Who Is Behind The Headwaters Foundation And Where Did They Come From?

by William Skink

Having recollected the vast sum of money generated by the sale of Community Medical Center, and now controlled by the Headwaters Foundations, I thought it might be good to get to know some of the people controlling 100 million dollars and change.

On the board the only person that really stood out was Richard Opper, a Bullock lackey who ran into some controversy in 2016 while he was director of DPHHS:

A former state auditor has sued the state of Montana, alleging she was wrongfully discharged for doing her job: uncovering misuses of state and federal funds at the Department of Public Health and Human Services.

Carol Bondy, who was the DPHHS Audit Bureau Chief for 14 years before having her job terminated in December, also named the agency’s director Richard Opper in the suit filed Oct. 18 in Lewis and Clark County District Court. The suit makes several allegations that top state officials sought to hide requested information from legislators and bent or broke state contracting rules, citing audit work conducted as early as 2009. It also alleged without detail that the “practices were directed by persons located within the Governor’s office,” according to court documents. Bondy also argues in the suit that her firing violated state and federal labor laws, in part, because she had faced no previous discipline and she was banned from accessing her office while under review.

While one may chalk this up to politics, it should be noted DPHHS handled a recent budget shortfall in a manner that absolutely decimated support services for the most vulnerable. Keep that in mind when we get to the corporate-speak.

Next up is Brenda Solorzano, Chief Executive Officer. Here is her recent pedigree:

Headwaters Health Foundation has its first chief executive officer. Brenda Solorzano has been hired as the CEO. She comes to the Missoula-based foundation from her position as chief program director at Blue Shield of California Foundation in San Francisco.

At Blue Shield, Solorzano led the overall strategy, design, implementation and management of the $30 million grant-making portfolio. She is an attorney and has more than 17 years of experience in health philanthropy.

“Effective philanthropy should be in partnership with community, and the role of foundations should be about helping make change happen that benefits underserved communities,” Solorzano said in a news release.

Coming from San Francisco, Solorzano should know a thing or two about underserved communities, since rampant gentrification has done such a great job of making sure there is a ROBUST need for the kind of grant crumbs Solorzano will oversee in her new mountain locale.

Next up, Mynor Alejandro Veliz, Chief Financial Officer. Here’s what I found relevant about his background:

…he served as finance manager for Starbucks and oversaw the development of the annual operating budget and quarterly forecasts and supported the development of the strategic and operating plans for the 2,500 stores in the US and Canada.

Veliz attended the Harvard Business School Leadership Development Program. He holds an MBA from Eastern Washington University and a BA in business finance from the University of San Carlos in Guatemala. He is a member of the National Society of Hispanic MBAs and the Harvard Business School annual global summit planning committee.

So we have a political partisan, a health insurance executive, and a Starbucks finance manager leading the effort to direct this trickle-down philanthropy toward naseuatingly articulated visions of change that sound like this:

With a deeply resonating, unified community voice Montanans told us long-term success in improving the health of our communities begins with addressing the underlying issues that keep people unhealthy.

In our corner of the world, some families live in cars, children are exposed to high levels of violence and trauma early in life and working people struggle to find warm houses to live in. There are children who are, more often than not, hungry. In Western Montana, too many people struggle in the grips of addiction, and young men and women commit suicide at a staggering rate.

Montanans told us these situations are the result of deeper problems in their communities. But they also told us that together we could change the downward trends facing our state, that by working together Montanans can thrive.

And, um, please, just forget we did things like preside over severe Medicaid cuts when the going got tough, we raised your premiums when our bosses needed another private plane, and we got over $60,000 in public money for a Brooks Street Starbucks location.

Like so much in Missoula, when you look beyond the glitz and glamour of surfaces, a very different picture starts emerging about the forces running this town.

Speaking of glitzy surfaces, guess who developed the website for the Headwaters Foundation?


That’s right, I could hardly believe it myself. Spyder McKnight’s Six Pony Hitch created the slick online vehicle that delivers dreck like this:

We know that many people living in Western Montana have been left out of decision-making conversations that deeply affect their lives. We believe it’s time to change these conversations, change the system and change the power dynamic between funder and grantee.

That’s why we practice a new kind of philanthropy.

The kind of philanthropy that builds relationship on trust, that offers multi-year investments when possible, that streamlines processes and allows us to be a true partner.

