Diana Davis Spencer Foundation

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The Diana Davis Spencer Foundation (DDSF) is a right-wing, Maryland-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit which has been tax exempt since 2007.[1]

DDSF was formed with assets from the Shelby Cullom Davis Foundation and the Kathryn W. Davis Foundation. Diana Davis Spencer, the executive chairman of the foundation, is the daughter of Shelby Cullom Davis and Kathryn W. Davis.[2]

Between 2014-2018, DDSF maintained between $1.29 billion and $1.49 billion in assets. In 2015, it was listed as the 73th largest foundation in the United States.[3] It has been called "the biggest pot of conservative money you've never heard of".[4]

DDSF's ideology draws from the political views of its president’s father, Shelby Cullom Davis, who served as the U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland, chair of the Heritage Foundation, governor of the Society of Mayflower Descendants, and president of the Sons of the Revolution.[4]

Describing its "Founding Values", DDSF writes: "Our Founding Fathers enshrined freedom, limited government, and individual responsibility in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. They knew that these values would guide future generations to prosperity and happiness. Today, the growth of big government endangers these principles. Society increasingly depends on fiscally unsustainable entitlement and welfare programs. To guarantee their political, social, and economic freedoms, Americans must rediscover and apply their founding values. We’re helping them do so through our support to a variety of research, advocacy, and educational organizations."[5]

Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council

The Diana Davis Spencer Foundation's special advisor, Nisi Hamilton, attended the American Legislative Exchange Council's 2020 States and Nation Policy Summit. She participated in sessions named "CARE Constituent Management Training", "Innovation Roundtable", "Workshop: AB5/ABC/Prop-22... What’s Happening, What’s Next and What you Need to Know in the States and DC?", "General Session - Morning", "Workshop: Against Critical Theory’s Onslaught: Reclaiming Education and the American Dream", "Thursday General Session - Afternoon", "Education and Workforce Development Task Force Meeting", "Workshop: Stop the Cancel Culture, Before it Stops You!", and "Homeland Security Task Force Meeting".

About ALEC
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's ALECexposed.org, and check out breaking news on our ExposedbyCMD.org site.

Ties to the State Policy Network

The Diana Davis Spencer Foundation contributed over $71.8 million to the State Policy Network and its "affiliate" and "associate" members between 2014-2018.[6][7][8][9][10]

Diana Davis Spencer, the foundation's executive chairman, is on the board of visitors of SPN member Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies. Spencer's daughter Abby Spencer Moffat, the foundation's chief executive officer and president, was on the board of two SPN members, the Heritage Foundation and the Virginia Institute for Public Policy, as of 2018. SPN is a web of right-wing “think tanks” and tax-exempt organizations in 50 states, Washington, D.C., Canada, and the United Kingdom. As of January 2021, SPN's membership totals 163. Today's SPN is the tip of the spear of far-right, nationally funded policy agenda in the states that undergirds extremists in the Republican Party. SPN Executive Director Tracie Sharp told the Wall Street Journal in 2017 that the revenue of the combined groups was some $80 million, but a 2019 analysis of SPN's main members IRS filings by the Center for Media and Democracy shows that the combined revenue is over $120 million.[11] Although SPN's member organizations claim to be nonpartisan and independent, the Center for Media and Democracy's in-depth investigation, "EXPOSED: The State Policy Network -- The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government," reveals that SPN and its member think tanks are major drivers of the right-wing, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)-backed corporate agenda in state houses nationwide, with deep ties to the Koch brothers and the national right-wing network of funders.[12]

In response to CMD's report, SPN Executive Director Tracie Sharp told national and statehouse reporters that SPN affiliates are "fiercely independent." Later the same week, however, The New Yorker's Jane Mayer caught Sharp in a contradiction. In her article, "Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?," the Pulitzer-nominated reporter revealed that, in a recent meeting behind closed doors with the heads of SPN affiliates around the country, Sharp "compared the organization’s model to that of the giant global chain IKEA." She reportedly said that SPN "would provide 'the raw materials,' along with the 'services' needed to assemble the products. Rather than acting like passive customers who buy finished products, she wanted each state group to show the enterprise and creativity needed to assemble the parts in their home states. 'Pick what you need,' she said, 'and customize it for what works best for you.'" Not only that, but Sharp "also acknowledged privately to the members that the organization's often anonymous donors frequently shape the agenda. 'The grants are driven by donor intent,' she told the gathered think-tank heads. She added that, often, 'the donors have a very specific idea of what they want to happen.'"[13]

A set of coordinated fundraising proposals obtained and released by The Guardian in early December 2013 confirm many of these SPN members' intent to change state laws and policies, referring to "advancing model legislation" and "candidate briefings." These activities "arguably cross the line into lobbying," The Guardian notes.[14]

Grants Distributed

2019[15]

2018[6]

2017[7]

