Dark Money in Conservative Politics:The Shadowy American Nonprofit Bankrolling Canada’s Conservative Movement

In our series Dark Money in Conservative Politics, we take a deep look at where Canada’s Conservative movement gets its funding.

February 8, 2018

Our first story looked at the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) and the web of funding and incestuous connections between other right-wing causes.

Our second story analyzed the deep connections between the JCCF and the alt-right media outlet Rebel Media, and how The Rebel helps fundraise for the JCCF.

In our newest article, we investigate the Atlas Network, a shadowy righting American nonprofit that bankrolls some of Canada’s leading Conservative organizations, advocacy groups, and think tanks.

What is the Atlas Network?
The Atlas Network is a rightwing nonprofit that funds and creates conservative think tanks and advocacy organizations throughout the world . They claim their mission is to:

strengthen the worldwide freedom movement by cultivating a highly effective and expansive network that inspires and incentivizes all committed individuals and organizations to achieve lasting impact.

They don’t think small – their goal is to “win long-term policy battles that will shape history”. They do this by “accelerat(ing) those achievements by providing competitive opportunities for training, support, and international recognition.”

And they are very successful at what they do. A study by the University of Pennsylvania’s 2016 Global Go To Think Index Report ranks the Atlas Institute amongst the top 1 percent of organizations in the world in Best Managed Think Tank, Best Think Tank Network, Best Think Tank Conference and Think Tanks with the Best Use of the Internet.

Atlas Network Funding
In 2016, they plowed $5,253,220 into partner networks to help shape and influence policy decisions, media coverage and opinion throughout the world. But where does the Atlas Network get its funds? 

Desmog Canada has done an excellent job summarizing the organizations that donate to the Atlas Network. They include some of the most influential and dangerous far-right individuals and organizations in America, including:

Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, and the Charles Koch Institute, founded by Charles Koch
Earhart Foundation, which funds right-wing think tanks
Sarah Scaife Foundation, whose family helped jumpstart much of the conservative movement in the United States
The John Templeton Foundation, which advocates for “the integration of religious beliefs and free-market principles into the classroom.”
The sum of donations throughout the year are staggering, including $8.6 million from the John Templeton Foundation, $3.4 million from the Earhart Foundation and $1.8 million from the Sarah Scaife Foundation

You can read the entire list here.

Vast International Right-Wing Network
While the Atlas Network receives most of its funding from U.S. based organizations, their focus is global. The Atlas Network provides funding and training for organizations throughout the world. These are the regions they operate it in, with the number of partner organizations in each region:

United States – 166
Latin America – 77
Europe and Central Asia – 136
Middle East and North Africa – 9
Africa – 18
East Asia and Pacific – 27
South Asia 13
Australia and New Zealand – 8
Canada – 11
A review of their partner organizations reveals some troubling connections:

The Cato Institute – A libertarian think tank funded by the Koch brothers that advocates for far-right pro-corporate policies like eliminating the minimum wage
Citizen Council for Health Freedom – A right-wing organization that advocates against  health care
Freedom Foundation – An anti-public sector union organization
Freedom Works Foundation – A leading voice of the libertarian Tea Party movement
Besides contributing financial support, the Atlas Leadership Academy provides Conservatives with training, coaching and leadership courses. They connect likeminded Conservatives with mentors, best practices, strategies and tools to build right-wing think tanks throughout the world.

Some of their courses include:

How to conduct policy analysis
Creating an internship program
How to start a think tank
Video production workshops
The lessons from Brexit and how think tanks and change opinion
Rebranding your think tank
How to run corporate fundraising campaigns
Follow this link for the full list of training.

Funding Canada’s Conservative Movement
The Atlas Network has a strong and influential presence in Canada. Their primary involvement is providing funding and training for right-wing think tanks and advocacy organizations.

Financial information provided within their 2016 Annual Report indicated that Canadian organizations received $204,671 from the Atlas Network.

The proportion of grant-giving to Canada alone compared other regions is troubling. The U.S. received $531,387, with ten times the population of Canada. Similarly, South Asia received $276,591, Africa received $264,418 and East Asia and Pacific received $238,806. On a per-population basis, Canada received by far the highest proportion of funding.

Their Partners section lists 12 different organizations that receive funding. Here is the list:

The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies

The Canadian Constitution Foundation

The Taxpayers Federation

Fraser Institute

Frontier Centre for Public Policy

Institute for Liberal Studies

Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms – read our in-depth coverage of the JCCF.

Ludwig Von Mises Institute of Canada

MacDonald-Laurier Institute for Public Policy

Manning Centre

Montreal Economic Institute

World Taxpayers Association

The Atlas Network’s involvement in Canadian right-wing movements is staggering. Of the groups receiving funding, seven are high-profile Canadian think tanks who write influential studies, appear in the media, write op-eds and help influence Canadian public opinion. In fact, the founder of the Atlas Network helped create the Fraser Institute, one of Canada’s leading think tanks, and a group that advocates for private health care in Canada.

In the coming weeks, we will be publishing our findings of the Atlas Network’s involvement in these Canadian right-wing organizations. What we’ve uncovered is truly troubling, including a targeted attempt to influence Canadian children and university students, slanted research studies and incorporation of right-wing political advocacy popularized in the United States.  If you want to be the first to hear these stories before anyone else, just email hello@north99.org with the subject “Dark money”.