With community at our core and trust as our default, we’ll put this new kind of philanthropy to work by investing more than $4 million in 2020 into community-driven solutions that reduce the social and economic barriers to health and wellbeing across four grantmaking programs: Strategic Initiatives, Policy and Influence, GO! Grants and Sponsorships.

Though a financial depression appears imminent (because we calculate debt by the Trillions now), don’t worry, this foundation is being led by a trifecta of politics, health insurance, and corporate finance, so it’s all good.

Anyone else see anything wrong with this picture?

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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34 Responses to Who Is Behind The Headwaters Foundation And Where Did They Come From?

  1. Big Swede says:

    The change you’re seeking is just around the corner, after you vote Democrat.

  2. john mcnaught says:

    big Swede, do you think it is acceptable to vote for someone who is unwilling to reveal his income tax records ? Especially when the voters were told they would be released. I will vote for Biden (my last choice) because the choice is so starkly clear. Democrats surely bear much blame. I will not vote for President Trump or anyone who supports him. Oh yes, criminals are not democrat or republican , they are criminals.

    • big Swede says:

      Pelosi is third in line to the presidency, if she is asking Trump fro his returns she should show her’s also.

      Heavy reports- According to Roll Call, Pelosi, who makes $193,000 per year as a “public servant” reported having a minimum of $32.9 million in assets, divided between investments and real estate, and a minimum of $17 million in liabilities. Much of this comes from her husband Paul Pelosi’s investment firm.
      Paul Pelosi, Nancy Pelosi’s husband, owns and operates Financial Leasing Services, a venture capital investment firm and real estate firm in San Francisco. His company has invested in some big, very successful names, including Apple, Microsoft, AT&T, Comcast, Disney, and Facebook, according to the Los Angeles Times. He owned at least $1.5 million worth of Apple stock, $1 million in Disney stock, and half a million in Facebook stock in 2017.
      In 2011, 60 Minutes aired a segment called “Pelosi Insider Trading.” The episode detailed the Pelosi’s involvement in initial public offerings while having inside information. In one example, the Pelosis profited from an IPO from Visa while regulations on credit card companies were being considered in Congress. This was not illegal at the time.
      Aside from investments in companies, Financial Leasing Services invests in real estate, adding to the Pelosi’s worth. They own at least $23 million worth of real estate across ten properties, including vineyard worth at least $5 million.

      • john mcnaught says:

        Big Swede, Why won’t you answer my simple question.? Should people who hope to be elected show their income tax forms ? I did not vote for Pelosi, did you?
        Criminals are not democrats or republicans, they are criminals.

        • Big Swede says:

          Here’s your answer, level the playing field. If Dems can use the courts to obfuscate information or deny transparency then their opponents can use the same.

          Last time I checked we still don’t have Hillary’s 33K emails from her private server.

  3. S Brennan says:

    Why the eff should my tax forms be made public just because I am running for office? The US Constitution determines what the qualifications for federal office are…not your politically expedient “morality”.

    Don’t like the qualifications for federal office? Fine, get off your pompous ass and change the US Constitution, meantime, shut your politically motivated pie-hole. Your disingenuous argument is meant to disguise a vindictive fishing expedition into appearing as a “moral crusade”, your deceit fools no one. If the IRS finds a violation, then it’s your business, until then, you’re just a politically motivated asshole looking to dig up dirt on political opposition while hiding behind the transparent fig leaf of “public virtue”. Disgusting the way posers flaunt themselves on these blogs.

    • john mcnaught says:

      Big Swede, S Brennan, Obfuscation and invective are not answers. I guess I can take that as a no. My answer which I believe is more expository, is yes. People elected by the body politic in a democratic society should voluntarily release their income tax records if they expect votes. Anyone who reads this can arbitrate 🙂

    • JC says:

      @S Brennan.

      None of the hoopla or the Supreme Court cases are about releasing tax information because a person is running for office. The case is, in NY, about criminal investigations. Trump is asserting what he presumes is executive privilege to be free from investigation and prosecution (and records subpoenas) while in office. The Congressional case was about wanting to use the president’s tax records in an attempt to see if they needed to change the law around reporting and transparency.

      This whole thing is about separation of powers and abuse of executive privilege. The system of checks and balances is playing out in slow motion. What it isn’t, is a test of any requirements to provide tax records while running for office. It is ok for the public or other candidates to demand it. It is ok for a candidate to refuse, or to acquiesce. That’s the politics side of it, not a constitutional side.

