Organization Trends

Financing a More Woke Military

Some of the most notorious groups on the Left—including the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as well as organizations aligned with George Soros and Arabella Advisors—are bankrolling the push for a more woke military that soldiers on for a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) agenda.

In December 2023, the SPLC announced it had contributed $300,000 to the Common Defense Education Fund (CDEF)—part of the Common Defense network of nonprofits that has pushed the Defense Department to embrace LGBTQ policies, promote “climate justice,” pushing critical race theory in military training, and advocacy for Palestinian territories.

The Capital Research Center has previously reported on the numerous organizations demanding that the military march to a progressive tune. The groups have gained increased clout during the Biden administration.

The SPLC’s December announcement was clear the lump of money was about the 2024 election, particularly the key battleground state of Georgia, claiming the goal was “veteran voter participation.” The grant purports to aim “to train 50 veteran leaders through fellowships, grow membership in its corps of veteran organizers, publish 10 op-eds, and contact 500,000 Georgia voters through in-person canvassing and text and phone banking.”

While such activities sound benevolent, neither the SPLC nor the Common Defense network of organizations has earned much of a reputation for simply encouraging voting without caring about the outcome.

The Common Defense Network

The Common Defense Education Fund, a 501(c)(3), had $1.15 million in revenue for 2022 and $760,534 in expenses. The organization has total assets of $504,216.

The CDEF received a $250,000 grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation in 2022. Commonly known as the Hewlett Foundation, started by the co-founder of the Hewlett-Packard (now HP), it generally funds left-of-center causes such as environmentalism and abortion access.

The Ford Foundation, one of the largest foundations in the world and a primary funder of left-of-center causes, gave a $100,000 grant to CDEF to organize what is called a multiracial, multi-generational, and inclusive movement to get veterans to advocate for a “healthy and participatory democracy.”

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, first created by the sons of John D. Rockefeller and now a left-of-center funder that has backed environmental and anti-Israel causes, gave $50,000 in 2023 to the Common Defense Education Fund for general support. It gave a separate two-year $100,000 grant for the CDEF’s project “Ending the Forever War in the Palestinian Territories.”

The CDEF runs the Veterans Organizing Institute, a project that supports a network of “highly diverse, former service members, with sophisticated political analysis and practical organizing skills to play an important role in reshaping the long-term American political landscape.” The institute says it wants to create “training opportunities” for women, people of color, Indigenous, Muslim, LGBTQ+, and disabled veterans.

In 2023, the Fund for Nonviolence, a California-based group that advocates left-leaning policies, including cutting the size of the military, gave $20,000 to support the Veterans Organizing Institute.

The North Star Fund, which backs left-leaning causes in New York City and the Hudson Valley, also contributed to the Common Defense Education Fund, among 65 groups operating in New York City to get a portion of $1.8 million in grants.

Also in the Common Defense network is Common Defense Civic Engagement, the 501(c)(4) advocacy arm of the network. It had revenue in 2022 of $1.6 million, spent $1.4 million, and had total assets of $823,499. Moreover, it’s the Common Defense division with both Soros and Arabella money.

The largest donor to Common Defense Civic Engagement was the George Soros–backed Open Society Policy Center, one of the largest spenders on lobbying, which gave $600,000 in late 2022.

The Sixteen Thirty Fund, a lobbying group administered by Arabella Advisors, gave $190,000 to Common Defense Civic Engagement. Arabella Advisors administers multiple liberal nonprofits, which in turn sponsor several “popup” nonprofits, that emerge short term for issue advocacy or when related to an election.

In 2019, the anti–Donald Trump political action committee Need to Impeach, closely associated with liberal billionaire Tom Steyer, gave $100,000 to Common Defense Civic Engagement.

As for direct politics, the Common Defense Civic Action Fund PAC, is almost entirely funded by large donations from Common Defense Civic Engagement, with a few individuals contributing no more than $6,000, according to Open Secrets.

The Common Defense network has made LGBTQ issues in the military one of its several priorities, but other groups that focus exclusively on these policies rely on big donors as well.

Funding Other Activist Groups

Interestingly, in June 2022, the not overtly political Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America announced $25,000 grants to Minority Veterans of America and two LGBTQ organizations (SPARTA and the Modern Military Association of America).

The Modern Military Association of America (MMAA) reported revenue of $654,239 on its 2022 Form 990 with the Internal Revenue Service. The group had $305,179 in expenses that year, with total assets of $795,019. Two organizations—the American Military Partner Association and OutServe-SLDN—merged in May 2019 to create the MMAA.

Past donors to OutServe have been the Tawani Foundation, an organization with ties to the Pritzker family, and the David Bohnette Foundation, which has donated largely to LGBTQ programs, as well as pro–gun control causes.  Past donors to the American Military Partner Association include the Texas-based Palm Center and the Massachusetts-based LGBT Community Charities.

Service Women’s Action Network, also known as SWAN, played a pro-abortion advocacy role in the recent debate over the Pentagon’s funding of abortion tourism.

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced taxpayers would foot the bill for enlisted women to travel to different states to get abortions if they were based in a state with restrictive abortion laws.

The NOVO Foundation, run by Warren Buffet’s son Peter Buffet and wife Jennifer, gave $200,000 to the Service Women’s Action Network, according to NOVO’s 2019 Form 990.

The Ms. Foundation, a longstanding feminist organization founded by Gloria Steinem, donated $5,000 to SWAN, according to its 2015 Form 990.

In 2015, the Texas-based Jenesis Group, which is not overtly political, contributed $67,800 to SWAN.

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation, also known as the SNF Agora Institute, a left-of-center grant maker associated with John Hopkins University, contributed to SWAN in 2020.

The Next Battlefield

Pushing wokeness in the military is not likely a passing fad. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Ford Foundation, Open Society Policy Center, and other left-wing organizations have invested substantial money in the push, showing a strong willingness for conquest on another DEI battlefield.


Fred Lucas

Fred Lucas is the author of Abuse of Power: Inside the Three-Year Campaign to Impeach Donald Trump (Bombardier Books, 2020). He is a journalist who reports for the Daily Signal,…
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