Philip F. Anschutz

From SourceWatch
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Philip F. Anschutz is the billionaire co-founder of Qwest Communications, among the largest land-owners in Colorado, a major player in the oil, railroad, and media markets, and according to Forbes, he is the 42nd wealthiest man in America.[1] He also has large and plentiful investments in sports teams (such as several soccer teams[2], the LA Lakers and the LA Kings), stadiums and newspapers (San Francisco Examiner and the SF Independent).[3]

As of March 2016, Anschutz's estimated net worth is $10.6 billion.[1]


"Philip F. Anschutz was born in Russell, Kansas, in 1939 (some sources say it was Grand Bend). His father, Fred Anschutz, was a renowned oilfield wildcatter who made and lost several fortunes." [4]

Tax Avoidance

In her book Dark Money, Jane Mayer writes that Anschutz, a major funder of the right-wing movement,

"had attempted to avoid paying capital gains taxes in a 2000-2001 transaction by using what are called prepaid variable forward contracts. These contracts allow wealthy shareholders such as Anschutz, whose fortune Forbes estimated at $11.8 billion as of 2015, to promise to give shares to investment firms at a later date, in exchange for cash up front. Because the stock does not immediately change hands, capital gains taxes are not paid. According to The New York Times, Anschutz raised $375 million in 2000-2001 by promising shares in his oil and natural gas companies through the firm Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette."[5]

Republican donations, conservative causes

"Anschutz is an active Republican donor," Annys Shin wrote November 21, 2004, in the Washington Post. "Since 1996, he, his companies and members of his family have given more than $500,000 in campaign contributions to GOP candidates and committees."[6]

"In 1987, Anschutz's family foundation gave Focus on the Family founder James Dobson an award for his 'contributions to the American Family."[6]

Right-Wing Content Embedded in Film

Anschutz "has entered Hollywood, financing almost a dozen projects with his Anschutz Film Group, the recently dismantled Crusader Entertainment, and the more recent Walden Media [1].

Anshutz has been criticized for embedding right-wing ideological content in his movies.

Anshutz's 2010 film "Waiting for Superman" attacked the public school system, cheering on private charters as an alternative. Author and academic Rick Ayers lambasted the accuracy of the film, describing it as "a slick marketing piece full of half-truths and distortions."[7] In Ayers' view, the "corporate powerhouses and the ideological opponents of all things public" have employed the film to "break the teacher's unions and to privatize education," while driving teachers' wages even lower and running "schools like little corporations."[7] Ayers also critiqued the film's promotion of a greater focus on "top-down instruction driven by test scores," positing that extensive research has demonstrated that standardized testing "dumbs down the curriculum" and "reproduces inequities," while marginalizing "English language learners and those who do not grow up speaking a middle class vernacular."[7] Lastly, Ayers says that "schools are more segregated today than before Brown v. Board of Education in 1954," and thus criticized the film for not mentioning that "black and brown students are being suspended, expelled, searched, and criminalized."[7]

Diane Ravitch, Research Professor of Education at New York University and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, similarly criticizes the film's lack of accuracy.[8] The most substantial distortion in the film, according to Ravitch, is the film's claim that "70 percent of eighth-grade students cannot read at grade level," a misrepresentation of data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress.[8] Ravitch served as a board member with the NAEP and says that "the NAEP doesn't measure performance in terms of grade-level achievement," as claimed in the film, but only as "advanced," "proficient," and "basic." The film assumes that any student below proficient is "below grade level," but this claim is not supported by the NAEP data. Ravitch says that a study by Stanford University economist Margaret Raymond of 5000 charter schools found that only 17% are superior in math test performance to a matched public school, and many perform badly, casting doubt on the film's claim that privately managed charter schools are the solution to bad public schools.[8] (The film says, however, that it is focusing on the one in five superior charter schools, or close to 17%, that do outperform public schools.) One of the reasons for the high test scores, writes Ravitch, is that many charter schools expel low-performing students to bring up their average scores. Ravitch also writes that many charter schools are involved in "unsavory real estate deals" [8]

Anschutz’s 2012 film "Won't Back Down" portrays so-called "Parent Trigger" laws as an effective mechanism for transforming underperforming public schools. “But the film's distortion of the facts prompts a closer examination of its funders and backers and a closer look at those promoting Parent Trigger as a cure for what ails the American education system. While Parent Trigger was first promoted by a small charter school operator in California, it was taken up and launched into hyperdrive by two controversial right-wing organizations: the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Heartland Institute,” reports the Center for Media and Democracy publisher of [9]

"Other projects include movies based on classroom books and a partnership with Disney to turn C.S. Lewis' Narnia series into a string of movies. He spent millions developing Children on Their Birthdays, a Truman Capote short story that stalled on release. For his religious film, Joshua, US Sentator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is contributing his self-written song, Everyday Heroes."[10]

