Young America’s Foundation: Who is funding UC Berkeley’s Ben Shapiro event?

Katherine Qiu/Staff

When UC Berkeley asked Young America’s Foundation, or YAF, and the Berkeley College Republicans to pay nearly $16,000 in security fees for Ben Shapiro’s speech, YAF lashed out immediately, stating that campus administration was taxing conservative free speech.

But public financial returns obtained by The Daily Californian show that every year, YAF spends millions of dollars funding campus events such as Shapiro’s, propped up by tens of millions in annual donations from many wealthy, powerful foundations linked to prominent conservatives such as Donald Rumsfeld, the DeVos family and Charles and David Koch.

This organization is the driving force behind many tumultuous, conservative events scheduled on campus. It was one of the many voices that pushed hardest to make Ann Coulter’s controversial appearance at UC Berkeley happen — before pulling its support two days before the event.

Right-wing author David Horowitz’s YAF-sponsored visit to UC Berkeley was canceled in April. The following month, students at the University at Buffalo booed and screamed during a YAF-funded talk given by Robert Spencer, founder of a blog called Jihad Watch and a self-proclaimed “radical Islam” expert. Shapiro himself was interrupted by protesters during a speech sponsored by YAF at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in which he denounced safe spaces.

After almost 50 years of promoting conservative values on college campuses, the organization has garnered a following from some of the country’s biggest names in conservative politics, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions among its former members.


Shapiro gives the finger to protesters interrupting his speech at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Katie Cooney/The Badger Herald/Courtesy.

Where the money is

According to the nonprofit’s financial forms, YAF has spent about $54.3 million since 2005 on campus conference and lecture programs alone, with its most recent expense form showing costs of about $8.09 million in 2015.

Meanwhile, YAF has received about $124 million in gifts and donations since 2010. The vast majority of its total financial support relies on these donations from the public: In 2015, YAF received about $34.6 million in gifts, which encompassed nearly 98 percent of its total financial support.

Among YAF’s supporters are several prominent conservative politicians, including Vice President Mike Pence, who has spoken at several YAF conferences, and former U.S. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, who donated $20,000 in total from 2011-12. Editor in chief of Forbes Magazine Steve Forbes has also spoken at the organization’s retreats.

Even former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has worked with the organization. His film company, Bannon Films Industries, was paid about $259,000 in 2011 and $173,000 in 2012 to produce movies for YAF.

Several of the organization’s biggest donors, however, are not major stars or political figures. Armed with $16 million bestowed to the organization upon the death of Fullerton, California, orthodontist Robert Ruhe in 2013, YAF was able to double its student outreach programs.

And slightly more unexpected names dot the list. Pat Sajak, host of long-running game show Wheel of Fortune, and spy novelist Tom Clancy have each donated at least $1,000 to YAF in past years.

Amway billionaires Richard and Helen DeVos, in-laws of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, gave about $10 million in 1998 for the foundation to buy the Reagan Ranch, where former president Ronald Reagan spent his holidays. From 2003-12, the DeVos family donated an additional $15 million.

Most notable, perhaps, are the foundation’s ties to Charles G. Koch and David H. Koch — two of the most powerful businessmen in the world, who are rumored to have pushed anti-climate change legislation — who have directly donated about $20,000 and $50,000 to YAF, respectively.

But that’s just their direct donations. Donors Capital Fund and Donors Trust are two nonprofit funds affiliated with the Koch family foundationsa common donation tactic that can often offer privacy to those who want to keep their contributions confidential.

These funds have donated about $1.12 million and $219,000 respectively to YAF since 2002.

Free speech returns

In 1974, Young America’s Foundation leaders Frank Donatelli and Ron Robinson held the first annual Conservative Political Action Conference, an event which would go on to host Reagan in 1981. With the purchase of his old vacation home in 1998, YAF now runs a museum gallery and conference center at the residence.

Back in 1969, during the height of the Free Speech Movement, then-governor Reagan called UC Berkeley “a haven for communist sympathizers, protesters and sex deviants.”

And Thursday, an organization whose roots are based in many of this conservative icon’s ideologies will arrive at UC Berkeley, ready to challenge the campus’s free speech values anew.

Ashley Wong is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @wongalum.

