The Southern Environmental Law Center, a public interest law firm and leading opponent of the Trump administration's efforts to revise environmental regulations, is a major beneficiary of one of America's most prolific supporters of abortion, sterilization, and other tools of population control.
The SELC has received more than $200 million over two decades from North Carolina-based billionaire Fred Stanback and has called Stanback and his wife two of the firm's "most loyal friends." In so doing, it embraced a man who has also given extensively to groups that advocate shrinking the U.S. population, including one whose founder predicted mass starvation in the 1970s without a global campaign to coercively slash birth rates.
A longstanding player in environmental litigation across the South, the SELC has remade itself over the past four years as a thorn in the side of the Trump administration. It currently leads an effort to block the administration's proposed overhaul of a 1970s environmental law, working alongside prominent left-leaning environmental groups like the Sierra Club and the Sunrise Movement.
Stanback's support for the SELC highlights a dark corner of the environmental movement, one openly hostile to children and families. That the SELC—which did not return a request for comment—has not distanced itself from its generous backer raises questions about how comfortable this leading liberal light is with the population control agenda.
Since President Donald Trump took office, the SELC has set itself apart as a widely influential opponent of his environmental plans. It is part of a coalition of groups fighting the administration's proposed streamlining of the National Environmental Policy Act—a group including the far-left Sunrise Movement—and has filed a major lawsuit to block the change. It has also coordinated with other groups to object to changes like the EPA's recent reforms to the Clean Water Act and massively increased its lobbying expenditures following Trump's election.
That fight is funded in large part by Stanback's wealth, and the SELC has rarely tried to obscure the relationship. In 2008, it referred to Stanback and his wife as "two of SELC's most loyal friends" and mentioned both as members of SELC's President's Council, a position they were still in as of April 2019. That year, Stanback told the SELC newsletter that he had "counseled" retiring SELC founder Rick Middleton "many times over the years," adding "SELC is the best environmental organization that I know of."
Stanback's millions, inherited from his father and enhanced by a close friendship with Warren Buffett, flows to the SELC through a "donor-advised fund" called the Foundation for the Carolinas. Such funds allow the ultra-wealthy to funnel charitable contributions anonymously. An FFTC representative told the Washington Free Beacon that it does not comment on or confirm potential fundholders, but just one $400 million donation from Stanback to the FFTC in 2014 accounts for 19 percent of its total gifts between 1999 and 2017, suggesting he is a substantial contributor.
Through the FFTC, Stanback serves as SELC's primary backer, with contributions from the fund totaling $200.8 million between 2001 and 2018, according to the fund's IRS disclosures. That is a full 60 percent of SELC's funding in the same period; according to the Foundation Center, the FFTC has given 17 times as much as the next most generous donor.
While SELC focuses on environmental causes, Stanback sees his giving as part of a larger agenda—minimizing human impact on the environment, including by minimizing the number of people. He has given nearly $33 million to Population Connection, a group founded by Stanford entomologist Paul Ehrlich, whose 1968 book The Population Bomb predicted a "population explosion" that would lead to global starvation in the 1970s. The panic Ehrlich's book caused ignited a campaign of mass sterilization across the developing world. Another Stanback-supported group, Population Action International, was founded by William Draper, a leading eugenicist.
Other Stanback-supported groups include the Population Institute, the Population Media Center, and the Center for Biological Diversity, which advocate for small family sizes and the widespread availability of abortion to control the population. Stanback and his wife are also among the most generous backers of Planned Parenthood and its regional affiliate.
Stanback has also used his influence to place talented students within the population control movement. The Stanback Fellowship program at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment includes both Population Connection and the Population Institute as among 45 organizations where graduate students can work. A Nicholas School representative told the Free Beacon that Stanback internship recipients can work in a number of environment-related fields, but rejected the claim that this meant the school endorses population control: "Research into a subject does not equal an endorsement."
The SELC is not the only organization tainted by Stanback's money. The billionaire supports a number of eco-groups, including the Sierra Club, Greenpeace Fund, and NextGen America, the climate change advocacy group founded by Democratic billionaire Tom Steyer.
Stanback is a generous donor to Democrats, too: Federal election records show that of the quarter of a million dollars in contributions Stanback has made since 1987, 84 percent have gone to Democrats. Prominent recipients include current North Carolina Senate contender Cal Cunningham, Massachusetts senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, and both Barack Obama's and John Kerry's presidential campaigns.