Diana Davis Spencer Foundation

The Diana Davis Spencer Foundation is a prominent conservative philanthropic organization known for its significant financial contributions to right-wing causes, including anti-voting rights initiatives.

About Diana Davis Spencer Foundation

The Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, funded by the fortune of investor and former U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland Shelby Cullom Davis, distributes tens of millions of dollars a year to conservative causes.

Diana Davis Spencer – President and Chairman

Diana Davis Spencer is the president and chairman of the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation. She is the daughter of Shelby Cullom Davis and Kathryn W. Davis, who had previously established the Shelby Cullom Davis Foundation in 1962, and the Kathryn W. Davis Foundation in 2004. Those two foundations evolved into the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation. Shelby Cullom Davis was a successful investor, and was previously the U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland, in addition to serving as chair of the Heritage Foundation.

Abby Spencer Moffat – CEO

Abby Spencer Moffat is the daughter of Diana Davis Spencer and currently serves as CEO of the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, overseeing day-to-day operations. Spencer Moffat has served as a trustee of the Heritage Foundation since 2009. As CEO of the DDSF, Spencer Moffat has “built the foundation up to become one of the right’s leading funders,” according to Inside Philanthropy.

Carole A. Featherstone – Chief Financial Officer

Carole Featherstone is the chief financial officer of the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation. According to the DDSF website, Featherstone has worked for the foundation for at least 18 years and began her career as a social worker in South Wales.

The Diana Davis Spencer Foundation has been described as “the biggest pot of conservative money you’ve never heard of.” The DDSF is notably one of the largest donors to the Heritage Foundation and has a long history of being associated with the well-known think tank. Shelby Cullom Davis, Diana Davis Spencer’s father, previously served as chair of the Heritage Foundation’s board. Additionally, DDSF CEO and daughter of Diana Davis Spencer, Abby Spencer Moffat, has been a trustee at the Heritage Foundation since 2009.

DDSF distributes tens of millions of dollars annually. In 2022 alone, it distributed over $82 million to over a hundred organizations. This was a significant increase over 2021, when the organization distributed over $55 million, as well as in 2020, when it distributed over $64 million. The foundation primarily gives to a broad range of conservative causes, including anti-voting rights causes.

Since 2016, the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation has given at least $12 million to the Federalist Society, the influential legal organization co-chaired by conservative activist Leonard Leo. Leo previously was the longtime executive vice president of the Federalist Society. 

In 2015, the DDSF announced a $10 million to the Federalist Society, which at the time was the Federalist Society’s “single largest [contribution] in the institution’s history.” The large sum was allocated for a project that would “spotlight the excesses of the administrative state” and its “stifling of innovation” in the United States. The DDSF later reported a $2 million contribution to the Federalist Society in its 2022 IRS 990 tax filing, marked as “approved for future payment.” Additionally, as of 2024, Diana Davis Spencer serves on the Federalist Society’s Board of Visitors, and her daughter Abby Spencer Moffat is named as a “long-time supporter of the Society.”

In 2020, the DDSF contributed $450,000 to the 85 Fund, a dark money group closely tied to Leo. The contribution was earmarked for the Honest Elections Project, a registered alias of the 85 Fund set up by Leonard Leo that advocates against voting rights. The earmark noted that the funds would to go “election integrity initiatives in various states.”

Since 2018, the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation has given at least $4.385 million to groups supporting voter suppression efforts, including Leonard Leo’s Honest Elections Project, as well as backers of the controversial independent state legislature theory.

Honest Elections Project

Leo’s Honest Elections Project focuses on “election integrity” efforts and has advocated against the expansion of voting rights, and the DDSF grant to Honest Elections Project was specifically earmarked for “election integrity initiatives.”

Lawyers Democracy Fund

Lawyers Democracy Fund, which DDSF gave $900,000 between 2018 and 2021, received money from the foundation, and grants were earmarked for an “election integrity” project. Lawyers Democracy Fund works “closely with the RNC and state legislators to advance anti-voting legislation,” and filed an amicus brief advocating for independent state legislature theory in the Supreme Court case Moore v. Harper. The independent state legislature theory would “give state legislatures nearly unchecked author­ity to gerrymander elect­oral maps and pass voter suppres­sion laws.”

American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)

DDSF also gave $550,000 to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in FY 2020, $440,000 of which was earmarked “to be allocated exclusively toward program expenses for the accurate and verifiable voter rolls.” ALEC’s CEO told a group of legislators that ALEC was outsourcing its election policy recommendations to the Honest Elections Project, which DDSF has also given to.

Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF)

Between 2019 and 2020, DDSF gave the Public Interest Legal Foundation $300,000. The contributions were earmarked for “public interest litigation activities in connection with preserving the constitutional framework of the American elections project” and for “election integrity.” PILF is a conservative legal organization that regularly sues states to attempt to force them to purge voter registration rolls.

