Organization Trends

Defending Democrats Together: Bill Kristol’s $10 Million “Dark Money” Assault on Republicans


Despite calling themselves “Republicans” and “lifelong conservatives,” the supposedly principled folks behind Bill Kristol’s Defending Democracy Together—a star Never Trump group with the amusing acronym “DDT”—are really just another front for the “dark money” Left.

How else would Kristol, the group’s founder, explain the $10,050,000 the group’s 501(c)(4) arm received last year from the Sixteen Thirty Fund, one of the Left’s biggest political spenders?

Targeting Trump

For the uninitiated, Sixteen Thirty Fund is the lead advocacy arm in Arabella Advisors’ multi-billion-dollar “dark money” political empire, which uses a for-profit consultancy to run a set of four in-house nonprofits, each of which bankrolls political causes each year.

That network pulled in $1.7 billion in 2020—more than doubling its income in a single year. Capital Research Center has already traced hundreds of millions of dollars in grants from these Arabella-run nonprofits flowing to the Left’s biggest get-out-the-vote groups.

One senior Trump administration official privately told me last year that he considers the Arabella network to be one of the most “powerful and influential” in Washington, despite little to no coverage of its activities in the 15 years since its creation in 2005.

After breaking the story on this lobbying juggernaut and covering it for close to three years, I’m inclined to agree with him. Wherever Arabella’s prolific spending is active, the Left’s most sophisticated and effective pressure campaigns are also present.

With Arabella’s cash the DDT could buy a lot of anti-Trump, anti-Republican ads. For example, Sixteen Thirty Fund’s $10 million grant accounts for an astonishing two-thirds of the roughly $15 million that Kristol’s group spent in the 2020 election advertising against conservative candidates, according to OpenSecrets (which accurately tags the group as “liberal”).

Sixteen Thirty Fund’s money made DDT the second-biggest outside spender after the National Association of Realtors in the 2020 election, spending more than the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Democrats’ Senate Majority PAC, a host of Arabella-funded (c)(4)s, or even Sixteen Thirty Fund itself. That’s no mean feat for a group birthed in 2018.

In addition to the ads promoting Democratic talking points and propaganda, it also ran “Operation Grant,” an effort to flip Ohio—birthplace of Civil War hero Ulysses Grant—to Biden. It failed spectacularly, and Trump’s win by 8 points and close to half a million votes should have embarrassed the group.

After working hard to help oust the president, Kristol and Co. attempted to blacklist former Trump administration staffers and officials with their Republican Accountability Project—a disingenuous campaign that would have made Stalin proud.

Other Left-Wing Donors

But Arabella isn’t the only source of left-wing cash the erstwhile Republican and his band of ideological purists embraced.

Liberal billionaire and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar gave DDT at least $1.6 million in 2018 through his (c)(4) Democracy Fund Voice. That helped fund publication of The Bulwark, a Never Trump website supported through the DDT Institute, DDT’s 501(c)(3) arm. The institute also received a $125,000 grant from Arabella’s New Venture Fund in 2020.

But don’t expect DDT and Kristol world to publicly celebrate their new-found leftist credibility. The funding sources powering their engines are apparently embarrassing to DDT.

Sarah Longwell, the group’s director, declined to name DDT’s donors in an email exchange with CRC last year, stating only that the group receives funds “from all sorts of people who care about democracy and the rule of law.”

Hayden Ludwig

Hayden Ludwig is a Senior Investigative Researcher at Capital Research Center. He is also a columnist at the Washington Free Beacon and writes regularly for The American Conservative. Ludwig is…
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