The Propublica logo (link)


Tax ID:


Tax-Exempt Status:


Budget (2020):

Revenue: $37,513,092
Expenses: $30,208,192
Assets: $58,666,359



ProPublica is an investigative journalist organization which publishes reports on perceived and actual abuses of power by governments, businesses, and other entities. 1 Its database of 9.6 million tax filing 990 documents for non-profits is used frequently by organizations across the political spectrum. 2

It was founded in 2007 with two employees. As of 2019, it has approximately 100 staff. 3

ProPublica has received many awards for its work. The group’s story choices and rhetorical framing appear to indicate a left-leaning bias.


ProPublica’s 2017 revenue reached a record $43,574,038. It spent almost $18.3 million that year and had assets of $37,324,780. Its tax-return-reported 2018 revenue of $26,685,933 was several million dollars less than its annual report-noted $30 million in revenues. 456

ProPublica reports that over 34,000 small donors provided 17 percent of revenue. This was a significant increase in donor dollars and the total number of donors since 2015. Members of the ProPublica Board of Directors provided over $5.5 million in contributions and related grants in 2017. 7

The 2018 revenues gave ProPublica a financial reserve of $25.5 million to start 2019. Its assets totaled $39,894,845 at the end of 2018, according to its 2018 tax returns. 89

ProPublica’s tax returns report that its top 2018 donors included the left-leaning Emerson Collective of Laurene Powell Jobs (in conjunction with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation), The Sandler Foundation, the Kerfuffle Foundation (in conjunction with the donor-advised fund provider Fidelity Charitable), and the health care-focused Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Emerson gave $4.6 million, Sandler gave $3 million, Kerfuffle gave $1 million, and Robert Wood Johnson gave $749,900. 10

The Sandler Foundation provided initial funding for ProPublica, and Foundation founder Herb Sandler was ProPublica’s founding chairman of the Board of Directors until 2016. 11 The Foundation is involved with a number of left-of-center organizations; it helped found the Center for American Progress, and it has provided support for the Sierra Club and the American Civil Liberties Union. 12

Other large donations came from left-leaning sources: investor Donald Sussman, who donated $25 million to support Democrats in the 2018 election cycle, donated $480,100;13 George SorosFoundation to Promote Open Society donated $200,000; and the left-wing advocacy group Solidarity Giving gave $150,000. 14


ProPublica’s mission is to provide influential investigative journalism to call attention to, and create action against, abuse of power. 15 The organization is very critical of the Trump administration. 16 It also reported critically on the Obama administration and the 2012 Obama re-election campaign. 171819 It tends to have a left-leaning perspective in its coverage.

In addition to traditional journalistic vows of objectivity, ProPublica’s code of ethics bans the use of pseudonyms in its work, bans employee short-selling and investment decisions based upon ProPublica work prior to publication, and does not provide political contributions or reimbursement for employee donations. 20


ProPublica’s influence and impact are significant. It has worked with 184 “publishing partners,” from national publications to local news outlets, since its creation, including 59 in 2018. 21 It worked with the New York Times, The Atlantic, National Geographic, and other influential publications in 2017, and has worked with non-media entities such as 22 ProPublica also launched its first state-based affiliate in 2017, and partnered with the Chicago Tribune to create a Local Reporting Network in 2018. 23

In its 2019 first quarter report and its 2018 990, ProPublica outlined dozens of investigative reporting efforts and projects. It claimed credit for holding a number of elected officials and other influential individuals accountable. 2425

ProPublica has received a number of awards for its work, which ranges from traditional written reporting to video and audio reports. It received the Pulitzer gold medal for Public Service in 2017 in partnership with the New York Daily News after investigating nuisance abatement law abused by the New York City police department. It was one of several awards that year. 26 It received multiple Emmy awards in 2019. 27

ProPublica’s 2019 first-quarter report highlighted a number of investigations. It reconstructed the biggest Navy ship accident in history, provided a research-based graphic which showed that the Internal Revenue Service investigates poor minorities for tax purposes more than upper-income Americans and whites, and incidents during which Border Patrol incidents engaged in high-speed chases. 28


Left-Wing Bias

ProPublica Illinois reporter Jason Grotto wrote in 2018 that ProPublica Illinois (and, by association, ProPublica) avoids bias by “stick[ing] with the facts.” 29 However, ProPublica has been accused of having left-wing bias in its coverage choices. Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin (R) made this accusation on Twitter on December 12, 2018, to which ProPublica responded. 30

