by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Liberal billionaire donors are exploiting a new way of funneling millions of dollars to left-wing political groups.
In 2015, Facebook founder and Democratic donor Mark Zuckerberg set up a limited liability corporation and moved millions of untraceable dollars to leftist groups. Under the LLC format, he may legally spend unlimited sums in support of Democratic politicians, lobbying groups pushing for radical policies, and far-left activists who advocate for “reforms” that hurt election integrity.
This marks a radical departure from most megadonors’ use of tax-exempt nonprofits to fund political groups by side-stepping the IRS disclosure requirements and the ban on election intervention faced by foundations.
The benefit to Zuckerberg is clear: maximize political spending and minimize public scrutiny, in exchange for forgoing a foundation’s tax exemption. And other ultra-liberal billionaires are following suit, a trend that’s created a black hole for watchdog groups.
Zuckerberg’s LLC, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), is on track to become one of the largest left-wing funders in America, with Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, vowing to donate 99 percent of their stock in Facebook (worth $45 billion in 2015).
CZI has already routed tens of millions of dollars into voter registration nonprofits and ballot initiatives focused on shifting low-income housing policy in California and other states. FWD.us, a group Zuckerberg founded in 2013 to lobby for “criminal justice reform and immigration” policies, has received at least $62 million from CZI since 2018.
CZI has also funneled millions of dollars to immigration advocacy groups including over $1 million to the National Immigration Forum, $550,000 to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, $200,000 to the American Immigration Council, and $150,000 to the Black Alliance for Just Immigration.
Other ultraliberal donors such as eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of the late tech mogul Steve Jobs, have also adopted the donation model.