Diana Davis Spencer Foundation Giving To Organizations With Donations Earmarked For “Election Integrity” And/Or Voter Education Projects, FYs 2018-2021:

Financial Year Recipient Amount Earmark
2018 Lawyers Democracy Fund $200,000 “LDF election integrity project”
2019 Lawyers Democracy Fund $200,000 “Lawyers Democracy Fund election integrity education project”
2020 Lawyers Democracy Fund $225,000 “2020 election integrity project”
2021 Lawyers Democracy Fund $275,000 “educational initiatives, public interest litigation and nonpartisan policy research activities in connection with its Election Integrity Investment project, which aims to educate the American public on the issues of voting irregularities and electoral system integrity”
2018 American Civil Rights Union $125,000 “one citizen, one vote: a proposal to defend election integrity”
2019 American Civil Rights Union $150,000 “for election integrity programs”
2020 American Civil Rights Union $300,000 “protect elderly and military votes project and voter educational initiatives” 
2020 The 85 Fund (FKA Judicial Education Project) $450,000 “election integrity initiatives in various states”
2020 American Legislative Exchange Council $550,000 “this includes $440,000 to be allocated exclusively toward program expenses for the Accurate and Verifiable Voter Rolls: an American Public Awareness Campaign”
2019 Public Interest Legal Foundation $100,000 “for election integrity programs”
2020 Public Interest Legal Foundation $200,000 “public interest litigation activities in connection with the preserving the constitutional framework of the American elections project” 
2019 Texas Public Policy Foundation $100,000 “for election integrity programs”
2020 Texas Public Policy Foundation $200,000 “the election integrity project”
2020 Thomas More Society $250,000 “for the election integrity initiatives”
2020 Eagle Forum Educational and Legal Defense Fund $200,000 “election integrity project”
2019 Virginia Institute for Public Policy $60,000 “for election integrity programs”
2020 Virginia Institute for Public Policy $100,000 “towards the Tuesday morning group coalition impact and election integrity program” 
2020 Judicial Watch $150,000 “for the election integrity initiatives”
2020 Americans of Faith $100,000 “election integrity project”
2020 FreedomWorks Foundation $400,000 “This includes… $100,000 to be allocated exclusively toward the election integrity program” 
2019 Lucy Burns Institute DBA BallotPedia $50,000 “for general support and the Election Integrity Content Project”
Total:  $4,385,000

The original source of funding for the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation comes from the fortune of Shelby Cullom Davis, who, prior to serving as U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland, was a successful investor. As of 2022, the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation had over $1.2 billion in assets at its disposal.

The Diana Davis Spencer Foundation is one of the largest financial backers of the Heritage Foundation. Between 2016 and 2022, the DDSF gave $12.5 million to the Heritage Foundation and promised another $25 million to be given between 2023 and 2027. Prior to this, the DDSF contributed $26 million to Heritage in 2013 to fund a program called the Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, now known as the Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy.

Diana Davis Spencer Giving To The Heritage Foundation Since 2016:

Financial Year Donation Amount
2016 $5,000,000
2019 $2,500,000
2020 $2,000,000
2021 $1,500,000
2022 $1,500,000
Total:  $12,500,000

 

In addition to Heritage, DDSF has been a major funder of “dark money ATM of the right” DonorsTrust. DonorsTrust acts as a “go-between” for wealthy donors to anonymously give donations to largely “right-leaning, libertarian, and free-market advocates.” Between 2021 and 2022, DDSF’s giving to DonorsTrust doubled from $7 million to $14 million. DonorsTrust has been labeled the biggest beneficiary of Leonard Leo’s dark money entity, the 85 Fund.

