Non-profit

Oak Foundation USA

Website:

oakfnd.org

Location:

PORTLAND, ME

Tax ID:

13-3321196

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)-PF

Budget (2015):

Revenue: $1,267,424
Expenses: $23,570,979
Assets: $25,368,133

Formation:

1999

Type:

Environmentalist Grantmaking Foundation

Founder:

Alan M. Parker

The Oak Foundation (and its U.S. affiliate Oak Foundation USA) is a left-leaning environmentalist grantmaking foundation. Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, the Oak Foundation was formed in 1983 and maintains offices in the United States, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Bulgaria, India, Zimbabwe, and Tanzania. [1]

The foundation has funded climate-change-related litigation and environmentalist advocacy groups in Canada, Europe, and the U.S. It has also funded projects supporting the controversial Chinese state-backed infrastructure scheme the Belt and Road Initiative. [2]

Background

The Oak Foundation USA is based in San Francisco, California. The foundation was created around 1999, although the records surrounding its origins are unclear. [3]

The Oak Foundation USA is the American arm of the Oak Foundation headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. An archived page posted by the Swiss-based Oak Foundation lists “Oak Philanthropy Limited” as being incorporated in Jersey, a British-owned part of the Channel Islands located off the French coast near Normandy. [4]

The Geneva-based foundation’s latest annual report discloses that Oak gave more than $350 million in grants in 2018 to groups in 36 countries covering a number of causes, among them some uncontroversial humanitarian issues (like preventing child sex abuse) but also a good number of left-of-center political groups. [5]

The Oak Foundation USA has given out $430 million in grants between 1999 and 2016, according to FoundationSearch. A significant portion of the grants were dedicated to environmentalist and “social justice” causes. [6]

Issue Areas

The Oak Foundation’s “special interest” category of grants covers a wide range of issue areas, which is a mix of genuinely charitable organizations and political activist groups.

Immigration

Oak Foundation USA has funded El Pueblo, Inc., a North Carolina-based Latino voter mobilization and registration organization that agitates against increased enforcement of illegal immigration laws. In 2018, Oak granted $4 million to Human Rights Watch to “counter the anti-rights populist surge” in the U.S. [7]

Environmentalism

A major area of Oak Foundation’s focus is funding climate change activism. The group has funded Greenpeace, the World Resources Institute, Environmental Law Institute, World Wildlife Fund, and other left-of-center environmentalist groups to support the 2015 Paris Climate Accords and push global warming policies. [8] [9]

In 2018, the group gave $1 million to Oil Change International “to align the global energy transition with the goals set in the historic Paris [Climate Accords] by ending public funding of fossil fuels.” A $3 million grant to Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors was paid to promote “climate mitigation efforts.” [10] Another Oak grant to the Brazil-based Instituto Clima e Sociedade is meant to “strengthen Brazilian civil society . . . by supporting the Brazilian Government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” [11]

The Oak Foundation gave a $1 million grant to the Washington, D.C.-based Center for International Environmental Law – whose board includes Matt Pawa and Sharon Eubanks – for climate litigation purposes.

Oak Foundation has given Oceana $16.9 million since 2003, ClimateWorks Foundation $4 million since 2012, Climatecare Foundation USA $3.1 million in 2014, New Venture Fund $2.7 million since 2012, the Natural Resources Defense Council $2.5 million since 2006, the Energy Foundation $2.2 million since 2007, and 350.org $1 million since 2011. [12] [13] In October 2016, Oak also announced a $20 million grant to the Climate Justice Resilience Fund, an environmental project of the left-wing fiscal sponsor group New Venture Fund. [14]

European Climate Foundation

The Oak Foundation is a top funder of the European Climate Foundation. [15] The European Climate Foundation was created in 2008 and is devoted to promote de-carbonization policy in Europe. [16] Although the ECF claims on its website that its grantmaking functions are limited to the European Union, its operations extend into the United States. [17]

ECF’s Global Strategic Communications Service (GSCC), which assists governments, nongovernmental organizations, media, and think tanks in the development of climate communications, crafted to ensure that “each campaign bolsters an over-arching narrative.” [18] GSCC has taken root in the U.S. and the G-20 countries outside of the European Union. Email correspondence obtained through open records requests from the office of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) with Tom Brookes, the executive director of GSCC and a senior adviser to ClimateWorks Foundation, a major Oak Foundation grant recipient, showed GSCC intervention in U.S. policy. [19]

In his correspondence with Inslee’s team, Brookes offered to assist Inslee in possible messaging techniques that could be used to advance Inslee’s environmentalist agenda. An archived version of the ECF website shows that ECF is part of the ClimateWorks Network. According to the website, the network “shares goals, strategies and resources to address the global challenge of climate change mitigation with a global network of aligned organizations.” [20]

