Searle Freedom Trust

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The Searle Freedom Trust (SFT), formerly called the D&D Foundation, is a conservative 501(c)(3) private foundation, consisting of wealth inherited from pharmaceutical G.D. Searle & Company, which created the artificial sweetener aspartame marketed as "NutraSweet" and is now part of Pfizer. Daniel C. Searle formed the trust in 1988 in order to back his ideas as a "free enterprise conservative," according to former board member Howard J. Trienens. The foundation funds Americans for Prosperity, the American Enterprise Institute, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Heartland Institute, State Policy Network, and many other right-wing groups. Kimberly O. Dennis is its executive director.[1] The trust describes itself as intending to "foster research and education on public policy issues that affect individual freedom and economic liberty."[2]

Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council

Searle Freedom Trust gave $125,000 to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in 2011.[1] The organization has funded the research and publication of several editions of ALEC's Rich States, Poor States: ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index report (see each year's grants below for more).[3]

About ALEC
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's, and check out breaking news on our site.

Ties to DonorsTrust, a Koch Conduit

DonorsTrust is considered a "donor-advised fund," which means that it divides its funds into separate accounts for individual donors, who then recommend disbursements from the accounts to different non-profits. Funds like DonorsTrust are not uncommon in the non-profit sector, but they do cloak the identity of the original donors because the funds are typically distributed in the name of DonorsTrust rather than the original donors.[4] Very little was known about DonorsTrust until late 2012 and early 2013, when the Guardian and others published extensive reports on what Mother Jones called "the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement."[5][6]

Americans for Prosperity, an organization founded and funded by the Koch brothers, received nearly $9.5 million from DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund from 2010 to 2012.[7]

DonorsTrust Funding

The Searle Freedom Trust contributed $3,636,000 to DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund between 2009 and 2013 (see links to the foundation's IRS forms 990 below).

A report by the Center for Public Integrity exposes a number of DonorsTrust funders, many of which have ties to the Koch brothers. One of the most prominent funders is the Knowledge and Progress Fund, a Charles Koch-run organization and one of the group's largest known contributors, having donated nearly $9 million from 2005 to 2012. Other contributors known to have donated at least $1 million to DonorsTrust include the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, Donald & Paula Smith Family Foundation, Searle Freedom Trust, Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and the John M. Olin Foundation.[8]

Since its inception in 1999, DonorsTrust has been used by conservative foundations and individuals to discretely funnel nearly $400 million to like-minded think tanks and media outlets.[8] According to the organization's tax documents, in 2011, DonorsTrust contributed a total of $86 million to conservative organizations. Many recipients had ties to the State Policy Network (SPN), a wide collection of conservative state-based think tanks and media organizations that focus on shaping public policy and opinion. In 2013, the Center for Media and Democracy released a special report on SPN. Those who received DonorsTrust funding included media outlets such as the Franklin Center and the Lucy Burns Institute, as well as think tanks such as SPN itself, the Heartland Institute, Illinois Policy Institute, Independence Institute, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, South Carolina Policy Council, American Legislative Exchange Council, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, and the Cascade Policy Institute.[9]







Another major industry-connected right wing organization that received donations from the Searle Freedom Trust in 2011 was the Philanthropy Roundtable, which received $100,000.[2]


Other Searle Freedom Trusts grantees in 2010 included a veritable who's who of right wing organizations and causes:[1]





As of July 2017:[16]

  • Kimberly O. Dennis, President and CEO
  • Courtney Myers, Program Officer
  • Richard Tren, Program Officer
  • Gerard Alexander, Consultant
  • Jennifer Eakle, Office Manager

Board of Trustees

As of 2015:[10]

  • D. Gideon Searle, Trustee
  • Kinship Trust Company, Trustee

Contact Information

Searle Freedom Trust
1055 Thomas Jefferson St., NW, Suite L 26
Washington, DC 20007
Phone: 202-375-7820

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch Articles

External Resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Searle Freedom Trust, 2010 Form 990, organizational IRS filing, November 15, 2011.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Searle Freedom Trust, 2011 Form 990, organizational IRS filing, November 21, 2012.
  3. American Legislative Exchange Council, Rich States, Poor States: ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index, organizational report, July 2012.
  4. Rebekah Wilce, A Reporters' Guide to the "State Policy Network" -- the Right-Wing Think Tanks Spinning Disinformation and Pushing the ALEC Agenda in the States,, April 4, 2013.
  5. Andy Kroll, Exposed: The Dark-Money ATM of the Conservative Movement, Mother Jones, February 5, 2013.
  6. Suzanne Goldenberg, "Secret funding helped build vast network of climate denial thinktanks," The Guardian, February 14, 2013.
  7. Center for Media and Democracy, DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund Grant Recipients,, accessed December 2014.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Paul Abowd, Donors use charity to push free-market policies in states, Center for Public Integrity, February 14, 2013.
  9. Donors Trust,, IRS form 990, 2011.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Searle Freedom Trust, 2015 IRS 990-PF, Searle Freedom Trust, November 22, 2016.
  11. Searle Freedom Trust, 2014 IRS 990-PF, Searle Freedom Trust, November 24, 2015.
  12. Searle Freedom Trust, 2013 IRS Form 990, tax filing, November 24, 2014.
  13. Searle Freedom Trust, 2012 IRS Form 990, tax filing, November 27, 2013.
  14. Tom Philpott, The Making of an Agribusiness Apologist, Mother Jones, February 24th, 2012.
  15. Searle Freedom Trust 2006 Form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, accessed November 20, 2013.
  16. Searle Freedom Trust, Contact Us, foundation's website, accessed 2017.