Financial Year Donation Amount
1789 Fund $25,000.00
Acadia Repertory Theatre $2,000.00
Acton Academy Foundation $100,000.00
After School All Stars $250,000.00
Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization $45,000.00
American Council of Trustees and Alumni $1,000,000.00
American Strategy Group The (Claremont Strategy Group) $200,000.00
American Swiss Foundation Inc $450,000.00
America’s Future Foundation $200,000.00
Anne Arundel County Public Schools $56,000.00
Army Historical Foundation Inc $150,000.00
Asia America Initiative $350,000.00
Bar Harbor Food Pantry $25,000.00
Becket Fund $150,000.00
Best Friends Foundation $600,000.00
Bethesda Green $150,000.00
Boost Others Inc $50,000.00
Bullis School $100,000.00
Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation $100,000.00
Capital Area Food Bank $150,000.00
Capital Research Center $400,000.00
Caring for Military Families The Elizabeth Dole Foundation $1,030,000.00
Case Western Reserve University $400,000.00
Center for a Secure Free Society (SFS) $3,000.00
Center for Strategic and International Studies $200,000.00
Certell Inc $160,000.00
Chapel Haven Incorporated $10,000.00
Charlotte Lozier Institute aka Susan B Anthony List $1,000,000.00
Children’s National Medical Center $400,000.00
College of the Atlantic $50,000.00
Collegiate Directions Inc $300,000.00
Constituting America $300,000.00
Consumer Action Network $475,000.00
Council for the Advancement of Science Writing $10,000.00
CultureWise Studies Inc $450,000.00
Daily Caller News Foundation $10,000.00
Darrow School $500,000.00
Dartmouth College $300,000.00
DonorsTrust $14,000,000.00
Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen $20,000.00
Encounter for Culture and Education $65,000.00
Enough is Enough $400,000.00
Forge Leadership Network $200,000.00
Foundation Fighting Blindness $1,000,000.00
Foundation for Cultural Review Inc $75,000.00
Foundation for Excellence in Higher Education Inc $1,000,000.00
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education Inc $300,000.00
Free To Choose Network $800,000.00
Freedom Alliance $210,000.00
Friends of Acadia $10,000.00
Fund for American Studies $300,000.00
Gatestone Institute $125,000.00
George Mason University $200,000.00
Gloucester Institute $500,000.00
Heritage Foundation $1,500,000.00
Hillsdale College $2,000,000.00
Hudson Institute $125,000.00
In Series Inc $2,000.00
Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) $1,930,000.00
Informing America Inc $1,500,000.00
Institute for Humane Studies $100,000.00
Institute for Justice $200,000.00
Institute for Responsible Citizenship Inc $500,000.00
Institute for the Study of War $50,000.00
Intercollegiate Studies Institute Inc $30,000.00
Intercollegiate Studies Institute Inc $200,000.00
International Spy Museum $300,000.00
International Student House of Washington DC $25,000.00
Island Connections $5,000.00
Island Housing Trust $50,000.00
Jack Kemp Foundation $75,000.00
Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) $300,000.00
Job Creators Network Foundation $500,000.00
Job Creators Network Foundation $500,000.00
John Jay Institute $75,000.00
Jubilee Jobs Inc $50,000.00
Keystone Service Systems Inc $100,000.00
Land Conservation Assistance Network $75,000.00
Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund $300,000.00
Leadership Institute $250,000.00
Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary $290,000.00
Maine Seacoast Mission $300,000.00
Maplebrook School Inc $400,000.00
Maplebrook School Inc $200,000.00
Masters School $50,000.00
Masters School $20,000,000.00
Media Research Center Inc $2,000,000.00
Media Research Center Inc $50,000.00
Middle East Children’s Institute Inc $50,000.00
Middle East Media and Research Institute Inc $1,000,000.00
Middle East Media and Research Institute Inc $100,000.00
Mount Desert Island Hospital $350,000.00
Mount Desert Island YMCA $25,000.00
Moving Picture Institute $500,000.00
National Fatherhood Initiative $75,000.00
National History Day $100,000.00
National Park Trust Inc $260,000.00
National Taxpayers Union Foundation $200,000.00
National Trust for Historic Preservation $15,000.00
Network of Enlightened Women Inc $150,000.00
Northeast Harbor Library $40,000.00
Operation Opportunity Foundation DBA The Warrior Scholar Project $300,000.00
Operation Recovery $50,000.00
Our Community Salutes USA $700,000.00
Our Community Salutes USA $100,000.00
Pacific Legal Foundation $150,000.00
Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy $100,000.00
Parents Defending Education $150,000.00
Parliamentary Intelligence-Security Forum $100,000.00
Plimoth Patuxet Museum Inc aka Plimoth Plantation Inc $400,000.00
PragerUniversity Foundation $300,000.00
Republic Book Publishers $150,000.00
Samaritan’s Purse $75,000.00
Samaritan’s Purse $75,000.00
Shalem Foundation $200,000.00
Sibley Memorial Hospital Foundation $100,000.00
Sister States of Maryland $200,000.00
Smithsonian Institution FBO Smithsonian Women’s Committee $20,000.00
Society of Mayflower Descendants of New York $5,000.00
Society of the Four Arts $25,000.00
Speech First Inc $250,000.00
Steamboat Institute $100,000.00
Suburban Hospital Foundation Inc $250,000.00
Success Academy Charter School $10,000.00
Teneo Network Inc $500,000.00
Texas A&M University $7,000,000.00
The Institute for Family Studies $100,000.00
The Jackson Laboratory $150,000.00
The National World War II Museum $50,000.00
Tim Tebow Foundation $2,500,000.00
Trust for the National Mall $50,000.00
U.S. Foundation for the Commemoration of the World Wars $250,000.00
V5Initiative Inc $200,000.00
Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation Inc $900,000.00
Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation Inc $10,000.00
Washington Tennis & Education Foundation Inc $200,000.00
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars $400,000.00
Young Americans Against Socialism $150,000.00
Total:  $82,523,000.00

 

Source: Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, 2022 IRS Form 990

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