who those donors are because CWA doesn't list its funders or publish an annual report. 

Concerned Women for America has received some press lately for leading the charge against the National Women's History Museum. CWA's president and CEO, Penny Nance, penned an op-ed about her opposition to the proposed institution, to be partially funded with public support and situated on the National Mall. In Breitbart News last month, Nance warned that the NWHM "baldly favors a liberal jaundiced view of history," and would disproportionately feature and elevate the histories of women who embrace such policies as the "whiny '#banbossy' campaign and other phony feminist 'battles' of the American left."

Freedom Partners gets its share of media attention, too. It spent some $25 million on political ads to influence Senate races with the successful goal of restoring a Republican Senate majority during the last mid-term election cycle. 

When its source of funding comes up however, Freedom Partners is tight-lipped as a matter of policy. In a 2013 interview with Politico, Short defended Freedom Partners' transparency practices. "There’s a mystery around us that makes an interesting story," Short conceded. "There’s also a vilification that happens that gets exaggerated when your opposition thinks you’re secretive. Our members are proud to be part of [the organization].” Not so proud that they want their identifies made public, however. 

Despite requests for information, Short "refused to open up about the men and women behind the quarter-billion-dollar fund" in his interview with Politico. And American Commitment, to which Freedom Partners has awarded more than $6.4 million since 2012, is an active opponent of legislation to require 501(c)4 organizations to disclose their donors.

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