Hanania backers include sex site mogul and Tyler Cowen
Plus: My theory on why Silicon Valley bros love this racist grifter. (Hint: It has to do with the future.)
I’ll say this for Substack’s decision to feature a transparently racist, self-described troll on their flagship podcast last week: It’s made for endless content.
To recap: Last Friday, Substack co-founder Hamish McKenzie hosted former academic Richard Hanania on “The Active Voice,” a podcast that promises talks with “great writers” about how they “how they find the space for themselves to create great literature and journalism.” The Substack team either did not recognize or actively covered up Hanania’s prolific record of anti-Black racism and a eugenicist obsession with race and IQ. McKenzie described Hanania’s calls to repeal the 1964 Civil Rights Act as “gutsy.” McKenzie then sat back as Hanania’s recommended the writings of Steve Sailer — a columnist at the white supremacist blog VDARE — and of Emil Kirkegaard, a notorious Danish white nationalist and antisemite who advocates for incest and reducing the age of consent for girls to 13. (McKenzie has avoided repeated requests for comment over both email and Substack Notes.)
This inspired me to do a little more digging into Hanania’s current setup. I quickly discovered the real way Hanania “finds the space” for his “work”: a scammy nonprofit, apparently based out of his home outside Los Angeles, that he has used to funnel himself at least $297,500 over the past two years. The question was: Who was funneling the money into the nonprofit? Thanks to the help of some of your fellow readers, including The Informant’s Nick Martin, I’ve found some answers.
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In 2021, a check for $200,000 was made out to Hanania’s “Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology” from the Conru Foundation. That’s as in Andrew Conru, an “American internet businessman” best known as the creator of AdultFriendFinder.com. Conru owes much of his fortune to the sale of FriendFinder Networks to Penthouse for $500 million in 2007. The combined company went bankrupt six years later; control over the sex and matchmaking sites reverted back to Conru — along with Lars Mapstead, who founded one of the original live “camgirl” websites in the 1990s. (Mapstead is currently seeking the 2024 Libertarian Party nomination for president.)
I wrote Conru asking for more information about his donation, if he plans to donate more, and whether he had any reaction to Hanania’s blatant self-dealing. He did not respond. His Twitter feed shows a fixation on the “woke media,” his own Twitter verification, and Elon Musk. In response to a tweet from the far-right “End Wokeness” Twitter account asking “What year was civilization’s peak?” Conru replied, “1920.”
Hanania also received a $50,000 donation from the Mercatus Center, the right-wing Koch brothers-funded think tank at George Mason University headed by libertarian economist (and blogger) Tyler Cowen. Emails sent to the Mercatus media desk also went unanswered. But Cowen has been outspoken in his support for Hanania, sitting down at least once to be interviewed by Hanania on the CSPI YouTube channel. (Cowen unsuccessfully tried to disabuse Hanania of his obsession with IQ.)
The combined $250,000 from Conru and Meracatus represents less than a quarter of the $1.2 million that Hanania has raised since 2020, according to his federally required tax reports. The identity of his most lucrative benefactor is hidden behind one, and possibly two, charitable trusts: Fidelity Investments and Charles Schwab. Specifically, in 2021 he received $600,000 from a donor hiding behind the Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Funds and $100,000 from the Schwab Charitable Fund. It is possible those are the same donor drawing on two different accounts, and possible that they represent two different donors — it’s impossible to say.
The use of so-called “donor-advised funds” to fund hate groups and other racist activities has been well documented over the years. They are so named because the investor has technically given up ownership of the money they put in the fund, but in practice has complete control over how it is donated. On its website, the Internal Revenue Service notes:
The IRS is aware of a number of organizations that appeared to have abused the basic concepts underlying donor-advised funds. These organizations, promoted as donor-advised funds, appear to be established for the purpose of generating questionable charitable deductions, and providing impermissible economic benefits to donors and their families (including tax-sheltered investment income for the donors) and management fees for promoters.
In 2019, investigative reporter Alex Kotch found that four donor-advised funds — Fidelity, Schwab, Vanguard, and Donors Trust — had recently “combined to give nearly $11 million to 34 groups that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) considers to be hate groups,” including anti-LGBT, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and at least one explicit white nationalist group.
Fidelity did not respond to requests for comment about the donation to Hanania’s “center.” A spokesperson for Schwab Charitable said:
Schwab Charitable does not comment on individual donor activity. Schwab Charitable is an independent 501(c)(3) public charity regulated by the IRS. Like other donor-advised funds, Schwab Charitable facilitates grants recommended by donors to 501(c)(3) charitable organizations that are in good standing with the IRS and state regulators. Grants recommended by donors do not reflect the values or beliefs of Schwab Charitable or its management.
Who are the donors hiding behind this? Some readers have suggested Ron Unz or Peter Thiel, both of whom I think might be good candidates. But without more insight, it’s impossible to say.
The relationship between Hanania and the internet moguls is, I think, emblematic of the somewhat complex but ultimately pretty straightforward relationship between (mainly white male) Silicon Valley and authoritarianism in general. All these guys espouse libertarianism —