MacArthur Foundation

Share

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the tenth largest philanthropic foundation in the United States, is one of the largest donors to “anti-technology” activism and progressive causes. The family foundation — the work of the entrepreneur who created Bankers Life and Trust — is a co-founder of the Energy Foundation, and a vocal supporter of non-profit organizations that focus on combating man-caused climate change, with a focus on establishing a global energy policy that eschews cheap fossil fuels for more-costly “renewable” energy sources.

The MacArthur Foundation is also known to promote high achievers who meet its ideological criteria through the use of its “genius grant” fellowships. The foundation uses its $6 billion endowment to fund annual grants totaling approximately $218 million — grants that go mostly to left-wing organizations. At least one of MacArthur’s “genius grants” proved ill-advised, when recipient Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute embroiled himself in the “Fakegate” controversy by peddling documents he admitted to stealing (and at least one he forged) in a failed attempt to smear the “climate skeptic” Heartland Institute.

Money

Tax status: The MacArthur Foundation is a 501(c)(3) private foundation. It generates income by investing its initial endowment, sometimes supplemented by gifts from family and friends, and disburses portions of its investment income each year to selected recipients.

2013 figures (latest available)

  • MacArthur’s financial assets were $6,323,307,217
  • MacArthur’s net gain from sale of assets was $323,429,029
  • MacArthur’s total revenue was $430,126,421.
  • MacArthur’s grants given in all categories were $218,601,920.
  • Officers’ compensation totaled $4,397,638.
  • Employee salaries totaled $19,970,422.

Sources of Wealth

Foundation’s Statement: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur were quiet philanthropists in their lifetimes, giving primarily to organizations in cities where they lived: Chicago and Palm Beach, Florida. Their business interests, including the immensely successful Bankers Life and Casualty insurance company — as well as real estate holdings concentrated in Florida, New York City, and Chicago — consumed most of their time and energy.

(Source: Our History, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation webpage)

Power

  • MacArthur-paid congressional junkets: 5 trips to 2 destinations, Chicago, Illinois and Istanbul, Turkey.

(Source: Legistorm)

Network Interactions

See the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Muckety Map for an interactive view of the foundation’s social network.

Top 10 Major Grant Recipients:

  • LOCAL INITIATIVES SUPPORT CORPORATION $55,678,622
  • UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO $34,333,853
  • PRESIDENT AND FELLOWS OF HARVARD COLLEGE $31,167,878
  • CONSERVATION INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION $25,938,000
  • TRUSTEES OF COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY $23,150,602
  • ENERGY FOUNDATION $22,066,748
  • URBAN INSTITUTE $21,290,500
  • BROOKINGS INSTITUTION $21,041,034
  • COMMUNITY FOUNDATION FOR PALM BEACH AND MARTIN COUNTIES $20,800,000
  • SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION $20,665,000

(Source: Foundation Search)

Other current Foundation relationships:

Background & History

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is the tenth largest philanthropic foundation in the United States. It controls an endowment of $6 billion and distributes some $200 million every year, making it one of the biggest contributors to left-leaning activist organizations that promote an ideology that is against technology and the use of fossil fuels.

John D. MacArthur was the owner of Bankers Life and Trust Insurance Company and a prolific real estate investor. At the behest of his advisers, he created the MacArthur Family Foundation as a sort-of endowment, which was designed to keep his family comfortable by prorating their fortune over the foreseeable future. When he died, MacArthur left 90 percent of his fortune to this endowment. MacArthur, an avowed capitalist and conservative, left his wife and son in charge, as well as well-known radio personality Paul Harvey, a prominent voice for conservative principles in the middle of the 20th Century. Unfortunately, MacArthur did not consider the possibility that his descendants would not share his ideological leanings, and the MacArthur foundation soon became a predominant source of funds for left-leaning organizations.

The foundation now focuses on funding what many would consider “hardcore” liberal causes. It partners with the Energy Foundation to select those groups and individuals who will have a significant impact on climate and energy policy in an effort to push the societal view of environmental policy leftward. It’s most prominent expenditure is the “MacArthur Genius Grant,” awarded to 20 to 25 individuals for their potential to promote progressive ideals among the academic and policy elite. The grant is awarded to those who “show exceptional merit and promise for continued and enhanced creative work,” but, strangely does not take into consideration those individuals’ past achievements.

Leadership

Controversies

Rampant support for a left-wing agenda

Critic Martin Morse Wooster made the point in “The MacArthur Foundation: A donor without a cause spawns a foundation with an agenda,” asking “What do the Federation of American Scientists, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Arms Control Association, the League of Women Voters, the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, and the National Commission on Energy Policy have in common — aside from solid leftist credentials? Each receives funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.” MacArthur is everywhere on the left, openly supporting the progressive policy agenda, including the “climate change agenda — which is often a cover for more nefarious, radical economic change.

