A San Francisco-based organization which uses a veneer of philanthropy to cloak its real purpose: laundering money to left-wing causes. The Tides Foundation has reportedly received more than $20 million in donations from George Soros’ groups, and Tides shares Soros’ vision for a radical left-wing makeover of Western civilization and the world. Worse, nearly $170 million in tax-payer funded government grants disbursed through its 1996 offshoot sister company, the Tides Center, has passed through this liberal dark money behemoth that houses numerous left-wing groups, tax forms show. Tides has given out money to numerous left-wing groups including ACORN and Project Vote and recently created the Black Lives Matter Support Fund.
Founded by Drummond Pike, a professional political activist who has since retired from the organization, the initial funding for the Tides came from Jane Lehman, heiress to the fortune generated by the Reynolds tobacco conglomerate and an ex-president of the leftist Arca Foundation. The Tides Foundation’s extensive use of donor-advised funds to funnel grants to center-left political nonprofits has led some right-leaning groups to criticize it as a “dark money” group. The Tides Foundation calls itself a “values based infrastructure service for progressive nonprofit work.” Lehman remained chair of the organization’s board of directors until her death in 1988.3
Drummond Pike began his career in political activism in 1970 as associate director for the now-defunct Youth Project in Washington, D.C., a Center for Community Change project formed to give young people with inherited wealth a way to channel donations. Pike pursued a similar model as the basis for the Tides Foundation, using donor-advised funds (DAFs) as a means to incentivize liberal donors to give to Tides since they would play an advisory role in its grantmaking. In 1979, he extended Tides’ operations to include fiscal sponsorship, effectively using Tides’ 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status as an umbrella to incubate new center-left activist nonprofits.
DONOR-ADVISED FUNDS (DAFS)
Since its creation, donor-advised funds (DAFs) have formed the basis of the Tides Foundation’s grantmaking services. DAFs act as a kind of “charitable savings account,” enabling donors to gift tax-deductible funds to the Tides Foundation for the organization to invest and grow in individual accounts. Donors may then designate recipients for the Tides Foundation to make grants to from their accounts. This has the added effect of effectively masking (or “washing”) the original donors, since grants from Tides do not reveal which donor directed the funds and the IRS does not require 501(c)(3) nonprofits such as Tides to disclose its donors.
While DAFs are utilized by a wide array of 501(c)(3) nonprofits, Tides specializes in directing grants to center-left activist groups, making it one of the largest pass-through funders to left-wing nonprofits. The center-right Washington Examiner has characterized Tides as a “dark money” organization for this practice.
Since its inception in 1976, Tides has “scaled more than 1,400 social ventures, fueled social change in 120+ countries, and mobilized more than $3 billion for impact,” according to its website. The far-reaching network—referred to as the Tides Nexus—is a complex set up of eight nonprofit entities. Each of these entities serves a different purpose—from fiscally sponsoring progressive groups to advocacy efforts—and include the Tides Foundation, Tides Center, Tides Network, Tides Advocacy, Tides Inc., Tides Two Rivers Fund, Tides Canada Foundation, and the Harding Rock Fund.
According to its website, the Tides Foundation has worked with over 15,000 individuals and organizations, including “foundations, donors, corporations, social investors, nonprofit organizations, government institutions, community organizations, activists, [and] social entrepreneurs,” and supported hundreds of nonprofit projects in its quest to “accelerate toward a world of shared prosperity and social justice.”
Democratic donors have pushed large sums to Tides primarily through their own grant-making foundations. Millions have been given from the likes of George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, Ford Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
The Tides Center, which acts as a “fiscal sponsor” to nonprofits by providing its 501(c)(3) tax and legal status. This arrangement lets the groups under its umbrella avoid registering with the IRS. Tax grants went to liberal initiatives housed at the Tides Center over a 17-year span between 2001 and 2018 and have steadily increased over time, according to a review of the center’s tax data. It has acted as an anonymous funding avenue for some of the nation’s most prolific Democratic donors.
