Capital Research Center

From SourceWatch
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Capital Research Center (CRC) is a right-wing "think tank" whose stated mission is to do "opposition research" exposing the funding sources behind consumer, health and environmental groups. CRC is an associate member of the State Policy Network, a web of right-wing “think tanks” and tax-exempt organizations in 49 states, Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C., and the United Kingdom.


The CRC was founded in 1984 by Willa Johnson. Prior to founding CRC Johnson had been Senior Vice President of the Heritage Foundation, then worked as Deputy Director of the Office of Presidential Personnel in the first Reagan administration, and as a legislative aide in both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives. [1]

In his book American Foundations, Mark Dowie cites Johnson writing in the CRC's 1991 annual report that "a unified, sophisticated and well-funded philanthropic elite is dedicated to imposing on us the doctrine of 'progressive' philanthropy, doctrines that would reorder our political, economic and cultural priorities".

"This movement, driven by a bankrupt ideology, long since disproved by history, would impose its own standards of 'social justice' based on more involvement of government in philanthropy and more involvement of charities in politics. It has lost faith in the traditional American values of individual responsibility and free choice, to say nothing of the diversity in the marketplace of ideas," she wrote.

Testifying before a Congressional committee on resources, CRC Executive Vice-President, Robert Huberty explained the organization's role and concern about foundations. "Capital Research Center studies charity, philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. We take a particular interest in the role of public interest organizations and their impact on American politics and society. We do not solicit or accept any government grants or contracts," he said.

"The Congress and the public have good reason to question the funding priorities of large foundations. Private foundations are peculiar creations of public law. Their assets are tax-exempt. Contributions to them are tax-deductible. They are often established in order to avoid estate taxes. The government gives a foundation these privileges with the expectation that its trustees will respect the intentions of the donor who established it, and that those intentions are benevolent and charitable," he stated.

However, Huberty objected to foundations supporting environmental advocacy campaigns for the protection of forests from logging or other extractive uses. "Certainly a foundation may support research and education programs. But when a foundation organizes a lobbying campaign on a highly divisive political issue, when it uses its largess to task one nonprofit organization -- the National Audubon Society -- to coordinate the lobbying of other nonprofits, then Congress should ask whether the spirit of the law is being upheld," he said.

"The Pew Charitable Trusts may respond that they are doing what they have a right to do, that others do it, and that no one has called on them to stop doing it. But by making themselves merely another Washington lobbying group, they undermine the traditions and institutions of philanthropy which are a vital part of our society," he stated. [2]

News and Controversies

CRC Launches Copy of CMD's Sourcewatch

CRC launched an “Encyclopedia of the Left” inspired by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD)’s in December 2017 called Influence Watch.[1] "Influence Watch is a 'signature project' of CRC’s President Scott Walter. Before joining CRC as an executive vice-president in 2012, Walter worked for the PR firm Berman and Company, run by PR flak Richard Berman who specializes in popping up misleading industry front groups and astroturf campaigns for corporate interests, like the National Restaurant Association," CMD's Armiak writes.[1]

“The website will be constructed in partnership with Berman and Company (where Walter worked briefly as director of development), and CRC is collaborating with the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Heartland Institute to make use of their data as it builds the new website’s profile list,” Bradley writes in a grant proposal.[1]

Over a quarter of the funding for Influence Watch is being provided by the Bradley Foundation. Bradley’s 2016 Annual Report details $125,000 in funding to CRC and the budget for Influence Watch is $400,000 for its first year, according to a grant proposal in the Bradley Files.[1]

Ties to the Bradley Foundation

CRC and Richard Berman's Interstate Policy Alliance Consult for Bradley on Right-Wing "Infrastructure" Investments

Mary Bottari reports in "Bradley Foundation Bankrolls Front Groups of Discredited PR Spin Doctor Richard Berman" as part of the [Bradley Files] investigation,

