On January 6th, the world watched as violent white supremacists overtook the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop the confirmation of a democratically-elected president. Although authorities are working to identify and hold those insurrectionists accountable, we know that doing so will not stop rising white supremacist and fascist movements or effectively dissuade their adherents from planning future violent attacks. After all, both on-duty and off-duty cops were themselves active participants in the failed coup. So what can those of us looking for alternatives outside the carceral system do to stem the tide of white supremacy and fascism? 

One way we can organize to beat back these violent movements is by cutting off the oxygen that allows them to grow: that is, take on the corporations that enable them to spread their ideology, recruit followers, and plan attacks by funding them and giving them platforms.

With that in mind, my organization, the Action Center on Race and the Economy, convened a call the week following the insurrection to plan a rapid response campaign that came to be called Stop Funding Fascism. Nearly seventy people joined the call with just two days’ notice to take on four corporations for their role in enabling the insurrectionists: Amazon, Blackstone, Fidelity, and Google. 

In the aftermath of the insurrection, a steady trickle of articles discussed the corporations that had funded the Sedition Caucus — the members of Congress who voted against certifying all of Biden’s electoral votes — and enabled white supremacist groups to plan the attack on the Capitol. The goal of our rapid response campaign was to tap into the public anger and disgust and channel it towards ongoing campaigns against particular corporate targets. We picked Amazon, Blackstone, Fidelity, and Google because we, along with other partners in the movement, were already involved in campaigns to push them to change their behavior.

We started by sending letters to the CEOs of the four corporations, documenting their role in enabling fascism and white supremacy and calling on them to change their behavior. More than forty organizations signed on to one or more of these letters.

The Blackstone Group and its CEO, Stephen Schwarzman, have supported and legitimized Trump and his cronies. Since Trump’s presidential campaign began in 2015, Blackstone’s affiliates and employees have donated more than $60 million to Republicans — including to the Sedition Caucus. In addition to personally funding political action committees supporting fascist politicians with millions of his own money, Schwarzman also served as a key advisor to Trump and his booster on Wall Street. Following the 2020 presidential election, Shawarzman even participated in a call with other CEOs in which he defended and promoted Trump’s baseless conspiracy theories about the election. 

Amazon has willingly provided communications platforms to help white supremacists and fascists organize. Many alt-right groups rely on Amazon Web Services to host their sites, which allows them to spread their propaganda and plan attacks online. Amazon had known the right-wing communications app Parler was a cesspool for white supremacist and fascist organizing, but it waited until a few days after the insurrection to kick the app off its servers. 

Amazon also allows customers to designate a portion of the proceeds from their purchases to racist organizations like the Middle East Forum through its AmazonSmile program. The group’s leader, Daniel Pipes, funded and organized an anti-Muslim rally in London in June 2018 that turned violent. Additionally, Amazon has ignored calls to discontinue the sale of Nazi, white supremacist, and anti-Muslim products and propaganda on its marketplace for years.

YouTube, owned by Google, serves as a propagation tool for fascist movement-building worldwide. YouTube’s autoplay algorithm actively takes viewers to content featuring white supremacist, alt-right, and fascist messaging. The algorithm has been shown to be a gateway to far-right ideology for young people in particular and has been directly implicated in white supremacist violence. The New Zealand government’s investigation into the 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings found that YouTube was a “significant source of information and inspiration” for the white supremacist shooter.

Furthermore, YouTube lets known bigots monetize their videos by placing ads on them. Supporters of the attack on the Capitol even used the comments section on YouTube videos to fundraise off live video footage taken during the insurrection. 

Fidelity has also played a critical role in funding white supremacist organizations. Fidelity Charitable is the largest charity in the country, and through its massive donor-advised funds, it allows wealthy individuals to make anonymous donations to any organization that is registered as a 501(c)(3). The problem is that there are many white supremacist and fascist organizations that have that designation, and Fidelity also allows anonymous donations to them. The founder of one of these groups, Turning Point USA, bragged on Twitter in a since-deleted post about sending more than eighty buses to the rally that immediately preceded the coup attempt. According to recently available tax filings, Fidelity’s donor-advised funds contributed more than $700,000 to Turning Point USA in the first two years of the Trump administration. 

Only Fidelity responded directly to our letter. A representative wrote back explaining that while they were “deeply troubled by what happened at the U.S. Capitol on January 6,” they would not stop allowing donations to white supremacist organizations unless the IRS revoked their 501(c)(3) status. The IRS designation is a red herring. Philanthropic organizations like Fidelity Charitable have the legal discretion and the moral responsibility to choose which organizations to give money to based on their values. Fidelity chooses to allow its donor-advised funds to be used to fund white supremacy and fascism.

We followed the letters to the four corporations’ CEOs with a press conference and social media blitzes over the course of a week of action. We also put pressure on some of the corporations’ largest customers, sending letters to nearly seventy pension funds, universities, and foundations demanding they cut ties with these corporate insurrectionists unless they met our demands. Some simply acknowledged receipt, but others promised to ask the corporations to address our concerns. In either case, we had the corporations’ attention.

After the inauguration, we immediately went to work channeling the activity from the rapid response campaign into ongoing work that coalitions like Athena, Americans for Financial Reform, Unmasking Fidelity, and Crescendo are leading to hold these corporations accountable.

On February 4th, we joined with partners in philanthropy and the Unmasking Fidelity Coalition to hold a conference call with more than one hundred participants about how philanthropists could put pressure on Fidelity to stop allowing wealthy individuals to use its donor-advised funds to give money to white supremacist organizations. The Unmasking Fidelity Coalition is working with donor networks like Resource Generation, Way to Win, and Solidaire in developing a long-term strategy to move Fidelity. Similar campaigns are underway to hold all of these corporate actors accountable for facilitating white supremacist organizations.

We are excited for the work ahead as we continue to campaign against these four corporations. It’s well-documented that white supremacist power has been building for years. Now, after receiving widespread attention for the takeover of the U.S. Capitol, it’s more important than ever that we remove the problem at the roots: wealthy corporations undermining our democracy by enabling these violent movements. We must work to hold financial institutions and big tech corporations responsible for their role in funding and fueling white supremacy and fascism. 

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