Deception & Misdirection

Tammany Hall 2.0: Arabella Advisors

Tammany Hall 2.0: The Left’s New Political Machine (full series)
Demos | Priorities USA
Stacey Abrams | Arabella Advisors

Arabella Advisors “Dark Money” Empire

The Arabella Advisors network raised $1.7 billion in 2020 alone to spend to defeat President Donald Trump, easily the largest amount the organization has raised in any year since it began the “dark money” network in 2006. The Capital Research Center first reported on a memo that described Arabella’s 2020 election agenda that included front groups that quickly closed once the election passed. The memo to megadonors purported to try to combat “political fearmongering,” “attacks on voter registration,” “viral misinformation,” “disputes regarding election results,” and “post–Election Day violence.”

It’s strange any group raising a false panic about voter suppression would express concerns about “political fearmongering” and “viral misinformation.” Several of the organizations focus specifically on voting.

Arabella Advisors is a private, for-profit public relations firm that runs several nonprofits. The Sixteen Thirty Fund is a 501(c)(4) lobbying organization. The North Fund, also a 501(c)(4), operates closely with the Sixteen Thirty Fund. The New Venture Fund is the education arm, or 501(c)(3). The Hopewell Fund and the Windward Fund are also 501(c)(3) education and research groups in the network.

Still, it’s the Hopewell Fund that might sponsor the most significant of these groups, the Democracy Docket Legal Fund. The organization was founded in 2020 by Democrat super lawyer Marc Elias, who has been prominent in numerous Democrat litigation.

The legal fund has two sister organizations: Democracy Docket LLC, a for-profit that operates as a “news” website on voting cases, and the Democracy Docket Action Fund, which is fiscally sponsored by the North Fund.

The Sandler Foundation gave $1.5 million to Hopewell, earmarked for the Democracy Docket Legal Fund. Omidyar Network, a major progressive donor founded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, also gave $1.5 million to the group. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, a traditional funder of left-of-center causes, gave $800,000 in 2020 to Hopewell earmarked for the Democracy Docket Legal Fund. Sherwood Foundation gave $500,000 to the DDLF. In April 2021, the film production company Bad Robot, run by J.J. Abrams and Katie McGrath, donated $1 million to the legal fund.

Another major player in the voting space from the Arabella network is the Center for Secure and Modern Elections, a project of the New Venture Fund. The CSME advocates for automatic voter registration, more mail-in voting, and weaker penalties for lying on voter registration forms. It also has a “sister” lobbying organization, CSME Action, which is part of the Sixteen Thirty Fund.

The CSME has close ties with non-Arabella linked Center for Tech and Civic Life, the organization that used $350 million from Zuckerberg to fund election administration to drive up the Democrat vote in 2020.

While short of the Zuckerberg fortune dumped into running elections, the Arabella network also gave $25 million to the Center for Tech and Civic Life. In April 2021, the Center for Tech and Civic Life launched the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence (USAEE), a coalition of groups that includes Arabella’s Center for Secure and Modern Elections. The USAEE aims to train local election officials in what it considers best practices.

The Wellspring Philanthropic Fund, a network of grantmaking organizations, gave $1 million to the New Venture Fund to expand mail-in voting, some of which likely went to the CSME, but was perhaps spread across the other New Venture voting groups.

Voting Rights Lab is a project of the New Venture Fund. The lobbying arm, Voting Rights Action, is fiscally sponsored by the Sixteen Thirty Fund.

Another New Venture Fund project is the Democracy Funders Collaborative Census Subgroup, better known simply as the Democracy Funders Collaborative. It is a group of left-of-center grant makers that came together in 2015 to plan a strategy for the 2020 Census count and how to gear it toward helping Democrats. Its donors included the Democracy Fund, a separate group founded by eBay co-founder and left-wing billionaire Omidyar and the Wellspring Philanthropic Fund, a network of grant makers.

The Democracy Fund and the Wellspring Philanthropic Fund teamed with the Spitzer Trust to establish the Trusted Elections Fund in 2020. The Trusted Elections Fund, a project of the New Venture Fund, supposedly had the goal to address “election crises” or contested election results.

In June 2020, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, a nonprofit established in 1966 by Hewlett-Packard co-founder William Hewlett, gave the New Venture Fund a $1 million grant earmarked to boost the Trusted Elections Fund.

Democracy for All 2021 Action was a project of the Sixteen Thirty Fund that lobbied for automatic and Election Day voter registration while opposing ID laws. The organization is officially a coalition of 20 groups. Deirdre Schifeling is the founder and campaign director of Democracy for All 2021 Action. Schifeling was also the leader of the Fight Back Table, which was a group preparing for “mass public unrest” in 2020 if Trump was re-elected.

The Fair Elections Center was founded as a New Venture Fund fiscally sponsored group in 2006, the organization spun off into an individual organization in 2018. The Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund gave $1.2 million in 2018 and 2019 to the Fair Elections Center, according to data from the Capital Research Center.

The New Venture Fund also launched Voter Rights Action, with Democrat political veteran Laura Packard as the founder. In 2016, when working for MoveOn, Packard delivered about 500,000 signatures on a petition to the Justice Department demanding an investigation of what she said were voter suppression cases in Arizona and Alabama.

Common Cause

Among the oldest left-leaning watchdog groups is Common Cause, a 501(c)(4) that has historically focused on campaign finance, fighting corruption, and “good government” policies.

But Common Cause also sponsors the Protect the Vote Project that included more than 60,000 “election protection volunteers” across the country in 2020 to monitor polling locations and had a hotline to report cases of perceived voter suppression.

George Soros’s Open Society Foundations has given Common Cause more than $2 million since 2000. Since 2009, the Soros-sponsored Foundation to Promote Open Society has given $600,000 to Common Cause.

Other traditional leftwing funders of Common Cause are the Arca Foundation, which has given about $1.4 million to the watchdog group since 2000. Arca has also contributed to the Center for American Progress, Demos, Color of Change, and other groups on the left. The Carnegie Corporation of New York, another common donor to such causes, gave $1.8 million over the last two decades.

The Ford Foundation, another common donor to left-leaning causes, has contributed $685,000 to Common Cause since 2000. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which usually promotes left-leaning health care policies, has given $309,093 to Common Cause since 2002.

Corporate donors included Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund, giving at least $579,500 since 2003 and the Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program, the fourth largest manager of donor-advised funds in the nation. The League of Women Voters has given at least $506,500 since 2006 to Common Cause.

Progress Report

In March 2023, a coalition of more than 50 left-of-center groups, led by the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, issued a “progress report” evaluating the implementation of Biden’s Executive Order 14019 two years later.

Interestingly, that’s two years of Congress, watchdog groups, and the media attempting to get basic information about how agencies are applying the order. These groups–aligned with the Biden administration had little trouble obtaining the information.

The coalition signing onto the report includes Demos, which sired the executive order, and is involved in its implementation. It also includes the American Federation of Teachers, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Public Citizen, the Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund, and the Arabella-backed Fair Election Center.

As of this writing, how many of these organizations are participating in implementing Biden’s order is unknown. Though the conflict is clear. We already know the federal government isn’t picking apolitical nonprofits without a stake in the game. This is a throwback to the old school political machines—and now it has gone national.

Fred Lucas

Fred Lucas is the author of Abuse of Power: Inside the Three-Year Campaign to Impeach Donald Trump (Bombardier Books, 2020). He is a journalist who reports for the Daily Signal,…
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