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Update: summation posted here.

Quite a puzzle.
Previously: Part 1, Part 2

In this diary, I'll briefly recap the arguments in the previous two diaries, starting from what the Heartland Institute's Denialgate documents unambiguously tell us about the Anonymous Donor.  Then we'll go into the evidence in the Donors Trust/Donors Capital 990 forms, which I previously reviewed only very briefly (and too incautiously).  

The evidence of the 990s was key to uncovering Seid's role in the attempted Shimer College takeover.  As it happens, the same evidence that outed Seid as the backer of Heartland's president Joe Bast (and many others) in that affair does a great deal to strengthen the case for his involvement here.

Taken in its totality, unless further information comes to light, I believe that the available evidence eliminates any room for reasonable doubt that the Heartland Institute's Anonymous Donor is Chicago industrialist Barre Seid.  However, I will also mention one possible alternative profile in the data, and suggest what a credible alternative candidate for Anonymous Donor might look like.

For the TLDR, go here.  To skip the recap, go here.

What we know about the Anonymous Donor (recap)

Based directly on the information in the exposed documents, the Anonymous Donor:

- is male
- is referred to only as "the Anonymous Donor" (usually but not always capitalized)
- has donated more than half of the Heartland Institute budget in past years
- is in close and frequent contact with Heartland president Joe Bast
- donated at least $1 million per year from 2006 to 2009, and began donating (or at least donating anonymously on a significant level) around 2004/2005
- donated slightly less than $1 million in 2010, a drop the Fundraising document attributes to circumstances "now past"
- pledged $1 million for 2012, with Bast anticipating an additional $250k
- has given major dedicated funds for global warming projects, and smaller amounts for school reform and (anti-)healthcare reform advocacy

In addition, it has been inferred that the Anonymous Donor:

- has made most of his donations via Donors Capital, the large-donor arm of Donors Trust. (As we'll see below, the dollar amounts from DC's Form 990 grantee schedules largely match the dollar amounts given in the 2012 Fundraising Strategy, and because of the size of these donations relative to Heartland's total receipts, a coincidence is mathematically impossible.)
- probably has a particular interest in local Illinois and Wisconsin politics, and is therefore likely to be a resident of the Midwest and particularly the Chicago area.

So our ideal candidate would be a very wealthy man living in or near Chicago; he would have a strong interest in right-wing causes, a preference for anonymity, a close relationship with Heartland president Joe Bast, and ideally a history of using Donors Trust/Donors Capital.  He would have finances consistent with having either started or greatly increased his anonymous donations around 2004-2005, and would have undergone some sort of reversal c. 2010 that led to reduced giving in 2011.  We might also hope for broader patterns of investment or personal behavior that would be a good fit with the Anonymous Donor's very heavy and targeted investment in Heartland.  

Of course, apart from wealth, political orientation, and location, these potential indicators aren't likely to be directly visible -- and there are plenty of rich conservatives in and around Chicago, so the obvious indicators don't narrow things down very much.  But we might expect that upon close inspection, the real Anonymous Donor would yield at least a few public clues that would be indicative of these non-public characteristics.

Evidence for Barre Seid being the Anonymous Donor (recap)

As we've seen previously, Barre Seid fits almost all known properties of the Anonymous Donor, including properties that we wouldn't normally expect to be able to verify.  He is, first of all, a wealthy Chicago-area male who supports right-wing causes. He shuns the spotlight, but has a known penchant for "angel" investments in relatively obscure causes (both philanthropic and political).  He was a known major backer of the Heartland Institute prior to 2005, when donations from his foundation abruptly cease -- and donations via Donors Capital just as abruptly begin.  He was also behind the attempted Shimer College takeover in which Joe Bast acted as de facto spokesman for the takeover crew.  The failure of that attempt -- in which, I might note, Bast's slanders against Shimer College and its people did an invaluable job of helping to unite the fractious Shimer community -- would provide an obvious reason for the temporary chill in Bast's relationship to the Anonymous Donor in 2010-2011.  

Seid also uses Donors Capital, and more importantly, he uses it in a way consistent with these abnormally large donations.  Although many wealthy right-wingers use Donors Capital, all uses of this particular channel to transmit donations exceeding $5 million can be traced unambiguously to Seid (as we'll review in excruciating detail below).  In addition, as we'll also see below, donations from the Seid Foundation to several organizations end at exactly the time that these organizations start receiving unusually large donations via Donors Capital.  To cap it off, Seid has already been outed twice as an anonymous funder using Donors Capital to hide his identity -- once in the Shimer College takeover attempt and once in the funding of the 2008 Obsession video.  

During and even after the attempted takeover of Shimer College, Seid was referred to only as "the Anonymous Donor".  We even have Heartland's Joe Bast on record referring to Seid in the same way a year later, in predictably sycophantic tones: "As always, the anonymous donor was at turns thoughtful and entertaining."

The only missing piece here -- and it could prove to be significant -- is that we don't have any reason to assume that Barre Seid has a strong, specific interest in global warming.  But given his general political orientation, and his past generous support for Heartland, such an interest would not be surprising.

