Foundation Watch

Omidyar’s Political Machine: Democracy Alliance


Pierre Omidyar’s Political Machine Exposed (full series)
From Tech Billionaire to Mega-Donor | Omidyar Nexus
Funders Committee | Democracy Alliance | Funding the Left

 

Democracy Alliance

Representatives from the Democracy Fund and its 501(c)(4) sibling, Democracy Fund Voice, have also attended meetings of the Democracy Alliance, the Left’s most potent strategy gathering. The particulars of their involvement remain unclear, but the Democracy Alliance’s secretive work is anything but.

Since 2004, major liberal donors, foundations, and special interest groups have met regularly at Democracy Alliance conferences to develop and coordinate the “activities of a permanent ‘left[-wing] infrastructure,’” to quote the New York Times. The alliance doesn’t dole out cash itself. Instead, its members agree to dispense high-dollar “investments” in activist groups that the alliance certifies as essential to Democratic Party victories in upcoming elections. In practice, this usually means voter registration and get-out-the-vote groups targeting the “New American Majority,” a phrase the alliance helpfully defines as “people of color, LGBTQ individuals, women, and millennials who are driving progressive social change.”

Keep in mind that tax-exempt nonprofits and foundations are barred from engaging in partisan voter registration drives—that includes having “the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates” [emphasis added]. Yet it’s no secret that “New American Majority” is synonymous with “likely Democratic voters,” flagrantly violating IRS prohibitions on tax-exempt electioneering.

For example, Harvard University published a report in 2019 celebrating the “voters of color” who “flipped Congress” in the 2018 midterm elections and are “transforming the political landscape across America,” labeling these voters key to “Democrats’ winning strategy.” It’s reports like those that inform the Democracy Alliance’s grantmaking strategy.

So it’s no surprise that in shortly after the “shocking and disturbing” outcome of the 2016 presidential election, the alliance set about creating a 2020 Vision Investment Portfolio to “outpace the Right” with “sustained investment in progressive infrastructure at the national and state levels.” The alliance formed 15 pooled funds with names like “New American Majority Fund” and “Latino Engagement Action Fund” to boost Democratic turnout in the 2018 and 2020 elections, particularly in battleground states such as North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

These 15 funds were (and likely remain) actually housed within two nonprofits: The New Venture Fund and Sixteen Thirty Fund, the biggest 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4), respectively, in Arabella Advisors’ $1.7 billion “dark money” empire. Alliance members were carefully instructed to make their checks payable to the New Venture or Sixteen Thirty Funds, “c/o Democracy Alliance.”

Source: Democracy Alliance 2020 Vision Portfolio

Arabella Advisors

The details of Omidyar’s involvement in the Democracy Alliance are scarce, but multiple threads tie his nonprofits to this shadowy network.

The Democracy Fund’s current senior director of partnerships, Lauren Hill, held the same job for the Democracy Alliance, “marshaling resources to investment recommendations.” Isaiah Castilla, ex-general counsel for Omidyar’s Democracy Fund and Democracy Fund Voice, is now an Arabella Advisors’ managing director. He specializes in advising nonprofits and foundations “on strategies to maximize their advocacy capacity.”

We’ve traced over $26 million from the Omidyar Nexus to Arabella’s nonprofits between 2015 and 2020 (most of it since 2018): $10.3 million from the Democracy Fund, $7.6 million from the Omidyar Network Fund, and $8.4 million from (c)(4) Democracy Fund Voice. Many of these grants were tagged for specific Arabella projects—all of them political.

For instance, in 2017 the Democracy Fund granted $280,000 to the Arabella-run Hopewell Fund as “program support” for the Center for Election Innovation and Research (CEIR). In its own disclosure for that year, Hopewell shuffled $281,952 to CEIR—a clear example of a foundation using a pass-through to fund political work. In fact, CEIR gained notoriety only after Mark Zuckerberg gave it $70 million to fund COVID-19 “relief” grants to various secretaries of state in the 2020 election, funds that—in Maryland’s case—helped turn out likely Democratic voters in Baltimore and the counties neighboring Washington, DC.

Other grants are just as striking. Democracy Fund Voice gave Sixteen Thirty Fund in 2020:

It’s the same story with grants from the Omidyar Network Fund and Democracy Fund to Arabella-run nonprofits in recent years:

  • $3,000,000 to the Tipping Point Fund, which repackages grants and funnels them to public policy advocacy groups focused on “social justice”;
  • $1,500,000 for Democracy Docket Legal Fund, founded by partisan super-lawyer Marc Elias to track challenges to Republican-drawn redistricting maps and lock in Democrats’ own favorable congressional maps;
  • $700,000 for the Trusted Elections Fund, the (c)(3) arm of Trusted Elections Action Fund; and
  • $1,250,000 for the 2020 Census Project, a mysterious pooled fund to influence Census turnout in Democratic-controlled states.

 

In the next installment, Omidyar’s nonprofits have bankrolled numerous left-wing groups.

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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