By Hazel Trice Edney
A prominent charitable foundation in the South is attempting to distance itself from a controversial network of anti-immigration and population-control groups that it has funded following published reports about the foundation’s contributions to these groups.
A spokesman for the Foundation for the Carolinas, an organization based in Charlotte, N.C., provided a statement claiming that the foundation is “politically neutral’ and that donors to the foundation make “recommendations” about what groups the foundation should fund.
“Community foundations do not pass judgment or take a political stance on our donors’ grantmaking” provided that the charities are legally registered as charities under section 501(c)3 of the federal tax laws, said Tara M. Keener, Vice President and Director for Marketing & Communications at the Foundation For The Carolinas
The statement – which appears at odds with the foundation’s internal guidelines over the control it has over its funding of outside groups – seems to underscore uneasiness among officials at the Foundation For The Carolinas, as it faces potential fallout over the money it has provided to the controversial groups, whose members have ratcheted up their rhetoric as President Donald Trump begins a crackdown on undocumented immigrants.
The organization’s uneasiness over the negative publicity is understandable, given the widely acclaimed role it plays in the world of philanthropy. With assets totaling $1.85 billion, the Foundation For The Carolinas has a decades-long record of giving to scholarship programs, church activities, museums, opera companies, homeless shelters and other worthy causes and institutions. More than that, the Foundation for the Carolinas is ranked among the nation’s top community foundations with board members from Fortune 500 companies.
Yet it has quietly become a top financial backer of the groups fueling the politically charged debate playing out nationally over immigration policy, particularly with the rise of President Donald Trump, who on Tuesday night announced that he is establishing a new office to help victims of crimes by undocumented immigrants.
Even before winning the presidency, Mr. Trump tapped into the political momentum stirred by a loose network of anti-immigration groups and other organizations whose efforts have been financed by forces that up to now have been largely hidden from public view.
Specifically, the moves by Trump, both as a candidate and now as president, have been praised by groups like NumbersUSA, Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), and Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) that have been reported by the Los Angeles Times to make up the network that lay the foundation for this vitriolic movement.
President Trump regularly cites statistics and written material from CIS in his speeches. And NumbersUSA President Roy Beck recently acknowledged the group’s role in shaping Trump Administration policy, saying: “We have been in the wilderness for 20 years under the Clinton, Bush, Obama Administrations. It doesn’t matter the party. And yes, now we are in the room.”
These anti-immigrant groups are actively monitored as extremist “hate groups” by watchdogs such as the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) because of their “virulent and false attacks on non-white immigrants”. Yet they surprisingly receive millions from Foundation for the Carolinas, a community foundation in North Carolina that describes itself as a “catalyst for charitable good” that seeks to provide for the “collective strength of communities.”
For its part, The Foundation has spent $15 million over the last decade to fund this network of extreme anti-immigration groups. The foundation has also contributed $25 million to controversial population-control groups, according to a review of public documents and the organization’s tax records that the Los Angeles Times recently published in an article exploring the roots of these groups.
The Times points out that a major source of funds to the Foundation for the Carolinas is Fred Stanback Jr., a wealthy man from Salisbury, North Carolina who has been clear about barring people he considers unsavory from entering the United States on the grounds that he wants to protect America’s resources.
Though he claims to embrace a pathway to citizenship, he has said, “Numbers of people affect the environment…They want all the nice things that the rest of us have, but America can’t take all the poor people in the world.” At the same time, the foundation has supported the reputed hate groups and population control extremists in the country.
The Foundation for the Carolinas’ efforts to distance itself from donations to the controversial groups is not without challenges and even risks. In the statement released, Keener, the spokesperson for the foundation, argues that its donors are the ones who make “recommendations” about what groups it should fund. But the foundation’s own guidelines, or code, suggest that the ultimate authority over where money goes rests with the foundation’s leadership under a provision known as a variance of power.t
“A distinctive feature of community foundations is the `variance of power” reserved by the Foundation’s Board of Directors and contained in the charter and bylaws of the Foundation,” according to a guide issued by the foundation. “The variance of power authorizes the Foundation’s Board of Directors to modify any condition or restriction on the distribution of funds if in its sole judgement (without the approval of any trustee, custodian or agent), such restriction or condition becomes, in effect, unnecessary, incapable of fulfillment, or inconsistent with the charitable needs of the area served by the Foundation or with the requirements of the Code.”
“The foundation is required to have this discretionary power as to all gifts to the Foundation in order to enable the donor to receive a tax deduction for his or her contribution and to meet the Foundation’s accounting standards and practices,” the guide continues. “The Foundation, however, will carefully consider recommendations regarding preferences and distributions.”