Potential Herb Sandler Wrongdoing

ProPublica has been accused in op-eds at the Daily Caller and the Washington Examiner of ignoring potential and actual wrongdoing by Herb Sandler and others which fund its reporting. The Sandler family made billions off of adjustable rate mortgages, which were later blamed for part of the Great Recession. 313233

Received Donations from Building a Stronger Future

In December 2022, ProPublica released a memo to staff claiming that it would be returning a $1.6 million grant it had received from Building a Stronger Future, the family foundation of cryptocurrency entrepreneur Sam Bankman-Fried. According to the memo, both ProPublica president and co-CEO Robin Sparkman and editor-in-chief and co-CEO Stephen Engelberg state that the company would be returning the money as it would not, “seem appropriate to keep these funds.” 34 The memo further states that the $1.6 million would be placed into a separate account until it was, “decided by a bankruptcy judge or other legal authority where the money should be returned.” 35 The $1.6 million grant was intended to be the first of several grant donations provided by Building a Stronger Future, intending to total $5 million over a period of three years, for the purpose of investigating, “ongoing questions about the Covid-19 pandemic, biosecurity and public health preparedness.” 36 Other online publications that accepted donations from Building a Stronger Future include Vox Media, Semafor, and The Intercept. 37

In November 2022, Sam Bankman-Fried announced his resignation as CEO of cryptocurrency company FTX, which had filled for bankruptcy that same month after concerns about fraud and the mishandling of customer deposits led millions of customers to withdraw their assets at the same time. FTX’s collapse drained an estimated $1 trillion from crypto-currency markets, and many customers were left unable to withdraw their savings from FTX accounts. 38 In December 2022, Sam Bankman-Fried was arrested in the Bahamas after criminal charges were filed by prosecutors for the Southern District of New York. Charges included eight counts of fraud, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and violations of campaign finance laws. 39 As of January 2023, Sam Bankman-Fried has been extradited to the United States and has pled not guilty to all charges. 40


ProPublica’s leadership is primarily sourced from traditional metropolitan-liberal news media outlets. 414243

Stephen Engleberg is Editor-in-Chief of ProPublica and its founding Managing Editor. He previously founded the investigative reporting unit at the New York Times and is on the Pulitzer Prize Board and the American Society of News Editors Board. He earned $452,284 in 2018.

Richard Tofel was the General Manager of ProPublica from its founding until 2012. He is currently president of the organization and oversees non-journalism managerial operations. He was formerly assistant publisher at the Wall Street Journal, held several positions at Dow Jones, was Vice President and General Counsel at the Rockefeller Foundation, and was President of the International Freedom Center. He earned $436,613 in 2018.

Managing Editor Robin Fields has received numerous top journalism awards and was a nine-year reporter for The Los Angeles Times. Fields earned $291,683 in 2018.

Herbert Sandler was the founding Chairman of ProPublica and was on its Board until his death in 2016.

Paul Steiger is executive chairman of ProPublica’s Board. He was the founding editor-in-chief, CEO, and president until 2012. He was previously managing editor for the Wall Street Journal for 16 years. He is winner of many journalism awards and has served in various senior capacities for journalism-oriented non-profits, including serving as chairman of the Pulitzer Prize Board.

ProPublica’s board chairman is Paul Sagan. He is managing director at venture capital firm General Catalyst. He is director of VMware Inc. and Moderna, Inc. He has held other senior roles in technology and media firms, and was appointed by President Barack Obama to the President’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee.


