Philanthropy

The Hypocrisy of Unmasking Fidelity’s Leftists


It comes as no surprise that many on the anti–free speech Left want to silence conservatives wherever they find them. It’s almost impressive how quickly ejecting “hate groups” and “white supremacists” from the public sphere has gone from the fever dreams of a few university radicals to the Democratic Party platform in a scant few years. As others have noted, it’s the triumph of socialism’s “long march through the institutions” pioneered a century ago by Antonio Gramsci, the father of today’s cultural Marxists (and the doyens of what we call “the Left”).

For the “Right” People

Item one: The Democrats’ For the People Act (H.R. 1), while federalizing elections, would have also forced nonprofits to reveal their donors in violation of both Americans’ free speech rights under the First Amendment and multiple Supreme Court rulings upholding donor anonymity.

Defeated in Congress, the Left has turned to thuggery, using professional activists to pressure, threaten, and harangue credit card companies and community philanthropies into blocking donations to “extremist groups” on the Right. Their latest target is donor-advised funds (DAFs).

Cancel Culture Comes to Big Philanthropy

Enter Unmasking Fidelity, a coalition of far-left “social justice” groups aiming to choke off donations to conservative nonprofits through the country’s biggest grantmaker, Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund.

Donor-advised-fund providers are merely conduits for their donors’ money and are neutral, granting to left- and right-leaning groups alike. Grants that Fidelity Charitable and its Schwab and Vanguard equivalents pay out are made according to their clients’ wishes, not the providers’ leadership.

According to an open letter the group sent to Fidelity Charitable in 2019, the latter paid out a shocking $3.1 million in 2016–17 to 18 “anti-LGBT,” “anti-Muslim, “anti-immigrant,” and “anti-Black” organizations. (That’s 0.08 percent of the nearly $3.8 billion Fidelity Charitable paid out in grants that year, by the way—clearly a real crisis.)

“I ask that Fidelity . . . embrace the true definition of the word charity, which is ‘goodwill toward . . . humanity,’” the letter continues, and “discontinue the practice of allowing Fidelity [Charitable] to transmit money to groups known for their hateful activities.”

Naturally, Unmasking Fidelity points to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s politically motivated and misleading “Hate Map” as evidence of these “hateful” groups’ misdeeds.

Among them are the quite mainstream Alliance Defending Freedom, which defends religious liberty, and David Horowitz Freedom Center, which promotes academic liberty and investigates radical Islam’s ties to the activist Left. (Like many leading conservative thinkers, Mr. Horowitz himself is famously an ex-Marxist).

It also includes the small, controversial, and anti-immigration group VDARE in its line-up, although Unmasking Fidelity admits the group only received less than $18,000 from Fidelity Charitable.

But the letter omitted one salient detail: Every one of Unmasking Fidelity’s founders has also received DAF money. And a lot of it came from Fidelity Charitable. As InfluenceWatch explains:

Would these organizations support a blanket ban on left-wing “hate groups,” perhaps citing data from Discover the Networks, a tracking site documenting lefty groups published by the Horowitz Center? One can imagine the charges of “fascism” that would rain down from on high were conservatives to try blocking money flows to the (substantially better-funded) Left.

“Tolerance Is a Two-Way Street”

Pivoting back to reality, one set of right-leaning, centrist, and apolitical groups have authored their own letter—the Philadelphia Statement—calling on Fidelity Charitable CEO Abigail Johnson to commit her organization to donor privacy and neutrality in donor choice.

It’s a terrific read. Among the few thousand signatories are the leadership of Alliance Defending Freedom, the Heritage Foundation, libertarian R Street Institute, and DonorsTrust (a top right-leaning DAF provider), as well as numerous Fidelity Charitable clients, professors, financial institutions, clergy, small businesses. In other words, the signatories are the exact grassroots opposite of Unmasking Fidelity’s astroturf campaign.

“You should give donors the full spectrum of charitable choice,” the Philadelphia Statement argues. “Tolerance is a two-way street.” It cites damning articles from left-leaning Politico and The Week that the Southern Poverty Law Center is “becoming more of a partisan progressive hit operation than a civil rights watchdog,” too busy “enforcing liberal orthodoxy against its intellectual opponents” to monitor “actual hate groups.” The letter continues:

Requiring that nonprofits disclose their donors not only exposes existing donors to the threat of doxing and harassment, but also discourages charitable giving and participation in the marketplace of ideas. Public advocacy is for everyone, not just those able to weather abuse.

Surely even the Left, which is so heavily reliant on thousands of nonprofits commanding billions of dollars, can agree with that. But until liberals realize that cancel culture is not the path to power, I wouldn’t bet on détente.

Hayden Ludwig

Hayden Ludwig is a Senior Investigative Researcher at Capital Research Center. He is also a columnist at the Washington Free Beacon and writes regularly for the American Conservative. Ludwig is…
+ More by Hayden Ludwig