Foundation Watch

The Hub Project: Hiding Ties to the Wyss Foundation

A case study

The Hub Project: Politicized Communications via Arabella Advisors
Hiding Ties to the Wyss Foundation | A Foundation with a Lobbying Arm

The story begins in 2015 when the consulting firm Civitas Public Affairs Group—whose clients include the pro–gun control Brady Campaign and Democratic get-out-the-vote group Voter Participation Center—produced a private report for the Wyss Foundation, the philanthropy vehicle of Swiss-born Hansjörg Wyss.[1] The report outlined a plan for a “communications hub.” While exactly how much the foundation paid for the report is unknown, between 2015 and 2018, the foundation paid over $442,000 to Civitas.

Seventeen members of the professional Left were interviewed for the report, representing such groups as Pew Charitable Trusts, the attack group Media Matters for America, the Center for American Progress (where Wyss is a board member), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), abortion giant NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Brennan Center, and the Center for Popular Democracy.[2]

Hiding Ties to the Wyss Foundation

This hub would support the foundation’s “core issue areas,” creating “research-based message frames” to “drive measurable change” and achieve “significant wins.” This would in turn “dramatically shift the public debate and policy positions of core decision makers,” “leading to implementation of policy solutions at the local, state, and federal level.” In other words, it would elect Democrats and make public policy.

The IRS strictly prohibits 501(c)(3) nonprofits from contributing to or intervening in political campaigns “on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate,” period.[3] Foundations that fall under the 501(c)(3) rules are subject to even stricter rules on funding of voter registration and lobbying activity.[4]

From the start, the hub was “solely funded by The Wyss Foundation,” yet its ties to the foundation were intentionally hidden. The Civitas report even recommends it be disassociated with the Wyss Foundation to “give the foundation appropriate separation from the hub’s work” and “allow the hub to engage in a more robust way than it could if it was based within the foundation.”

Instead, the hub would be set up as an “independent organization with a fiscal sponsor.” Its advisory board would consist of Wyss Foundation officials, who would receive quarterly reports on its progress, making it a front for an established liberal nonprofit that specializes in incubating new advocacy groups. That sponsor would need to have the “flexibility to work across the spectrum of 501(c)(3), (h) election, and 501(c)(4) activities,” referring to the lobbying caps the IRS places on different kinds of nonprofits. And it would need to set aside “15 to 25 percent of the budget for (c)(4) work funded by The Wyss Action Fund” (more on that later).

Not many fiscal sponsors fit that description in 2015. But one stands out: Arabella Advisors, the then-obscure consultancy whose network of four in-house nonprofits already commanded a staggering $332 million in revenues in 2015 alone.[5] That figure rose to $731 million in 2019, the year the Capital Research Center first exposed the network in a groundbreaking report.[6]

Arabella’s nonprofits specialize in attacking Republicans, tilting elections, and passing radical legislation. Each of these nonprofits manages a host of “pop-up” groups, websites designed to fool viewers into believing that they are grassroots activist groups. To date, the organization itself claims over 500 “pop-ups,” with more appearing each month. After studying this network over since 2019, it is clear that it’s the height of professional left-wing activism. When a donor goes to Arabella, they’re expecting a political payoff.

So it isn’t difficult to guess the kind of results the Wyss Foundation expected when it began funneling millions of dollars ($57 million since 2009) into the New Venture Fund, Arabella’s flagship 501(c)(3).[7]

The “communications hub” described in the 2015 Civitas report is strikingly similar to the Hub Project, an Arabella group launched in January 2017. [8] The Hub Project consists of two organizations: an action arm fronting for the Sixteen Thirty Fund, Arabella’s 501(c)(4) lobbying wing, and a research arm fronting for the New Venture Fund.[9] Many of Arabella’s groups use this kind of pairing scheme, maximizing their respective tax status advantages for lobbying and fundraising.

The Hub Project has been busy trying to flip Congress and the White House since its founding. As the New York Times’ Ken Vogel described in a major exposé in April 2021, “the Hub Project came out of the idea that Democrats should be more effective in conveying their arguments through the news media and directly to voters.” (Vogel’s published his explosive piece about Wyss when the billionaire attempted to purchase Tribune Newspapers. Within a couple of days of Vogel’s report, Wyss withdrew his offer to buy the newspaper chain.)