In sum, Barre Seid fits the available information better than we would have any right to expect.  However, there is an unfortunate dearth of alternative candidates against which to compare him, so it's difficult to judge whether he actually fits the profile better than others might.

What is Donors Trust?

Donors Trust (schematic view)
Donors Trust is a donor-advised fund (actually two donor-advised funds) specializing in right-wing causes, based in Alexandria, Virginia.

A donor-advised fund is a charity that accepts donations from account-holders and routes them to the charities specified by the donor.  Donor-advised funds can be used to preserve anonymity, but they are more commonly used to reduce the paperwork hassle involved in making lots of small donations.  (For more on donor-advised funds generally, see this article in Forbes.)  

In a piece from last year, Karoli of Crooks and Liars described Donors Trust as "an anonymous tax-deductible policy slush fund".  For another critical view, see John Mashey's recent "Fake science, fakexperts, funny finances, free of tax" (PDF).

As mentioned, Donors Trust is actually two separate organizations, at least for legal purposes: "Donors Trust" proper and "Donors Capital Fund". Donors Capital is limited to those with at least $1 million to invest.  (In the previous diaries, I failed to distinguish consistently between Donors Trust proper and Donors Capital; this made my argument weaker than it should have been.)

In contrast to the donations we'll be considering below, most individual grants made via Donors Trust or Donors Capital are quite small.  Not only are single payouts of more than $1 million rare, but even in terms of dollar amount, these large payouts only account for a small minority of the total advised giving via Donors Trust or Donors Capital in most years.  It seems reasonable, therefore, to surmise that even in the case of a politically-charged DAF like Donors Trust/Donors Capital, most users are using it for the routine purpose of simplifying paperwork, rather than preserving the anonymity of large donations.

Further notes on timing

In the previous diary, I noted a curious pattern in the Seid Foundation grants.  The Seid foundation gave openly to political charities until 2005, but from 2006 on, almost all potentially controversial donations disappeared. The Heartland Institute donations stopped a year early, in 2004, and a few other political causes straggled into 2006 or even 2007, so this isn't a perfectly sharp line, but 2005 is the last year of major unconcealed political giving.

For Barbara Landis Seid, it would seem,
not all spotlights are created equal.
(COC publicity photo)


There is, it turns out, an obvious reason for this.  We can see from the Seid Foundation 990 filings that 2005 was the year that the name of the foundation changed from the "Barre Seid Foundation" to the "Barbara and Barre Seid Foundation".  (Specifically, according to the Illinois Secretary of State, the change occurred on November 8, 2005.)  Barbara Landis Seid is a much more public person than her husband; she is artistic director of the Chamber Opera Chicago, which her husband founded; she recently wrote, directed and starred in a musical theater adaptation of Jane Austen's Persuasion; she sits on the advisory board of Roosevelt University.  It's not surprising, therefore, that she would be quite sensitive to the effect of having these donations associated with her name.  (Or, alternatively, that her husband would be sensitive to this effect.)

This doesn't explain why the Seid Foundation's Heartland donations stop a year earlier than most others, but it does explain the general pattern. And we might expect a transition of this nature to take some time, as the details were sorted out.

Who were the recipients of Seid Foundation largesse before this transition? Heartland received more than any other single political charity, but it had plenty of company. Referring to the MediaMatters database for convenience (although I've noticed some gaps in their data), among those receiving at least $100,000, the Cato Institute received $427k (1998-2005), the Competitive Enterprise Institute received $343k (1998-2005), Americans for Limited Government Foundation received $750k (2005), the Education and Research Institute received $200k (1998-2001), the Greater Educational Opportunities Foundation received $324k (1998-2004+2007), the State Policy Network received $150k (2006, an outlier), the Legislative Education Action Drive (LEAD) Foundation received $650k (2001+2004), the Illinois Taxpayer Education Foundation received $250k (1998-2006), and the Palmer R. Chitester Fund received $660k (2004-2005).  Most of these are too big and have too many donors for there to be much point in looking at them, but we'll be seeing ITEF and the Palmer R. Chitester Fund again below.  

The Anonymous Donor's donations: a closer look

Like all public charities, Donors Trust and Donors Capital must publicly declare the names of their grantees and the amounts that they have given each one, in Schedule I of Form 990.  In addition, starting in 2008, the public filings include an itemized list of these grants and their specific purpose (if any).  We can therefore get additional insight into the Anonymous Donor by combining the information in the exposed Heartland documents with the the information in the Donors Capital and Donors Trust 990s.

990s are available from various online sources, including GuideStar and FoundationCenter.  But here are convenient Scribd links to all public filings for Donors Capital: 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010; Donors Trust: 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010; and the Heartland Institute: 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010.

