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Vanguard’s charitable arm donated to a ‘hate group’

We are judged by the company we keep. That is a lesson that Vanguard is about to learn, given that its philanthropic wing has indirectly funded hate speech within the US and UK.

Vanguard Charitable is an offshoot of Vanguard. It takes in money, invests it, and makes donations to various causes. It describes itself as a donor-advised fund, which it defines as “[…] a charitable giving account designed exclusively to invest, grow, and give assets to charities for meaningful and lasting impact”.

According to its website, Vanguard Charitable supports 50,000 organisations, with $1.8bn of grants.

But its last two tax filings show the organisation made substantial grants to the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a controversial organisation based in the US. The donations totalled $60,000 in 2018 (page 97) and $120,000 in 2019 (page 126).

Project hate and misinformation

The DHFC is based in Sherman Oaks, California. The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated it a hate group. The SPLC website has a section on leader David Horowitz. There, it openly describes him as a member of the far right. UK organisation Hope Not Hate also lists Horowitz as one of the globe’s key players in Islamophobia.

According to the SPLC: “Under Horowitz’s direction, the Freedom Center has launched a network of projects giving anti-Muslim voices and radical ideologies a platform to project hate and misinformation.”

The DHFC has a publication called Frontpage Mag. It is online, but Expert Investor is not providing a link. One of its leading stories, published last Thursday, is called ‘Suicide by ‘Replacement Migration’’. Other articles include ‘Vaccine Mandates Today, China’s Social Credit System Tomorrow?’.

The DHFC also holds events.

In November 2019, it held its ‘Restoration Weekend’ in Palm Springs, Florida. Among those invited to talk was professional opinion haver Katie Hopkins. Hopkins, who rose to prominence after appearing on The Apprentice UK in 2006, opened her speech with ‘jokes’ that included, “People who know me know that most of my Muslim friends have 15 children under the age of three. I’m kidding, I’m kidding. I don’t have Muslim friends.” (again, Expert Investor has the video but we will not give it the oxygen of publicity).

This was not the first time that Hopkins had spoken at a DHFC event. In 2017, she made an appearance at another of their events, also in Florida. The Independent reported of that: “Ms Hopkins railed against ‘Muslim men’ and the ‘Muslim mayor of Londonistan’, referring to Sadiq Khan, who she claimed she ‘cannot stand’.”

Even the Daily Mail found that too much to stomach and she was dropped from that paper a few days after the remarks surfaced online.

Contempt of court

Hopkins is not an outlier. The co-founder and former leader of the English Defence League, Tommy Robinson, has also had the support of the DHFC, who have invited him, like Hopkins, to their Restoration Weekend event. A Hope Not Hate website lists Robinson’s multiple convictions.

The DHFC was well aware of this was when it invited him. An email to The Guardian from David Horowitz in 2018 said: “Tommy Robinson is a courageous Englishman who has risked his life to expose the rape epidemic of young girls conducted by Muslim gangs and covered up by your shameful government. We are against the rape of young girls that is epidemic in England; we are against the disgusting efforts of the British government to protect the rapists, we support Tommy Robinson’s campaign to expose the rapists and rally the British public to stop them. That’s why we invited him to our restoration weekend.”

This is the same Tommy Robinson that cares so much about the ‘rape epidemic of young girls’ that he nearly caused the collapse of one trial in Huddersfield in 2018 by broadcasting information that was under restriction. If that trial had collapsed, the victims would have had to go through, for a second time, the distress of a second trial. Robinson received a custodial sentence for that, partly because it was the second time he had been caught committing contempt of court.

Charitable giving guidelines

Robinson’s and Hopkins’ links with the DHFC were well-known by the time Vanguard Charitable made its donations.

So, Expert Investor reached out to the UK arm of Vanguard. In response to the story, the PR team at Vanguard offered some context.

In an email, it said: “Vanguard Charitable was founded by Vanguard [in] 1997, but operates as an independent entity, as a donor-advised fund (DAF) sponsor and certified 501( c) (3) nonprofit. With DAFs, the donor (whether an individual, institution or foundation) donates funds into the account that can only be used for charitable giving. Grants made from DAFs reflect the recommendations of individual donors. Vanguard Charitable itself is cause-neutral. As is policy with all major DAFs, grants can be recommended to any 501 (c ) (3) nonprofit organization that meets US IRS standards.”

That told Expert Investor nothing more than we already know. We replied and asked why Vanguard Charitable was making grants to organisations labelled as hate groups in two countries. We also inquired as to whether Vanguard Charitable had any ethical standards or guidelines about which organisations and charities it did business with.

They emailed us another, lengthier response.

As to whether Vanguard Charitable exercised any control over the flow of donations and grants, Vanguard UK said: “Donor-advised fund sponsors, such as Vanguard Charitable, provide vehicles through which individual donors can donate assets to registered charities. Donors retain advisory rights on how the money is invested, and to which charities it is granted. Vanguard Charitable itself is cause-neutral and only insures [sic] all grants go to 501(c)(3) nonprofits in good standing with the IRS.”

It also appears that Vanguard Charitable makes no distinction between causes, even if it gives money to hate groups as long as there is no fraud. “As is policy with all major DAFs,” Vanguard said in its statement, “grants can be recommended to any 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that is in good standing with the U.S. IS In order to further ensure that all grant dollars are issued only for qualified charitable purposes, it is our practice to hold for further review any grants recommended to organizations that are known to be under a pending investigation for fraud, improper use of funds, organizational wrongdoing, conspiracy, or illegal and improper conduct.”

So, it appears that it is acceptable to donate to causes that many find unpalatable provided they are set up as charities and there is no hint of fraudulent activity.

Inexcusable oversight?

From that point on, Vanguard UK tried to demarcate itself from Vanguard Charitable. It mentioned its philanthropic work in the UK.

Given that ethical investing has been this year’s buzzword, with investment firms tripping over themselves to prove how righteous they are, it strains credibility that an established firm like Vanguard would find itself mixed up in something like.

The two organisations, while separate, share the same name and branding.

At best, it’s an oversight. But at worst, it is hypocrisy.

Pete Carvill

Pete Carvill is a reporter, writer, and editor based in Berlin who has been writing for the B2B and mainstream media since 2007. He is a contributing writer for Expert Investor and, in addition, has...

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