Belt and Road Initiative

In 2018, Oak gave $1 million to ClimateWorks Foundation “to support the greening of the Belt and Road Initiative,” a global trade infrastructure project pushed by Chinese leader Xi Jinping to link the communist country with the rest of Eurasia. [21] [22] Oak Foundation has also given grants to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Global Environmental Institute in support of Belt and Road-related activities. [23]

Founder

British-born businessman Alan M. Parker, currently living in Geneva, Switzerland with an estimated net worth of about $2 billion, is the founder and main funder of the Oak Foundation. [24] [25] He was an accountant and key early partner of the Hong Kong-based firm Duty Free Shoppers (today DFS Group) which retails luxury goods in major airports and resorts worldwide. [26] Parker eventually became the CFO of the DFS Group as well as its third largest shareholder. [27] [28]

Besides Parker, another co-founder of Hong Kong-based Duty Free Shoppers was Charles “Chuck” Feeney. Feeney later founded Atlantic Philanthropies, a Bermuda-based foundation that funded the advocacy group Health Care for America Now, one of the drivers of the campaign to pass Obamacare. [29]

According to an October 2012 report by Forbes, Feeney hired Parker, an accountant, in the early 1960s to be a joint owner and “help manage the bootstrapped business more professionally.” [30] In 1997, Feeney and Parker sold their shares in DHS to French multinational LVMH: Feeney for $1.6 billion, Parker for £464 million (or $605.6 million in U.S. dollars). [31] Parker later moved to Geneva, where he now resides and serves as on the Oak Foundation’s board of directors alongside his wife, Jette. In 2014, his net worth was estimated to be $2.34 billion. [32]

Leadership

Douglas Griffiths became president of the Oak Foundation in January 2019. Previously, he was a career Foreign Service Officer, most prominently appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009 to be the U.S. representative to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva and later U.S. Ambassador to Mozambique. [33]

Caroline Turner is board president of the Oak Foundation USA. Turner appears to be the principal and owner of DifferenceWORKS, a for-profit “gender diversity” consultancy. [34]

Oak Foundation vice president Heather Graham is a former Gates Foundation program officer, vice president of Teach For America, program associate for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and President George W. Bush White House fellow. [35]

Kristian Parker – the son of Alan and Jette Parker – runs the foundation’s environmental program from Geneva. Parker has held the position since 1998 and is on the boards of the ClimateWorks Foundation and Oceana, both major recipients of Oak Foundation funding. [36]