For convenience, here is the table of the Anonymous Donor's past donations, from page 21 of the 2012 Fundraising Plan (PDF):

Project 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
General Operating $500,000 $500,000 $500,000 $700,000 $350,000
Ramp Up Program $800,000 $800,000 $400,000 $0 $0
Global Warming Projects $1,976,937 $3,300,000 $1,732,180 $964,150 $629,000
Health Care $0 $0 $190,000 $0 $0
School Reform $0 $0 $0 $0 $80,000
Total $3,276,937 $4,600,000 $2,822,180 $1,664,150 $979,000
According to the 990s, the Heartland Institute received nothing via either Donors Trust or Donors Capital in 2002, 2003, or 2004.  (I don't have easy access to the 990s from before 2002, but this seems like enough to establish a pattern, or rather the absence of one.)  But in 2005, it abruptly received $550k via Donors Capital:

2005 was, of course, the first year in which the Seid Foundation made no public donations to Heartland.  

(And no, I don't know why the Heartland Institute's address is jumbled with the address of the Great Plains Public Policy Institute ... presumably just a data entry error.)

In 2006, the Donors Trust and Donors Capital 990s both omitted their grantee schedules, so nothing useful can be said.  

In 2007 (which is also the first year for which the 2012 Fundraising doc gives exact numbers), Heartland is back, now receiving $2.955 million from Donors Capital:

This does not match perfectly with the amount given in the 2012 Fundraising report, which says the AD gave Heartland $3.2 million in 2007.  However, since Heartland reported total receipts of only 4.9 million for the year (PDF), we are clearly looking at the Anonymous Donor. Evidently the missing $300k was sent via another channel.

Heartland also received a small donation of $500 via Donors Trust, the first donation via that channel. Given the difference in both size and channel, this Donors Trust donor is presumably someone other than the Anonymous Donor.

In 2008, The Heartland Institute received $4.61 million via Donors Capital:

This closely matches the $4.6 million shown for the Anonymous Donor's 2008 giving in the Denialgate "2012 Fundraising Plan". This indicates -- or at least very strongly suggests -- that no other major donations were being made to Heartland via Donors Capital other than the AD's.  

2008 was the year of the largest total donations from the Anonymous Donor, and -- happy day! -- also the first year that we get an itemized list of the specific grants:

Clearly we're dealing with a fairly hands-on donor here, which puts some meat on the bones of the 2012 Fundraising document's statement that "keeping [the Anonymous Donor] informed and engaged is a major responsibility of the President."  The assignments of these funds don't line up perfectly with the assignments shown in the 2012 Fundraising document, but the topline numbers do.   Significantly, the "final installment" line item indicates that there was major support flowing from the Anonymous Donor to Heartland in 2006, the year for which grantee schedules are missing.

There is also a single donation of $11,750 via Donors Trust for "general operations" in this year, which may suggest a (much smaller) donor who is not Mr. Anonymous.

In 2009, the pattern continues:

The topline for Donors Capital's donations to Heartland in 2009 is $2,171,530, which is significantly less than the $2,822,180 reported in the 2012 Fundraising document, although not enough less to admit of any doubt that we are looking at the Anonymous Donor's donations.  It creates a shortfall of $651,650, which presumably was donated via another channel.  Heartland did receive $516,750 via Donors Trust in this year (the first year in which it received any donation of this magnitude via Donors Trust proper), so it is possible that some or all of that was also from the Anonymous Donor.  

This possibly  "extra" 500k donation -- for which I have no particular explanation -- is important to keep in mind in case an alternative Anonymous Donor emerges.  If the AD is not Seid, then a $500k donation from Seid via Donors Trust could give us an alternative explanation for Bast's sycophantic behavior towards him.

In 2010, the last year for which 990s are currently available, the grants are suddenly much sparser:

(I can't find any information about an "India Meeting Project" by Heartland; perhaps it's still in the works?  The Fundraising 2012 document evidently considers that project global-warming related, since it credits a total of $964,150 to global warming projects for 2010.)

The 2012 Fundraising Plan suggests a pattern in which the Anonymous Donor makes a major pledge at the beginning of the year and then makes additional targeted donations through the year.  The sudden drop in these smaller targeted donations in 2010, therefore, would suggest that the "developments" which caused the drop in the Donor's contributions in 2011 probably occurred fairly early in 2010.  This would be quite consistent with the "developments" having been the crumbling of Seid's Shimer College scheme, including the exposure of Seid's involvement as anonymous donor; the scheme began to unravel in a major way in February and collapsed entirely in April.

Major donations in Donors Trust/Donors Capital 990s

In the first diary, I made the general statement that most of the very largest donations via Donors Trust were either demonstrably from Barre Seid, or directed to causes closely associated with him.  The time has come to get into the weeds and see to exactly what extent that is really the case.

To avoid confirmation bias and ensure that we don't miss anything, we'll start in 2002.  For the benefit of anyone who might be disposed to jump to unkind conclusions about my sanity, let me state clearly that the vast majority of grants listed below (presumably) have nothing to do with Barre Seid; we're just going through all of them to establish the extent to which Seid's known or strongly suspected donations stand out.  

