For-profit

Arnold Ventures

Website:

www.arnoldventures.org

Formation:

2019

Type:

For-Profit Grantmaking Company

Philanthropists:

John Arnold and Laura Munoz

Arnold Ventures is a for-profit philanthropy. For more information, see the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (Nonprofit)

Arnold Ventures is a center-left philanthropy founded in early 2019 by liberal donors Laura and John Arnold. Arnold Ventures is a for-profit limited liability company (LLC) and its creation represents a departure from their existing philanthropy, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, which makes regular grants to center-left nonprofits.

Background

In January 2019, John and Laura Arnold announced that they would form a limited-liability company called Arnold Ventures LLC, designed to more proactively achieve “social change.” The new organization was intended to replace three existing Arnold-funded grantmaking groups: the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, a separate donor-advised fund associated with the Arnolds, and a 501(c)(4) lobbying nonprofit called the Action Now Initiative. As a private company, Arnold Ventures does not file IRS Form 990 reports and faces fewer restrictions on political activity; as such, it has greater flexibility in where it can spend along with greater secrecy for its donors. According to a 2019 Chronicle of Philanthropy article, the Arnold Foundation’s president, Kelli Rhee, was to have some role within the firm, focusing particularly on “criminal justice, health, public education, and public finance.: [1]

Criticism

“Dark Money” and No Accountability

Arnold Ventures has been criticized conservative philanthropy expert William Schambra for “circumvent[ing] the array of institutions through which Americans have traditionally pursued change” by shifting the Arnolds’ $2 billion wealth from an array of nonprofits, which have a high degree of public disclosure and transparency, to a private company which is not required to publicly disclose its finances. Noting Laura Arnold’s “‘laws are made for little people’ attitude,” Schambra wrote: [2]

Classifications like (c)(3) and (c)(4) only get in the way of our appetite, with their niggling and constraining guidelines and regulations. Rather than play by the rules others must follow—possibly because their appetite for change isn’t matched by their treasure—let’s just go directly for what we want, and let our lawyers and accountants sort out the billing after the fact.

As much as I share her [Laura Arnold’s] disdain for bureaucratic strictures, in this instance, she displays something of a “laws are made for little people” attitude. The rules governing activities that can be legally pursued by (c)(3), (c)(4), and other tax entities exist because they are ways we’ve chosen, as a democracy, to encourage and channel charitable giving and political activism. The legal reporting required for these categories, as annoying as it is, is how our democracy ensures that giving and political activity remain visible and accountable to the public. (It’s also the way politics and charity are meant to be kept separate and distinct, by the way.) Insofar as the LLC form allows donors to treat the categories as just so many rooms for a tiresome accounting game of hide-and-seek—the view that Arnold seems to take here—we may come to regret the growing popularity of that form among those with the largest appetites for change.

References

  1. Gose, Ben. “John and Laura Arnold Join Other Billionaires in Move Away From Traditional Philanthropy.” The Chronicle of Philanthropy. January 28, 2019. Accessed January 30, 2019. https://www.philanthropy.com/article/JohnLaura-Arnold-Join/245557?cid=pw&utm_source=pw&utm_medium=en&elqTrackId=3746a4e54a4f41f3b66fdf6ab3a8668f&elq=9af8f9b3e3854e37867a88ead5c70d7a&elqaid=22092&elqat=1&elqCampaignId=10827. ^
  2. William A. Schambra. “Laura Arnold adds to institutional philanthropy’s promotion of progressivism.” Philanthropy Daily. February 3, 2020. Accessed June 23, 2020. https://www.philanthropydaily.com/laura-arnold-adds-to-institutional-philanthropys-promotion-of-progressivism/ ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Laura Arnold
    Philanthropist
  2. John D. Arnold
    Philanthropist
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