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.

Funding

Causes that Arnold Ventures have donated to include the coronavirus-oriented Fast Grants initiative, which is operated by George Mason University’s Mercatus Center. [3]

Arnold Ventures have given grants to a number of climate change and environmentalist initiatives. [4] These include:

RecipientAmountYear(s)
The Niskanen Center$1,000,0002019-2022
Climate Leadership Council$2,766,0002019-2021
Clean Air Task Force$1,000,0002019-2021
Citizens Climate Education Corp.$1,000,0002019-2021
ClearPath Action Fund For Conservative Clean Energy$1,000,0002019-2021
American Council for Capital Formation$50,0002019-2020
The Niskanen Center$600,0002017-2019
The Aspen Institute$200,0002019
Nuclear Innovation Alliance$543,4292017-2019
George Mason University Foundation$400,0002017-2019
Energy Innovation Reform Project$1,000,0002017-2019
Climate Leadership Council$1,500,0002017-2019
Clean Air Task Force$1,449,2922017-2019
Citizens Climate Education Corp.$1,000,0002017-2019
Citizens Climate Education Corp.$50,0002019
ClearPath Inc.$2,000,0002019-2021
The Energy Foundation$4,200,0002017-2020
Environmental Defense Fund$2,500,0002019-2020
Environmental Defense Action Fund$200,0002019-2020
Bipartisan Policy Center Action$100,0002019-2020
Citizens' Climate Lobby$600,0002019-2020
Citizens For Responsible Energy Solutions$50,0002019-2020
Total:$23,208,721

Biden Community Violence Intervention Collaborative

In June 2021, the Biden administration announced a program to combat rising gun violence and violent crime using a collaborative composed of government and nonprofit organizations funding community violence intervention (CVI) measures. Arnold Ventures was one of the only for-profit contributors to the collaborative. Other funders include California Endowment, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, and the Kellogg Foundation. Foundations that also fund the initiative include the Kresge Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Emerson Collective, the Heising-Simons Foundation, George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies. CVI strategies “act as an alternative to heavy-handed policing” by focusing its efforts on the minority of citizens who are perpetrators or targets of violent crime. CVI treats violence as a communicable disease rather than a violent crime and attempts to stop the “spread” of violence. [5]

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/ ^
  3. Buck, Stuart. “How Philanthropy Could Embrace More High-Risk, High-Reward Projects.” Inside Philanthropy, September 9, 2020. https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2020/9/9/how-philanthropy-could-embrace-more-high-risk-high-reward-projects. ^
  4. “Grants Search.” Arnold Foundation. Accessed February 15, 2021. https://www.arnoldventures.org/grants-search/?topics=Climate%2520and%2520Clean%2520Energy&years=2019. ^
  5. Rojc, Philip. “Backing Up Biden: Grantmakers Get Behind a New Federal Anti-Violence Collaborative.” Inside Philanthropy. Inside Philanthropy, July 6, 2021. https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2021/7/1/backing-up-biden-grantmakers-get-behind-a-new-federal-anti-violence-collaborative?utm_source=Funding%2BNews%2B%26%2BTips&utm_campaign=f22df871f4-newsletterdaily&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c776dbf0df-f22df871f4-95098585. ^
  See an error? Let us know!