What we know now as the ‘alt-right’ movement began picking up notoriety in 2016
when President Trump’s victory demonstrated the powerful influence of white nationalism in American politics. But Trump hardly fathered the alt-right—the movement has had infrastructure in place for years.
The realm of “academic” racism encompasses organizations like the National Policy Institute (NPI) and the Charles Martel Society, both of which were established by a man named William Regnery II, a multi-million-dollar heir on a quest to create a white “ethnostate.” The Charles Martel Society publishes the Occidental Quarterly, a pseudoscientific journal with a focus on “race science,” and the NPI is currently directed by infamous neo-Nazi Richard Spencer.
Alt-right organizations are small and don’t require large amounts of donations to operate. “Basically, the National Policy Institute is [Richard Spencer], and he just needs an annual salary. Five thousand dollars is basically 5 percent of that annual income for him. He just needs another 20 of those donations and he’s done for the year,” says David Neiwert, author of Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump.
A report from New York Magazine dives into the tax records of one such benefactor, a self-proclaimed “libertarian” foundation overseen by Robert P. Rotella of Rotella Capital Management in Bellevue. Rotella has donated millions to libertarian and conservative groups like the Cato Institute, the Reason Foundation, and Turning Point USA. The foundation has a record of contributing to bizarre conspiracy-theory oriented organizations like the Expolitics Institute, which offers an “extraterrestrial affairs certification program.” Rotella has also donated $25,000 to the Farsight Institute, which claims its team of psychic “remote viewers” has confirmed that the Pyramids were built by aliens.
He keeps a low profile: Rotella has no social media presence, and public information offers no insight into the substance of his political views. A closer look reveals that his foundation has shelled out roughly $105,000 to the National Policy Institute since 2002. Between 2013 and 2017, he donated $10,000 every year, or $40,000 total, to the Charles Martel Society. His contributions composed roughly 13 to 18 percent of the Charles Martel Society’s donation income, depending on the year.
The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a group founded by the late eugenicist John Tanton, has received $17,000 from Rotella since 2015. Around the same time, he gave another $35,000 to the New Century Foundation, which publicly advocates for white separatism, eugenics, and restrictions on legal immigration. Both FAIR and the New Century Foundation have been designated as extremist hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Neiwart describes the Robert P. Rotella Foundation as a “portrait of a quiet support network: namely, a range of significant financial support for a broad menu of far-right organizations, mostly disguised by being intermingled with a larger number of mainstream conservative and libertarian groups.”
The Rotella Foundation will soon dissolve after 18 years of operations. The family lacks “the manpower to do it correctly,” said Rick McNeely, a spokesperson for the Rotellas, to New York Magazine in December.