Tides Center Funnels $170 Million in Taxpayer Money to Left-Wing Groups

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October 7, 2020

Nearly $170 million in government grants has passed through a liberal dark money behemoth that houses numerous left-wing groups, including the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, tax forms show.

The taxpayer-funded grants were disbursed to groups through the Tides Center, a San Francisco-based nonprofit incubator that wealthy liberal donors use to bankroll progressive causes. A number of radical left-wing groups have fallen under the auspices of 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.

The 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.

"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. "For example, we recently revealed that the Tides Center sponsors the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, one of the top groups in the Marxist-led BLM movement. It's fair to question whether tax dollars sourced from all Americans should flow to nonprofits that have such an open ideological axe to grind."

Walter noted that the Tides Center's recipient profile on, 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.

The total annual sum of government grants awarded to projects at the Tides Center has steadily risen over the years. In 2001, the Tides Center reported $3.4 million in such grants on its tax forms. By 2018, the number shot up to $19.2 million, which was nearly 15 percent of the $137 million it reported in total grants and contributions that year. The $170 million in government funding was disbursed to projects between that time. Due to the Tides Center's set up as a fiscal sponsor with numerous nonprofits that fall below it, it is virtually impossible to pinpoint where the government grants end up. Tides did not respond to an inquiry on the funding.

The Tides Center was launched in 1996 as an offshoot of the Tides Foundation, the first network established for the left to utilize the practice of dark money spending. It has since spawned a plethora of left-wing groups and has acted as an anonymous funding avenue for some of the nation's most prolific Democratic donors.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

The Arabella-managed funds—the Sixteen Thirty Fund, New Venture Fund, Hopewell Fund, and the Windward Fund—have facilitated more than a billion dollars in anonymous funding to liberal groups and causes since President Trump took office. In fact, the Tides Foundation reported sending hundreds of thousands to the Hopewell Fund, nearly $1 million to the New Venture Fund, and tens of thousands to the Sixteen Thirty Fund on its most recent tax forms.