Arca’s Millions

Left-wing philanthropy earns money from profits of tobacco, oil companies

March 26, 2012

A leftist group that has shelled out millions to environmentalists, corporate antagonists, and Cuban sympathizers draws its lifeblood from a tobacco trust fund invested in companies like Goldman Sachs and ExxonMobil.

Over the past three years, the Arca Foundation issued grants to major leftist organizations such as J Street, the Tides Center, and Mother Jones, and funded a $1 million offensive against Wall Street.

In order to sustain its targeted philanthropy, Arca’s $50 million endowment depends on Wall Street, including some investments that seemingly contradict the group’s ambitions.

The Washington Free Beacon reviewed several years of the foundation’s federal filings and found a number of investments in companies that appear to be at odds with the organization’s mission. In 2010, the foundation had income of nearly $6 million with most of that money coming from unrealized investment gains rather than from donations. The group received only $4,100 in donations.

Arca has invested money in News Corporation (the parent company of Fox News Channel), major banks, oil giants, and consumer goods that benefit from cheap foreign labor:

  • $74,465 News Corp Bonds
  • $202,777 Goldman Sachs
  • $254,732 JPMorgan
  • $178,778 Wells Fargo
  • $253,258 ExxonMobil
  • $149,763 Walmart
  • $97,465 Nestle
  • $145,694 Hersheys
  • $113,782 Coca Cola

Its 2008 and 2009 filings showed investments in other companies that are anathema to liberals, including some that helped cause the financial and housing market collapses. Arca held or continues to hold hundreds of thousands of dollars in Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, and Wachovia.

Those investments appear to be at odds with the $70,000 Arca gave to National People’s Action to sponsor a "roadshow for the Bank Accountability Campaign," the $40,000 grant to U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund to "support work on offshore-tax havens," or the Institute for Neighborhood Action’s $50,000 grant. The INA and its parent organization helped union members and other activists crash Wells Fargo’s 160th Birthday Party—the same bank in which Arca invests $178,778.

A who’s who of liberal heavyweights make up Arca’s board. Tobacco heiresses Nancy and Nicole Bagley serve as board president and vice president. Other board members include University for Peace Prof. Mary King; American University Chaplain Rev. Joseph Eldridge; co-founder of Progressive Strategies Mike Lux; Janet Shenk, a trustee at the liberal organization Demos; and California anti-war activist Margery Tabankin.

None of the board members, foundation staff, or grant recipients returned dozens of calls and emails for comment.

While the group champions the causes of the "99 percent"—executive director Anna Lefer Kuhn once tweeted, "the po-po shld arrest the real perp [JPMorgan CEO Jamie] Dimon"—some of its expenditures, such as a $13,000 Persian rug, would surprise the "one percent."

The foundation draws its roots from tobacco largesse. The Bagley sisters are tobacco heiresses and granddaughters of Nancy Susan Reynolds of R.J. Reynolds fame. Nancy Reynolds created the foundation in 1952 to advance, as Arca says, "some decidedly modern ideas for a Southern woman, a wife and a mother of four." She realized quickly that targeted giving was the quickest way to achieve her policy goals.

"We must be prepared to venture into areas of uncertainty if we are to remain a vital instrument in the field of philanthropy," Reynolds said of the foundation.

Those areas have come to include Palestinian statehood, acceptance of the communist regime in Cuba, zealous bank regulation, and higher taxes—causes the group has spent more than $50 million supporting since it was founded.

The $50 million endowment is relatively small compared with other liberal groups such as the Ford or Gates foundations. But Arca wields considerable influence in Washington. Nancy Bagley is the editor-in-chief of Washington Life magazine and worked on health care reform during the Clinton administration. Lux’s Progressive Strategies clients include the AFL-CIO, the NAACP, and The late Smith Bagley, former Arca president, was a powerful Democratic fundraiser for decades. His last big fundraising push generated $600,000 for President Barack Obama’s inauguration.

The enthusiasm for Obama and liberal causes such as Occupy Wall Street does not appear to have tempered with 8 percent unemployment and a dismal housing market.

"You can’t evict an idea who time has come #OWS," tweeted Kuhn, who earns $120,000 per year as executive director.

Published under: Progressive Movement