Atlantic Philanthropies, primarily based in Bermuda, are a collection of principally overseas private foundations founded by businessman Charles “Chuck” Feeney in 1982. Due to technicalities of American foundation law, since it is organized offshore Atlantic Philanthropies is permitted to fund 501(c)(4) advocacy activities, which American-based foundations cannot.
In the 2016 election, Atlantic Philanthropies provided substantial support to the Civic Participation Action Fund, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit supporting Democratic Party candidates including presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Atlantic Philanthropies has completed its grantmaking and is on track to officially close its doors by 2020.
Chuck Feeney established the Atlantic Philanthropies in 1982. Raised in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Feeney served as a radio operator in the Air Force and attended Cornell University on the G.I. Bill. In 1960, he and a partner set up Duty Free Shoppers. In 1984, Feeney transferred all of his financial assets, including his 38.75 percent ownership of the duty-free business, to Atlantic Philanthropies.
Controversially, Feeney personally intervened in negotiations to end the conflict between Catholic Irish Republicans and Protestant British Loyalists in Northern Ireland in the 1990s. Feeney personally met with Catholic, left-wing Sinn Fein party leader Gerry Adams in 1993 and provided financial support to the Friends of Sinn Fein, a group that was aligned with the terrorist Provisional Irish Republican Army. (Reports he had funded the PIRA directly were debunked as false.) John Healy, who headed the Atlantic Philanthropies at the time, was skeptical of these backchannel efforts: He thought that there “were serious implications for the founder of a major philanthropic foundation having dealings with the head of an organization regarded as the mouthpiece of a terrorist group by the U.S., British, and Irish governments.”
The Atlantic Philanthropies is the collective entity that encompasses the Atlantic Foundation, the Atlantic Finance Company Limited, the Atlantic Advocacy Fund, the Atlantic Foundation of New York, the Atlantic Charitable Trust, the Mangrove Foundation, and the Bridge Charitable Trust. The Atlantic Foundation of New York was liquidated at the end of 2015. Together, these organizations share the same charitable objectives and finances.
In addition to these nonprofit organizations, Atlantic is comprised of the corporation General Atlantic Group Limited (GAGL) and its subsidiary, Exeter Associates Limited, both of which are Bermuda-based corporations involved in real estate development.
In 1997, Feeney was forced to reveal his funding for Atlantic. Feeney’s financial support was disclosed in legal documents to sell his interest in the Duty Free Shoppers company. The sale resulted in an influx of $1.6 billion to the foundation’s assets.
In 2002, it was announced that the Atlantic Philanthropies would transition to a limited-life foundation, spending down its complete endowment and closing its doors by 2020. Atlantic completed its last year of grantmaking in 2016 and will no longer award new grants.
At the end of 2015, Atlantic Philanthropies’ net assets totaled $826 million, with $562 million already committed to grantees. Atlantic has awarded over $8 billion in grants over the last 35 years.
Atlantic is a major foundation providing support to international left-wing advocacy organizations. Other philanthropic areas of interest include aging, children and youth, health, human rights and reconciliation, and knowledge, research, and innovation.
Atlantic Philanthropies focuses on a total of eight global regions for its grants, including the United States, Australia, Bermuda, Cuba, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, South Africa, and Vietnam.
The Philanthropies are involved in left-of-center politics throughout its areas of operation. In the United States, Atlantic takes advantage of weak restrictions on the funding of 501(c)(4) advocacy groups by offshore foundations, most notably through spending in the 2016 general elections via the Civic Participation Action Fund. Atlantic reportedly provided the group with $50 million in support. The group was also a key funder of Health Care for America Now, a left-wing 501(c)(4) organization that pushed for Obamacare and further government control of American healthcare.
Atlantic Philanthropies has also substantially funded groups supporting increased immigration to the United States and promoting closer relations with Communist-ruled Cuba. Atlantic Philanthropies is involved in advancing the progressive movement abroad: Irish advocates for legal recognition of same-sex unions reportedly received up to $17 million from Atlantic over a ten-year period that culminated in a successful referendum.