"In 2015, Bradley asked Berman’s IPA and the allied Capital Research Center (CRC) in Washington, D.C. to conduct an assessment of “second tier” states for consideration as “potential targets of opportunity” to enhance their infrastructure investments....The CRC/IPA evaluation of the quality and potential of states’ existing conservative infrastructure and recommended investments in eight states: Colorado, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Georgia, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, and California in that order. The documents note “(Given IPA’s Bradley supported role in trying to help all state think tanks, they were quite keen on the report’s contents being kept confidential)” (Barder Fund, Nov. 10, 2015)."[2]

Opposition Research On CMD and the "Left"

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD)'s 2017 expose on the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation revealed that CMD has been a subject of CRC "opposition research."[3]

From the CMD series:

As part of its opposition research funding, Bradley recommended $115,000 in 2016 for the Capital Research Center run by Bradley-ally Scott Walter to develop “an online encyclopedia of the left” in conjunction with Berman that mimics the Center for Media and Democracy’s wiki. CRC wants to focus on the anti-ALEC groups and the Democracy Alliance, a group of liberal funders.
“This will be a comprehensive, wiki-style resource that provides in-depth profiles of left-of-center individuals and organizations based on the model of the Center for Media and Democracy’s website…CRC plans to take a page out of Sourcewatch’s playbook by ensuring that its new, wiki-style encyclopedia of the left is thorough, regularly updated and written in a manner that is accurate and measured in order to attract and retain a larger audience. The website will be constructed and in partnership with Berman and Company [where Walter worked briefly as director of development], and CRC is collaborating with ALEC and the Heartland Institute to make use of their data as it builds the new website’s profile list,” (Capital Research Center, Grant Proposal Record, 8/16/2016).
“Sourcewatch is a widely used resource that significantly influences public opinion regarding the activities of center-right groups and individuals. While there are a number of conservative resources that profile organizations and individuals on the Left (such as David Horowitz’s, Heartland Institute’s, Berman and Company’s and the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise’s CDC will build upon and complement their efforts adding value through its more comprehensive coverage, superior search engine optimization, and wiki-style format,” (Capital Research Center, Grant Proposal Record, 8/16/2016).

CRC Hires Former Bradley VP

Former Vice President for Programs at the Bradley Foundation, Michael Hartmann, now works for Capital Research Center (CRC) as a Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Strategic Giving. According to Hartmann’s twitter profile, he is working remotely out of Milwaukee. While Hartmann was at Bradley, it paid CRC to work with the PR spin doctor Richard Berman’s Interstate Policy Alliance (IPA) to assess states for consideration as “potential targets of opportunity” to strengthen its infrastructure investments.[4]

An internal email from Hartmann to Bradley CEO Michael Grebe states that CRC President Scott Walter recruited Hartmann,

"As discussed, new Capital Research Center (CRC) president Scott Walter has been in discussions with me ways about in which I could perhaps contribute to CRC's work...It would include compensation from CRC."[5]
Bradley Files

In 2017, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), publishers of SourceWatch, launched a series of articles on the Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, exposing the inner-workings of one of America's largest right-wing foundations. 56,000 previously undisclosed documents laid bare the Bradley Foundation's highly politicized agenda. CMD detailed Bradley's efforts to map and measure right wing infrastructure nationwide, including by dismantling and defunding unions to impact state elections; bankrolling discredited spin doctor Richard Berman and his many front groups; and more.

Find the series here at

"Defund the Left" Campaign

As part of the conservative campaign to 'Defund the left' the Capital Research Center produces a range of publications targeting foundations, unions and activist groups that it views as supporting 'liberal' causes.

Its key monthly publications are:

  • Organization Trends that reports on and analyzes the activities of advocacy organizations;
  • Labor Watch that scrutinises union contributions and activism;
  • Foundation Watch that "examines the grantmaking of private foundations"; and
  • Compassion & Culture which was discontinued in 2009 which highlighted the "work of small, locally based charities that help the needy." [3]

It also publishes Patterns in Corporate Philanthropy, which documents corporate donations to non-profit groups. CRC also host two other projects:

  • Green Watch, which it describes as a project dedicated to "monitoring the leadership, activities and funding of the liberal environmentalist movement"; [4] and
  • Searchlight: "Get the inside scoop: Find information on the philanthropic activities of leading foundations, Fortune 500 companies and non-profits," it claims on its website. [5]

Dangerous Documentaries

CRC creates what the organizations calls "Dangerous Documentaries". A separate "" website says that Dangerous Documentaries "serves as the media arm of the Washington, D.C. based Capital Research Center," "with the mission of spreading the ideas of liberty, including free speech, free markets, individual rights, and open and fair-minded political discourse.[6]

Documentaries include the "America Under Siege" which "investigates the growing influence of revolutionary Marxists and their allies in different sectors of American society."

  • “America Under Siege: Civil War 2017”
While 700,000 protesters are converging on Washington D.C. for Inauguration Day—in addition to anti-Trump rallies planned in dozens of cities across the country—the political groups behind the protests remain shrouded in mystery.
"As Fox News Channel first reported, “Civil War 2017” uncovers an extensive network of neo-Marxist operatives coordinating highly disruptive and potentially violent protests from coast to coast.
  • “America Under Siege: Soviet Islam”
Beginning in the Cold War and continuing through to today, the Kremlin has armed, trained, and supported these Islamists and dictators to advance a frightening goal: subverting their shared American enemy.

CRC Hosts State Labor Reform Conference

Mary Bottari reports in "Bradley Foundation Bankrolls Attacks on Unions" as part of the Bradley Files investigation,

"The “State Labor Reform Conference” on October 4, 2013, was hosted by the Capital Research Center (CRC), bringing together “75 state policymakers, policy researchers and analysts, and activists from 15 states” (Meeting of the Bradley IRA Committee, 11/12/13). The president of CRC is Scott Walter, a former employee of Berman and Company.
The list of participants is a “who’s who” of anti-union activists and organizations funded by Bradley (Meeting of the Bradley IRA Committee, 11/12/13).
[Grover] Norquist was there again and so was Kersey. On a panel called “Coalition and Communication,” PR spin doctor Richard Berman of Berman and Co. was there “representing” his front group Center for Union Facts, discussed further below. Jonathan Williams was there representing the the corporate bill mill, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
Jennifer Butler, VP of External Relations of the State Policy Network (SPN), was there. SPN groups operate as the policy, communications, and litigation arm of ALEC, giving its cookie-cutter bills a sheen of academic legitimacy and state-based support.
In a panel called “Lessons from Wisconsin,” “Wisconsin Secretary of Administration Mike Huebsch, delivered lessons that Wisconsin has learned on labor-policy and public-pension reform and talked about how Wisconsin can be a good model for other states and localities” (Meeting of the Bradley IRA Committee, 11/12/13). Also presenting, Brett Healy of the Bradley-funded MacIver Institute and Jennifer Toftness from Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’ office.
In a panel called “Lessons from Michigan,” F. Vincent Vernuccio, Director of Labor Policy for the Mackinac Center, was featured along with Terry Bowman, from a group called Union Conservatives, and Patrick Colbeck, Republican State Senator from Michigan.
There was also a panel on “Preventing and Responding to Legal Challenges” with Raymond LaJeunesse, VP and Legal Director for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
The final panel, “Beyond Right to Work,” featured newcomer James Sherk from the Heritage Foundation. Sherk has worked on a new strategy to defund unions at the local level, with ALEC-style “right to work” ordinances. He was in Wisconsin in 2015 testifying on behalf of ALEC’s private-sector verbatim “right to work bill” and candidly testified that it would “drive down labor costs,” also known as wages. Sherk recently got a job in the Trump White House as a labor advisor. Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, and Earl Taylor of the Goldwater Institute also presented."[7]

Ties to the Coal Industry

CRC has received large donations from pro-fossil fuel groups like Exxon and the Koch Family Foundations through its Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation.[8] In November 2010, CRC published a report criticizing the Sierra Club for its work in transitioning the US away from coal plants, portraying it as an attack on "American prosperity."[9]

Koch Wiki

The Koch brothers -- David and Charles -- are the right-wing billionaire co-owners of Koch Industries. As two of the richest people in the world, they are key funders of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on the Kochs include: Koch Brothers, Koch Industries, Americans for Prosperity, American Encore, and Freedom Partners.

Ties to the Tobacco Industry

Documents released as a part of the settlement by tobacco companies with U.S. state governments revealed the close relationship between CRC and Philip Morris. See Capital Research Center and the tobacco industry for more details.

A report by CultureWatch described CRC's leadership "reads like a Who's Who of the establishment right."

Ties to Berman and Company

CMD's 2017 expose on the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation revealed that the foundation is helping fund CRC. From the CMD series[3]:

...Bradley funds the “Capital Research Center” to work with Berman on projects. The Center is not part of the Berman operation, but is run by a former Berman employee, Scott Walter. It received $2.5 million from Bradley between 1998-2015.

CRC paid Berman and Company $132,700 in 2016 for "Web, Communications, and Social Media," according to its annual IRS filing.[10]


In April 1995, House Majority Leader Richard Armey wrote on official letterhead to 82 companies warning them that their contributions to non-profit groups helped "support expansion of the welfare state." The companies were selected on the basis of a classification by CRC which ranked Greenpeace as "radical left" and groups such as the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association as "liberal", the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Spokesman for CRC Robert Berkebile explained that the American Cancer Society was classed as 'liberal' because it supported taxes on cigarettes. (It is now known that Philip Morris was funding CRC at the time). The American Lung Association got the same rating because it supported regulations on burning hazardous waste in cement kilns. Monsanto, not known for its support for radical causes, got a "centre-left" tag because it contributed to the Nature Conservancy, amongst others.

Equally interesting is CRC's assessment of who it viewed as the real conservatives. The RAND Corporation was tagged as "center left" while the American Enterprise Institute was designated as in the "center". The true believers, gaining the "conservative" badge of honour were CRC itself, the Center for the Study of American Business, the Chamber Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institution and the Hudson Institute.

The director of the Congressional Accountability Project, Gary Ruskin, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the analysis was more than 'defunding the left' "it's defunding the center, too".

In mid-February 2001, CRC President Terrence Scanlon addressed the 28th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) stating "for the first time we have an opportunity to go after these [liberal nonprofit] groups and take away their federal money."

Conservative News Service (CNS) reported that Scanlon named several organizations that are receiving federal funding including the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). He told the gathering that the "AARP received $73 million in federal grants in 1999, 73 million of your tax dollars went to the AARP. Most of this money came from the Labor Department for job training programs for seniors." [6]

Scanlon had the National Council of Senior Citizens (NCSC) in his sights. NCSC, he said, "were well known four years ago during the Hillary Clinton health care debate when they were lobbying for national health care. Their budget is 96 percent federally funded. If it were not for federal dollars there would be no National Council for Senior Citizens." [7]

In February 2002, CRC's President, Terrence Scanlon signed onto a letter initiated by Edward Feulner from the Heritage Foundation arguing that a "stimulus package that reduces tax rates on workers, investors, and business will mean more jobs, higher incomes, and a stronger America". (The letter carried the curious disclaimer 'organizational affiliations are included for identification purposes only'). [8]

Scanlon has also signed on for other lobbying letters too. In August 2002, Scanlon was a co-signatory to a letter from the Center for Freedom and Prosperity which complained that "we are particularly concerned that the tax code is making it very difficult for U.S based companies to compete in global markets. The corporate tax rate in the United States is much too high and we compound the damage by taxing income U.S. taxpayers earn in other countries". [9]

