The Dark Side of Philanthropy: A Look at Tax-Exempt Donations to White Supremacists

photo:  Yellow Door Studios/shutterstock

photo:  Yellow Door Studios/shutterstock

Two weeks before the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, about 300 white supremacists converged outside Nashville with far less fanfare. The occasion was the annual American Renaissance conference, where speakers celebrated the rising political fortunes of white nationalism and discussed the movement’s future.

Several of those speakers belong to the shadowy world of nonprofits that espouse white supremacy. Associates of three of the most influential organizations in this space, the Charles Martel Society, New Century Foundation and VDare Foundation, addressed attendees. Over recent years, these groups have pulled in a small but steady stream of tax-exempt donations to produce white nationalist propaganda designed to dress up racist ideology with the veneer of intellectualism. 

This is important because events like the rally in Charlottesville don’t happen in a vacuum. Writing and messaging that cloaks white supremacy in academic babble and pseudoscience helps to pave the way to radicalization. And these days, like everything else, recruitment for fringe groups, from Neo-Nazis to ISIS, happens online, where these nonprofits’ publications live.

All three organizations are registered as tax-exempt 501(c)3 nonprofits with the IRS. All three are characterized as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Under current law, individuals and corporations can make unlimited anonymous donations to nonprofits. Groups engaged in controversial work, and the donors behind them, can easily cover their tracks. But while we don’t know where, specifically, these three white supremacist nonprofits get their money, based on their tax forms, we do know how much they've raised in recent years and how they've spent it. Here's a closer look. 

The Charles Martel Society

Founded by William Regnery II, the heir of a conservative publishing fortune, the Charles Martel Society spends the bulk of its funding on publishing The Occidental Quarterly.

The Southern Poverty Law Center described the publication as a “slick, academic-looking journal edited by a Who’s Who of the radical right.” The description is touted on the magazine’s website alongside the endorsements of academics popular among white nationalists.

The foundation received about $215,000 in donations between 2012 and 2015, according to recent tax forms. Donations accounted for about 70 percent of the nonprofit’s revenue, and covered the publication of the quarterly magazine.

Regnery’s name comes up repeatedly in alt-right circles. His grandfather was one of the funders behind America First, the movement that sought to keep the U.S. out of World War II and professed admiration for fascism, according to a profile published by Buzzfeed. Since 2001, Regnery has made $580,000 in donations through family charities and other tax-exempt organizations under his control, Buzzfeed reported.

In addition to the Charles Martel Society, Regnery also founded the National Policy Institute, a white supremacy think tank. Richard Spencer, who coined the term “alt-right,” runs the organization. Like the Charles Martel Society, the think tank had 501(c)3 status, but the IRS revoked its nonprofit status this year for failing to file the proper tax forms.

New Century Foundation

The foundation listed "educating the public on race and immigration" as its main activity on its most recent tax forms. According to the foundation’s website, that means discrediting the idea that race does not determine intelligence, which they refer to as “one of the most destructive myths of modern times.”

There, I was thinking it was that sugar won’t kill you.

The foundation reported receiving about $439,000 in donations between 2012 and 2015 on recent tax forms. The bulk of the money goes to publishing its online magazine, American Renaissance. The foundation estimated about 250,000 people a month visit the publication’s website, which was up from the 120,000 a month it reported back in 2010.

The foundation also sponsors the American Renaissance conference.

Jared Taylor founded the New Century Foundation. He was also a founding board member of the National Policy Institute, Regnery’s white supremacy think tank.

VDare Foundation

By far the most prolific fundraiser of the three groups, the VDare Foundation spends its money publishing a hardline anti-immigration website.

The foundation derives its anti-immigration stance from the belief that America’s racial and cultural identity is white and should remain that way. That and the promotion of the work and opinions of white supremacists and anti-Semites earned the website its hate group designation from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Virginia Dare, the first white child born in the American colonies, is the namesake of the organization. At first glance, naming an anti-immigrant foundation after the child of immigrants may seem like an odd choice. But under closer examination, it becomes clear that the immigrants the group opposes are nonwhites. Indeed, the site’s founder Peter Brimelow is an immigrant from the U.K.

The foundation reported around $2.5 million in contributions between 2012 and 2015, with the lion's share of that coming in 2012. The foundation reported raising more than $5 million overall in tax-free donations from 2005 to 2015. Public records show that it received support in the past from the Colcom and Armstrong foundations, two grantmakers that also support a range of conservative or libertarian causes.