A conservative nonprofit tied to a controversial “White House-in-waiting” for a second Donald Trump presidency has apparently unintentionally revealed its top donors—and two of them are foundations famously associated with liberal causes.
The nonprofit, called American Compass, included the names of five donor organizations on a schedule in its 2022 tax statement, a copy of which was obtained by The Daily Beast. The page header says, “Do Not File” and “Not Open to Public Inspection,” indicating the donors may have been accidentally disclosed.
Of the five groups, two stand out for their prominent histories of supporting liberal causes—the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Omidyar Network Foundation.
According to the tax statement, the Omidyar Network has contributed a total of $400,000 to American Compass since 2020. (In reality, Omidyar has donated $500,000, including forthcoming installments.) The Hewlett Foundation—a longtime supporter of National Public Radio—has accounted for more than one-third of American Compass’ total public support, giving a combined $1,486,000 over the same period, with an extra $475,000 dose this January.
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The donations are striking because American Compass is a partner organization in Project 2025, a controversial right-wing think tank that has been building the policy and personnel firmament for a second Trump administration.
Project 2025 is an arm of the Heritage Foundation and it has been criticized for its hard-right, authoritarian agenda—including “dehumanizing” rhetoric towards the LGBTQ community, re-upping Trump’s attempt to include citizenship on the census, leveraging the power of the Justice Department to crack down on critics, and a potentially unconstitutional plan to sic U.S. troops on domestic protesters.
Project 2025 backers include xenophobic Trump advisers Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon, as well as Christian nationalist and former Trump budget chief Russ Vought, one of the group’s top advisers.
According to The Washington Post, Project 2025 has been crafting “specific plans for using the federal government to punish critics and opponents,” with Trump himself “naming individuals he wants to investigate or prosecute.” The group is also “drafting plans to potentially invoke the Insurrection Act on his first day in office to allow him to deploy the military against civil demonstrations,” the Post reported.
American Compass—whose specific political allegiances lie with the so-called “New Right”—boasts other ties to anti-democratic, pro-Trump luminaries. For instance, the address on its tax filing is inside the Conservative Partnership Institute, which employs Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows and political attorney Cleta Mitchell, another architect of Trump’s potentially criminal plot to overturn the 2020 election. CPI is another key force behind Project 2025.
That pro-Trump agenda is all the more jarring when contrasted against American Compass’ top supporters.
The Hewlett Foundation and the Omidyar Network are heavyweight philanthropic organizations that have long been considered bastions of liberalism. The Omidyar Network—founded by former tech mogul Pierre Omidyar—has poured money into Democratic dark money groups and spends enormous resources promoting pluralism and fighting racism globally. (Omidyar founded eBay in 1995, and provided the original funding for the news site The Intercept.)
The Hewlett Foundation likewise invests in left-leaning causes, promoting women’s rights, environmental reform, and the arts around the world—though Hewlett has also passed some money on to more typically conservative economic groups.
American Compass also disclosed support from another center-left group, the Action Now Initiative, which has contributed a total $250,000 since 2020, according to the tax return. ANI is run by John Arnold, a billionaire former Enron executive and Democrat whose nonprofit network has funded aerial police surveillance in Baltimore, among other controversial philanthropic investments.
The document also reveals $200,000 in support from the Walton Family Foundation—the charity group helmed by the heirs to Walmart founder Sam Walton—along with $100,000 from an obscure group called America Fund LLC.
The conservative nonprofit Capital Research Center repeatedly hammered American Compass earlier this year, after independently uncovering the Hewlett and Omidyar support via the donors’ own voluntary grant disclosures online. However, those articles cite the contributions as a means to challenge American Compass’ conservatism, which, aside from policies that would please anti-environmentalists and “immigration restrictionists,” CRC found to be largely “leftist dreck.”
The Compass Points Due Right
American Compass is part of the New Right movement—a group of young Republicans who are essentially reverse-engineering an intellectual framework to reconcile the populist, big-government tenets of Trumpism with conservatism. While the movement has attracted a growing number of adherents and think pieces, it is still a nascent and largely theoretical amoeba, which dwells in the broader nationalist environment and subsists on a diet of hyper-intellectual contrarianism.
In economic terms, its chief innovation seems to be the embrace of government intervention as a tailored and self-serving lever of power that Reagan conservatives dismissed for decades.
American Compass expresses a desire to work across traditional ideological lines, but its own ideology appears more as a definition of what it isn’t. However, what the group is is still radically conservative—and its platform is built to serve a second Trump administration.
American Compass founder Oren Cass—a former Bain executive and adviser to Mitt Romney’s failed 2012 presidential bid—has staked out what he casts as a more labor-friendly economic conservatism. While he has advocated for “genuine” bipartisanship, Cass is also aligned with the New Right. He rejects many of the absolutist tenets of laissez-faire capitalism that the GOP has held dear for so long, arguing that free-market fundamentals have failed the American worker. Last year, Cass drew a salary of $275,000 from his nonprofit—more than one out of every four dollars raised.
Writing about Cass and his New Right peers in June, New York Times columnist David Leonhardt emphasized the caveat that, while these Republicans rage against the free market, “they really are conservative.” This movement, Leonhardt cautioned, should not be mistaken for “disaffected right-wingers who have become moderates without admitting it,” noting that they “support abortion restrictions and oppose gun laws” and “make excuses for Donald Trump’s anti-democratic behavior or even spread his falsehoods.”
The departures from traditional conservatism are indeed stark enough to be deceptive, or at least distracting. For instance, while American Compass criticized the Trump and Bush tax cuts, the group has also called to abolish corporate income tax altogether, replacing it with a tax on asset trading in the secondary market.