  • Acton Academy Foundation: $60,000
  • After-School All-Stars: $260,000
  • American Camp Association: $5,000
  • American Council of Trustees and Alumni: $10,000
  • America’s Future Foundation: $150,000
  • Anne Arundel County Public Schools: $34,270
  • Ashley Bryan Center: $10,000
  • Becket: $15,000
  • Best Friends Foundation: $400,000
  • Bike to the Beach: $10,000
  • Capital Speakers Club: $10,000
  • Center for Strategic and International Studies: $25,000
  • Chapel Haven Incorporated: $5,040,000
  • Charlotte Lozier Institute: $75,000
  • City Year: $755,000
  • Code 3 Association: $525,000
  • Culture Wise Studies: $200,000
  • Daniel Morgan Academy: $700,000
  • Documentary Foundation: $25,000
  • DonorsTrust: $9,000,000
  • Foundation for Individual Rights in Education: $200,000
  • French American Cultural Foundation: $25,000
  • Friends of Instituto Bruno Leoni: $10,000
  • Global Center for Social Entrepreneurship Network Foundation: $600,000
  • Gloucester Institute: $10,000
  • Hire Heros USA: $1,700,000
  • Hopecam: $15,000
  • Jesup Memorial Library: $1,500
  • Judicial Watch: $150,000
  • Maine Sea Coast Missionary Society: $50,000
  • Masters School: $80,000
  • Media Research Center: $15,000
  • Montgomery County Police Department: $68,000
  • Mount Desert Island Hospital: $50,000
  • Moving Picture Institute: $50,000
  • Mysa School: $1,500,000
  • National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship: $10,000
  • Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship: $40,000
  • New Criterion: $5,000
  • One Generation Away: $5,000
  • Parentjobnet: $822,393
  • Pen/Faulkner Foundation: $10,000
  • Personal Care Products Council Foundation: $5,000
  • Plimoth Plantation: $200,000
  • Rice University: $50,000
  • Rising Tide Capital: $2,000,000
  • Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park: $80,000
  • St. James School: $15,000
  • Teach for America: $5,000
  • Turning Point USA: $300,000
  • United States Commemoration of the World Wars: $500,000
  • University System of New Hampshire: $5,000
  • Young Leader’s Alumni Council: $120,000

2016[8]

2015[9]

2014[10]

2000-2014

Core Financials

2019[15]

  • Total Revenue: $41,125,334
  • Total Expenses: $46,232,334
  • Net Assets: $1,443,215,686

2018[6]

  • Total Revenue: $55,171,401
  • Total Expenses: $46,109,018
  • Net Assets: $1,296,566,223

2017[7]

  • Total Revenue: $31,791,682
  • Total Expenses: $40,734,826
  • Net Assets: $1,371,150,036

2016[8]

  • Total Revenue: $15,761,822
  • Total Expenses: $142,573,312
  • Net Assets: $1,296,756,869

2015[9]

  • Total Revenue: $100,073,347
  • Total Expenses: $69,402,577
  • Net Assets: $1,412,225,072

2014[10]

  • Total Revenue: $156,450,491
  • Total Expenses: $25,851,883
  • Net Assets: $1,459.949.455

Personnel

Staff

As of October 2021:[16]

Former Staff

  • Alan Kelly
  • Christopher Burn

Board of Directors

As of December 2019:[15]

  • Kimberly F. Lamanna
  • Harrison Howard

Contact Information

Diana Davis Spencer Foundation
3 Bethesda Metro Center
Bethesda, MD 20814

EIN: 20-3672969
Website: https://ddsfoundation.org/
Web contact form: https://ddsfoundation.org/contact-us/
Phone: (301) 961-4000

Articles and Resources

IRS Form 990 Filings

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

Related SourceWatch

References

  1. Guidestar, Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, organizational website, accessed March 17, 2021.
  2. Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, About Us, organizational website, accessed March 17, 2021.
  3. Foundation Center, Top 100 U.S. Foundations by Asset Size, organizational list, accessed March 22, 2021.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Philip Rojc, "Take a Look at the Biggest Pot of Conservative Money You've Never Heard Of", Inside Philanthropy, January 11, 2017, accessed March 23, 2021.
  5. Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, Founding Values, organizational website, accessed March 17, 2021.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, 2018 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, October 31, 2019.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, 2017 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, November 9, 2018.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, 2016 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, November 14, 2017.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, 2015 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, November 11, 2016.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, 2014 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, November 16, 2015.
  11. David Armiak, Revenue for State Policy Network and State Affiliates Tops $120 Million, ExposedbyCMD, November 13, 2019.
  12. Rebekah Wilce, Center for Media and Democracy, EXPOSED: The State Policy Network -- The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
  13. Jane Mayer, Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?, The New Yorker, November 15, 2013.
  14. Ed Pilkington and Suzanne Goldenberg, State conservative groups plan US-wide assault on education, health and tax, The Guardian, December 5, 2013.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, 2019 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, November 11, 2020.
  16. Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, Our People, organizational website, accessed October, 2021.