Critics Call New Foundation “Smoke and Mirrors”

Copyright 1997 Bruce Mirken
1630 words

Despite repeated claims by Coors Brewing Co. spokespeople and supporters that there is complete separation between the brewery and the Coors family’s support of homophobic far right organizations–including some statements made in response to our recent article, “Coors Courts Queers”–tax documents just obtained by the SF Bay Times further document an ongoing web of links between the brewery and antigay groups. This time the center of attention is the recently-hatched Castle Rock Foundation, controlled by the Coors family and a major contributor to homophobic causes–and whose very existence, critics charge, is an attempt to separate the Coors name from the family’s support of the radical right.

In a letter to Boston’s Bay Windows, which reprinted the story in its Jan. 30 issue, Coors spokesman Edward W. Van Den Ameele stated flatly that the brewery “does not endow the Adolph Coors Foundation or the Castle Rock Foundation” and that complaints about the foundations’ right wing grants were “ancient issues not relevant to the Coors Brewing Company.” But the Adolph Coors Foundation’s annual reports and the tax returns filed by the Castle Rock Foundation for the 1993-94 and 1994-95 fiscal years (running through 11/30/95) tell a more complicated story. Although there is no indication of grants or gifts by the brewery to the foundations in those years, the foundations do profit from their ownership of stock in the company.

According to the Adolph Coors Foundation’s 1994 annual report, the foundation was founded in 1973 with funds from the Adolph Coors Jr. Trust, later supplemented by gifts from two other family members. The trust, established by the son of the brewery’s founder, was created with the family’s brewery-generated fortune and remains a major stockholder in the brewery. As we reported previously, the Coors Foundation was a key funder of right wing groups like the Heritage Foundation in the 1970s and 1980s.

In 1993 the Coors Foundation spun off approximately $36 million dollars of its assets to create a new entity, the Castle Rock Foundation, described in Castle Rock’s tax returns as a “controlled private foundation” of the Adolph Coors Foundation. Both groups share the same executive director, Linda Tafoya, and the same Board of Trustees: Tafoya, William K. Coors (president and board chair of the Adolph Coors Co., the holding company that owns Coors Brewing Co.), Holly Coors, Peter Coors (vice president and chief executive officer of Coors Brewing Co.), Jeffrey Coors (president of ACX Technologies, a Coors spin-off which sells approximately $150 million a year in packaging materials to the brewery), and Rev. Robert Windsor. Since Castle Rock was formed, it has taken over donating to the radical right while the Coors Foundation’s grants have been confined to such noncontroversial recipients as the Denver Museum of Natural History and the University of Colorado Foundation.

Castle Rock’s assets consist almost entirely of stocks owned jointly with the Adolph Coors Foundation, with proceeds divided between the two. The diverse portfolio includes small blocks of dozens of companies, including, for example, 4,000 shares of Proctor and Gamble and 5,000 shares of Abbott Laboratories as of 11/30/94 . But the biggest holdings, not surprisingly, were in the family businesses: 732,413 shares of Adolph Coors Co. and 244,137 shares of ACX Technologies.

The tax returns show no sales or additional purchases of Coors or ACX stock through November, 1995, the last date available. Assuming no recent unreported sales or purchases, the 3/13/97 market value of the foundations’ block of Coors stock was $15,555,327, while their ACX holdings were valued at $4,583,603. ACX has not paid dividends to shareholders but Coors has been paying $.50 per share annually, making the foundations’ annual return from their stake in the brewery just over $366,000.


While the Adolph Coors Foundation has lately concentrated on donating to controversy-free causes, the tax returns document that Castle Rock has become a major funder of the antigay right. Some of the largest blocks of money have gone to fairly well-known groups with a long history of antigay activity, including the Heritage Foundation ($300,000 given or approved for donation in 1993-95) and the Free Congress Foundation ($450,000 in the same period). The foundation also paid Holly Coors’ $5,000 annual membership in the Council for National Policy, a conservative coalition that is a veritable Who’s Who of homophobes, including Robert Dornan, Ralph Reed and Phyllis Schlafly.

Medium-sized chunks of money have gone to dozens of less well-known right wing organizations. Not all of these, it should be noted, deal with gay issues. For example, Defenders of Property Rights ($25,000 in 1994-95) specializes in opposing environmental laws and other alleged government intrusions into the rights of property owners. Others concentrate on fighting for reduced government spending, privatization of government services or an end to affirmative action programs.

