Update on Greenlining Institute’s Foundation Shakedown

The Greenlining Institute’s politically-correct foundation shakedown scheme apparently got its comeuppance. CRC wrote about this last summer. But In all the post-election excitement, we missed this November 5 editorial from the Wall Street Journal. The main point:

What if the Greenlining Institute held a shakedown and nobody paid up?

The Berkeley-based outfit invited representatives from America’s top 50 foundations to come to their offices two weeks ago for a chat on the urgent national priority of “diversity in philanthropy.” Among the questions posed: “What percent of the asset management firms under contract with your foundation are minority-owned?” We’re delighted to say that not a single one of the foundations sent Greenlining any data and no one showed up to the meeting. Maybe they’re starting to catch on to this con game.

It’s been four months since 10 of California’s largest foundations agreed to hand over millions of dollars to “minority-led nonprofits.” This “gift” was an attempt to head off legislation pushed by Greenlining that would have required California’s foundations to disclose the racial composition of their boards, staffs and grantees. In the age of Barack Obama, we apparently still need to color-code America’s nonprofits.

That shakedown worked so well that Greenlining is taking its race gambit national. Eight foundations in Pennsylvania have received a letter from state Representative Jake Wheatley of Pittsburgh. “Considering the projected dramatic demographic shifts that are projected [sic] for Pennsylvania,” he wrote, “I believe that it is important to start conversations early on what philanthropy is doing to empower minority communities.” He requested “demographic data” — that is, a racial headcount on foundation grantees.

Greenlining thoughtfully agreed to sift through this data and, as Mr. Wheatley put it, “reveal opportunities to better serve Pennsylvania’s diverse population.”Mr. Wheatley told us that he got a “100% response rate” from the foundations that he surveyed. Which isn’t entirely true. Douglas Root, a spokesman for the Heinz Endowments, emailed us: “We supplied no data to Greenlining.” He explained that, “Reducing an important issue, and a complex one, to a single data point is shallow methodology.”

Brent Thompson, the director of communications at the William Penn Foundation, says his group also gave away nothing. While the staff did provide Mr. Wheatley with a list of the foundation’s grantees (which are publicly available anyway), Mr. Thompson says they offered no racial information: “We left blank the column that they were really looking for. And we have no plans to keep that data going forward.”

On Tuesday the Greenlining Institute responded in the Journal with its argument that 1) foundation money is tax-exempt, hence subsidized by taxpayers, hence really the public’s money; 2) Greenlining is only asking for more transparency and information about where foundation money is going; and 3) Congress needs to investigate.

Robert Huberty

Robert Huberty served as vice president of the Capital Research Center.
+ More by Robert Huberty

Support Capital Research Center's award-winning journalism

Donate today to assist in promoting the principles of individual liberty in America.

Read Next