Republican megadonor Harold Simmons last year declared President Barack Obama the “most dangerous American alive.”
And ahead of the 2012 election, the Texas billionaire who died in December had gained notoriety for personally bankrolling Democrat-bashing super PACs such as American Crossroads and pro-Mitt Romney Restore Our Future with tens of millions of dollars.
At the same time, however, Simmons was quietly contributing chunks of his massive fortune to decidedly liberal political forces, according to a Center for Public Integrity review of new filings with the Internal Revenue Service by Simmons’ private charitable foundation.
In 2012, the Harold Simmons Foundation — which was headed by Simmons and funded by his wealth, but controlled by two of his daughters — gave Planned Parenthood Federation of America $200,000 and Planned Parenthood of North Texas $101,750, IRS filings show.
The foundation also approved $800,000 in future grants to Planned Parenthood Federation of America and $300,000 to Planned Parenthood of North Texas, records indicate.
Furthermore, Public Campaign, a nonpartisan outfit “dedicated to sweeping campaign reform that aims to dramatically reduce the role of big special interest money in American politics,” received $350,000 from the Harold Simmons Foundation for a “campaign finance reform project.” It’s due another $250,000 in future cash, records show.
By Simmons’ design, his politically liberal daughter, Lisa Simmons, runs the Harold Simmons Foundation’s operations and serves as its president. Another daughter, Serena Simmons Connelly, serves as the foundation’s executive vice president. She is personally a big-dollar donor to Democratic causes.
The Harold Simmons Foundation is, however, decidedly fueled by father: its more than $18.2 million in non-investment income during 2012 came from one source — Contran Corp., Simmons’ private holding company, of which he served as board chairman until his death last year. He also controlled the vast majority of Contran’s shares.
Amber Neal, the Harold Simmons Foundation’s grants administrator, declined to comment.
Neal said she forwarded the Center for Public Integrity’s questions to an “appropriate person” at the foundation, although no one from the foundation has since replied or been reachable for comment.
Several other politically engaged organizations that received financial support from the Harold Simmons Foundation in 2012 hardly resemble the patently conservative causes Simmons himself favored. Among them:
- The Texas Tribune, an Austin, Texas-based nonprofit news organization that’s routinely reported on Simmons’ political influence efforts, business affairs and campaign finance dust-ups. Donation: $20,000.
- The Tides Foundation, for “health and water sanitation program for women in Peru.” The Tides Foundation supports various left-of-center causes, including campaigns to abolish the death penalty and increase the minimum wage. Donation: $20,000.
- The League of Women Voters of Texas Education Fund, which in part aims to “make complex and controversial issues accessible to the non-expert citizen in a balanced manner.” Donation: $10,000.
In all, the Harold Simmons Foundation spread $18.5 million among more than 200 nonprofit organizations during 2012, IRS filings indicate.
Many of the foundation’s beneficiaries are traditional charities not known for overt politicking — hospitals, museums, community groups, arts and cultural outfits, religious organizations, food banks, educational institutions and the like.
Seven-figure recipients in 2012 include $5 million to the Parkland Foundation of Dallas for construction of a “new women and infants’ specialty health hospital,” and $2 million to Presbyterian Communities and Services of Irving, Texas, for a new hospice and palliative care center.
The Crystal Charity Ball of Dallas, which benefits various charities, and the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Society, each also received $1 million.