Recent news stories detailing how left-leaning nonprofits and foundations have tried to influence legislation like the federal H.R. 4 election overhaul, and fund visible activism like a recent incident at Arizona State University linked to the Ford Foundation, have led legislators and pundits on the right to call for a deeper look at how these organizations receive and spend their money.
But legislators and analysts interested in how nonprofit funding has shifted the political debate in the United States ought to also pay attention to another funding apparatus. This apparatus appears to be targeting not just the Overton window framing policy but one that shoots at the autonomous heart of American politics itself: foreign funding of lobbyists and political groups seeking to influence American elections.
It’s a good thing sunlight is increasingly illuminating groups like the Sixteen Thirty Fund, founded and presided over by Clinton lackey Eric Kessler and one of four sister nonprofits in the vast Arabella Advisers network (which CRC has covered extensively). It’s been called out in the press perhaps more frequently than other so-called “dark money” groups because it “acts as a fiscal sponsor for more than 50 groups that lack tax-exempt status or do not exist as separately incorporated entities.” It literally incubates other lefty nonprofits before birthing them into the world of “nonpartisan” activism.
Leftist Organizations Behaving Badly
It’s also refreshing to see the Ford Foundation and other leftist organizations that have been behaving more like activist training camps than charities revealed as funders of leftist propaganda. In the incident at Arizona State University, a young woman berated two men as if they were drinking from the wrong water fountain during the height of Jim Crow. The young lady was revealed to be a Ford Foundation fellow.
A Substack author named Christopher Brunet uncovered the Ford Foundation link as reported in the Post Millennial reported on Sunday, September 26:
According to the Ford Foundation’s website, “We invest in transformative ideas, individuals, and institutions. We’re reimagining philanthropy to catalyze leaders and organizations driving social justice and building movements across the globe.”
“As a group, their views on policy issues are uniformly bleeding-heart-Marxist . . . so much so, that they are actually pretty boring and predictable. The listserv is mostly them patting each other on the back over how brave and smart they are all,” wrote Brunet.
The effort to shift the debate and the narrative seem to be becoming the bread and butter of American nonprofit and philanthropic groups on the left. The vastness of the Arabella network lends credence to that.
But more disruptive are foreign nationals attempting to influence the outcome of American elections. The Foreign Agents Registration Act seeks to address this problem because under federal law foreign nationals cannot legally contribute to political groups or campaigns in order to influence U.S. elections.
But where there’s a will, there’s a lobbyist looking to cash in.
OpenSecrets reported in August the payouts to American lobbyists hired with foreign funds to help influence elections numbered in the millions.
[F]oreign nationals can hire foreign agents or lobbyists to advocate for their interests in the U.S. and lobbyists who are U.S. citizens are able to make political contributions, even to the same lawmakers they may be lobbying on behalf of foreign clients.
Foreign agents registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act during the 2020 election cycle made at least $8.5 million in political contributions. Another $25 million in 2020 political contributions came from lobbyists representing foreign clients, including U.S. subsidiaries owned or controlled by foreign parent companies, registered under the Lobbying Disclosure Act.
That includes all of foreign agents’ 2020 individual contributions to federal-level campaigns as well as outside groups like political action committees and super PACs that are registered with the FEC. PACs affiliated with firms of registered foreign agents contributed even more.
That’s a lot of cheese to help circumvent federal law, and according to OpenSecrets, both sides of the political aisle participate.
Elections at Risk
Even more troubling is that, according to this Federal Election Commission’s Office of Inspector General release, the FEC does not have a program to verify whether foreign addresses related to financial information are linked to actual foreign nationals. It warns of the “significant national security risks” that could arise from foreign money affecting U.S. elections.
We already know about the foreign funding of nonprofits via the Confucius Institutes on college campuses and the warnings from the Trump State Department of the risk to Americans if that kind of paid propaganda continue unfettered.
It would appear it’s time to take a serious look at how potentially hostile nations are using lobbyists to skew American elections in their favor.