Green Watch

Anti-Humanist Environmentalism: Fred Stanback, Jr., Misanthrope

Anti-Humanist Environmentalism (full series)
Fred Stanback, Jr., MisanthropeStanback’s Piggy-bankPeople as Pollution

Summary: Is the Foundation for the Carolinas really a nefarious left-wing philanthropy? It’s hard to tell, in part because the most prolific “philanthropist” who uses the Foundation’s charitable investment accounts gives almost exclusively to radical environmental groups and their even darker cousins, population control groups. Learn how the Foundation’s largest giver turns philanthropy—literally the “love of mankind”—on its head through his nonprofit giving.

Most conventional left-wing climate alarmists don hero capes as if they’re Batman come to save the greedy people of Gotham from themselves. They preach that radical restrictions on the production of low-cost energy and other drastic austerity measures are needed to salvage humanity from the ravages of runaway global warming. These would-be saviors’ good intentions are hard to refute, even as there are compelling arguments against both their Doomsday predictions and the economically ruinous solutions they propose.

But where these supposed superheroes have come to rescue people from the dangerous planet, there is a group of equally cartoonish climate alarmists with a much darker agenda. For this more villainous cabal, saving the planet itself is the singular priority, with humanity—like fossil fuels and plastic straws —looked upon as just another harmful input to be reduced.

Meet Fred Stanback, Jr., the 89-year-old North Carolina billionaire whose misanthropic ideology has led a Knoxville News reporter to aptly call him a “proponent of anti-humanist environmentalism.” At some point roughly a century ago his father, Fred Stanback, Sr., went into business with his pharmacist uncle, Thomas “Dr. Tom” Stanback, the inventor of what would become “Stanback Headache Powders.” Today Fred Jr., with his share of the fortune that ensued (enhanced as a result of his friendship and early investment with Warren Buffett), has gone into the business of inflicting metaphorical headaches rather than curing real ones.

His eclectic philanthropic portfolio includes top-donor status at dozens of stereotypically leftist environmental organizations (examples include: the Environmental Defense Fund and the Environmental Working Group), a handful of strident immigration restrictionists (Federation for American Immigration Reform and NumbersUSA), several promotors of abortion access (Planned Parenthood South Atlantic), and—just in case the distaste for humanity wasn’t clear enough—population control advocates such as Population Connection and the Population Media Center.

Exactly how much he has given to this agenda is something of a mystery because a lot—perhaps most of it—has been sent through the Foundation for the Carolinas, a North Carolina-based donor-advised fund. Donor-advised funds redistribute charitable funds as the donors of the money request. The Foundation for the Carolinas provides this service for 2,700 individuals and organizations. It is public knowledge where the Foundation gives donations, but it is not required to publicly divulge how much an individual donor such as Stanback gave nor where he wanted it sent.

This financial subterfuge, whether done deliberately to cover his trail or not, has had the effect of limiting knowledge of Stanback’s people-pruning agenda. Despite his easily mid-nine-figure giving range (perhaps even exceeding a billion dollars), most politically savvy Americans still have never heard of Fred Stanback.

But small clues hint at a huge amount of money.

Two years ago, the Los Angeles Times reported on a single $397 million donation from Stanback to the Foundation for the Carolinas that took place in 2014. Records show total giving from all donors to all recipients through the Foundation for the Carolinas of $2.1 billion for grant years 1999 through 2017. So, putting that single 2014 donation from Stanback in perspective, it equaled almost 20 percent of the Foundation’s combined giving over nearly two decades from all sources.

And it is highly likely the 2014 donation was the continuation, not the beginning, of a nine-figure (or more) giving commitment from Stanback to his Foundation for the Carolinas account. For example, even before 2014, media accounts and other reports tied Stanback as an important donor to Population Connection (formerly Zero Population Growth), the Sierra Club Foundation (as well as Sierra’s former legal arm, EarthJustice), NumbersUSA, the Rocky Mountain Institute, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Planned Parenthood South Atlantic.

Just these six Stanback-supported organizations, fitting his anti-humanist agenda, received at least $278 million from the Foundation for the Carolinas over the grant years 1999 through 2017. And there are 46 other such organizations (49 in all), which together account for 37 percent of total Foundation for the Carolinas giving for those years. In total, they account for $780 million. Most or potentially close to all of that could be reasonably suspected to have come from Stanback or his family.

Stanback’s known giving through the Foundation for the Carolinas is so large it is difficult to distinguish the Foundation as having an agenda for its other donors outside of Stanback’s personal giving.

Just one left-wing climate alarmist organization named the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) received at least $175.4 million from Foundation for the Carolinas during the 1999 through 2017 grant years, dwarfing the $153 million given to every church and other house of worship in the religion category from all the other 2,700 Foundation for the Carolinas-managed accounts. Media reports credit Fred Stanback as responsible for at least $50 million of the donations to the Southern Environmental Law Center. And since Stanback, his wife, and his son each sit on the Law Center’s “President’s Council,” it’s reasonable to suspect even more Stanback family money has gone to the organization.

The Southern Environmental Law Center’s “priority projects” are a blizzard of lawsuits aimed at impeding the use of any form of low-cost and abundant energy: coal, natural gas, oil and even nuclear energy (which produces zero carbon emissions). In one telling example, the Southern Environmental Law Center tried to impose restrictions on biomass energy—the use of wood pellets that are sometimes used in place of coal to fuel power plants. “In response to increasing demand from Europe,” says the Center’s website, “the wood pellet industry is focusing on sourcing wood from the Southeastern United States.”

While that nicely explains the “what” of the issue, the lawyers at SELC shy away from the “why.” While on paper many European states have a goal of getting rid of carbon emissions by shifting to “renewable” energy, in practice they have carved out a loophole for burning wood, which—as anyone ever caught on the downwind side of a campfire knows—produces a substantial amount of carbon dioxide. Putting a lie to the myth that wind and solar power are the zero carbon replacements of the future, the European Union is currently getting 60 percent of its “renewable” power from biomass—and importing lots of it from the United States.

What we have here is mostly irrational energy expectations—that of the climate alarmists in EU nations—running afoul of the completely irrational expectations of the climate alarmists at the Stanback-supported Southern Environmental Law Center. It’s a twist on an old political joke that the left-wing doesn’t know what the far-left wing is up to.

In the next installment of Anti-humanist Environmentalism, learn about Mr. Stanback’s pet projects.

Ken Braun

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