Lesley Carson


Program Director, International Human Rights Program (Wellspring Philanthropic Fund)




Brooklyn, NY

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Lesley Carson is the director for the Wellspring Philanthropic Fund’s International Human Rights program. Carson has a long history of work for left-of-center and liberal organizations, and Democratic politicians. 12 Carson has advocated through various platforms for liberal policy such as wealth redistribution, increased access to abortion through taxpayer-funded programs, and LGBT issues.

Wellspring Philanthropic Fund

As director for the international human rights program at Wellspring Philanthropic Fund, Lesley Carson is focused on garnering government support for large-scale human rights-centered legislative programs in countries in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. 3

Wellspring Philanthropic Fund is a left-of-center foundation that gives the majority of its grants to projects of liberal pass-through funding and fiscal-sponsorship organizations such as New Venture Fund and NEO Philanthropy. The organization was characterized by Philanthropy News Digest as highly secretive, with the goal of avoiding “almost all public scrutiny.” The organization is largely funded by established donors to the Democratic Party. 4

LGBT and Abortion Advocacy

Carson co-authored an article in 2019 through the Human Rights Funders Network attacking Trump administration Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and praising former Obama administration Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for 2011 decision to make LGBT issues a “cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy.” Carson made a number of claims in the article attacking the Trump administration’s Commission on Unalienable Rights, an advisory committee of historians and scholars, most of whom were conservative, founded in order to “provide fresh thinking about human rights discourse where such discourse has departed from our nation’s founding principles of natural law and natural rights.” The article claims that the committee was founded in opposition of LGBT and abortion rights, claiming that these are “natural rights,” and ought to be considered among those ensured to Americans by the Constitution. The letter closed with a list of organizations supporting her stance, and called for donations to the ACLU, Amnesty International, the Human Rights Network, and the Human Rights Network. 5

Past Employment and Board Positions

Before working for the Wellspring Fund, Carson worked for a number of organizations closely associated with the Democratic Party. Most notably, Carson worked as an interim director for advocacy in the Middle East for Amnesty International, a London-based left-wing international human rights organization. Carson also worked as the executive director for Forefront, a now defunct organization that aimed to get young adults involved in human rights advocacy. She also worked in a number of capacities for U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT). 6

Carson also worked as a program leader at a 2016 conference hosted the Edge Funders Alliance, a left-of-center tax policy advocacy organization, where she works to further what she calls the “redistributive and accountability functions of taxation.” 7

Carson also worked as an independent “human rights consultant,” and provided freelance work for a number of left-of-center organizations. Most notably, Carson worked for the Center for Economic and Social Rights, a liberal organization that advocates for wealth redistribution and other economic policies primarily centered around race, gender, and other factors. The organization is funded by the Ford Foundation, Oxfam International, and Open Society Foundations. 8 Carson also provided her services to Human Rights First, a left-of-center human rights advocacy organization also supported by the Open Society Foundations. 9

Carson serves on the boards of directors or advisory committees for a number of left-of-center and liberal organizations. Carson is a member of the advisory committee for Advancing Human Rights, an NGO project of Candid that aims to track funding from organizations to human rights issues. The advisory committee is made up executives from other left-of-center organizations such as the Ford Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Global Fund for Women, and Open Society Foundations. 10 Carson previously served as a member of the board of directors for Human Rights Funders Network, a left-of-center human rights-based donors collaborative. She is also a member of the advisory board for SAGE Fund, a collaborative of left-of-center foundations. The organization is a project of New Venture Fund.


  1. “Who We Are: Lesley Carson.” Sage Fund. Accessed December 9, 2020.
  2. “User Profile: Lesley Carson.” LinkedIn. Accessed December 9, 2020.
  3. “Who We Are: Lesley Carson.” Sage Fund. Accessed December 9, 2020.
  4. “Wellspring Philanthropic Fund.” Influence Watch. Accessed December 9, 2020.
  5. “The Commission on Unalienable Rights – Words Matter.” Ali Jernow and Lesley Carson. Human Rights Funders Network. Accessed December 11, 2020.
  6. “User Profile: Lesley Carson.” LinkedIn. Accessed December 11, 2020.
  7. “Engagement Lab Conversations at Just Giving 2016.” Edge Funders Alliance. Accessed December 11, 2020.
  8. “Our Funders.” Center for Economic and Social Rights. Accessed December 11, 2020.
  9. “User Profile: Lesley Carson.” LinkedIn. Accessed December 11, 2020.
  10. “Who serves on our Advisory Committee?” Advancing Human Rights. Accessed December 11, 2020.

Connected Organizations

  1. Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) (Non-profit)
    Former Staffer
  2. Forefront (Non-profit)
  3. SAGE Fund (Non-profit)
    Advisory Board Member
  4. Wellspring Philanthropic Fund (Non-profit)
    Director, International Human Rights Program
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