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West Michigan Foundation Watch: The Edgar & Elsa Prince Foundation – financing the far right

March 29, 2021

This will be our first installment of Foundation Watch for 2021, since West Michigan Foundations are beginning to submit their 2019 990 documents. The 990 documents are legally required to provide some transparency for foundation contributions, but it also provides us with a window into how the area’s largest foundations are spending their money to support far right causes that serve both an ideological and political function.

For those who don’t already know, Edgar and Elsa Prince are the parents of private mercenary profiteer Erik Prince and former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Edgar Prince made his wealth in manufacturing and he and Elsa had been funding the far right for decades. We follow these families and their foundations because we believe it is important for people in West Michigan to know how much the far right is financially supported in West Michigan. 

The Edgar & Elsa Prince Foundation 2019 990 documents can be found at GuideStar.org. According to Guide Star, the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation has a little over $11 million in assets. This Foundation is governed by Elsa Prince Broekhuizen, Erik Prince, Emilie Wierda, Eileen Ellens, Alan Hoekstra and Renselaer Broekhuizen. 

What follows are some of the recipients of funding from the Edgar & Elsa Prince Foundation, the amount they received in 2019 and a brief description of what they do/represent, which we consider to be part of the far right, both the religious right and the political right.

Haggai Institute – $600,000 – The Haggai Institute is a Christian evangelical entity that provides leadership training for people around the world to convert people. The Haggai Institute that only Jesus can bring joy to the world, not governments, education or any other spiritual tradition.

Family Research Council – $25,000 – The Family Research Council is a DC-based entity that was created in 1980 and has played an influential role with numerous administrations, beginning with the Reagan Administration. The Family Research Council advocates a theocracy, which means that religion should be the true ruling power.

Prison Fellowship Ministries – $95,000 – The Prison Fellowship Ministries was founded by former Nixon Administration staff Charles Colson, who was sentenced to jail for his role in the Watergate scandal. The Prison Fellowship Ministries practices far right Christianity and is part of the State Policy Network, which connects far right groups across the country to promote policy changes at the state level, changes which further the far right agenda.

Acton Institute – $30,000 – The Acton Institute is a far right think tank based in Grand Rapids that was founded in 1990 to promote the relationship between Christianity and Capitalism. Elsa Prince has been a former Board member with the Acton Institute.

Freedom Alliance – $30,000 – Freedom Alliance is an entity that was founded by convicted Iran Contra scandal participant Col. Oliver North. The Freedom Alliance promotes US militarism and encourages people to join the US military.

Media Research Center – $25,000 – The Media Research Center is a far right media watchdog, which seeks to counter the leftist press in the United States.

Council for National Policy – $15,000 – The Council for National Policy (CNP) was founded in 1981, with board membership and funding from the Coors, Koch and DeVos families. The CNP is the subject of Anne Nelson’s book, Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right, and has played a critical role in the anti-lockdown protests across the US since the COVID 19 pandemic began.

Right to Life Michigan – $25,000 – Right to Life Michigan believes that women do not have the right to chose what happens to their bodies, plus they spend money lobbying State Legislators and endorsing far right candidates.

Mackinac Center for Public Policy – $10,000 – The Mackinac Center is a far right think tank based in Midland, Michigan, which has a long history of promoting far right stat policy. The Mackinac Center was instrumental in getting the Right to Work policy adopted in Michigan during the Synder administration and they have been active in the past year opposing COVID 19 policies in the state.

Alliance Defending Freedom – $100,000 – The Alliance for Defending Freedom is a Conservative Christian group of lawyers that defends religious groups around anti-LGBT policies and other religious right issues.

With this list you can see how the Edgar & Elsa Prince Foundation has contributed to the irrational, fanatical and harmful positions that both politicians take, along with what the general population supports. It is with this kind of financial support that fuels the hate towards the queer & trans community, towards immigrants, the Black community, anyone who does not embrace a fundamentalist version of Christianity and those who support feminist principles. If we are to build social movements that are calling for collective liberation, then we need to be aware of the power and influence that the Edgar & Elsa Prince Foundation have. To ignore them or dismiss them would be a strategic mistake.

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