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  • BerkPed

    More information about David Horowitz here:

    1) He is reported to have earned a chancellor sized salary for his work

    2) and his organization is reported to have donated to a Dutch anti-Islam candidate

  • gratuitous

    Excellent report, Daily Cal, and from the looks of the comments, you have clearly struck a major chord with all the right people. Keep up the good work.

  • you_see_what_happens_larry

    And the comments section is filled with alt-right sickos spreading their neo-Nazi White Supremacist thoughts. In 2017, the alt-right disses the Declaration of Independence and its phrase “all men are created equal”. I am reminded of Germany in the 1920s and 30s. And how difficult was it for the world to rid itself of the German Nazis after the Nazis came to power.

    • lspanker

      And the comments section is filled with alt-right sickos spreading their neo-Nazi White Supremacist thoughts.

      Why don’t you point out one such comment here? Put up or shut up.

      • paxman

        why don’t you shut up, you “free speech” lover.

    • SecludedCompoundTTYS


  • you_see_what_happens_larry

    The Shapiro event cost the California tax payers $600,000 for security. This is money that is NOT now going into higher education. What will be the cost for the full week of Hate speech? Why do the California taxpayers have to subsidize Hate speech.

    • lspanker

      The Shapiro event cost the California tax payers $600,000 for security.

      Make Antifa put it up next time, given they are the ones responsible for 98% of the violence at such events…

      • paxman

        Yeah, see your above comment and point out exactly who did the 98% of the violence you claim “Antifa” did? Put up or shut up!

    • C Bierbauer78

      Freak Speech Week

  • dhorowitz10

    This article is biased and tendentious. The Supreme Court (not YAF) has ruled that requiring conservatives to pay for their security because leftist thugs threaten their safety is unconstitutional. Conservatives like myself pay a lot of taxes to support UC Berkeley which has purged conservatives from its faculties and conservative ideas from its curriculum. The money YAF has to raise because the leftwing departments and faculties at Berkeley won’t invited conservatives like Shapior and myself looks like a lot but when you compare it to the money flowing to the left from Soros, the Rockellers, and other billionaires and their foundations, it’s really nothing. The university itself should be inviting and funding the under-represented viewpoints that leftwing authoritarians have marginalized at Berkeley, and a decent reporter would have taken that into account.

    • lspanker

      Thanks for contributing, good to get your input.

    • C Bierbauer78


      • lspanker

        And of course your comment is deviod of any type of substantiation, as to be expected from you.

      • SecludedCompoundTTYS

        and a thief!

    • BerkPed

      Horowitz does not dispute any facts in the article at all. Guess they are all correct.

      David, Can you confirm too that Robert Mercer is funding the Milo visit??

      • dhorowitz10

        Actually, they’re all tendentious. The University provides a paid for platform for the left, hosts a terror propaganda network supported by university funds, appoints Hamas agents like Hatem Bazian to its faculty. No one of any merit in our society works for free.

        • BerkPed

          “The university itself should be inviting and funding the under-represented viewpoints”

          — as far as I know, the Palestinian view point is not represented by very many professors in the University of California system, yet it sounds like you are trying to censor Professor Bazian.

          • dhorowitz10

            Censorship? How did you manage to twist my remark so completely? As for volunteering, I meant regular work. The left’s public intellectuals are supported by the university and billionaires like Soros, and billion dollar foundations like MacArthur. So let’s not get on our high horses about a little foundation like YAF.

  • calif_mom

    If Antifart caused climate change, the shrinking ozone layer, greenhouses gases, and hearing loss — the Left would continue to join Antifart. Antifartists are so afraid of losing their day jobs that they adorn their faces with spooky coverings. It’s so obvious.

    Any of you students actually born in Berkeley? I was born in Berkeley to a poor family in 1949. I want my city returned to those calmer days of neighborliness and big families. The Left hates families. The Left hates private property. The Left hates women, too. Otherwise poisonous hormones would be illegal and so would the unborn babies. You’ve been warned by conservatives but it’s like a foreign language to you Lefties. Sad.

  • L.A. Canuck

    Free speech is a good thing. I’d wonder how much Soros has pumped into AntiFA/BLM to try and shut down free speech.
    I wish that there were more people like Shapiro.

  • Amylase Falcon

    BREAKING: Wealthy conservatives donate to non-profit known for sponsoring conservative speakers. Film at 11.

