James Murdoch, Co-Chief Operating Officer of 21st Century Fox Inc.
Christophe Morin | Bloomberg | Getty Images
James Murdoch, one of the sons of billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch, quietly invested $ 100 million in his charitable foundation, which then used a large portion of the money to fund political groups during the 2020 election cycle.
CNBC found the tremendous contribution of James Murdoch and his wife, Kathryn Murdoch, after reviewing the 2019 501 (c) (3) Group 990 tax return that the foundation provided. The Murdochs founded the Quadrivium Foundation in 2014.
The $ 100 million donation is the couple’s largest known contribution to their foundation or political endeavor. It came when James and Kathryn Murdoch were building their own political operation. You have largely supported non-partisan and democratically oriented causes. Kathryn Murdoch previously criticized former President Donald Trump for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Murdoch family, led by Rupert Murdoch, is worth over $ 22 billion, according to Forbes. The family controls Fox Corp. and News Corp. James’ brother Lachlan Murdoch is the CEO of Fox, which has multiple assets, including the conservative Fox News cable network.
It was previously known that James and Kathryn Murdoch were supporting President Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign. But it was not previously known how much they were spending behind the scenes to influence the election. Together with the millions they donated to campaigns and political action committees, the $ 100 million donation would make the couple one of the top donors in the last election cycle.
The 2019 tax document shows that of the $ 100 million donated to the foundation, over $ 25 million was used for grants, including for a variety of political purposes. The $ 25 million also represents the maximum amount that the Murdochs have spent through their foundation on political causes such as the fight against climate change and electoral aid.
However, according to a family close friend, that $ 25 million two years ago was only part of Murdoch’s massive investment through the 2020 election cycle. That person declined to be named to speak freely about the situation.
As of 2019, Quadrivium has directed over $ 43 million to climate-related groups. Over $ 38 million, including $ 14 million in Quadrivium donations and $ 24 million in individual donations by the couple, went to electoral organizations, including those dedicated to protecting voting rights.
The Murdoch couple also donated over $ 20 million to Biden’s campaign, groups who support him and oppose Trump, and organizations dedicated to combating online threats and extremism. They also donated to groups working to get votes in the Georgia Senate runoff election in January. The Democrats won both seats.
A spokeswoman for James and Kathryn Murdoch declined to comment.
According to the 2019 tax document, the Quadrivium Foundation had more than $ 100 million by 2020 when the primary and caucus season began.
The Murdochs’ $ 100 million donation came the same year that James was CEO of 21st Century Fox, before Disney bought most of the company for $ 71 billion. At the time, he was also on the board of the family-owned News Corp.
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The $ 100 million contribution to the foundation came in the form of Disney stock and was made the same day the Fox-Disney deal was closed. James Murdoch earned $ 2.1 billion on the transaction.
Murdoch later stepped down from the board of directors of News Corp. back, citing “inconsistencies about certain editorial content posted by the company’s news outlets and certain other strategic decisions”. News Corp. includes The New York Post and Dow Jones, which publish the Wall Street Journal. Both newspapers have conservative opinion sections.
In 2019, the Murdochs Foundation donated to several organizations it had supported in the past, although non-profit organizations received significantly more funding than other groups this year. Quadrivium supports thematic groups fighting climate change and trying to improve access to the right to vote.
The Murdochs’ support for constituencies comes from Republicans in states like Georgia and Texas passing laws that critics say limit people’s choices. James Murdoch was one of hundreds of executives and corporations to sign a public statement opposing “any discriminatory law or measure that prevents all voters from having equal and fair choices.”
Democracy Works Inc., a nonprofit that advertises itself for offering voter registration tools, received $ 2.5 million from the Murdoch-led foundation.
Represent.Us ‘education fund, which claims to be impartial and says it is working to “pass powerful state and local laws that will fix our broken elections and stop political bribery,” received $ 2 million from the Murdochs’ celebrity council in 2019 , including JJ Abrams, Michael Douglas and Jennifer Lawrence. The Represent.Us Fund, according to its website, “has made Represent.Us grants to support public educational activities and dedicated bipartisan outreach activities.”
The Brennan Center for Justice, which also calls itself impartial, received $ 1 million from the Murdochs two years ago. The Brennan Center has become a focal point for voters and reporters to stay abreast of various bills the organization deems restrictive. The group’s website notes that state lawmakers have tabled over 380 bills in 48 states that are considered restrictive.
In the fight against climate change, Kathryn Murdoch has been a trustee of the Environmental Defense Fund for years. That organization received $ 11 million from Quadrivium in 2019.