The “Dark Money” Arabella Network
Arabella Advisors is a partisan for-profit firm that manages four left-leaning nonprofits: the Sixteen Thirty Fund, New Venture Fund, Windward Fund, and Hopewell Fund. In 2018 alone this Arabella network spent more than $600 million on partisan Democratic political work and left-leaning advocacy.
An April 2021 New York Times report described Arabella as “an opaque network” that “often obscures the identities of donors” and funnels “hundreds of millions of dollars through a daisy chain of groups supporting Democrats and progressive causes.” The Times identified Arabella as a “leading vehicle” for “dark money” on the left.
The obscurity of these donations is sometimes made clear when a donor to an Arabella fund publicly identifies how much was given and for what purpose. According to its online grants database, the Ford Foundation gave nearly $13 million to left-leaning projects run by Arabella’s Hopewell Fund and New Venture Fund in 2021.
For some of these grants, the Ford database describes an obvious and identifiable purpose. In other cases, the language is less clear.
- Public Interest Technology Infrastructure Fund ($3 million). The specific objective of this New Venture Fund project is not clear. The Ford Foundation has a general giving goal of funding enhancements to the technical and human capacity of left-leaning “social justice” groups so that they can counter the work of “well-funded and well-organized opposition.” The Ford Foundation described the purpose of this particular grant as follows: “For the development and administration of the Public Interest Technology Infrastructure Fund, to design a governance structure for grantmaking to strengthen the field of public interest technology.”
- Public Interest Technology University Network Challenge Fund ($700,000). This project of the New Venture Fund appears to be related to the Public Interest Technology Infrastructure Fund. The specific objective of this project is similarly unclear. The Ford Foundation described the purpose of the grant as follows: “Core support for the Public Interest Technology University Network Challenge Fund for subgranting for curricula development, research agendas, & experiential learning programs to create a pipeline of technology talent toward careers in the public interest.”
- Redistricting Reform Project ($2.5 million). Also known as the Fair Representation in Redistricting Project, the Redistricting Reform Project is a run by the New Venture Fund. It advocates for gerrymandering state legislative and congressional districts so that the districts have a higher probability of electing Democrats. Another Arabella-managed foundation was the largest donor (at $5.5 million) to a left-leaning constitutional amendment campaign in 2018 that successfully removed Michigan’s redistricting process from the representatives of the people and put it instead under the authority of an unelected and randomly selected commission.
- All Above All ($2.35 million). A project of the New Venture Fund, All Above All is a pro-abortion group. It opposed the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch.
- Media Democracy Fund ($1.26 million). This project of the New Venture Fund advocates for left-leaning technology policies such as so-called net neutrality.
- Social and Economic Justice Leaders Planning Group ($1 million). This New Venture Fund project develops and trains staffers for left-leaning activist organizations. The Ford Foundation described the purpose of the grant as follows: “Core support for the Social and Economic Justice Leaders table to identify and implement aligned advocacy responses to strategic opportunities and challenges.”
- Economic Security Project ($1 million). The Economic Security Project is fiscally sponsored by the Hopewell Fund. It advocates for greater regulation on businesses and other left-leaning economic policies.
Additional Large Lefty Grants
Finally, here are nine additional left-leaning policy and advocacy groups that each received multi-million-dollar 2021 grants from the Ford Foundation:
- org Education Fund ($5 million). Color of Change is a left-wing activist group co-founded by Van Jones that engages in pressure campaigns that drive the Democratic Party further left. In one example from 2010, Color of Change opposed the elevation of Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) to the position of Ranking Member of the House Communications, Technology and the Internet Subcommittee because Rush had supported only five of the six elements of a net neutrality proposal. For historical perspective, in 1967 Congressman Rush was the co-founder of the Illinois chapter of the communist Black Panther Party.
- Amalgamated Charitable Foundation ($4.7 million). Amalgamated Charitable is a donor-advised fund that fiscally sponsors left-leaning advocacy groups. The largest 2021 grant from the Ford Foundation ($4 million of the total) was for Amalgamated’s HousesUSFund. This project funds rent control groups such as the Florida Housing Justice Alliance. The Ford grant description read as follows: “Core support for the HouseUS Fund, a combined impact fund for housing justice coalitions and field organizing in states to advance a bold agenda for racial and economic justice in housing.”
- Movement for Black Lives ($4.5 million). Movement for Black Lives is a left-wing advocacy group that identifies itself with the Black Lives Matter Movement for Black Lives supports socialist policy goals such as a “progressive restructuring of tax codes at the local, state, and federal levels to ensure a radical and sustainable redistribution of wealth.” Movement for Black lives is a fiscally sponsored subsidiary of the Common Counsel Foundation. The Ford Foundation funded Movement for Black Lives through a grant to Common Counsel.
- Allied Media Projects ($4.4 million). Allied Media is a left-wing media strategy nonprofit that promotes the position that capitalism is racist. One of the grant descriptions provided by the Ford Foundation states that Allied Media is receiving the funds “for the Decolonizing Wealth Project to disrupt existing systems of moving and controlling capital through education, radical reparative giving, and narrative change.”
- Asian American Pacific Islander Civic Engagement Fund ($3.5 million). This group funds other left-leaning and left-wing activist groups, such as the Chinese Progressive Association (San Francisco). The Asian American Pacific Islander Civic Engagement Fund is a fiscally sponsored project of NEO philanthropy, a donor-advised fund for left-leaning activist contributors.
- Center for Democracy and Technology ($3.25 million). CDT is an advocacy group that promotes left-leaning technology policies such as so-called “net neutrality.”
- Faith in Action Network ($3.1 million). Faith in Action is an advocacy group that promotes left-leaning economic goals, such as increasing government spending on the welfare state and hiking the minimum wage.
- Washington Center for Equitable Growth ($3 million). This group advocates for left-leaning economic policies such as increased government spending and higher taxes.
- Center for Working Families ($2.95 million). The Ford Foundation website cites the Center for Working Families as the ultimate recipient of $2.95 million in grants given to the Tides Foundation in 2021. Tides is a pass-through donor-advised fund used by left-leaning activist contributors. In the past the Center for Working Families has supported left-leaning budget and policy priorities such as higher taxes and government spending. But as of this writing the last post on the CWF website appeared to have been from more than eight years prior. IRS records for 2019 show the nonprofit formerly using the name Center for Working Families was filing as the “United for Respect Education Fund.” Under this new name the group runs left-leaning advocacy campaigns against large retailers such as Walmart and promotes a government-mandated $15 per hour wage.
This article was published in the January 2021 issue of Capital Research magazine.