CRC has also lobbied members of Congress against supporting measures to limit greenhouse gas emissions. In May 2003, on behalf of CRC, Scanlon joined 32 other conservative groups warning against "alarmist statements about climate change and science contained in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's State Department authorization bill". It warned House Committee members against accepting the Senate version of the bill. "The Senate committee findings include exaggerations, misleading statements, out-of-context citations, and reliance on discredited sources," they wrote. [10]


CRC claims that exposing the funding of these groups is important because "sunshine--the glare of public scrutiny--is 'the best of all disinfectants.'" But CRC doesn't seem to think its own hidden agenda should receive public scrutiny. The CRC website does not give any indicator of where it gets its own funding, and it has not responded to queries from PR Watch staff. However, some of CRC's funders are publicly disclosed through IRS filings or other means.


Corporate sponsors


While CRC publications identify corporate funding of what they perceive as liberal non-profit groups, they do not disclose their own corporate sponsors. However, voluntary disclosures and documents revealed as a result of court actions provide a small window into how CRC interacts with corporations. In 2002, ExxonMobil donated $25,000 to the CRC for the Green Watch project with another $25,000 in 2003, according to corporate giving reports no longer available on Exxon's website, but still available via "Capital Research Center and Greenwatch has received $215,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998," and up to 2006, according to ExxonSecrets. [11] According to Exxon's website, the oil company gave another $50,000 in 2007, for "public information and policy research." [12]

Core Finances


  • Total Revenue: $2,990,989
  • Total Expenses: $2,844,996
  • Net Assets: $13,759,125


  • Total Revenue: $2,561,903
  • Total Expenses: $2,030,597
  • Net Assets: $14,254,129


  • Total Revenue: $2,291,002
  • Total Expenses: $1,777,994
  • Net Assets: $15,085,690


  • Total Revenue: $2,404,390
  • Total Expenses: $1,756,451
  • Net Assets: $14,831,662


  • Total Revenue: $2,038,009
  • Total Expenses: $1,678,713
  • Net Assets: $12,940,363


As of March 2018:[17]



Board of Trustees

Former Trustees

Contact Information

Capital Research Center
1513 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
Phone:(202) 483-6900
Fax:(202) 483-6990


IRS Form 990 Filings






  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 David Armiak, ‘Influence Watch’ Website Launched: Berman, ALEC, Heartland Copy CMD’s Site, ExposedbyCMD, December 20, 2017.
  2. Mary Bottari, Bradley Foundation Bankrolls Front Groups of Discredited PR Spin Doctor Richard Berman, ExposedbyCMD, May 9, 2017.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Mary Bottari Bradley Foundation Bankrolls Front Groups of Discredited PR Spin Doctor Richard Berman, CMD, May 9, 2007.
  4. Mary Bottari,, ExposedbyCMD, May 9, 2017.
  5. Michael Hartmann, [Internal Email on CRC Fellowship from Michael Hartmann to Michael Grebe], Bradley Files, March 28, 2016.
  6. Dangerous Documentaries website viewed June 15, 2017.
  7. Mary Bottari, Bradley Foundation Bankrolls Attacks on Unions, ExposedbyCMD, May 8, 2017.
  8. "CRC Funders" Media Matters, accessed November 2010.
  9. "The Sierra Club’s War on Coal" CRC, November 2010.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Capital Research Center, [paper copy on file with CMD 2016 IRS Form 990], "Capital Research Center, November 13, 2017.
  11. "Factsheet: Capital Research Center and Greenwatch,", accessed August 2008.
  12. "Exxon Mobil Corporation: 2007 Worldwide Contributions and Community Investments (pdf),", accessed August 2008.
  13. Capital Research Center, 2015 IRS Form 990, "Capital Research Center, August 1, 2016.
  14. Capital Research Center, 2014 IRS Form 990, "Capital Research Center, Viewed May 8, 2015.
  15. Capital Research Center, 2013 IRS Form 990, "Capital Research Center, Viewed May 8, 2014.
  16. Capital Research Center, 2012 IRS Form 990, "Capital Research Center, Viewed May 10, 2013.
  17. Capital Research Center, About, Capital Research Center, 2017.