In December 2005, Bill Berkowitz wrote for Media Transparency the following about the film Chronicles of Narnia: "'Walden and Disney claim that they have sent out 'Narnia' materials to every elementary and middle school in America. That includes posters, educational guides and more than 90,000 copies of the novel,' all of which will serve Anschutz's conservative Christian agenda."[11]

Movie theaters

"His controlling ownership of Regal Entertainment Group has allowed him to place advertisements boosting faith in America before films. Some suspect this costs him little out of pocket expense as he owns the screens and can put up whatever he likes."[12]

In September 2001, Anschutz took control of Edwards Theaters Circuit and a majority stake in United Artists Theater Group of Englewood.[13]

The Foundation for a Better Life

Anschutz and family members are the finance and board of directors for the non-profit The Foundation For a Better Life, a feel-good, family-values based organization bent on pushing happy, happy messages to the American populace such as, "My fondest memory of my Dad occurred one summer day out in the middle of a mountain lake..." and so on.[14]

Anschutz's foundation is spending millions every year posting morally-uplifting billboards around the country featuring American favorites like Kermit the Frog (Eats flies. Dates a pig. Hollywood star), the Ogre from Shrek (Believe in yourself), and Christopher Reeves aka SuperMan (Strength). Lesser knowns include heroes like Alex and her lemonade stand (Inspiration) and a blind mountain climber (Vision).[15]

Random Acts of Kindness Foundation

Another closely related group, The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation bills itself as the U.S. delegate to the World Kindness Movement which is "creating a global network of kindness and compassion".[16]

Some have noticed a stylistic similarity between free Mormon Bible adds on television in the 1980s and Anschutz's messages. The president of the foundation, Gary Dixon, is a Brigham Young University alumnus. [2]

Print Journalism

In spring 2009, Anschutz bought the conservative Weekly Standard and the conservative Washington Examiner (for $1 million) despite reports that these have "little hope of making any money."[17]


Anschutz was sued by New York Attorney General Elliot L. Spitzer in 2002 for making $1.5 billion in "unjust revenue". The two reached upon an agreement where Anschutz admitted no wrongdoing but paid $4.4 million to law schools and charities. In return, Spitzer dropped the lawsuit.[6]

Anschutz Empire

As of March 2005, the "Anschutz Empire" included:[18]

Resources and articles


  1. 1.0 1.1 Philip Anschutz Profile Forbes, March 9, 2016.
  2. Virtual Soccer Magazine, Boston fans rally around Garber for MLS Cup finals. Show of support for new commissioner, renewed beginning, and two great teams, Wayback Machine, November 21, 1999.
  3. Paul Elias, Billionaire investor Anschutz buys San Francisco Examiner, Associated Press (San Francisco Chronicle), February 19, 2004.
  4. Reference for Business, The Anschutz Company, small business encyclopedia, accessed May 6, 2016.
  5. Jane Mayer, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, 2016.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Annys Shin, A Low Profile and a Large Footprint. Anschutz Makes Mark on Area With Soccer, Newspapers, Washington Post, November 21, 2004.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Rick Ayers, An Inconvenient Superman: Davis Guggenheim's New Film Hijacks School Reform, The Huffington Post, September 17, 2010.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Diane Ravitch, The Myth of Charter Schools, The New York Review of Books, November 11, 2010.
  9. Mary Bottari, Won't Back Down Film Pushes ALEC Parent Trigger,, 2012.
  10. George Anders, The reel life of Phil Anschutz. Qwest co-founder bankrolls wholesome film fare with mixed results, Wall Street Journal (posted by Rocky Mountain News and re-posted at, April 23, 2004.
  11. Bill Berkowitz, The movie, the media, and the conservative politics of Philip Anschutz. 'Greediest executive in America' teams up with Walt Disney Pictures for film about Christ's 'resurrection', Media Transparency (posted, December 2, 2005.
  12. Unsourced.
  13. Denver entrepreneur Phil Anschutz to take over Regal Cinemas Inc., Atlanta Business Chronicle, September 6, 2001.
  14. The Foundation for a Better Life, Inspirational Quotes, organizational website, accessed May 6, 2015.
  15. The Foundation for a Better Life, Billboards, organizational website, accessed May 6, 2016.
  16. Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, About the Foundation, organizational website, screenshot from July 26, 2003.
  17. Michael Calderone, Phil Anschutz's conservative agenda, Politico, October 16, 2009.
  18. orcutt, Anschutz Empire, The Daily Kos, March 2, 2005.
  19. Patrick Gavin, Its offical: Anschutz buys the Weekly Standard, Politico, June 17, 2009.
  20. American Museum of Natural History, Trustees, , accessed April 19, 2010.

Related SourceWatch articles

External resources

External articles