Wellspring Philanthropic: An Ocean of “Dark Money” on the Left (full series)
Summary: Some schemes are darker than others. The Wellspring Philanthropic Fund is a near-bottomless pit of “dark money”—anonymous spending to achieve political ends—fed by a handful of mysterious hedge fund billionaires. Using a sophisticated network of for-profits, shell corporations, and consultancies, Wellspring has poured out an incredible $1.1 billion into nonprofits, most of which is hidden from prying eyes in donor-advised funds.
But Wellspring Philanthropic Fund isn’t even the final destination of much of the TGS-linked funds. Between 2001 and 2017, the foundation paid almost $143 million in consulting fees to Wellspring Advisors, a limited liability corporation created to manage Wellspring Philanthropic Fund.
The New York-based company was created in 2001 and has been described as a “private philanthropic advisory firm” and a “consulting firm for anonymous donors.” Its relationship with the foundation is described in one of Wellspring’s IRS filings:
Wellspring Advisors provides operational, programmatic, administrative and grantmaking support to the foundation [Wellspring Philanthropic Fund]. Wellspring [Advisors] administers the foundation’s grantmaking program and interfaces with the foundation’s donor-advised fund grantees . . .
Wellspring staff members develop the foundation’s grantmaking strategy and programs, research potential recipients of advised grants from the foundation’s donor-advised fund accounts[, and] monitor the usage of grants advised by the foundation through its donor-advised fund accounts and performance of such grantees.
In other words, Wellspring Philanthropic Fund is wholly run by Wellspring Advisors, the network’s brain trust. The foundation’s operations and huge grants to donor-advised funds—as well as the grants that the DAFs themselves ultimately make—are in the care of yet another private LLC.
The foundation itself muddies the waters, however, by noting that, “as of January 1, 2018, Wellspring Advisors has shifted to become Wellspring Philanthropic Fund.” LinkedIn profiles of Wellspring Advisors’ 70-odd employees strongly suggest that, at least externally, the two groups are treated synonymously—many titles overlap and the for-profit and foundation arms are often conflated. Wellspring Philanthropic Fund doesn’t report paying staffers, either.
Wellspring’s website lists John Taylor as president of the foundation and managing partner of Wellspring Advisors. Myles Taylor is the foundation’s vice president. The two men are brothers, according to online reports, and Wellspring’s website claims they founded the group. For whatever reason, Frederick Taylor—presumably a third sibling—isn’t mentioned by Wellspring.
Not much is known about John Taylor, a professional litigator from 1986 to 2000. He was a board member for a number of left-wing nonprofits, including the Planned Parenthood Foundation, Human Rights Watch, and the Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights (now Equality PA, a Pennsylvania-based gay advocacy group). Even less is known about Myles Taylor, who worked for two decades in commercial real estate in Washington, D.C. Myles Taylor runs Wellspring’s D.C. office and is a former board member for the Audubon Society of the Mid-Atlantic and the Lincoln Group of D.C.
In the conclusion of Wellspring Philanthropic, see how all these pieces are connected.