ODD DUCK

The Immigrant-Haters’ Heiress Queen

NumbersUSA has operated on the far right of the immigration debate for years—so how do they suddenly have the funds to run prime-time ads during the Democratic and Republican debates? Meet Cordelia Scaife May.

02.17.16 5:01 AM ET

A low-profile foundation started by a fabulously wealthy heiress who seemed to like birds more than people is bankrolling those anti-immigration ads you see during the presidential debates.

Heiress Cordelia Scaife May lost sleep over human population growth, drove around in a Mercedes with a “Stop the Storks” bumper sticker on it, and left hundreds of millions of dollars to fund today’s hardline anti-immigration groups, according to the Los Angeles Times.

And now, those groups are running ads capitalizing on the anti-immigrant sentiment that Donald Trump’s presidential bid has stirred up.

One ad in particular, paid for by NumbersUSA, which airs during both Republican and Democrat debates, shows civil rights leader Barbara Jordan arguing forcefully for less immigration, overlaid with Michael Bay-esque music and ominous lighting. NumbersUSA  has spent years organizing and mobilizing activists on the far right to block comprehensive immigration-reform efforts. The group has significant cachet with conservative voters and politicians, and it played a key role in blocking the 2013 Gang of 8 legislation. But the bulk of its funding doesn’t come from the right. Rather, the group is buoyed by a foundation that bankrolls environmentalist, population-control, and right-to-die efforts—causes most conservatives find repugnant.

It’s an indicator of just how complex the immigration debate is: Though the Republican presidential candidates have largely spent the 2016 debates grappling over who would do the most to keep undocumented immigrants out, the grassroots support for that view is funded by far-left cash.

From July of 2011 to June of 2014—according to the most recent available tax forms—a group called the Colcom Foundation gave NumbersUSA Education and Research Foundation (that’s its full name) a total of $11 million. Over that same three-year period (from October of 2011 through September of 2014), NumbersUSA’s total net revenue was $21.2 million, according to its publicly available tax forms. So about half of its cash comes from this one foundation.

So NumbersUSA as we know it wouldn’t exist without May’s Colcom Foundation. And its generosity comes at a crucial time for the group. In 2014, organizers of CPAC confab—an annual gathering of conservative grassroots activists, leaders, and candidates—didn’t send a speaking invite to NumbersUSA and their fellow travelers.

“Immigration in the national interest is completely not allowed here anymore,” said government relations director Rosemary Jenks at the time.

At the same time, the group was running on full cylinders to try to stop Marco Rubio’s comprehensive immigration reform plan from getting a vote in the House of Representatives, where it likely would have passed. But immigration opponents rallied against the bill, and then-Speaker John Boehner never brought it up for a vote in the House.

So, you might ask, what is the Colcom Foundation and why does it invest so much in stopping immigration reform?

May established the Colcom Foundation to further her two passions: protecting birds and reducing human population growth. It funds anti-immigration efforts because of fears that population growth in the United States will hurt the environment. The LA Times notes that her foundation is “the single-largest donor to the anti-immigration cause,” pouring funds into groups like the Federation for American Immigration Reform, Californians for Population Stabilization, Negative Population Growth Inc., and, yep, NumbersUSA.

George Griffith, a longtime friend of hers, told the newspaper that the heiress—a big Planned Parenthood supporter—lost sleep worrying about population growth.

“She loved animals almost more than people,” he said.

She left her foundation $400 million after she died, and it’s been bankrolling anti-immigration agitating ever since.

And some of the groups it backs take stances that many rank-and-file conservatives find deeply troubling. One of its beneficiaries, Negative Population Growth Inc., has argued that women who have more than two children should be stigmatized.

Get The Beast In Your Inbox!
By clicking "Subscribe," you agree to have read the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy
Thank You!
You are now subscribed to the Daily Digest and Cheat Sheet. We will not share your email with anyone for any reason

“In pursuing the various ways of encouraging lower fertility, this requires an explicit effort, both by leaders and role models and through the manipulation of incentives and disincentives, to make it clear that going beyond two is socially undesirable,” reads one of the group’s white papers.

The group also argues for “[p]riority in public housing programs for families with fewer than three children.”

Colcom also funds the Federation for American Immigration Reform, whose president once compared Central American immigrants to the Europeans who colonized North America centuries ago.

“In the end, take a look at what happened to the Native Americans when they didn’t properly screen for contagious diseases back in 1620,” he said.

And Colcom supports Californians for Population Stabilization, which mourned the end of China’s one-child policy. One of their bloggers, Fred Elbel, argued in October that China’s one-child law was a “rational and necessary population policy.”

Besides all that, Colcom also supports groups that push for right-to-die legislation—efforts that pro-life conservatives adamantly oppose. Colcom gave Hemlock of Illinois $3,000 in 2014 to promote the convention of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies in Chicago. And it supports Compassion and Choices, a group that lobbies state governments “to make aid in dying available to every American.”

Some conservatives—including bloggers at Red State and Mario Lopez at the Human Life Review—have decried the influence of Colcom-backed anti-immigration groups on the conservative movement.

But it doesn’t seem to have whatsoever dampened the right’s appetite for immigration restriction—even though the money behind the loudest restrictionists is as unconservative as it comes.