Nestled at the intersection of Creedmoor Road and Glenwood Avenue there is an office building of some sort. It’s chunky, tanned and easy to miss, unless you drove by two weeks ago, when a group of protesters gathered outside.
By hoisting signs reading “Stop funding fascism” and “Lives are at stake”, the dozen protesters tried to draw attention to the national headquarters of Loyalty charity, the largest granting agency in the country.
When people think of Fidelity, most think of their 401k or their investment portfolio, not the Klan men parading in Charlottesville. But financial records show that business and white supremacy are inextricably linked.
From 2015 to 2018, $ 4.8 million was funneled to hate groups nationwide through Fidelity Charitable, the philanthropic arm of Fidelity Investments, according to an investigation report through Mud. In practice, individual donors donate money to Fidelity Charitable, which then distributes that money to groups chosen by the donors.
An additional $ 2.5 million was given to these groups in 2019 (for a total of $ 7.4 million), according to the most recent tax records available from the IRS.
The 31 organizations that some donors have sent their money to are considered hate groups by the government. Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks groups that “demean or demean a whole other group of people based on their inherent characteristics,” said Heidi Beirich, SPLC director of the Intelligence Project. Mud.
The list includes names as infamous as VDARE.com, a website that regularly posts white supremacist and anti-Semitic rhetoric, and the Alliance Defending Freedom, which equates homosexuality with pedophilia and supports the criminalization of relationships. sex between LGBTQ people.
Isabel Walsh, who helped organize this month’s protest, wants to let people know where the Fidelity Charitable money is going.
“The idea that this could happen quite openly without any accountability is at the heart of this campaign,” Walsh told the INDY. âIt’s kind of one of those things where you’re like, ‘Wow, I never thought about it, but now that I have, it’s surprising. “”
As a member of the Unmasking Fidelity movement, originally from Boston and now arrived in the Triangle, Walsh wants Fidelity Charitable to publicly disclose all past contributions to white supremacy and other hate groups.
Local protesters are also calling on Fidelity Charitable to redistribute money to people who are targets of hate groups, as well as develop a screening policy that declares certain groups prohibited from donating.
âThere is such a wide variety of places you can donate to and the only requirement for Fidelityâ¦
Historically, funds advised by donors like Fidelity Charitable are âwithout cause,â meaning they do not champion a specific cause or prohibit giving to specific charities. The group just makes sure that the money goes to legal 501 (c) (3) organizations.
Fidelity Charitable did not respond to INDY week request for comment before the print deadline, but officials have made statements to other news outlets about the policy.
âFidelity Charitable does not provide grants to groups that may be involved in illegal activities, such as terrorism, money laundering, hate crimes or fraud,â said spokesperson Stephen Austin. Recount The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
The nonprofit is also monitoring public records to see if the money is being used for non-charitable purposes, Fidelity Investments vice president Sophie Launay said in an email to Mud.
âIf there are reports of concern identified regarding a specific charity, Fidelity Charitable documents those reports and considers the information in the event that a grant is recommended to the relevant charity. “
But Walsh says existing policies and systems just aren’t doing enough.
âYou can’t really stay neutral when donors use a lack of boundaries to donate in certain ways,â she says. “While Fidelity Charitable sets more stringent guidelines for the type of places you can donate to, this may be a way of redirecting funds to places that will be explicitly useful.”
What is a donor advised fund?
Ultimately, Fidelity Charitable makes it easier for more people to give more money to charity. As a donor advised fund, it can help people donate not only money, but also stocks, private business interests, or other assets that cannot be traded publicly. By giving to Fidelity Charitable, donors avoid taxes that would reduce their donation.
But in addition to helping give more money to charity, the nonprofit also allows donors to remain anonymous, perhaps making them more comfortable when making a donation. to hate groups. The non-profit organization targets large donors like business owners and entrepreneurs.
In 2019, more than 200,000 people donated money to charity through Fidelity Charitable, making a total of approximately $ 5.2 billion to groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Sierra Club Foundation. About 0.05 percent of that money went to hate groups chosen by donors.
Still, that 0.05 percent adds up. In 2019, the $ 1 million donated to the Defending Freedom Alliance represented 2% of their overall donations, a small but significant percentage. Add the money donated to the Alliance by other donor-advised funds like the Schwab Charitable Fund and the Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund, and you have an additional $ 500,000. This is before counting the thousands of other funds advised by donors across the country.
As the largest granting organization in the country, Fidelity Charitable has a significant impact on where donations go. By continuing to include hate groups on their list of eligible charities, the association is supporting these organizations, allowing them to continue to spread vitriol that can, indirectly, lead to discriminatory laws and even hate crimes.
What makes a nonprofit a charity?
While Fidelity Charitable’s work is not entirely good, the controversy over donor-advised funds reveals a much bigger problem.
Fidelity Charitable, like AmazonSmile and other philanthropic organizations, is designed to do good by giving to nonprofits. So why are some hate groups classified as 501 (c) (3) nonprofits?
The Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge, for example, is a large generalist hate group operating as a non-profit organization. The group, which is anti-LGBT and anti-Semitic, has six chapters in North Carolina: in Durham, Charlotte, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Fayetteville and Greenville.
William Gheen, chairman of the anti-immigrant hate group Americans for Legal Immigration (or ALIPAC), also runs a nonprofit in Raleigh known as the American Defense Network. Billed as a community engagement organization, the group publishes anti-immigrant rhetoric and spreads the word about ALIPAC fundraisers. Because this is a 501 (c) (3) organization, its Facebook page includes a âCreate Fundraiserâ button that allows users to raise funds for the group.
Likewise, hate groups that receive money from Fidelity Charitable identify themselves primarily as conservative research centers and advocacy organizations. They claim to defend threats to American freedom and religious freedom. In reality, they are sternly anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and anti-LGBTQ, spreading milatirist rhetoric about the need for people to fight for the white, straight United States.
Critics of the Southern Poverty Law Center hate map argue that the organization is simply against conservatism. However, there are dozens of conservative organizations that are not classified as hate groups by the SPLC, many of which support Zionism, support tighter immigration restrictions, and oppose same-sex marriage.
To be on the SPLC list, a group must reach a level of radicalism equivalent to the KKK or the Proud Boys. It should be noted, however, that many hate groups classified as nonprofit have historically not been recognized as threats by the United States or its leaders.
The US government has been primarily passive in the face of anti-Muslim sentiment, which reached an all-time high after September 11, 2001. After the attacks, many people confused mainstream Islam with radical groups like al-Qaeda.
Government surveillance of Muslim communities, conducted under the veil of the fight against terrorism, has only exacerbated the problem. Islamophobia continues to this day, as groups like the David Horowitz Freedom Center – which received more than half a million dollars through Fidelity Charitable in 2019 – spread anti-Muslim rhetoric in the name of national security.
The United States has also relatively accepted white supremacy, particularly after the election of Donald Trump in 2016, allowing political leaders to openly share anti-immigrant and anti-black sentiments. Likewise, homophobic comments were regularly made by lawmakers and officials – one of the most recent scandals arose in North Carolina when Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson called homosexuality “filth.”
Fidelity Charitable is a big company that helps give a lot of money to hate groups, but the real problem here is a loophole in the tax code governing nonprofits. “Where is the money going? Is a question we should all start asking.
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