- Provides more than 300,000 customers across the United States with long-distance telephone services, wireless telephone services, and credit cards
- Gives a percentage of its revenues to leftist groups and causes
- Has raised more than $50 million for what it terms “progressive causes” since 1985
- Opposes oil exploration in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
- Opposes America’s involvement in Iraq War
- Opposes the Patriot Act
Established in 1985, Working Assets is a company that provides more than 300,000 customers across the United States with long-distance telephone services, wireless telephone services, and credit cards. Working Assets gives a percentage of its profits to leftist groups and causes. One of its original founders was Drummond Pike, who established the Tides Foundation in 1976.
The groups that Working Assets funds fall under five categories: Civil Rights; Economic & Social Justice; Education & Freedom of Expression; Environment; and Peace & International Freedom.
In 2004 its aggregate donations totaled $7 million. From its 1985 inception through 2005, the company has raised more than $47 million for what it terms "progressive causes." The process of deciding who will receive these funds is initiated by Working Assets' customers, who nominate groups they deem worthy of financial support. Once the nominations have been made, the company's employees and board members narrow the field of recipients to fifty groups. In turn, the customers vote to determine how the available money will be apportioned among those fifty.
Recent recipients of Working Assets funding include: ACORN; American Civil Liberties Union; the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy; the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities; the Center for Constitutional Rights (a pro-Castro organization); the Children's Defense Fund; Democracy Now!; Earthjustice; the Feminist Majority Foundation; Free Press; the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN); Greenpeace International; Human Rights Campaign; Human Rights Watch; Media Matters for America; the NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation; Natural Resources Defense Council; Oxfam America; People for the American Way; the Planned Parenthood Federation of America; the Ploughshares Fund; Project Vote, Rainforest Action Network; and the Union of Concerned Scientists.
To view a list of additional noteworthy grantees of Working Assets, click here.
Because of its candidly partisan nature, Working Assets takes a stand on many contemporary political and social issues. It is a member organization of the United For Peace and Justice antiwar coalition and the Win Without War antiwar coalition. Working Assets has also produced a letter (for which it had collected some 30,000 signatures as of November 2005) titled "Congress: Admit You Regret Voting for Iraq War."
Just as Working Assets, which is a member organization of the Peace and Security Funders Group, condemns the Iraq War, so does it stand in strong opposition to numerous aspects of the Patriot Act anti-terrorism legislation, which it views as an assault on the civil liberties of Americans. A piece contributed to the Working Assets website by Sojourners -- an evangelical Christian ministry that preaches radical leftist politics, embraces liberation theology, and championed Communist revolution in Central America -- asserts the following: "A few short years ago, almost no one in America had heard of places called Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. Now, those names have become infamous worldwide - for repeated instances of torture, inflicted by Americans on prisoners we continue to hold there as part of the so-called 'war on terror.'"
In April 2004, thousands of Working Assets customers represented their company by participating in the "March for Women's Lives" in Washington, DC, a historic pro-abortion rights event advocating that women be granted unrestricted access to taxpayer-funded abortion-on-demand. For its members who were among the one million people in attendance that day, Working Assets provided what it described as "provocative signs on recyclable paper ... to send a message of solidarity to the White House for a woman's right to choose."
To strengthen its political leverage, Working Assets has set up a pair of vehicles by which its likeminded customers can also make their voices and opinions heard by House and Senate legislators. One of these vehicles is the Working Assets Citizen Action program, established in 1991 "to provide customers with timely information and easy ways to speak out on important issues." With each monthly phone bill, the company includes action alerts highlighting two crucial national issues and five state issues that are the subjects of contemporary debate; these action alerts explain what is (in Working Assets' estimation) at stake, and tell customers which political leaders they should contact in an effort to influence policy in a manner consistent with what Working Assets prescribes. In 2004 alone, Working Assets action alerts resulted in more than four million telephone calls, letters, and e-mails to Congress, the White House, and corporate leaders.
Four years after establishing Citizen Action, Working Assets created the Flash Activist Network (FAN), which it describes as "a rapid response program designed to give customers a chance to speak out on fast-moving issues before all is said and done." "Throughout the year," Working Assets explains, "FAN monitors critical events as they unfold and notifies members by phone, fax or e-mail when it's time for action. Members can call a toll-free number for details on the issues at hand, then be transferred directly to the targeted decision-maker, or send a personalized fax. . . . For a low monthly fee, FAN members can influence public policy before it's too late."
Working Assets’ founder, President, and Chief Executive Officer is Michael Kieschnick. Prior to assuming his current position, Kieschnick served as Working Assets' Chairman of the Board while he helped to start a series of investment funds. He has written several books on capital markets and development, including Credit Where It's Due (which he co-authored with Julia Parzen). For a number of years, he was a visiting lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, teaching a graduate seminar on financial innovation.
(Information on grantees and monetary amounts courtesy of The Foundation Center, GuideStar, ActivistCash, the Capital Research Center and Undue Influence)