(This list omits occasional transfer payments between Donors Trust and Donors Capital, which are chiefly due to accounts being switched from one provider to the other.)


Back in 2002, Donors Trust was a sleepy place indeed, making grants totaling only $206k.  The 990 for Donors Capital for 2002 appears to be missing the second page of its grantee schedule, but reports total grants of $978k.  We can therefore be confident that the grant of $851k to AEI was the only large one.


In 2003, Donors Capital disbursed advised grants totaling $1.9 million, including a grant of $1.65 million to AEI; the remaining grants were all quite small.  The 2003 990 for Donors Trust appears to be missing its grantee schedule.

Because they begin before 2004, these large early donations to AEI -- which are in fact the only large donations via either Donors Trust or Donors Capital during 2002-2003 -- allow us to filter out the subsequent large AEI donations; whoever that donor may be, he/she is unlikely to be Barre Seid.


In 2004, Donors Capital disbursed grants totaling $5.1 million:  

>$999k: $1 million to the University of Chicago, $1.5 million to AEI

$500k-$999k: $500k to Westchester Community College Foundation, $550k to Hudson Institute

(In 2004, there is suddenly a lot of noise in the grantee schedule from a donor or donors donating to Chicago-area charities.   These are all causes that have also received Seid Foundation donations, but they're also mostly the sort of causes that everyone donates to, including the Lyric Opera and Lincoln Park Zoo.  2002 and 2003 showed no Donors Capital grantees in Chicago at all, and the only Illinois grants in those years were a few small donations to Northwestern University; this sudden Chicago-specific spike accounts for more than half of Donors Capital's 2003-2004 growth in grants.  So again, there isn't enough information to assume that this spike is coming from Barre Seid, but it would certainly be consistent with a period of experimentation before he and/or his wife decided exactly which donations should be made via Donors Capital and which ones via the Seid Foundation.)

Donors Trust disbursed advised grants totaling ~$1 million in 2004, but no individual grant exceeded $250k.


In 2005, Donors Capital disbursed grants totaling $11.2 million.

>$1 million: $1.6 million to AEI, $3.15 million to Americans for Limited Government Research Foundation

$500k-$999k: $500k to Federalist Society, $550k to Heartland Institute, $900k to LEAD Foundation

So here we suddenly have the first donation in Donors Capital history (or at least since 2002) that exceeds $2 million, and we also have what may be the first grant from the Anonymous Donor. (It's hard to be sure about that, since we don't have specific numbers for Mr. Anonymous's giving prior to 2007 -- but in any event it's likely to be Mr. Anonymous's first major donation to Heartland via Donors Capital.)  Notably, this is in the same year as the only donation to ALGRF in the MediaMatters database -- from the Seid Foundation.  This might all be entirely coincidental, but it is worth noting how these coincidences seem to pile up.

Donors Trust disbursed grants of $1.79 million in 2005, none exceeding $250k.


We have to skip this one, since Donors Trust and Donors Capital apparently "forgot" to include the grantee schedule in their public filings.


In 2007, Donors Capital Fund disbursed advised grants totaling $44,751,001.  Donors Trust disbursed advised grants totaling $5.5 million.

2007 Donors Capital grants exceeding $2 million: $10 million to the Foundation for Jewish Camping, $2.955 million to Heartland Institute, $2.2 million to AEI

(The careful reader of the previous diary will note that this $10 million donation to FJC doesn't match the record-breaking $15 million grant that FJC received for the national rollout of the One Happy Camper program, and which was almost certainly made by Barre Seid; however, FJC reported (PDF) only a total of $15.8 million in incoming donations for 2007.  Accordingly, this has to be part of that grant, with the remaining $5 million evidently donated through another channel.)

Donors Capital grants of $1-2 million: $1 million to Campus Crusade of Christ, $1.5 million to Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy, $1.005 million to First Presbyterian Church of Midland TX, $1.02 million to the GMU Foundation (Law & Economics Center), $1 million to Highland Park ISD Educational Fund (Dallas TX), $1.088 million to Institute for Humane Studies (Arlington), $1 million to Northwood University (Cedar Hill TX), $1 million to Responsible Resources (Alexandria VA), $1.5 million to State Policy Network, $1 million to Trinity School of Midland Texas

Donors Capital grants of $500k-$999k: $754k to Citizens in Charge Foundation, $500k to Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting (Boston), $500k to Laity Renewal Foundation (Kerrville, TX), $515k to Midland Young Life Building Foundation (Midland, TX), $685k to National Taxpayers Union Foundation, $552k to Palmer R. Chitester Fund, $850k to Reconciliation Outreach Ministries (Dallas, TX), $600k to Russian-American Christian School (Wheaton MD), $748k to Vanderbilt University Foundation (Nashville TN)

There's a clear signal here from at least one donor in Midland, TX, presumably a Presbyterian and presumably one of that community's numerous oil barons, but even he isn't making grants on the scale of Barre Seid.  It's worth zeroing in on this one, nonetheless, since there has been speculation that the Anonymous Donor's particular interest in global warming might be due to him being heavily invested in the fossil fuel industry.  So if there is a wealthy Midland oilman with strong Chicago ties, probably a Presbyterian, and preferably with some demonstrable interest in local government reform issues, such a person would merit a very close look as a possible alternative candidate for the anonymous donor funding Heartland, and probably also funding related causes.