(Source: Foundation Watch, September 2005)

Since 2000, MacArthur has given more than $30 million to climate extremist groups including $3.3 million to the Environmental Defense Fund and an outsize $5.7 million to the Union of Concerned Scientists. UCS is a sponsor of the campaign to use the federal RICO Act against fossil fuels companies and non-profit climate realist think tanks such as The Heartland Institute. (Source: Foundation Search and The RICO Epidemic and the Attack on Exxon Mobil)

Pressing other foundations on progressive influence

In December 2015, MacArthur Foundation President Julia Stasch co-authored an opinion piece in an influential philanthropy journal calling upon “fellow grant makers, advocates, business leaders, government officials, and citizens” to make climate change a priority. In doing so, Stasch used her influence to lead other organizations into a complicated web of progressive foundations, pushing radical economic change in the name of environmental stewardship. (Source: Philanthropy Must Move Fast to Support Efforts to Curb Climate Change, Chronicle of Philanthropy)

Even the New York Times took note of the bizarre 1991 creation of the climate activist Energy Foundation. “In a rare collaborative undertaking, three of the country’s leading philanthropies are establishing an Energy Foundation to promote energy efficiency and greater reliance on renewable sources like wind and solar power. The foundation is being financed by an initial $20 million from the Rockefeller Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation of Chicago and the Pew Charitable Trusts of Philadelphia.” If fact, the foundations had been secretly planning the money conduit since 1989, the Times noted. Certain legal aspects had to be clarified before taking action. (Source: In Rare Move, Big Donors Push Energy Efficiency, New York Times, January 11, 1991)

Accusations of ideological preferences in grant-making

MacArthur is not known for funding non-leftist organizations — but it does happen, in relatively small amounts compared to its total giving. Since 1999, MacArthur has awarded 16,763 grants to 5,831 recipients for a total of $2.7 billion — with half a dozen of the top 100 grantees recognizable as politically neutral, such as community foundations, according to an examination of Foundation Search tabulations. However, community foundations may hold donor advised funds that anonymously benefit left-leaning organizations. No overtly conservative or libertarian foundations appeared in the examination. (Source: Foundation Search)

MacArthur ‘Genius Grant’ Foibles

MacArthur’s famous “genius grant” fellows have been known to go awry. Water resource policy expert and environmentalist Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, was a 2003 “genius grant” recipient. He was widely disgraced after admitting on February 20, 2012 at The Huffington Post to his creation of the “Fakegate” scandal. Gleick admitted to “phishing” confidential documents under an assumed name from The Heartland Institute, a libertarian non-profit organization. He sent the stolen documents (and at least one forged document) to environmental activists and friendly reporters because, he said, his “judgment was blinded by my frustration” that scientific skeptics of a man-caused climate crisis were being given a place

‘Fakegate’ and The Heartland Institute

In February 2012, Peter Gleick alleged that he received, anonymously in the mail, a document titled “Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy” from someone he claimed was a “Heartland Insider.” Gleick has never presented evidence of this fact, such as a photo of the postmarked envelope. The Heartland Institute learned of this development via media inquiries on February 14, 2012.

Extensive media reports in subsequent days — including an extensive examination by Megan McArdle published at The Atlantic — as well as an independent investigation concluded that the “confidential” memo about Heartland’s “climate strategy” that Gleick said was from a “Heartland Insider” was forged. After this discovery, as well as increasing media pressure, Gleick admitted on February 20, 2012 to stealing the documents.  Heartland’s legal counsel immediately filed a Criminal Referral of Dr. Peter H. Gleick in a federal court. As of 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice has declined to file charges.

(Source: Peter Gleick Confesses to Obtaining Heartland Documents Under False Pretenses, Atlantic, February 21, 2010. Further reading, including many links to media outlets, can be found at Fakegate.org)

Alleged illegal grants to Russian entities

According to the July 22, 2015 edition of the New York Times:  “The MacArthur Foundation is closing its offices in Russia after more than 20 years of grant-making here, becoming the latest casualty of new restrictions meant to limit the influence of foreign organizations in Russia. The foundation’s Russian employees and the civil-society organizations that receive its grants would be put at risk if it continued to operate in the country, the foundation said in a statement.”

In addition: “… lawmakers there placed them on preliminary list of nongovernmental groups that may be illegal under May 2015 legislation; nonprofit has been in Russia since 1992 and has granted over $173 million for projects in country.” (Source: MacArthur Foundation to Close Offices in Russia, New York Times, July 22, 2015)