Philip Anschutz, Producer and Promoter of “Won’t Back Down”

Philip F. Anschutz is a conservative patron and former oil and gas baron with an estimated net worth of $6 billion.[1] He operates one of the largest nonprofits in the United States, and has a variety of media holdings including Anschutz Entertainment Group, Walden Media and the  daily The Examiner.[2] Given Anschutz’s ties to the extreme right—including the funding of homophobic groups, anti-union organizations, and climate and evolutionary science deniers—his recent foray into education reform is very troubling.

Walden Media Owner

Walden Media is the film production and publishing company behind the anti-teachers union movies “Won’t Back Down” and “Waiting for ‘Superman.’” Walden Media is owned by Anschutz, whose business partner has made clear that he wants the film company’s output to be “entertaining, but also to be life affirming and to carry a moral message.[3] With “Won’t Back Down,” Anschutz continues his anti-union advocacy by underwriting a fictional film that misrepresents teachers unions and highlights controversial “parent trigger” efforts.

Anti-Science Activities

  • Helped fund the Discovery Institute through a $70,000 donation from the Anschutz Foundation in 2003. The Discovery Institute is one of the leading think tanks challenging evolutionary science.[4]
  • Greenpeace notes that media companies owned by Anschutz figure prominently in the denial of climate science and the promotion of climate-change skepticism.[5]

Anti-Union Activities

  • Between 2003 and 2010, the Anschutz Foundation donated at least $210,000 to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a think tank that opposes labor unions.

 Anti-Rights Activities

  • Anschutz supported Colorado’s 1992 anti-gay Proposition 2, which allowed private property owners and employers to discriminate against homosexuals and lesbians,[6] by donating $10,000 to the campaign.[7]
  • Between 2003 and 2010, the Anschutz Foundation gave $125,000 to the Media Research Center. The Media Research Center recently attacked various media outlets for covering protests against Chick-fil-A that stemmed from anti-gay statements made by Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy.[8]
  • Since 2008, the Anschutz Foundation has donated $175,000 to the Mission America Foundation, a far-right organization whose president considers homosexuality to be a “deviance”[9] and has railed against the removal of HIV-based travel restrictions, warning that “‘the U.S.’s liberal homosexual culture’ will attract HIV-positive immigrants.”[10]

Backer of Corporate Interests in Public Education

  • The Anschutz Foundation donated $110,000 to the Alliance for Choice in Education between 1998 and 2008.

Anschutz’s Walden Media produced and promoted both “Waiting for ‘Superman’” and “Won’t Back Down.”

Anti-Environment Activities

  • A natural gas exploration company owned by Anschutz, the Anschutz Exploration Corporation, sued the town of Dryden, N.Y., over the town’s regulation of hydraulic fracturing,[11] or “fracking,” a process that has been blamed for severe environmental damage.[12] A judge upheld the town’s ban, but Anschutz’s lawyers have pledged to continue their claim.
  • Anschutz Mining Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Anschutz Corporation, is the former operator of Madison County Mines in Fredericktown, Mo. Madison County Mines is an EPA Superfund site, contaminated with cadmium and lead.[13]

A Sample of Anschutz’s Donations

Anschutz controls the Anschutz Foundation, the 60th-largest foundation in the United States.[14] Below is a list of donations made by Anschutz compiled by Ken Libby from IRS filings.[15]



Donation total (1998 – 2008)



Alliance for Choice in Education


American Spectator Foundation


Americans for Prosperity


America’s Future Foundation


Association of American Educators Foundation


Cato Institute


Claremont Institute


Denver School of Science and Technology


Evergreen Freedom Foundation


Free Congress Research and Education Foundation


Freedom Works


Freedom Works Foundation


Heritage Foundation


Hoover Institution


Independence Institute


KIPP Sunshine Peak Academy


Leadership Institute


Manhattan Institute


Mercatus Center


Mountain States Legal Foundation


National Right to Work Legal Defense


Pacific Research Institute


Washington Legal Foundation


Young America’s Foundation