      • S Brennan says:

        Yes, I know but, the prosecution is political tool seeking to use subpoena power to find embarrassing details on Trump, not any approximation of justice. The sting/prosecution of Gen Flynn was/is also purely political. Tax returns are inherently embarrassing material. Either it’s the law that ALL PUBLIC OFFICE HOLDERS put their cards [tax returns] on the table or it’s not…no in between. And by that I mean, all your tax returns are public, not just the ones prior to taking office, all those during and afterward…and if you don’t understand the the afterward bit…you don’t know how bribery is done nowadays.

        But my answer was in response to Mcnaught’s sanctimonious and politically motivated “interrogatory”.

        • JC says:

          Well, you can think that the prosecution is a political tool — and it often is and it works from and against all political parties. But when you’re trying to figure out if the president paid hush money to a prostitute during an election (erection?) cycle, that’s a legitimate request. And the Supreme Court, the final arbiter of the law of the land, happens to agree with the prosecutor and me. So, sour grapes and all, you have the right to an opinion, but that’s about it.

  4. Big Swede says:


    We should be able to ask for all the returns of the congress and the justices on the supreme court.

    • JC says:

      For once we agree, Swede. Campaign laws should require this of all federal elections. Laws should also require it of all Presidential appointments that have to go through Congressional approval.

      Transparency would go a long ways to illuminating the level of corruption our federal government has risen — republican, democrat and nonpartisan alike.

      • Big Swede says:

        Good luck with that, if all appointments were solely dependent on Congressional approval then, especially in these partisan times, a Democrat congress wouldn’t allow any to go thru and vice versa for Republicans.

        What we shouldn’t be afraid of is a Billionaire who’s never been brought up as a politician becoming President. We should be deafly afraid of politicians who start out as thousanaires and after 40+ years become millionaires.

  5. JC says:

    Here is an anecdotal report from me, not about the who, but about how the Headwaters Foundation works with the community. I had the opportunity last fall to be invited to a 2 day event held at the Salish Community College. It was called “Voices & Visions”. A nonprofit organization I volunteered with was invited along with folks from a couple dozen other small nonprofits and organizations in Lake County on the Flathead Indian Reservation.

    So, a quick recap: as William Skink outlined in the previous blog post, the Headwaters Foundation has a huge pot of money from the sale of Community Hospital to hand out, and it does it in a variety of ways: small grants (Go! Grants), policy and strategic initiatives, sponsorships, etc. The Voices & Visions was the second largest grant recipient, with the grants to the U of M’s Zero to Five being the largest (see here for a good writeup of that https://www.mtpr.org/post/headwaters-foundations-biggest-initiative-aimed-montanas-youngest-children).

    So, Zero to Five is going to eat up a lot of Headwater’s money. The Voices & Visions conference was conducted via a $227,000 grant to Salish Kootenai College (see the 2019 awards here: https://www.headwatersmt.org/funding/past-awards/). The event was in their event center/gymnasium. Maybe 120 people showed up. A collection of community members and nonprofit/organizational staffers and volunteers, and a lot of Tribal members including the Council, Tribal Health and Housing, Cultural committees etc. If nothing else, the event was a great opportunity to network and meet people doing some good work on the Rez.

    But my (large) criticisms come from the amount of money expended, vs. the benefit to the organizations. It ended up being a series of exercises intended to help the participants focalize projects and get community support — a laudable goal. But that’s where the usefulness ended, and the exorbitant nature of the event took over. It was a contest where the winner would get a $10,000 dollar Go! grant. Yes,Headwaters ended up giving out one small grant after the event.

    Our nonprofit already had a project it was working on, using an evidence-based approach to provide housing and treatment for homeless addicted persons. But the event attempted to get us to change our strategy and structure in order to better compete for the one small grant. A rather useless exercise in time and effort, as we couldn’t and wouldn’t do that. Months after the event we were awarded a $5,000 Go! Grant anyways — a consolation prize.

    Where the decadence set in, was the ambience — food buffets, live music, masseuses, snacks and coffee, spiffs, etc. There were breakfasts full of fruit and bakery goods, catered lunches, a fresh deer meat smoking area, and a big banquet on the final night, complete with live music and “games” where you could win prizes (think: go to Walmart and pick an assortment of kitchen gadgets) and gift cards.

