The Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation (STBF) is one of the charitable entities associated with billionaire Berkshire Hathaway investor Warren Buffett, who funds the Foundation. Founded in 1964 as the Buffett Foundation, STBF was later renamed for Warren’s late first wife Susan, whose estate granted the Foundation over $2 billion.
Today, the Foundation is the third-largest private independent foundation by grants paid as of 2013, behind the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Ford Foundation. In 2014, STBF made $534,484,849 in total grants and contributions. According to the Foundation Center, it is the 15th-largest foundation overall by grants paid as of 2014.
The Foundation is a quiet but massive financial supporter of pro-abortion activities and population control. It is reportedly the largest non-governmental funder of “reproductive health and family planning,” including substantial investments in abortion and contraceptives, worldwide. One estimate found that STBF had given over $1.2 billion to organizations which advocate for pro-abortion policy, perform elective abortions, or helped develop the chemical abortion pill RU-486. As of 2012, STBF had provided nearly $300 million to the controversial abortion clinic network Planned Parenthood and its national headquarters, Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA).
The foundation is chaired by Buffett’s daughter, Susie. Susie Buffett’s ex-husband, Allan Greenberg, serves as STBF president. Warren Buffett and Susan Thompson Buffett’s estate are the principal funders of STBF, and the Foundation has been characterized as “secretive” for its non-transparent grant solicitation practices. As of 2015, STBF was an institutional partner in the left-of-center donor convening Democracy Alliance.
The Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation was founded in 1964 by investor Warren Buffett, reportedly to address Buffett’s “Malthusian dread” of population growth among the global poor. Buffett and his longtime business partner Charlie Munger were also involved in other pro-abortion activities: Before the Roe v. Wade decision that mandated legal abortion throughout the United States, Buffett and Munger operated a nominal “church” which facilitated travel for pregnant women to places where abortions were available.
Through its early years, the STBF provided support for litigation seeking to overturn bans on the “partial-birth” late-term abortion procedure. The group funded lawsuits that successfully overturned a partial-birth abortion ban in Warren Buffett’s home state of Nebraska. (A subsequent federal prohibition was upheld by the Supreme Court.)
The Foundation was originally secondary in Buffett-aligned giving, trailing the corporate giving of Buffett’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, which also supported pro-abortion and population control groups. That changed in the early 2000s after protests by pro-life groups brought controversy to Berkshire Hathaway’s business operations and Buffett’s semi-estranged first wife, Susan, died.
After Susan’s death, Warren Buffett stood down from the Foundation’s board and his daughter Susie took over as board chair. Susan Buffett’s estate bequeathed the Foundation approximately $2.5 billion, and the Buffett Foundation was renamed in her honor.
In 2006, Warren announced that he would contribute most of his then-estimated $44 billion fortune (now estimated at over $78 billion) to a number of philanthropic efforts. While the most prominent pledge went to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Buffett also made substantial pledges to four foundations controlled by his children: The NoVo Foundation, the Sherwood Foundation, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, and the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation.
Pro-Abortion and Reproductive Policy Programs
The Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation’s primary focus is grantmaking related to population control, pro-abortion advocacy, and developments in contraceptive technology and abortion provisions. The organization is quiet about this activity; Inside Philanthropy notes that “the foundation’s website is simply dedicated to teacher awards programs and scholarship opportunities for students attending public universities in Nebraska, both minor slices of the foundation’s grantmaking.”
Regardless of STBF’s relative quiet about its pro-abortion and related reproductive grantmaking, the organization is one of the most substantial nongovernmental funders of pro-abortion activities in the United States and the world. STBF has been called the “900-pound gorilla” of “reproductive health and women’s rights” grantmaking. Estimates of STBF’s annual “pro-choice” giving exceed $115 million as of 2011. The Media Research Center, a conservative media criticism group, estimated that STBF had contributed $1.23 billion to pro-abortion groups from 2001 through 2012, an increase from the $21 million contributed from 1989 to 1996.
Reproductive Health and Abortion Grantmaking
The Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation is a major funder of the largest organizations advocating for abortion rights and performing abortion procedures. The conservative Media Research Center calculated that STBF had provided $289 million to Planned Parenthood groups from 2001 through 2012.
Tax records from 2014 show that STBF provided $40,620,507 to the national group Planned Parenthood Federation of America with an additional $7,250,000 directed to PPFA’s 501(c)(4) lobbying and advocacy arm, Planned Parenthood Action Fund. Local and regional arms of Planned Parenthood also received substantial contributions.