But a substantial number of Castle Rock’s grantees are overtly antigay. Some examples (dollar amounts in parentheses are total donations made or authorized in the two fiscal years covered):

“FIRST THINGS” ($30,000): Conservative religious journal published by the Institute on Religion and Public Life. Recent articles have supported “the heterosexual norm” against alleged encroachment by the gay movement, urged “pastors and therapists to assist those who recognize the value of chaste living to resist the impulse to act on their desire for homogenital gratification” and expressed “wonderment and outrage” at the purported effects of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Colorado’s antigay Amendment 2.

YOUNG AMERICA’S FOUNDATION ($55,000): Specializes in bringing right-wing speakers to college campuses, including such noted homophobes as Oliver North, unsuccessful GOP presidential candidate Alan Keyes and Bay Buchanan, Pat Buchanan’s sister and campaign manager . YAF’s July, 1996 “National Conservative Student Conference” featured Ralph Reed, Bob Dornan and Jesse Helms. YAF supported maintaining the ban on gays and lesbians in the military and opposed efforts to bar ROTC from college campuses for discriminating against gays

THE LEADERSHIP INSTITUTE ($25,000): Trains young right wing activists, primarily on college campuses. TLI’s attitude toward gays was summed up by its president, Morton Blackwell, in a speech titled “Survival Values,” in which he declared, “I believe it could be demonstrated statistically that in the last ten years major network television productions have portrayed sympathetically fewer clergy than homosexuals. And in doing so they have killed a lot of people. Literally killed them by leading them into temptation… Studies indicate that about one third of former homosexuals have reformed themselves.”

Another major supporter of TLI was former Vice President Spiro Agnew, who resigned in disgrace while being investigated for taking bribes–an indiscretion tastefully referred to in TLI’s newsletter as “charges that he had received unreported income.”

MEDIA RESEARCH CENTER ($25,000): Dedicated to flushing out alleged “liberal bias” in the news and entertainment media, MRC’s list of the “Top Ten Least Family Friendly Shows” includes “Friends” (“promotes gay parenting and same-sex marriage as viable options”), “Roseanne” (“premarital sex is condoned; gay marriage is championed”) and “Melrose Place” (“showcases the gay lifestyle, with one gay character gaining a live-in lover this season”).

CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF POPULAR CULTURE ($100,000): Described by far right-watcher Chip Berlet as “rigidly homophobic” and headed by liberal-turned-ultraconservative David Horowitz, the Center regularly rails against liberals, feminists and AIDS activists. L.A. gay writer Stuart Timmons recalls jousting with Horowitz on a radio talk show about two years ago: “He was giving misinformation about how AIDS is spread and saying that AIDS advocates were lying about how AIDS is spread,” Timmons recalls. “I called in to tell him this was incorrect, and he called me a ‘Queer Nation nazi’ and cut me off.”

INSTITUTE FOR AMERICAN VALUES ($60,000): Attempts to preserve the “traditional family” by opposing same-sex marriage and fighting to rewrite divorce laws to make it more difficult for married couples to split up.

INDEPENDENCE INSTITUTE ($60,000): Opposes antidiscrimination protections for gays and lesbians on the grounds that such laws endanger children. One 1996 statement argued that “homosexuals’ sexual proclivities are a threat to the emotional safety of many students” and claimed that antidiscrimination laws would permit cross-dressing teachers to inflict “emotional trauma” on schoolchildren. Also opposes affirmative action and environmental protection.


Since the Adolph Coors Foundation and the Castle Rock Foundation share the same board, the same investments and the same executive director, why was it necessary to establish Castle Rock as a separate entity? The Coors Foundation’s 1994 annual report says it was simply a matter of separating funds that were restricted to use within Colorado from those without such limits. To do that, “the Trustees decided, effective the beginning of fiscal year 1994, to spin off the unrestricted assets and endow a new foundation, the Castle Rock Foundation. Essentially all grants from the Adolph Coors Foundation are now restricted for use within the state of Colorado.”

But the company’s critics suspect a second agenda: The creation of yet another paper separation between the brewery and the Coors family’s support of the homophobic right. “It is a snow job to remove the Coors name directly from grants to radical causes, smoke and mirrors,” argues Jerry Sloan, who monitors the religious right for California’s Project Tocsin. This is consistent, he notes, with the family’s most prominent radical right activist, Jeffrey Coors, being moved to the nominally separate ACX Technologies, allowing company spokespeople to claim he has “no connection” to the brewery, despite the extensive business ties between the two firms.

Berlet agrees, commenting, “This appears to be another step toward obscuring the relationship between the sale of Coors beer and the use of a portion of the profits from those sales to fund right-wing political activity that promotes the idea that the ideal citizen is someone who acts like a conservative straight white Christian man.”