    • lspanker

      Funny how these logically twisted lefties try to make this sound like some sort of crime. In their perverted little worldview, having a politically incorrect point of view is a more grievous offense than beating people up…

  • MrReasonable

    This sure sounds like intimidation. Where is the investigation into the people who are violent? You know, the fascists who laughingly call themselves antifa? Why is the left so afraid of hearing ideas that are different? Why does the left engage in fascist tactics in order to prevent people from hearing views that differ from the accepted groupthink??

    • FreedomFan

      If students get to hear common sense and truth being spoken, then most of the overpaid Berkeley professors might lose all their attendees and their ridiculously-inflated salaries and pensions.

  • bggb

    We’re talking about people who still think “so much for the tolerant left” makes any sense what so ever.

    They’re going to have a helluva time understanding why pimping bigotry and hate isn’t actually protected speech in a publicly funded venue.

    But why rent out a private venue when they can throw public hissy fits funded by Donald Rumsfeld?

    (hint: because it’s not actually about free speech at all)

    • FreedomFan

      How does the Supreme Court define non-protected “hate-speech”, comrade? Oh right…it doesn’t because the term is meaningless. It’s just a tool by Democrats used to silence Republicans.

    • MrReasonable

      The only people pimping bigotry and hate are the left. Most Americans have come to understand that the term “tolerant left” is an oxymoron.

  • FreedomFan

    Sounds like Berkeley Republicans need more funding, since the number of Democrat speakers and funding obviously dwarf theirs.

    To normal Americans, your billionaire pal Soros is much scarier than free market libertarians like the eeeevil Koch bros.

    • C Bierbauer78

      Dum Bass

      • lspanker

        No dum ber than your silly one-line retorts.

  • RU_Serious

    My… god… how do we stop this funding of free speech? It is outrageous that in the USA today people are allowed to express political views that I don’t like! How do we put an end to this?

    • s randall

      Taxpayers pay for security. These people are getting a free ride. They should pay their fair share.

      • Stan Morgan

        Conservatives are not violent therefore the Left doesn’t need security.

        • s randall

          It’s the UCPD that is making the security recommendations. Don’t you support law enforcement?

          • lspanker

            Tell that to the Antifa types, junior. The fact that Cal Berkeley, the home of the supposed Free Speech Movement, has a problem with immature children who break things and beat up people because they can’t bear to hear opposing points of view, is not the fault of those of us who actually GREW UP at one point in our lives…

    • palvaro


      • SecludedCompoundTTYS

        Yea, he’st he idiot. The article is biased and tries to make a point that because they get large donations they can afford to pay a fee that no one else is forced to pay when they speak. Can you understand why this article is interesting but biased and it’s conclusion lack logic and scope. It’s just a stupid article IMO.

    • Pietro Gambadilegno

      The public should know the source of YAF’s funding. The role of journalists is to spread that information.

      The idea that someone wants to stop the funding exists only in your imagination.

      • SecludedCompoundTTYS

        If it was just about that it would be fine but its not, it has lines like this “YAF lashed out immediately, stating that campus administration was taxing conservative free speech.” that is completely biased. I do not understand why you can’t just handle the truth, that its a biased article that tries to prove a stupid pointless point. It’s totally fine to see where monies are getting donated from but to state this article is just to spread information is your imagination.

      • calif_mom

        The Left should know the source of Antifart’s, the Democrat Party, the immigration movement’s funding! George Soros is a real life Nazi sympathizer; look it up!

  • lspanker

    It would be nice if you lefties cared half as much about who was providing funding and logistics for Antifa as you did for somebody engaged in legitimate exercise of his First Amendment rights. The Daily Cal has lost any semblance of being a legitimate journalism outlet and is clearly nothing but an agit-prop mouthpiece for the violent hard left.

    • SecludedCompoundTTYS

      It’s pretty laughable! They have a small world view and cannot handle being told they are wrong. This article has such poor logic, I can’t even read it other than a prop mouthpiece for the hard left. I just want them to understand that they are extremely bias. They cannot even comprehend that.

    • Pietro Gambadilegno

      Antifa obviously doesn’t need much funding for what it does. They can afford masks and sticks on their own.

      • lspanker

        Somebody needs to provide the credit card to rent the flatbed truck, something you can’t do when you’re an unemployed lout with a $500 limit secured VISA and a FICO score of 477.

        • lspanker

          FWIW, dunno why somebody felt compelled to flag Pietro’s post.