Early on, the Hub Project organized a series of marches in 2017 to demand President Donald Trump’s tax returns. Politico reports the group aided Democrats on “health care, taxes and the economy” in the 2018 midterm elections.[10] The Atlantic cheerfully credits the Hub Project with doing “remarkable damage” to President Trump’s reputation among Wisconsin voters in the lead-up to the 2020 election.[11] In April 2021 the group hired a campaign director whose last job was flipping the Senate in 2020 for a top Democratic PAC.[12]

The Hub Project doesn’t contribute directly to campaigns. As its name implies, it provides messaging strategies and research to other groups involved in elections and issues like DC statehood and abolishing the filibuster.

But in good Arabella fashion the Hub Project links up with other Arabella-run groups to form a constellation of make-believe grassroots advocacy organizations: Arizonans United for Health CareFloridians for a Fair ShakeKeep Iowa HealthyNew Jersey for a Better Future, and North Carolinians for a Fair Economy have been identified so far. Each of these groups is, in reality, run by the Sixteen Thirty Fund, but acts like a tentacle of the Hub Project, further obscuring the network’s connection to Arabella.[13]

The Hub Project’s staffers come from the Obama administration, Democratic PACs, and a panoply of activist groups. Its founding director, Arkadi Gerney, is an old Arabella hand who has held senior positions with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, the Bloomberg-funded Everytown for Gun Safety, and the Center for American Progress Action Fund (the lobbying arm of the think tank where Wyss is a board member).[14] Between 2016 and 2018 (and possibly before) he was a project director for the New Venture Fund (2018 compensation: $339,517). He’s also listed in Sixteen Thirty Fund’s 2019 Form 990 (total compensation: $145,468 to work 8 hours per week, amounting to just under $350 per hour).

In the next installment, the Berger Fund functions as the lobbying arm of the Wyss Fund.


[1] InfluenceWatch, “Civitas Public Affairs Group,”; InfluenceWatch, “Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence,”; and InfluenceWatch, “Voter Participation Center (VPC),”

[2] InfluenceWatch, “Pew Charitable Trusts,”; InfluenceWatch, “Media Matters for America,”; InfluenceWatch, “Center for American Progress (CAP),”; InfluenceWatch, “American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU),”; InfluenceWatch, “NARAL Pro-Choice America,”; InfluenceWatch, “William J. Brennan Center for Justice,”; and InfluenceWatch, “Center for Popular Democracy (CPD),”

[3] Internal Revenue Service, “The Restriction of Political Campaign Intervention by Section 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Organizations,”

[4] Internal Revenue Service, “Influencing Elections and Carrying on Voter Registration Drives,”

[5] InfluenceWatch, “Arabella Advisors: Network Financial Overview,”

[6] Capital Research Center, “Dark Money ATM,” website,

[7] Kenneth P. Vogel and Katie Robertson, “Top Bidder for Tribune Newspapers Is an Influential Liberal Donor,” New York Times, April 13, 2021,; and InfluenceWatch, “New Venture Fund (NVF),”

[8] Nicole Gaudiano, “Progressive Campaigns Nationwide Get a Silent Partner,” USA Today, January 1, 2017,; and InfluenceWatch, “The Hub Project,”

[9] InfluenceWatch, “The Hub Project,”; InfluenceWatch, “Sixteen Thirty Fund (1630 Fund),”; InfluenceWatch, “Hub Education and Engagement Fund,”; and InfluenceWatch, “New Venture Fund (NVF),”

[10] Scott Bland and Maggie Severns, “Documents Reveal Massive ‘Dark-Money’ Group Boosted Democrats in 2018,” Politico, November 19, 2019,

[11] David A. Graham, “An Experiment in Wisconsin Changed Voters’ Minds About Trump,” The Atlantic, September 17, 2020,

[12] Ryan Lizza, Eli Okun, and Garrett Ross, “Top Takeaways from Our Ron Klain Interview,” Politico, April 1, 2021,

[13] InfluenceWatch, “Arizonans United for Health Care,”; InfluenceWatch, “Floridians for a Fair Shake,”; InfluenceWatch, “Keep Iowa Healthy,”; InfluenceWatch, “New Jersey for a Better Future,”; and InfluenceWatch, “North Carolinians for a Fair Economy,”

[14] “Arkadi Gerney,”; “Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund,”; and “Center for American Progress (CAP),”

Hayden Ludwig

Hayden Ludwig is the Director of Policy Research at Restoration of America. He was formerly Senior Investigative Researcher at Capital Research Center. Ludwig is a native of Orange County, California,…
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