Dark money group backing anti-Israel campus activity faces scrutiny for its practices

The Tides Foundation and its affiliated entities have a budget of nearly $1 billion, focused on left-wing causes


Anti-Israel students and faculty of Drexel University, Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania

The Tides Foundation, which backs several organizations involved in anti-Israel protests on college campuses and beyond, is facing scrutiny from the House Ways and Means Committee for serving as a conduit to hide the identity of donors to its grantees.

Tides’ entities – the foundation, as well as the Tides Network, Tides Center, Tides Inc. and Tides Advocacy – have a combined budget of almost $1 billion to support progressive causes, NGO Monitor, which researches nonprofits, found. In many respects, they operate as a dark money group, allowing other organizations to hide sources of funding and expenditures.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (R-MO) pressured the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to disclose the ultimate sources of its foundation’s receipt of $12 million from Tides, arguing that funding from the progressive donor-advised fund may conflict with its tax-free status. 

“Getting $12 million from Tides and then trying to say it’s really not from Tides, it’s from someone else, that makes me want to look harder,” Smith told The Hill

The Tides Foundation did not respond to a request from Jewish Insider for comment.

The probe is one of many nonprofits whose tax-exempt status Smith has been examining, including to determine whether universities are failing to prevent antisemitic activities. 

According to its 2022 tax filings, Tides entities contributed to nonprofits involved in recent campus and other anti-Israel activism, including Jewish Voice for Peace, Council on American Islamic Relations chapters (CAIR) in Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Minnesota, IfNotNow, CODEPINK and others, as well as WESPAC (Westchester County Peace Action Committee), which, in turn, supports National Students for Justice in Palestine and American Muslims for Palestine. 

Tides also supports Palestine Legal, which has sued universities for cracking down on anti-Israel protests, and the Adalah Justice Project, which began organizing protests within days of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, through a fiscal sponsorship since 2013 and 2016, respectively. 

This arrangement obscures NGOs’ financial operations, including their donors, donation amounts, staff, salary and other expenditures, and makes it nearly impossible to trace sources of funding or whether donations are being used for their intended purpose.

Legally, the fiscal sponsorship means that Palestine Legal and Adalah Justice Project are part of the Tides Foundation, which files tax documents on their behalf, even though the former presents itself as “an independent organization” and the latter says it is “a Palestinian-led advocacy organization.” 

Nonprofits that receive “Model A Fiscal Sponsorship” manage their entire backends through Tides; they fall under Tides’ 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, Tides does their financial accounting, payroll processing and human resources management, provides benefits to employees and administers grants, among other services, and collects a 9% fee.

In 2022, the last year for which Tides’ IRS disclosures are available, the five entities reported spending $158,217,539 on salaries. Yet the reported “officers, directors, key employees and highest compensated employees,” as well as the major independent contractors of Tides entities, add up to $36,554,485. The remaining $121.6 million is unexplained. Tides pays the salaries of employees of fiscally sponsored organizations, such as Palestine Legal and Adalah Justice Project.

Fiscal sponsorship allows NGOs like Palestine Legal and Adalah Justice Project not to disclose their donors, though in their case, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund contributed close to $1 million to Tides in 2023 and earmarked more than half for them.

George Soros’ Open Society Foundations contributed $25.8 million between 2020 and 2021. In 2019, $225,000 of its donations to Tides were for pro-Palestinian causes.

Other notable Tides donors include a foundation funded by Susan Pritzker, wife of Hyatt Hotel heir Nick Pritzker, a relative of Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, and, in the past, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Westchester Peace Action Committee Foundation (WESPAC) received $97,000 from Tides in 2022, nearly half of its funding that year, and reported spending almost $1.5 million on “office expenses,” in an office with just one part-time employee, The Washington Free Beacon found

WESPAC is the fiscal sponsor of National Students for Justice in Palestine, which victims of the Oct. 7 attack are suing for allegedly being “collaborators and propagandists for Hamas.” 

The lawsuit states that “the financial interactions between WESPAC and its anti-Israel clientele is intentionally opaque to largely shield from public view the flow of funds between and among them.”

A group of 16 Republican senators called last week for the IRS to investigate WESPAC and other groups for supporting terrorism. Their letter noted the “heinous support [National Student for Justice in Palestine] chapters across the country have supported for Hamas, a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.” 

WESPAC does not disclose its fiscal sponsors, but the Anti-Defamation League reported that “most of WESPAC’s current or former fiscal sponsorships goes to support anti-Israel projects and groups,” such as Within Our Lifetime, which has been a major driver of anti-Israel protests in New York.

NGO Monitor President Gerald Steinberg said that “the hidden funding for the carefully planned ‘spontaneous protests’ needs to be addressed urgently.”

“The leaders of the network manipulated huge IRS loopholes that allow for secret payment of salaries, rent and other major costs for what are supposed to be transparent ‘civil society’ groups,” Steinberg added. “By funneling their money via Tides and other fiscal sponsors, the donors, possibly including foreign entities, remain hidden, in contrast to basic democratic norms.”

CORRECTION: Open Society Foundations contributed $25.8 million to the Tides Foundation in 2020 and 2021 combined; an earlier version of the story wrote the contributions were only in 2021.

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