  1. ProPublica, About, Accessed August 15, 2019.
  2. ProPublica, Non-profit data page, Accessed August 15, 2019.
  3. ProPublica, Staff, Accessed August 15, 2019.
  4. ProPublica, 2018 Annual Report, Accessed August 15, 2019.
  5. ProPublica, 2017 990, Accessed August 15, 2019.
  6. ProPublica, 2018 990, Accessed August 15, 2019.
  7. ProPublica, 2017 990, Accessed August 15, 2019.
  8. ProPublica, 2018 Annual Report, Accessed August 15, 2019.
  9. ProPublica, 2018 990, Accessed August 15, 2019.
  10. Pro Publica, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2018, Schedule B
  11. Richard Tofel, Stephen Engelberg, “The man who made ProPublica possible,” June 5, 2019. Accessed August 15, 2019.
  12. Sandler Foundation, Grants, Accessed August 19, 2019.
  13. Michelle Celarier, “Paloma Partners’ Donald Sussman has a winning 2018,” January 16, 2019. Accessed August 15, 2019.
  14. Pro Publica, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2018, Schedule B
  15. ProPublica, About, Accessed August 15, 2019.
  16. ProPublica, Trump Administration, Accessed August 15, 2019.
  17. Lois Beckett, “Three things we don’t know about Obama’s massive voter database,” March 27, 2012. Accessed August 15, 2019.
  18. Sarah Smit, “Obama isn’t following through on pardons promise, says his former pardons attorney,” March 30, 2016. Accessed August 15, 2019.
  19. Derek Kravitz, Al Shaw, Claire Perlman, “How we compiled Trump Town,” March 7, 2018. Accessed August 15, 2019.
  20. ProPublica, Code of Ethics, Accessed August 15, 2019.
  21. ProPublica, 2018 990, Accessed August 15, 2019.
  22. ProPublica, Partners, Accessed August 15, 2019.
  23. ProPublica, 2018 990, Accessed August 15, 2019.
  24. ProPublica, “January-April 2019 Report to Stakeholders,” Accessed August 15, 2019.
  25. ProPublica, 2018 Form 990, Accessed August 15, 2019.
  26. ProPublica, 2017 Annual Report, Accessed August 15, 2019.
  27. ProPublica, Awards, Accessed August 15, 2019.
  28. ProPublica, “January-April 2019 Report to Stakeholders,” Accessed August 15, 2019.
  29. Jason Grotto, “How do we keep bias out of stories?” March 13, 2018. Accessed August 15, 2019.
  30. ProPublica, Twitter page, December 12, 2018. Accessed August 15, 2019.
  31. Drew Johnson, “Credibility of Pulitzer Prize takes a hit by rewarding ProPublica’s liberal bias,” May 5, 2017. Accessed August 15, 2019.
  32. Ron Arnold, “ProPublica is the left’s biggest muckraker you never heard of,” August 11, 2011. Accessed August 15, 2019.
  33. John Allasio, “Did adjustable rate mortgages cause the 2008 financial crash,” January 13, 2014. Accessed August 15, 2019.
  34. Cockburn. “ProPublica to return SBF cash — will other outlets follow suit?” The Spectator, December 21, 2022.
  35. Cockburn. “ProPublica to return SBF cash — will other outlets follow suit?” The Spectator, December 21, 2022.
  36. Cockburn. “ProPublica to return SBF cash — will other outlets follow suit?” The Spectator, December 21, 2022.
  37. Cockburn. “ProPublica to return SBF cash — will other outlets follow suit?” The Spectator, December 21, 2022.
  38. Yaffe-bellany, David. “Embattled Crypto Exchange FTX Files for Bankruptcy.” The New York Times. The New York Times, November 11, 2022.
  39. Ramey, Corrine, James Fanelli, Dave Michaels, Alexander Saeedy, and Vicky Ge Huang. “FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried Charged with Criminal Fraud, Conspiracy.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, December 15, 2022.
  40. Rogoswami. “Sam Bankman-Fried Pleads Not Guilty to Federal Fraud Charges in New York.” CNBC. CNBC, January 3, 2023.
  41. ProPublica, Staff, Accessed August 15, 2019.
  42. ProPublica, Leadership, Accessed August 15, 2019.
  43. ProPublica, 2018 990, Accessed August 15, 2019.

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Kerry Smith
    Advisory Board Member
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: February 1, 2008

  • 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
    2020 Dec Form 990 $37,513,092 $30,208,192 $58,666,359 $883,526 Y $36,816,824 $77,000 $146,204 $1,260,183
    2019 Dec Form 990 $39,246,884 $28,630,586 $51,252,809 $748,489 Y $37,366,751 $620,950 $515,219 $1,229,154 PDF
    2018 Dec Form 990 $26,685,933 $24,104,461 $40,988,939 $1,094,094 Y $25,576,127 $302,000 $288,025 $1,205,372 PDF
    2017 Dec Form 990 $43,574,038 $18,290,801 $38,070,942 $746,162 Y $43,063,123 $110,000 $52,985 $1,198,715 PDF
    2016 Dec Form 990 $14,545,521 $13,766,881 $12,429,526 $384,259 Y $13,765,153 $340,000 $2,208 $1,281,333 PDF
    2015 Dec Form 990 $17,046,930 $12,461,149 $11,552,064 $285,437 Y $16,882,164 $60,000 $3,919 $1,272,433 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $10,324,275 $11,486,452 $6,865,118 $184,272 Y $10,169,976 $0 $4,176 $1,343,765 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $13,765,467 $10,332,809 $7,938,469 $95,446 Y $13,678,241 $0 $103 $1,338,618 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $10,955,982 $9,884,450 $4,529,443 $119,078 Y $10,920,019 $0 $50 $0 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990 $10,142,780 $9,651,650 $3,591,151 $252,318 Y $10,115,367 $0 $83 $1,552,988 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)


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