Donors Trust grants of >$499k: $503k to National Taxpayers Union Foundation


Donors Capital disbursed $70.86 million in advised grants in 2008.  

As in the previous year, a $10 million donation to the Foundation for Jewish Camping was the largest single grant.  However, the Clarion Fund received a larger total amount, $17.7 million over 9 installments.  Both of these are traceable to Barre Seid beyond reasonable doubt.

>$3 million: Heartland received its largest donation ever, $4.6 million over more than 6 installments (exactly how many installments is unclear, since the record seems to be incomplete).  The Sam Adams Alliance (also of Chicago) received $3.57 million spread over an astonishing 19 separate installments, many of them earmarked for specific projects. (Notably, the SAA's head, Eric O'Keefe, was also a proxy for Seid in the attempted takeover of Shimer College.)

$1-3 million: $2 million to Hudson Institute (Washington DC), $1 million to Greater Educational Opportunities Fund (Indianapolis), $1.5 million to Federalist Society, $2.2 million to AEI, $1.48 million to State Policy Network.

$500k-$999k donations: $747k to Institute for Humane Studies (Arlington, VA), $660k to GMU Foundation (Law & Economics Center) earmarked for the Institute for Judges, $822k to the Center for Competitive Politics (Alexandria, VA), $790k to Americans for Limited Government Research Foundation (Fairfax, VA), $678k to Acton Institute, $500k to Americans United for Life, $500k to Dallas Center for the Performing Arts, $573k to Maine Heritage Policy Center, $750k to Middle East Forum

In 2008, Donors Trust disbursed advised grants totaling $9.47 million.  Only one of the numerous recipients received more than $500k; that was NumbersUSA (Arlington VA), which received $1.7 million in two installments.  


NOTE: There may be some errors in the exact amounts for 2009-2010, since I had to add them up by hand, and I haven't had time to triple-check my work -- 2008 is the last year in which the 990s contain totals for each grantee.

In 2009, Donors Capital disbursed a total of $59.8 million.  The largest donation was once again $10 million to the Foundation for Jewish Camping. (Apparently, by this time, these donations had become sufficiently routine that they no longer made the news.)

Other >$1 million donations: $2.7 million to AEI, $1.71 million to American Majority, $2.25 million to Americans for Limited Government Research Foundation, $1.088 to Americans for Prosperity Foundation, $1.26 million to Federalist Society, $1.07 million to FIRE, $2.24 million to Franklin Center, $1.05 million to Highland Park Presbyterian Church, $2.5 million to State Policy Network, $1.2 million to Middle East Forum, $3.2 million to Sam Adams Alliance, and of course $2.17 million to Heartland Institute

$500k-$999k: $501k to the Acton Institute, $590k to CERGE-EI Foundation, $665k to Goldwater Institute, $910k to Mackinac Center, $671k to Maine Heritage Policy Center, $550k to Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy, $984k to Palmer R. Chitester Fund

Donors Trust disbursed $12.6 million in grants in 2009.  Donations exceeding $500k were: $1.1 million to Americans for Prosperity Foundation, $872k to Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, $516k to Heartland Institute, $3 million to Independent Women's Forum, $585k to Shimer College


In 2010, Donors Capital disbursed a total of $41.1 million in grants.

> $ 3 million: $5.25 million to Bar-Ilan University

This is the first grant to this recipient anywhere in the Donors Capital 990s, and it is larger than any grant made via Donors Capital by any donor not conclusively identified as Barre Seid.  If it's a coincidence that this massive grant to Bar-Ilan University is made the same year that Barre Seid receives an honorary doctorate from BIU (and the year before his wife receives an honorary doctorate from BIU), I will eat my hat.  

$1-$3 million: $2.47 million to AEI, $2 million to Citizens Against Government Waste, $1.66 million to Heartland Institute, $1.73 million to Middle East Forum, $1.65 million to State Policy Network

$500k-$999k: $500k to American Council of Trustees and Alumni, $525k to Center for Competitive Politics, $830k to CERGE-EI Foundation, $978k to Federalist Society, $500k to GMU Foundation (School of Law), $920k to Schwab Charitable Gift Fund (this appears to be a case of double-masking donations by transferring them from one DAF to another), $650k to South Carolina Policy Council, $665k to Texas Public Policy Foundation

Also notable: $489k to Free to Choose Network, aka the Palmer R. Chitester Fund.