    Then they passed out a gift bag to the hundred or so remaining people — a few nice gew-gaws, and a $100 gift card to Walmart in each bag. And all of the different drawings had included $100 gift cards. I came home with $200 in Walmart gift cards for my time, I just spent the end of the last one buying toilet paper at Walmart. So, maybe $35,000+ dollars of the expense was to provide Walmart merchandise/cards. And of course, all the expense of the professional staff to run the event and do the exercises, rentals, materials, etc.

    I think that if Headwaters had just picked one or two organizations and given them each $100,000, that would have been more productive. The networking I did was far more useful, meeting with tribal representatives that had much greater interest in the project we were working on, and had funding/resources available.

    As Skink has mentioned, Headwaters needs to be examined with a fine toothed comb, as that amount of money has turned into a shark feeding frenzy to access it. Some of the smaller grants have indeed benefitted community organizations in a good way, but that is a small percentage of the monies going out. The largesse going to the U of M is an egregious example of how not to spend $16.7 million. The method of getting small community organizations to compete with each other for a pittance was really distasteful and useless.

    • john mcnaught says:

      Thanks JC I felt a little guilty for the comments getting off the rails. You answered many questions about how Headwaters works as well as why some oversight might be needed.
      I mistakenly thought the money would be invested and the proceeds distributed.

  6. john mcnaught says:

    Personally, I am reluctant to favor a law that requires those who run for elective office to show their tax forms. The release of presidential tax forms has been voluntary until recently. If two candidates in our system both refuse, I guess I would have to ask S Brennan for some more invective to help me decide who has the most to hide. I repeat, criminals are not democrat or republican they are just criminals.

  7. S Brennan says:

    JC, to quote you, if “you’re trying to figure out if the president paid hush money to a prostitute during an election cycle” then you should not be prosecuting the case, you either already have evidence that the sitting President knowingly used CAMPAIGN FUNDS* or you don’t. If Trump paid from his funds, it’s his business, not yours and certainly not the prosecutors…and yeah, that’s the law JC. The law is not whatever you want it to be or, whatever is a politically expedient cudgel in attempting to over-throw a sitting president because…you don’t like his style.

    And yeah it’s style, not substance in Trumps case. How do we know? Because Biden is now using Trump campaign material [once a plagiarist, always a plagiarist]. Yes, Biden is totally insincere, as he has been since his draft-dodging ass first sexually groped it’s way onto the political scene in the 70’s. You don’t get any sleazier than Biden but, it doesn’t matter does it, he’s got a [D] after his name?

    [Trump’s self-funded campaign, were personal wealth…not funds from Pharma, Wall Street, Health Insr Industry..et.al for which the law was intended]

    • JC says:

      You may not like it, but Grand Juries still have the power to subpoena information and compel testimony if they think there may have been a crime committed. That’s their job. Not to ask for information when they already know what it is. Personally I don’t give a fuck who paid whom for a blow job out of which fund.

      But I think it is important that when the Supreme Court rules on a case like this, that people pay attention. The Executive branch has been sucking up more and more power over the years, and yes even under Democrat presidents. Every opportunity the Courts and Congress get to roll that back is a good thing in my opinion.

      • S Brennan says:

        JC you may want to educate yourself on how the founding fathers concept of a “grand jury” has been warped and perverted from it’s original use; as a check on prosecutorial abuse, to what it is today, a tool for prosecutorial abuse.

        CATO institute may be your type of reading but, they are one of the few organizations that bother to examine the perversion of governmental institutions.


        • john mcnaught says:

          Geez S Brennan, I generally agree with the article you posted.
          So, the question is this. Does someone running for office who diverts campaign contributions to pay money to hide adulterous affairs deserve votes? I agree with JC that his past sexual life does not have anything to do with public policy.

        • john mcnaught says:

          Wow oh wowee, I agree with the grand jury premise too. I will read the article. Honey tastes much better than vituperation.

        • JC says:

          @S Brennan

          Unfortunately we have to deal with Grand Jury as it exists. I say this as a person who was a target of a Grand Jury twice in the 80s. I had friends compelled to testify against me and others. I had broken no laws; thankfully the 1st Amendment protected my behavior in one case, and the 2nd Amendment in the other.

          But arguing about the history and abuse of the Grand Jury does nothing to change the facts about Trump, his actions, the Grand Jury(s), Congress, prosecutors and the Supreme Court rulings. His business associates are going to have to give up his tax returns, and all the salacious details about his financial empire will eventually leak out. I don’t have a problem with that. Trump is best relegated back to tabloids on the end cap of check out lanes. Maybe even The Enquirer is too good for him, I don’t know.

