Sean Fieler's Philanthropy: The Hedge Funder Who Promotes Conservative Values

We've written before about hedge funder Sean Fieler and his opposition to the Common Core standards, which he sees as part of the nationalization of K–12 education. The young 1995 graduate of Williams College has amassed quite a bit of money, and currently serves as president of Equinox Partners. On the philanthropic end, he's bankrolling conservative causes, and has emerged in recent years as a robust funder with plenty of opinions.

Fieler sits on a number of boards, including the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, an "independent research center that works to enhance public understanding of the moral foundations of free and democratic societies," the Manhattan Institute, and the Dominican Foundation. Fieler also chairs the American Principles Project (APP), a nonprofit "dedicated to preserving and propagating the fundamental principles on which our country was founded."

Related: What's Behind Sean Fieler's Opposition to Common Core?

Fieler established the Chiaroscuro Foundation in 2006, and also funds the Chiaroscuro Institute, "a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that unites scholars and communications specialists who are dedicated to relinking the goods of sex, marriage, and children, especially but not exclusively among disadvantaged populations, in order to promote the flourishing of adults and children and whole communities."

In 2013, the Chiaroscuro Foundation did around $7 million in grantmaking across a number of different funding areas. Two of these areas are "evangelization" and "religious liberty." Now, we'll admit that "evangelization" isn't often a word that comes up in philanthropy, much less as a grantmaking area, but Fieler is a devout Catholic who, as we said before, has been clear about his convictions.

So where has Fieler's money gone in these two categories? Well, in 2014, a $280,000 grant went to the Sophia Institute, a nonprofit "that nurtures the spiritual, moral, and cultural life of souls and spreads the Gospel of Christ in conformity with the authentic teachings of the Roman Catholic Church." Other support has gone to Catholic Voices, Dominican Foundation, Catholic University School of Business, Thomas Aquinas College, and more. In 2014, a $200,000 grant went to Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and a $128,000 grant went to Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, whose mission is to "defend religious freedom by providing protective legal services at the trial level to persons whose religious liberty and free-speech rights have been attacked."

Fieler also advances conservative moral values regarding sexuality, aiming to reconnect "sex and procreation," and is a pro-life funder. Recent support has also gone to the National Abstinence Education Foundation and Susan B. Anthony List Education Fund. Susan B. Anthony List, by the way, is a "political action committee helping pro-life women gain election to Congress." Sums have also gone to Love & Fidelity Network, which "builds the next generation of leaders for marriage, family, and sexual integrity." In 2014, the foundation gave a $1 million grant to FEMM, or Fertility Education & Medical Management—an organization that teaches women to be aware of their hormonal cycles, knowledge that is essential  for anyone who is against contraception and instead relies on the "rhythm method."  

As noted earlier, Fieler has strong views on education and policy. His foundation's website states that it "supports efforts to emphasize parents’ primary responsibility for their children’s education and minimize state interference." The foundation has supported outfits such as School Choice Foundation, Foundation for Educational Choice, and Common Core Watch. On the policy front, money has gone to the William F. Buckley-founded National Review Institute, and the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society, among many others.

The Chiaroscuro Foundation also has a "humanitarian" funding area, funding outfits such as African Mission Health Foundation, which describes itself as supporting the "effective efforts of faith-based health workers across Africa." Between 2011 and 2014, African Mission Health Foundation received over $1 million from the Chiaroscuro Foundation. Recent support has also gone to Blas F. Ople Policy Center & Training Institute, which handles "labor and migration concerns and develops programs to empower oversees Fillipino workers (OFWs)" and their families.

It's worth noting that there has been plenty of pushback to Fieler's efforts, and he's no stranger to controversy. For instance, Fieler has opposed gay marriage, and once said, according to the New York Times"the problem with gay marriage... is it promotes a very harmful myth about the gay lifestyle. It suggests that gay relationships lend themselves to monogamy, stability, health and parenting in the same way heterosexual relationships do. That’s not true.”

Whatever your opinion of Fieler, though, he's another example of the kind of ideologically motivated funder we see a lot of these days, on both right and left. Of course, all this giving is subsidized by tax dollars. 

Related: Sean Fieler Profile