References

  1. “Oak Foundation.” Devex. Accessed May 14, 2019. https://www.devex.com/organizations/oak-foundation-54473.
  2. “Grant Database.” Oak Foundation. Accessed May 09, 2019. http://oakfnd.org/grant-database.html.
  3. Oak Foundation. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). 2017. Accessed May 7, 2019.
  4. “Oak Philanthropy Limited – Oak Foundation.” Europa.eu. March 29, 2016. Accessed May 7, 2019. https://web.archive.org/web/20160328232946/https://ec.europa.eu/justice/grants/results/daphne-toolkit/en/content/oak-philanthropy-limited-oak-foundation.
  5. “Annual Report 2018.” Oak Foundation. Accessed May 7, 2019. http://oakfnd.org/assets/oak-foundation-annual-report-2018-1.3.19.pdf.
  6. Data from FoundationSearch: Oak Foundation USA. www.FoundationSearch.com.
  7. Data from FoundationSearch: Human Rights Watch. www.FoundationSearch.com.
  8. Data from FoundationSearch: Oak Foundation USA. www.FoundationSearch.com.
  9. “Grant Database.” Oak Foundation. Accessed May 09, 2019. http://oakfnd.org/grant-database.html.
  10. “Grant Database.” Oak Foundation. Accessed May 09, 2019. http://oakfnd.org/grant-database.html.
  11. “Grant Database.” Oak Foundation. Accessed May 09, 2019. http://oakfnd.org/grant-database.html.
  12. “Grant Database.” Oak Foundation. Accessed May 09, 2019. http://oakfnd.org/grant-database.html.
  13. Data from FoundationSearch: Oak Foundation USA. www.FoundationSearch.com.
  14. “Oak Foundation Launches $20 Million Climate Change Fund.” Philanthropy News Digest (PND). October 10, 2016. Accessed May 09, 2019. https://philanthropynewsdigest.org/news/oak-foundation-launches-20-million-climate-change-fund.
  15. “Funders.” European Climate Foundation. Accessed May 09, 2019. https://web.archive.org/web/20160129171204/https:/europeanclimate.org/people/funders/.
  16. “Vision.” European Climate Foundation. Accessed May 10, 2019. https://europeanclimate.org/mission/vision/.
  17. “Grant Making.” European Climate Foundation. Accessed May 10, 2019. https://europeanclimate.org/mission/grant-making/.
  18. Morena, Edouard. The Price of Climate Action: Philanthropic Foundations in the International Climate Debate. Switzerland: Springer International Publishing, 2016. Accessed May 10, 2019. https://books.google.com/books?id=WDUKDQAAQBAJ&pg=PA106&lpg=PA106&dq=%22each+campaign+bolsters+an+overarching+narrative.%22&source=bl&ots=Ry11ckIiVL&sig=ACfU3U1cqWukBJ2AQ-4p-NcOscdAurmvSQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjN59XshJHiAhWmhOAKHRESAB4Q6AEwAHoECAAQAQ#v=onepage&q=%22each%20campaign%20bolsters%20an%20overarching%20narrative.%22&f=false
  19. Horner, Christopher C. “Government For Rent: How Special Interests Finance Governors to Pursue Their Climate Policy Agenda – Appendix.” Competitive Enterprise Institute. Accessed May 10, 2019. https://cei.org/sites/default/files/Christopher%20Horner%20-%20Government%20for%20Rent%20Appendix.pdf#page=224
  20. “European Relationship Manager – Climate Briefing Service.” EuroBrussels – The Euro Affairs Jobsite. Accessed May 10, 2019. https://web.archive.org/web/20150213213546/https:/www.eurobrussels.com/job_display/100062/European_Relationship_Manager_Climate_Briefing_Service_ECF_European_Climate_Foundation_Brussels_Belgium.
  21. “Grant Database.” Oak Foundation. Accessed May 09, 2019. http://oakfnd.org/grant-database.html.
  22. Wo-lap, Willy Lam. “Getting Lost in ‘One Belt, One Road’.” EJ Insight. April 12, 2016. Accessed May 10, 2019. http://www.ejinsight.com/20160412-getting-lost-one-belt-one-road/.
  23. “Grant Database.” Oak Foundation. Accessed May 09, 2019. http://oakfnd.org/grant-database.html.
  24. Beresford, Philip. “Accountancy Rich List: 10-1.” Economia. Accessed May 14, 2019. https://economia.icaew.com/news/september-2014/accountancy-rich-list-10-1.
  25. Samuels, Christina A. “Oak Foundation Aims to Aid Those With ‘Learning Differences’.” Education Week. February 20, 2019. Accessed May 15, 2019. https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/10/28/oak-foundation-aims-to-aid-those-with.html.
  26. About Oak. Accessed May 14, 2019. http://oakfnd.org/about-oak.html.
  27. “Jette and Alan Parker – Honorary Degree Citation.” Commencement. Accessed May 15, 2019. https://www.colby.edu/commencement/jette-and-alan-parker/.
  28. Beresford, Philip. “Accountancy Rich List: 10-1.” Economia. Accessed May 14, 2019. https://economia.icaew.com/news/september-2014/accountancy-rich-list-10-1.
  29. Smith, Ben. “Funding the left, from Bermuda.” POLITICO. May 17, 2011. Accessed June 08, 2017. http://www.politico.com/blogs/ben-smith/2011/05/funding-the-left-from-bermuda-035903.
  30. Bertoni, Steven. “Chuck Feeney: The Billionaire Who Is Trying To Go Broke.” Forbes. July 22, 2013. Accessed May 10, 2019. https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevenbertoni/2012/09/18/chuck-feeney-the-billionaire-who-is-trying-to-go-broke/#41e4cb4a291c.
  31. “Alan Parker.” The Sunday Times. April 27, 2008. Accessed May 10, 2019. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/alan-parker-ghsqsfdfthh.
  32. “Accountancy Rich List: 10-1.” Economia. Accessed May 10, 2019. https://economia.icaew.com/news/september-2014/accountancy-rich-list-10-1.
  33. Bewig, Matt. “Ambassador to Mozambique: Who Is Douglas Griffiths?” AllGov. Accessed May 10, 2019. http://www.allgov.com/news/appointments-and-resignations/ambassador-to-mozambique-who-is-douglas-griffiths?news=844325.
  34. “About Caroline.” Difference Works. Accessed May 10, 2019. https://difference-works.com/about-us/about-caroline/.
  35. “Heather Graham.” Oak Foundation. Accessed May 10, 2019. http://oakfnd.org/heather-graham.html.
  36. “Kristian Parker.” ClimateWorks Foundation. Accessed May 10, 2019. https://www.climateworks.org/people/kristian-parker/.
  See an error? Let us know!

Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: July 1, 1986

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2015 Dec Form PF $1,267,424 $23,570,979 $25,368,133 $18,287 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2014 Dec Form PF $46,568,914 $29,284,736 $47,556,882 $45,122 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2013 Dec Form PF $8,531,188 $38,672,302 $73,539,978 $622,077 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2012 Dec Form PF $30,362,900 $48,974,639 $94,566,810 $20,000,000 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2011 Dec Form PF $18,619,985 $53,697,646 $91,024,072 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Oak Foundation USA

    511 CONGRESS STREET SUITE 800
    PORTLAND, ME 04101-3482