Donors Trust disbursed a total of $22.2 million in 2010.  Donations exceeding $500k were: $525k to State Policy Network, $895k to Sam Adams Alliance, $1.15 million to NFIB Legal Foundation, $913k to Mercatus Center of GMU, $520k to GMU Foundation (Law & Econ Center), $1.28 million to Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, $7.6 million to Americans for Prosperity Foundation


From the above, we can see that although donations in the high six and lowest seven figures are reasonably common, it is quite rare for Donors Capital to disburse grants exceeding $2 million to a single organization in a single year.  Which makes sense -- the usual rationale for using a donor-advised fund (simplified paperwork) isn't particularly applicable to donations in the millions of dollars.  And anonymity is all fine and dandy, but most people would prefer to get credit, at least within the grantee organization, for a donation of that size.  Over the entire 2002-2010 period, the only donations made via Donors Capital that exceed $5 million -- the donations to Clarion Fund, the Foundation for Jewish Camp, and Bar-Ilan University -- might as well have Barre Seid's name stamped right on them.  

It is therefore highly suggestive (although far from probative by itself) that the next-largest single-year donation via Donors Capital is to the Heartland Institute ($4.6 million in 2008), particularly since most of the other >$3 million grantees other than AEI (which was receiving big donations from 2002 on) also have strong links to Barre Seid and his interests.  (On the other hand, the $7.6 million to AFP Foundation via Donors Trust in 2010, which bears no obvious Seid hallmarks, does suggest that his approach might be spreading.)

Pattern of behavior

"OK OK", you might say, "sure, Barre Seid's donations through the Foundation dropped off at exactly the time that the Anonymous Donor starts donating through Donors Capital, and sure, there are plenty of reasons to infer an ongoing association between Barre Seid and Joe Bast, and sure, everything we know about Barre Seid fits perfectly, but the timing could still be coincidental.  It could just be that Seid coincidentally stopped giving entirely, or started making only small direct donations, at the same time that the Anonymous Donor moved in.  Maybe Bast was eager to dance to Seid's tune because he wanted Seid to start handing out the big checks again."  And while such a coincidence doesn't seem especially likely, it's hard to rule out.  Above, I've noted one profile that stands out in the data as a possible alternative Anonymous Donor, and if someone can be found who matches that profile (Presbyterian Midland TX oil baron with strong Chicago ties) and also fits the profile in the Denialgate documents -- or if another person can be found who fits some other consistent pattern in the Donors Capital/Donors Trust grants and fits the Denialgate documents -- it would certainly make such a coincidence a great deal more plausible.

But in any event, whatever the probability of such coincidental timing might be, the probability of it occurring across three different unrelated cases would be much lower.  I'll leave it to the statisticians among us to say exactly how much lower, since there are various complicating factors.  Let's just stipulate that the odds would be a lot lower.

With that established, let's consider the tiny Illinois Taxpayer Education Fund (ITEF), which didn't receive any funds from the Seid Foundation after a last dribble of $10k in 2006, although it had received continuous regular (but small) donations since 1998.  ITEF hadn't received a cent from Donors Capital before 2006, but began to receive regular donations by 2007 (again, we have no grantee schedules for 2006).  These donations are much smaller than those to the Heartland Institute, Chitester Fund, or other organizations with a probable Seid signature, but they track closely with the size of the Seid Foundation's previous regular donations to ITEF, and they are in fact quite huge relative to ITEF's tiny size.  

And that's a key point: the 2008 990 for Donors Capital (the first to show itemized grants), shows 11 payments of $7,000 each to ITEF.  It would strain credulity to imagine that these neatly uniform donations were coming from more than one donor, and the total of $77k means that this one Illinois-focused donor contributed around 71% of ITEF's total donation income of $108k (PDF).  In the previous year, 2007, this donor provided $92,000 in donations, or around 86% of ITEF's total reported donation income.  So we are looking at an organization that is, to all intents and purposes, supported by a single donor using Donors Capital. Before its anonymous Donors Capital benefactor magically came along, this organization was getting more than 50% of its support from the Seid Foundation: in both 2004 and 2005, the Seid Foundation provided a total of $40k to ITEF, accounting for 58% of its support in the first year and 60% in the next, based again on the annual numbers reported in  ITEF's 2008 990 (PDF). As soon as the donations from the Seid Foundation stop, anonymous donations from Donors Capital instantly spring up to take their place -- even though this is an organization so small and obscure that it appears to have been almost entirely dependent on Barre Seid for its previous existence  (its National Taxpayers Union affiliation notwithstanding).  Accordingly, it would beggar belief for ITEF's Donors Capital-using anonymous donor to be anyone but our own Donors Capital-using Barre Seid.

Next, let's look at the Palmer R. Chitester Fund of Erie, PA, which later became the "Free To Choose Network", and which has received regular hefty donations via Donors Capital.  The Chitester Fund and its successor are/were both operated by Bob Chitester, who like Joe Bast was a member of Seid's crew in the unsuccessful Shimer College takeover attempt.  The Chitester Fund is not a small organization, but (like Heartland) neither is it the sort of large national outfit that might routinely attract six-figure donations out of the blue: its budget is/was comparable to Heartland's, with $2.7 million in donation income in the 2008-2009 fiscal year (PDF), although the budget was a great deal smaller before the big donations started rolling in circa 2004 (the Seid Foundation's prominent among them).  The Chitester Fund was receiving six-figure sums from the Seid Foundation up to May 2005, and subsequently received very similarly-sized sums via Donors Capital, starting with $400k in 2005 (date uncertain).  

Once again, as with ITEF and Heartland, although the Chitester Fund received regular major donations from the Seid Foundation up to 2005, it didn't receive a penny from the Seid Foundation thereafter; and although it received regular major donations via Donors Capital in 2005 and thereafter, it hadn't received a penny via that channel before.  A more detailed case for Seid's involvement with the Chitester Fund would probably take up a diary of its own, since unlike ITEF the Chitester Fund and its successor have received significant donations from other nodes in the glibertarian funding network -- but for now we'll just observe that it fits the pattern suspiciously well.

I'll stop there, but these are not the only such coincidences.  I've skipped over, for example, the LEAD Foundation, only because the Seid Foundation's grants (2001 and 2004) were too discontinuous to establish a clear pattern that would unambiguously connect them to the subsequent large donations via Donors Capital.  Similar discontinuity issues affect the Greater Educational Opportunities Foundation.  I've also skipped over the Sam Adams Alliance, a Chicago-based recipient of many large and detailed grants via Donors Capital, headed by another of Seid's proxies in the failed Shimer College takeover attempt, only because it wasn't founded until 2006 and therefore never received any funds directly from the Seid Foundation.  And I have for similar reasons skipped over the Middle East Forum, which didn't receive any direct Seid Foundation donations but bears other hallmarks of a typical Seid grantee.

So in view of this pattern, if the Heartland Institute's Anonymous Donor is not Seid, one of two things must be true: either we are looking at an extremely low-probability event, namely that Seid just happened to stop giving to each of these relatively small, low-profile organizations at exactly the same time that another Anonymous Donor moved in, and said Anonymous Donor just happened to use Donors Capital to donate to these specific organizations out of the vast pool of available wackadoodle causes, all at the very same time that Seid himself was starting to use Donors Capital for some unusually large donations, or Seid was supporting the other organizations via Donors Capital, but had stopped donating to Heartland, so that the Anonymous Donor is responsible for the Heartland donations alone.  (But this second possibility would raise even greater issues.  Why would Seid have stopped giving to Heartland so abruptly, while continuing to donate to his numerous other favorite organizations through Donors Capital?  And as with the first possibility, why would Mr. Anonymous be using the same obscure channel in the same unusual way, and starting at the same time, as Mr. Seid?) In any event, neither of these possibilities seems very likely at all, especially when considered in combination with the qualitative evidence for Seid's involvement detailed in the previous diaries.


In addition to the other indications of Barre Seid's involvement considered in the previous diaries, the size and timing of the donations to Heartland strongly suggest that Chicago industrialist Barre Seid is the "Anonymous Donor".  The Donors Capital donations start as soon as donations from the Seid Foundation stop, and also match Seid's known practice of making unusually large donations via Donors Capital.  Although this timing could be coincidental, there is a clear pattern in which donations to Seid's favorite political causes via Donors Capital start at the very instant these causes disappear from the 990s of the Seid Foundation -- the transitional year being 2004 in the case of the Heartland Institute, 2005 in the case of the Chitester Fund and 2006 in the case of the Illinois Taxpayer Education Fund.  We also verified that all donations via Donors Capital for amounts larger than the $4.6 million Heartland received in 2008 are readily traceable to Seid, thus confirming that Seid's way of using Donors Capital, which he shares with the Anonymous Donor, is in fact quite unusual.

There is no such thing as 100% certainty in this world, and there remain some missing pieces of the puzzle.  Still, it seems to me that we are, at a minimum, very very near the point at which we are compelled to say that this:

... is a picture of Barre Seid.


The attempted takeover of Shimer College, the
Great Books college of Chicago
(not actual size)
Most of the above analysis is not original with me.  I have simply recapitulated the research done by several other members of the tiny Shimer College community in 2009-2010, as they struggled to understand why the school seemed to be dissolving around them. (Any errors are, of course, my own.)

It took some of the Shimer community's very brightest minds to identify these connections, and they did it under terrifying pressure ... but after all, reading difficult texts closely and carefully, and then interpreting them persuasively to others, is a skill that Shimerians spend four years honing.  I'm not at liberty to acknowledge all those who deserve acknowledgment, although alumnus Dan Merchán is certainly prominent among them, as is steadfast friend of the college Erik Graff.

So if you believe, as many do, that a Great Books education has no place in today's world, you might want to take another look at the above -- which is based entirely on readily available public information -- and consider what it took to be able to put these pieces together for the first time.  

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips for investigative blournalism. (15+ / 0-)

    In the spirit of that last paragraph, I'll leave you with the words of a traditional Shimer cheer:

    Sex, drugs and Socrates!
    We kick ass on GREs!
  •  Interesting how these things work. Thank you for (7+ / 0-)

    putting this together.

    Sig seen on Redstate: ABO Anybody But Obama. Sorry, I'm stealing that.... Another Barack Opportunity. Vote Obama/Biden 2012!

    by mrsgoo on Sun Feb 26, 2012 at 05:52:52 PM PST

  •  very persuasive, thorough analysis (6+ / 0-)

    and just the facts...we may very well be closer to finding the 'anonymous donor'
    Thanks shenderson

  •  I sent this link out to Dkgreenroots group (5+ / 0-)

    hope it gets some traffic...I think this is Oscar night...don't know how important that is

  •  Kick him in his vulnerable spot: the opera! (3+ / 0-)

    "Barbara Landis Seid is a much more public person than her husband; she is artistic director of the Chamber Opera Chicago, which her husband founded..."

    "It's not surprising, therefore, that she would be quite sensitive to the effect of having these donations associated with her name.  (Or, alternatively, that her husband would be sensitive to this effect.)"

    OK folks, you found his vulnerable spot!

    It's time to kick him in the opera.

    This means boycott campaigns, and it may also mean doing a certain amount of very careful and sensitive protesting and leafleting outside the opera on key performance nights.  

    Stirring up bad publicity and financial decline for the opera he founded, may be sufficient to get that bastard to stop.  

    It's worth a try.

    "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

    by G2geek on Mon Feb 27, 2012 at 01:19:54 AM PST

    •  Actually very good idea G2...but this would take (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      G2geek, shenderson, burnt out

      real caution...obviously he is a dangerous man.  Could legally get in a mess at least until he is proven to be anonymous.  But if all this info. gets out(which I hope it does) HE will be the one needing to prove he is not anonymous.

      Maybe this info. needs to be sent to Gleick or to his lawyer..we have email..but perhaps he already knows this.

      •  yeah, send the info to Gleick & lawyer. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        shenderson, burnt out

        Let them figure out how best to use it for discovery.

        By the time this is over, it should be entirely possible for Gleick to tell those Heartless bastards to go get stuffed, and they won't dare take him to court.

        As for the risk they'll put a hit on him, I know the routines for dealing with that, have been living them since I helped send a couple of dangerous baddies away, and I'm local so I could actually advise him in depth & detail.  

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Mon Feb 27, 2012 at 07:49:12 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Hmm... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        burnt out

        Barre Seid may or may not be dangerous -- I haven't come across any evidence of vindictive behavior from him, and from my impression of his style, I expect he'd correctly perceive the urge for vengeance as a distraction from the long-term goal.  

        Joe Bast, on the other hand, is a nasty piece of work, but his bark tends to be worse than his bite AFAICT; he specializes in character assassination and legal bluster, but when his attacker is some nobody from the blogosphere, with no reputation to tear down and no valuable assets to threaten, he doesn't have a lot to work with.   I did my best to draw him out in the Shimer dust-up, but he wouldn't take the bait; he went after students with bluster and threats (and was successful in getting them to stay quiet about what he'd said in an unguarded moment), but he left me alone even though I was saying more and worse things about him than anybody else.  (I always felt a little left out, in truth... why was everybody else getting legal threats?  Well, maybe this time...)

        I don't have any reason to think that either of them would actually put a hit on someone.  (Not that I would entirely rule it out, but I'm not aware of any reason to think it's likely.)  I think even Joe Bast is probably smarter than that.

        •  oh goodie!, they make good practice targets too! (0+ / 0-)

          Sounds like they're a lot of bark and very little bite, particularly where their intended victims have 1st Amendment protection going for them.

          That makes them good practice targets!  Someone should unleash a whole squadron of eager undergrads with itchy keyboard-fingers, to go after those bastards.

          So what did the guy say in his unguarded moment?  Did he use the N-word, or was it something even worse?  

          "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

          by G2geek on Mon Feb 27, 2012 at 09:56:50 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  It was specific to the Shimer situation, so not... (0+ / 0-)

            ... of much relevance now.  If memory serves, he just (reportedly) confirmed what we had already had a lot of reason to suspect -- that at the end of the semester, they would be firing any members of the faculty and staff who wouldn't toe the line (i.e. all the faculty), and if the students left because of that, they'd just get the money from their Anonymous Donor to fund a replacement student body for a year or two until their little zombie college was running the way they wanted.

            So Joe Bast can be made to say very revealing things in an unguarded moment -- though unfortunately I doubt if he'll be having very many unguarded moments any time soon.

    •  I think there's something to this... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      burnt out, G2geek

      ... although I have my doubts that anything we can do would actually cause Barre Seid to stop donating to causes he believes in.  (Regrettable though those beliefs may be.)  

      But what this sort of adverse publicity might do is serve to remind him that if not for Joe Bast's incompetence, none of this would have happened.  

  •  Thanks shenderson for your continuing effort on (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    this. You have been very busy compiling all this information to help get to the truth of this. The evidence keeps growing that Seid is the man with the money.  

    Just give me some truth. John Lennon--- OWS------Too Big To Fail

    by burnt out on Mon Feb 27, 2012 at 09:34:00 AM PST

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