Green Watch

“Anti-Humanist Environmentalism” and the Foundation for the Carolinas


In an April 2018 report on North Carolina billionaire Fred Stanback Jr.’s philanthropic pursuits, the Knoxville News described him as a “proponent of anti-humanist environmentalism,” or supporting the “belief that protecting the environment hinges on population control.” In practice, this has meant hundreds of millions of dollars given by Stanback since at least 1999 to a macabre mix of abortion activists, population control advocates, leftist environmentalism, proponents of immigration reduction, and general left-of-center policy/political agitators.

The heir to a fortune initially created by his uncle and his father—Stanback’s Headache Powders—Stanback improved upon the prosperity as an early investor with Warren Buffett (Stanback was best man at Buffett’s wedding). It is unclear precisely how much he has contributed—and to how many organizations—because most of Stanback’s contributions appear to flow through the Foundation for the Carolinas (FFTC), a donor-advised fund that manages charitable giving for 2,700 individuals, families and institutions. Like other donor-advised funds, the Foundation for the Carolinas is not legally required to publicly disclose how much it is receiving from contributors such as Stanback, nor the final destinations of Stanback’s giving.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Stanback put a single donation of $397 million into his Foundation for the Carolinas account in 2014. Just this one gift would equal nearly one-fifth of all giving that the charitable foundation recordkeeping service FoundationSearch has recorded by the Foundation for the Carolinas to all recipients, from all 2,700 donors, during grant years 1999 through 2017.

Stanback’s footprint with the Foundation for the Carolinas is so much larger than most—potentially all—of FFTC’s other clients that it’s hard to differentiate FFTC from him. A March 2017 report in an Atlanta-area newspaper examined the peculiar ideology of FFTC’s giving, which prompted an FFTC spokesperson to clarify that Foundation for the Carolinas is “politically neutral” and does not “pass judgment or take a political stance on our donors’ grantmaking.”

Many clues indicate it is possible—even likely—that Stanback’s total giving through FFTC has been well over $500 million. Even before his 2014 contribution of $397 million to Foundation for the Carolinas, Stanback was noted as a very generous donor to more than a dozen organizations that have received millions of dollars from FFTC.

According to records compiled from FoundationSearch, 37 percent (more than $779.8 million) of the $2.1 billion given by the FFTC in the years 1999 through 2017 from ALL DONORS went to organizations that both conform to Stanback’s anti-human environmentalist agenda and have a separate documented history of receiving donations from Stanback.

In all, there are at least 49 organizations fitting this description where both Stanback and the Foundation for the Carolinas are identified as donors. The summary is as follows:

  • Left-agenda environmentalist organizations. Stanback has been identified as a donor to at least 33 environmental organizations with a left-leaning policy agenda (opposition to production of major sources of domestic energy, opposition to natural gas drilling, etc.) These organizations have collectively received nearly $670 million in donations from Foundation for the Carolinas during grant years 1999 through 2017.
  • Abortion providers/advocates. Stanback has been linked as a donor to at least five organizations that promote access to abortions and/or provide abortions. Collectively these organizations have received $34.5 million from Foundation for the Carolinas during grant years 1999-2017.
  • Population restriction/control. Stanback has been linked as a donor to two organizations that advocate for restrictions in the growth of population and promote the view that the size of the human population is a threat to the health of the environment. Collectively these organizations have received $55.3 million from Foundation for the Carolinas during grant years 1999-2017.
  • Immigration restriction. Stanback has been linked as a donor to four organizations that advocate lower levels of immigration to the United States. Collectively these organizations have received $20 million from the Foundation for the Carolinas during grant years 1999-2017.

In addition to his broadly “anti-humanist” environmentalism, Stanback has donated to 18 more purely “conservation” organizations that primarily advocate for the preservation of wild spaces, but do not generally engage in clear left-of-center policy advocacy. Collectively these organizations have received $166 million from the Foundation for the Carolinas during grant years 1999-2017. He also has also been identified as a donor to at least five organizations that broadly advocate for left-leaning political and policy outcomes, and the Foundation for the Carolines has supported those organizations as well.

In total (and including the conservation organizations) Stanback has been identified as a donor to at least 67 of the same organizations that have received funding from Foundation for the Carolinas.

The biggest example of Stanback’s giving through Foundation for the Carolinas is the left-leaning Southern Environmental Law Center, which received at least $175.4 million from FFTC during grant years 2001 through 2017. The Law Center was the largest single recipient of giving from FFTC during those years. The Knoxville News has credited Stanback as the source of at least $50 million in donations to the left-leaning environmental organization, and he—along with his wife—sit on its “President’s Council.”

The following are many other documented large recipients of Stanback’s donations, most of which pre-date his known 2014 large donation to Foundation for the Carolinas:

Just the organizations listed to this point account for more than $524 million (25 percent) of the $2.1 billion FoundationSearch reports as donated by the Foundation for the Carolinas (through all 2,700 of its donor-advised accounts) during grant years 1999 through 2017.

On the left-leaning environmentalist front, the Knoxville News reports Stanback is a regular donor to the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has received $80.6 million from the Foundation for the Carolinas. Similarly, Stanback is also affiliated with the following environmental organizations that have a left-of-center policy agenda and donor affiliation with FFTC:

Stanback and Foundation for the Carolinas are also jointly identified as funders of the following anti-population, abortion-promoting and left-leaning policy organizations:

In addition to a left-leaning environmental agenda, Stanback and FFTC have similar giving patterns to “conservation” organizations that primarily advocate for preservation of wild spaces, but do not generally engage in clear left-of-center policy advocacy. Between 1999 and 2017 the Foundation for the Carolinas gave more than $166 million to these organizations. The most prominent national examples are the Conservation Fund (credited with a 2009 donation from Stanback), The Nature Conservancy (Stanback credited with a 1997 donation), and the National Audubon Society (Stanback is credited with a 2010 donation). Other conservation organizations receiving funding from Stanback and Foundation for the Carolinas include: Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, the Conservation Trust for North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Conservancy, the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust, the Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina, the Land Trust for Central North Carolina, the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee, the Catawba Lands Conservancy, High Country Conservation, the Mainspring Conservation Trust, the National Wildlife Refuge Association, the Naturaland Trust, and the Ding Darling Wildlife Society.

Even though large, wealthy nonprofit organizations dominate the news and 2020 election discourse, the Foundation for the Carolinas conveniently flies under the radar, despite its impressive fundraising footprint.

Ken Braun

Ken Braun is CRC’s senior investigative researcher and authors profiles for InfluenceWatch.org and the Capital Research magazine. He previously worked for several free market policy organizations, spent six…
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