“The Tides Center is as liberal and politically active as they come; its entire purpose is to create new activist groups,” said Scott Walter, president of the Capital Research Center. Walter noted that the Tides Center’s recipient profile on USASpending.gov, which posts government grants, shows $34 million in federal funding since 2008. The grants were primarily from the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Department of Health and Human Services. While USASpending is meant to inform the public of where government grants are coming from and where they are going, it contains incomplete data. During the period of time in which the website says the Tides Center received $34 million in federal funding, the group’s own tax forms show that it had received $139 million in government grants.1
In addition to the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, the Tides Center also acts as a fiscal sponsor to the Alliance for Safety and Justice, a social justice organization that benefited from $2 million in grants awarded from the National Football League in 2019. It has acted as an incubation house for numerous environmental, anti-free trade, gun-control, and abortion-rights groups.
Oftentimes these groups pass funds among each other. The Tides Center’s 2018 tax forms show that it pushed seven figures over to the Tides Foundation for general support and projects. The Tides Foundation, likewise, pushed millions to both Tides Advocacy and the Tides Center. Hundreds of thousands more went to the Tides Network, the controlling organization of the Tides Center and Tides Foundation. The Tides Foundation itself shelled out $291 million in grants that year, which primarily benefited numerous outside left-wing groups such as America Votes, Center for Community Change, Center for Popular Democracy, Indivisible Project, and Planned Parenthood, among many others.
The Tides setup has also been emulated by other large-scale liberal dark money networks, including those at Arabella Advisors, a D.C.-based consulting company that manages four nonprofits that act as fiscal sponsors to liberal groups and initiatives.
In 2008, it was learned that Dale Rathke had embezzled nearly $1m dollars from the organization ACORN. Drummond Pike, the founder of Tides, made a donation to make the organization whole. The Tides Foundation is setting up and managing an endowment fund for Wikipedia/Wikimedia, and has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to the organization Thousand Currents.2
Dominion Voting Systems shares an office floor with the George Soros-funded left-wing Tides Foundation in Toronto, NATIONAL FILE reported.
The Tides Foundation has been implicated in a scheme of funneling millions of dollars into Canada from American donors to block joint U.S.-Canadian energy projects. During debate over the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline that would transport Canadian oil to U.S. refineries along the Gulf Coast, it was discovered that much of the Canadian anti-Keystone advocacy was being funded by American environmental donors.
Vivian Krause, a blogger from British Columbia, estimated that between 2000 and 2012 American donors poured roughly $300 million into controversial Canadian environmental groups that meddled with domestic politics. When her journalism uncovered the depth of U.S. donor involvement in Canada, the Canadian government withdrew an $8.3 million funding agreement with the Tides Canada Foundation, a Tides affiliate based in Canada which served as a key conduit for U.S. donors to influence Canadian policies.
DONORS TO THE TIDES FOUNDATION
Many of the Tides Foundation’s largest donors are center-left grantmaking foundations. The Tides Foundation also receives regular grants from a number of “commercial” donor-advised fund providers (nonprofits associated with for-profit investment companies), including Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program, Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund, and Schwab Charitable Fund. Funds from these DAF providers originate with individual donors or foundations, though they can rarely be traced from the DAF provider to the ultimate grant recipient. Notable grantors between 1998 and 2018 include:
- Annie E. Casey Foundation: $946,500
- Arca Foundation: $542,000
- Bauman Family Foundation: $2,773,787
- California Endowment: $4,265,828
- Carnegie Corporation of New York: $823,486
- David and Lucile Packard Foundation: $492,000
- Ford Foundation: $26,410,759
- George Soros’ Foundation to Promote Open Society: $10,259,289
- George Soros’ Open Society Foundations: $12,130,241
- Gill Foundation: $3,292,700
- John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation: $340,986
- Nick and Leslie Hanauer Foundation: $640,384
- Oak Foundation USA: $392,754
- Omidyar Network Fund: $818,000
- Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: $2,236,350
- Rockefeller Brothers Fund: $5,373,108
- Rockefeller Family Fund: $460,914
- Rockefeller Foundation: $1,661,055
- Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors: $3,525,000
- W.K. Kellogg Foundation: $3,131,201
- Wallace Global Fund II: $8,621,001
- William and Flora Hewlett Foundation: $8,317,690