But the rhetoric has apparently been good for fundraising. In 2020, the group’s founding year, Cass trashed free-market absolutism in a Hewlett Foundation interview; that year, Hewlett donated $611,000 to American Compass—nearly half the group’s total founding revenue, and half of what Hewlett gave NPR in 2020. About $198,000 of American Compass’ 2020 revenue went to Cass’ salary.
While Cass delivers sharp, almost heretical rebukes of historical conservative economic principles, he also carries conservative banners—for instance, cultural and economic criticism of college education and student debt relief, for instance. He and his New Right cohort are not inclusive, pushing a fierce nationalism with an illiberal agenda of its own. (Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO), Tom Cotton (R-AR), and J.D. Vance (R-OH) are all seen as flag bearers.)
That position has been most broadly articulated by a group called American Moment, a conservative nonprofit that is close with Cass and has featured him in its lecture series. (American Moment’s board includes hard-right up-and-comers like Ryan Girdusky and anti-LGBTQ activist Terry Schilling. The board also has strong ties to the right-wing Clermont Institute.)
As analysts unravel Project 2025’s 902-page “Mandate for Leadership,” they’ve found something of an underlying Christian nationalist manifesto.
A More Perfect Union
In response to a comment request, an American Compass spokesperson referred The Daily Beast to the author’s note on page 616 of the Mandate for Leadership, which throws “special mention” to Cass. The spokesperson also provided a link to a series of posts on X, formerly Twitter, where Cass singled out some of his contributions in April, when the Mandate was first published. (Cass was thanked for his input on Project 2025’s labor platform, which itself was written by an American Compass adviser.)
The Daily Beast reached out to the five donor groups for comment. The Action Now Initiative and America Fund LLC did not respond. The Hewlett Foundation did not reply, either, though the group has explained its donations online, stating that American Compass is “working to restore an economic orthodoxy that emphasizes the importance of family, community, and industry,” eschewing “growth for its own sake” in favor of “widely shared economic development that sustains vital social institutions.”
A Walton Family Foundation spokesperson provided a statement explaining that its grant “supports work to highlight initiatives connecting young people to careers and jobs earlier in their K-12 schooling experience.”
In a statement for the Omidyar Network Foundation, a spokesperson told The Daily Beast, “We would encourage you to reach out to American Compass directly for comment on the pro-worker elements they were able to advocate for related to Project 2025.” The spokesperson did not reply to follow-ups seeking specific comment on American Compass’ affiliation with anti-democratic groups and ideologies that appear at odds with Omidyar’s historical support for inclusive global development.
In reality, Project 2025’s labor platform appears to reflect Trump’s own identity crisis: He says he supports unions—a nod to political necessity—but his actions reveal otherwise. And Project 2025’s own proposals appear sharply at odds with Omidyar’s broad “pro-worker” cast. For instance, the group states that federal organized labor is “incompatible” with Trumpist policies, and its labor platform has been roundly criticized by organizations and journalists with pro-worker bona fides.
The labor policies in the original Mandate for Leadership were written by American Compass adviser Jonathan Berry, a former top official in Trump’s Labor Department. (Other American Compass advisers include Trump’s first attorney general Jeff Sessions, Trump’s tariff-war mastermind Robert Lighthizer, Democratic Hawley fan Matt Stoller, and anti-porn crusader Patrick T. Brown.)
While some proposals in the abstract bear a pro-worker rhetorical veneer with cross-partisan appeal, the intentions and ultimate goals that inform those proposals—together with a handful of seemingly outright anti-labor policies—belie a more subversive agenda. Mother Jones reported that the policies would “gut worker protections.” (John Arnold—head of the Action Now Initiative, a top American Compass donor—has drawn criticism for retirement reform that would “gut public employee pensions.”)
Among other rollbacks, Project 2025’s labor platform would make it more difficult for non-union workers to organize (offering up “employee involvement organizations” with no inherent power), prevent the government from collecting employment data on race (with the aim of impeding anti-discrimination lawsuits), and pressure companies to close on the Sabbath.
“Congress should also consider whether public-sector unions are appropriate in the first place,” one of Project 2025’s policy books argues, asserting that—until the labor revolution of the mid-20th century—“these unions were not compatible with constitutional government,” and “it is hard to avoid reaching the same conclusion” today.
When veteran progressive labor journalist Hamilton Nolan scratched the sheen off of the Mandate, he found that liberals should have cause for concern.
The labor section begins by devoting “an absurd amount of space” to purging critical race theory and diversity policies from government entities, Nolan wrote. But the more substantive policies, he said, would reverse “independent contractor” rules, making it “impossible for ‘gig economy’ workers to organize and build power.”
The Mandate also would rewrite the “joint employer” standard, providing a loophole for franchise corporations “to escape responsibility for bad labor practices.” Project 2025 also wants to roll back new overtime rules, he found, rendering “millions of workers ineligible for overtime pay””—though the group does want to increase overtime on Sabbath days, an incentive to get companies to close in observance.
The plan also exempts small businesses from national labor and safety standards, “which would leave millions more workers with no protection from unsafe, abusive bosses.” And while much of the platform is concerned with trimming government oversight, Project 2025 would in fact enhance that supervision in one arena—unemployment benefits.
The throughline is that while conservatism is undergoing something of an identity crisis, the movement cannot seem to kick Donald Trump. And New Right economics are in no danger of offering too much help to too many people.
But Project 2025 has already begun “pre-screening the ideologies” of thousands of prospective Trump officials, Axios reported. It stands to reason that its own handpicked advisers would pass the Trump test.