          If he would have provided some transparency going into his campaign we wouldn’t be here today. In a way I’m glad he didn’t, as the Supreme Court pulled back some much abused and misallocate Executive privilege. I hope more of these sorts of rulings occur.

  8. S Brennan says:

    Bradley Smith is a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission and a visiting fellow in the James Madison Program at Princeton.

    “It’s is true that “contribution” and “expenditure” are defined in the Federal Election Campaign Act as anything “for the purpose of influencing any election,” and it may have been intended and hoped that paying hush money would serve that end. The problem is that almost anything a candidate does can be interpreted as intended to “influence an election,” from buying a good watch to make sure he gets to places on time…

    Suppose Trump had used campaign funds to pay off these women. Does anyone much doubt that many of the same people now after Trump for using corporate funds, and not reporting them as campaign expenditures, would then be claiming that Trump had illegally diverted campaign funds to “personal use”? Or that federal prosecutors would not have sought a guilty plea from Cohen on that count? And that gets us to a troubling nub of campaign finance laws: Too often, you can get your target coming or going.

    Yes, those payments were unseemly, but unseemliness doesn’t make something illegal. At the very least, the law is murky about whether paying hush money to a mistress is a “campaign expense” or a personal expense. In such circumstances, we would not usually expect prosecutors to charge the individuals with a “knowing and willful” violation, leading to criminal charges and possible jail time. A civil fine would be the normal response. But Cohen is not the normal defendant, and prosecutors almost certainly squeezed him to plead guilty on these charges, in part, for the purpose of building a case for possible criminal or impeachment charges against the president, or even, daresay, “influencing the re-election” of Trump.

    Laws, once stretched from their limited language and proper purpose, are difficult to pound back into shape. We should proceed with caution here.


    • john mcnaught says:

      Geez S Brennan, I generally agree with the article you posted.
      So, the question is this. Does someone running for office who diverts campaign contributions to pay money to hide adulterous affairs deserve votes? I agree with JC that his past sexual life does not have anything to do with public policy.

  9. S Brennan says:

    “we have to deal with Grand Jury as it exists”


    You are saying, once a government institution has been corrupted by evil doers working behind the scenes…we the people have no right to remedy it? What an odd revelation of learned helplessness? Such a proposition gives all the power to evil-doers, they may change laws as it suits them and only they have the power to alter them? Really?

    I disagree, laying like a helpless Nell while Snydley Whiplash ties me to the tracks…then awaiting Dudley Doright’s rescue sounds vaguely Canadian…how close are you guys to the border?

    • JC says:

      You totally misrepresent my case by building a straw man to argue with. You are trying to be an activist about grand juries. Fine, I support that. But it has no bearing on the Trump cases the Supreme Court ruled on. It has no bearing on the fact the SCOTUS rolled back executive privilege, which I think is a good thing.

      Yes, today we have to deal with the grand jury as it exists. Your arguments mean nothing to the person today who is a target or person of interest before a paneled jury. Try bringing any of your arguments before a grand jury, or the court your indictment lands you in to see how far they get.

      And no I’m not helpless. I’ve fought the government in many, many ways to uphold constitutional rights. I’ve exercised my rights with civil disobedience. But I go about my life understanding the framework I live within. I have been party to many lawsuits fighting government overreach, and won some — even creating precedence for right-to-know and sunshine laws in MT. I have helped to write legislation to overturn or modify abhorrent laws, and have conducted public campaigns to lobby for them and other civil liberty issues. I have written policy and position papers for politicians, and briefed them on a multiple of issues.

      Last week I spent a few hours with a couple of people talking with a candidate for Montana’s Attorney General, advocating (with good results) for the constitutional rights of homeless, addicted, and mentally ill individuals. We talked about what defunding the police meant, or could mean. Talked about improving the quality and quantity of services available to jail diversion programs. Talked about how to fund and build alternate response networks to community crises (like the one Skink built up at the Pov). And more.


      • S Brennan says:

        Anytime laws are applied to some, but not all, I am in opposition.

        • JC says:

          Welcome to America.

        • john mcnaught says:

          Hey S. Brennan, Why so nice to JC and William and nasty to me. Those two have done more for the needy than I ever have. My hat is off to them. You never did answer my question.

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