Grantees have included the following organizations:
- Global Brain Institute
- Social Change Initiative
- Cornell University
- The London School of Economics and Political Science
- Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors
- Health Equity South Africa
- American Civil Liberties Union
- Civic Participation Action Fund
- Reach Vietnam
- UCSF Foundation
- Trinity Foundation
- The Rhodes Trust
Between 2007 and 2015, Atlantic Philanthropy’s 501(c)(4) Atlantic Advocacy Fund provided a series of grants toward several Tides Advocacy projects and policy initiatives, totaling $42,617,750 (a number provided by Atlantic Philanthropies based on conversion rates of different currencies into U.S. dollars at the time of grant disbursement). 
|Atlantic Advocacy Fund Grants to Tides Advocacy Projects|
|Projects and Initiatives||Grants||Descriptions|
|Alliance for Citizenship||$5,950,000||“To support advocacy work to secure comprehensive immigration reform”|
|Vote Safe: Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act||$850,000||“To enact sentencing reform in California through a ballot initiative that would reduce incarceration levels and penalties for low-level crimes and thereby improve the criminal justice system”|
|Fund for Fair and Just Policing||$2,200,000||“To reform the stop and frisk practices of the New York Police Department by winning the appeals of the End Discriminatory Profiling Act and the Floyd and Ligon v the City of New York court decisions and by implementing the court-ordered Joint Remedial Process”|
|Reform Immigration For America (RIFA)||$5,000,000||“To use Reform Immigration for America’s online grassroots organizing capacity to ensure policymakers at the state and federal levels are attuned to Latino voting power and its immigration policy objectives”|
|National Latino Engagement Action Fund||$700,000||“To advance a strategy that increases Latino voter registration and mobilization”|
|Social Security Works||$100,000||“To organize a pledge campaign to hold members of U.S. Congress and candidates accountable to low-income families on Social Security reform”|
|Supporting State Strategies to Abolish the Death Penalty||$3,353,000||“To nurture and advance state campaigns to abolish the death penalty around the US by providing resources to a donor collaborative fund for regranting to state campaigns”|
|Environment and Climate Action Fund||$2,500,000||“To support advocacy efforts for climate, energy, and other environmental policy reform”|
|Enacting Immigration Reform||$3,500,000||“To provide continued support (support for 2010 campaign) for the federal campaign to reform immigration policy”|
|Keeping Social Security’s Promise||$2,700,000||“To ensure the protection of Social Security benefits for low- and moderate-income older adults, children and families through Strengthen Social Security, an aggressive, time-limited national campaign directed at the President, federal lawmakers and members of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility”|
|Voter Engagement Technology||$250,000||“To support citizen engagement technology and technical assistance to assist policy campaigns and civic participation efforts”|
|Social Security Policy Planning||$200,000||“To explore the possibility of a consensus for Social Security reform”|
|Voting Modernization/Universal Voter Registration||$250,000||“To promote federal legislation that would shift the burden to state governments to affirmatively add voters to the voting rolls by assembling existing lists rather than placing the burden on individual voters”|
|Social Security Reform Campaign to Protect Low-Income Individuals||$1,555,000||“Towards Phase I (Activate Preparation) - To support a campaign focusing attention on the needs of low-income individuals in the forthcoming reform of Social Security”|
|Four Pillars Campaign for Immigration Reform||$5,259,750||Field and Policy Pillars: “To support the strategic field and policy components of the federal effort to enact immigration reform by establishing a regranting and technical capacity delivery fund”|
|We Are America Alliance Action Fund||$5,750,000||“To empower immigrant communities throughout the U.S. through support for a collaborative citizenship and voter registration initiative”|
|Eldercare Workforce Alliance||$1,000,000||“To implement the Institute of Medicine report on workforce issues for an ageing America by activating a broad-based coalition to advocate for public policy changes”|
Board and Key Staff
According to Atlantic’s website, Charles Feeney serves as the Founding Chair of the board. Other board members include:
- William W. Hall – is the Chair of Medical Microbiology, School of Medicine and Director of the Centre for Research into Infectious Diseases, at University College Dublin.
- Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot – Serves as Deputy Chair. Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
- Thomas N. Mitchell – Serves as Deputy Chair. Former Provost of Trinity College Dublin.
- Peter Smitham – Serves as Chairman. Former partner and chairman of Permira Partners Ltd., a leading global private equity fund manager.
Christopher G. Oechsli – Serves as President and Chief Executive Officer. He has held this role since June 2011. Former associate fellow and project director at the Institute for Policy Studies and served as counsel to former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin).