Takings Initiatives Accountability Project

Published — December 21, 2006 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

Three Big Donors Bankrolled Americans For Limited Government In 2005

Trio of Secret Donors Accounted for 99% of $5.4 Million in Contributions to “Grassroots” Organization


Americans for Limited Government, the tax-exempt organization that bankrolled a series of controversial ballot initiatives this year, raised 99 percent of its $5.4 million in total contributions in 2005 from just three donors, the Center for Public Integrity has learned.

The number of ALG’s major donors in 2005, but not their identities, was disclosed in financial statements obtained by the Center.

New York political activist Howard Rich, the organization’s high-profile chairman, did not respond to the Center’s requests for information about ALG’s financial affairs, including a question about how much of his own money, if any, he has given to the group. Rich has repeatedly declined to disclose the identities of donors to ALG and eight other tax-exempt organizations that share common management.

Rich was recently described by The Wall Street Journal as “a publicity-shy, libertarian-leaning businessman who has become the go-to man for supporters of conservative ballot initiatives.”

The reliance of Americans for Limited Government on such a small number of big donors is at sharp variance with how the organization bills itself to journalists and to the public.

“Americans for Limited Government is funded by thousands of individuals from across the country,” the organization’s Web site says. “Grassroots volunteers and donors make up the heart and soul of our organization.”

It’s a theme that Rich and his lieutenants have sounded again and again.

Months before the November elections, for example, Rich told a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle that his network of organizations — chief among them Americans for Limited Government — is funded by thousands of individual donors.

And in an October 24 e-mail to the Center, John Tillman, ALG’s president, said that the organization’s “funding comes from thousands of Americans all over the country.” Tillman went on to say that “we are also proud of the fact that our support is broad and deep.”

The Center previously reported that Americans for Limited Government was apparently forced last month to move out of Illinois, its longtime base of operations, because it could not comply with the state’s charity laws. Just after the November 7 elections the organization changed the address listed on its Web site to the Virginia residence of one of its officers.

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