Another recipient of major financial support from STBF is the U.S. supporting organization for international abortion and contraception provider Marie Stopes International. STBF’s 2014 tax return reports $27,988,937 in contributions paid to MSI-US, the American supporting organization for Marie Stopes International. In 2015, those MSI-US received even more money from STBF, with tax records showing total grants of $52,498,699 to the organization.
The Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation is a major funder of the National Abortion Federation (NAF) “Hotline Fund.” NAF is the professional association of abortionists, and the Hotline Fund operates a national telephone resource that refers callers to abortion providers. STBF provided the NAF Hotline Fund with $25,479,786 in 2014, which amounted to 93.1 percent of NAF Hotline Fund’s expenditures for that year.
Other notable recipients of STBF’s grantmaking in the reproductive health and abortion field include Population Services International, which distributes contraception internationally; state and national 501(c)(3) affiliates of the NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation; RH Reality Check, a pro-abortion news website; Physicians for Reproductive Health, an abortion-rights advocacy group; and the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion think tank.
STBF is a key funder of organizations promoting dissent among professed Roman Catholics against the Church’s opposition to elective abortion: STBF reported making $3,002,690 in grants in 2015 to Catholics for Choice (CfC), a purportedly Catholic pro-abortion group, equivalent to 87 percent of CfC’s reported expenditures for that year. STBF also funded a dissident Catholic pro-abortion advocacy organization in Mexico, reporting a contributions of $1,944,416 to Catolicas por el Derecho a Decidir (Catholics for the Right to Choose).
Abortion and Contraception Funding Programs
Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation funding has had a substantial impact on abortion and contraception policy in the United States and abroad. In the 1990s, STBF (then the Buffett Foundation) funded litigation opposing bans on the controversial late-term abortion procedure known as “partial-birth” abortion. STBF has also quietly funded medical fellowships for prospective abortion providers, reportedly bringing abortion into the highest levels of academic medicine.
STBF was one of the key funders of the development of and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for the abortifacient drug mifepristone, known as RU-486. Alongside the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Open Society Institute (now the Open Society Foundations) of billionaire left-wing currency trader George Soros, the then-Buffett Foundation provided grants to the Population Council, a pro-abortion family planning group, to assist Danco Laboratories with the development, marketing, and distribution of RU-486.
More recently, STBF was credited with promoting the adoption of the intrauterine device (IUD) method of artificial contraception. STBF quietly funded research into the devices, funded state-level programs to encourage the use of IUDs in Iowa and Colorado, and funded the creation of newer, less expensive IUDs.
STBF has also been credited with backing up pro-abortion arguments at the Supreme Court through funding research to undermine conservative-backed pro-life legislation. In Texas, STBF provided over $4.5 million to University of Texas researchers who were seeking to overturn the state’s HB 2 abortion regulations; the STBF funding was reportedly the sole source of funding to the Texas Policy Evaluation Project.
Other Left-of-Center Grantmaking
While abortion, contraception, and population control groups receive the majority of the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation’s public policy grants, the group does fund other organizations on the broader left. STBF is a major funder of the New Venture Fund, a left-wing project incubator which works on numerous issues, including pro-abortion issues. The Tides Center, NEO Philanthropy, and Citizen Engagement Lab Education Fund, other left-wing project incubators, also received STBF grants in 2015.
STBF is a major funder of the liberal legal policy movement, which advocates for the continued expansion of abortion rights through litigation. The Alliance for Justice, a group involved in judicial confirmation debates, received $997,366 from STBF in 2015. State and national arms of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) also receive funding from the Foundation.
Other liberal public policy education and advocacy groups which have received STBF grants include Media Matters for America, Progressive Congress, and state and national groups associated with the ProgressNow network.
The foundation has been funded principally by the estate of Susan Thompson Buffett and continued gifts from Warren. From 2011 through 2015, Warren Buffett contributed over $930 million to the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation. Additional contributions came from J. William Scott, the first employee of Berkshire Hathaway.
Susie Buffett, Warren’s daughter, has chaired the foundation since 2004. She also chairs the Sherwood Foundation and Buffett Early Childhood Fund, other Buffett family philanthropies. Inside Philanthropy rated Susie Buffett “the most powerful woman in U.S. philanthropy” other than Melinda Gates.
Susie’s ex-husband, Allen Greenberg, is president of STBF. Before meeting Susie Buffett, Greenberg was an attorney for the Ralph Nader-founded left-wing advocacy group Public Citizen. Before taking over operation of the then-Buffett Foundation, Greenberg worked as a legislative counsel to then-U.S. Representative Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
The Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation is notable for its lack of public profile. According to a report in Inside Philanthropy, STBF “is a case study in non-transparency,” with little information about the organization’s activities published on its website. The group reportedly does not even publish an annual report.