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Monday, October 23, 2023

Donor-Advised Funds and Antivaxxers

In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread  And among those diseases could be COVID-19.

Antivaxxers are sometimes violent, often abusive, and always wrong

Walter Bragman and Alex Kotch at Important Context:
[Fidelity Charitable] gave roughly $1 million to Children’s Health Defense, a nonprofit founded by Robert Kennedy Jr. that sows doubt about vaccine safety, and two of its state chapters. Kennedy, who long promoted the debunked idea that vaccines can cause autism, has called the Covid shots an “ethnic bioweapon” and “a crime against humanity.” In a recent post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, Children’s Health Defense claimed the mRNA jabs “contaminate” breast milk. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends pregnant and breastfeeding people stay current on their Covid vaccines, including the most recent booster.)

That same fiscal year, Fidelity Charitable also gave $235,000 to anti-vaccine activist Del Bigtree’s Informed Consent Action Network — nearly twice the amount from the previous fiscal year. The group includes a section, “Vaccine Safety Debate,” on its website implying that the Department of Health and Human Services has not demonstrated the safety of Covid vaccines.

Fidelity Charitable is not alone in its anti-public-health spending. Throughout the Covid pandemic, big money flowed to groups supposedly promoting public health but in reality were peddling anti-vaccine misinformation, from some of the largest charities in the country, an analysis by Rolling Stone and Important Context has found. We tracked more than $15 million that donor-advised fund sponsors gave in 2020-22 to such groups — the lion’s share of the funds were distributed after the vaccines became available.

Donor-advised funds (DAFs) have become a popular vehicle for wealthy individuals and foundations to distribute cash — and remain under the radar. Functionally, these entities operate as passthrough organizations: Donors deposit money into an account managed by a DAF sponsor like Fidelity Charitable, which disburses it with the donor’s input. While donor clients “advise” the sponsor, the sponsor has full legal control of the money and where it ends up. Typically, the sponsors’ board of trustees has the final say.