Foundation Watch

The Hub Project: A Foundation with a Lobbying Arm

A case study

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

A Foundation with a Lobbying Arm

Enter the Berger Action Fund, founded in 2007 as the Wyss Action Fund and perhaps the most unusual piece of the puzzle. Foundations are typically wary of associating themselves with 501(c)(4) advocacy nonprofits because of the strict limits the IRS places on their political activities. But the Berger Action Fund is formally listed as the Wyss Foundation’s advocacy arm on its Form 990—a phenomenon this writer has never seen before, though regular (c)(3) charities (not foundations) regularly operate with a (c)(4) arm—because the two groups share “personnel and facilities,” for which the foundation reimbursed the lobbying arm with $173,012 between 2017 and 2018.[1]

It was formally renamed in 2016, presumably after Wyss’s sister Susi Berger (née Susanna Ottilia Franziska Wyss, 1938–2019), a notable graphic artist and furniture designer in Switzerland. It’s unclear what triggered the change, but it’s possible that greater scrutiny of Wyss and his foundation in 2015–2016 led to this distancing of his foundation from its action arm.

No donors to Berger Action Fund have been identified. But Berger paid out nearly $159 million in grants to leftist groups between 2008 and 2019, including six- and seven-figure grants to the League of Conservation Voters (called a “‘dark money’ heavyweight” by a left-leaning watchdog), Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and the Center for Popular Democracy Action Fund, the lobbying wing of an ACORN agitation group successor funded by labor unions and a favorite of the Democracy Alliance.[2]

Berger’s most notable grants are $12.4 million to Arabella’s Sixteen Thirty Fund and $1.3 million to the New Venture Fund (2010–2017). Berger didn’t specify how those funds were spent in its Form 990, but the grants likely bankrolled the Hub Project. We may never know, though, because officials from Arabella Advisors, the Hub Project, the Sixteen Thirty Fund, the New Venture Fund, the Wyss Foundation, and the Berger Action Fund declined to comment to the New York Times’s Ken Vogel about their finances.

Leadership Ties to the Arabella Network

The ties connecting Wyss to the Arabella network—and possibly Arabella’s very origins—begin in the Clinton administration. Wyss Foundation president Molly McUsic (2022 total compensation: $509,133) and Arabella Advisors founder Eric Kessler both worked for Clinton administration Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt (1993–2001), the former Democratic governor of Arizona (1978–1987) and aggressive environmental regulator.[3]

How closely McUsic and Kessler worked together is unclear, but both were political appointees from the broader activist world. Kessler came from the League of Conservation Voters, where he directed field operations, McUsic, who served on Babbitt’s legal counsel team, clerked for liberal U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun (author of the Court’s opinion on Roe v. Wade) and U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Dorothy W. Nelson, a Carter appointee.[4] Interestingly, McUsic now sits on the League of Conservation Voters’ board.[5]

Add to this pair McUsic’s predecessor at the Wyss Foundation, John Leshy. Leshy—an ex-staffer from Carter’s Department of the Interior and Natural Resources Defense Council lawyer—was solicitor general to Babbitt’s Department of the Interior (1993–2001), which would’ve made him McUsic’s boss.[6] Leshy may have headed the Wyss Foundation in its infancy in 1998 (information before 2002 is scarce) but was certainly its president from at least 2002 until 2008, when then-chief operating officer McUsic succeeded him. Leshy—a professor of real property law at the University of California, Hastings, since 2001—co-chaired President Obama’s transition team for the Department of the Interior in 2009.

Although Kessler didn’t start Arabella Advisors until 2005, it appears that his ties to McUsic connected him to Hansjörg Wyss as the Wyss Foundation began making six-figure annual grants to the New Venture Fund (then the “Arabella Legacy Fund”) in 2007, just one year after the fund’s creation. In fact, Wyss could be described as the progenitor of the Arabella network. His foundation’s 2007 grant accounted for 55 percent of New Venture Fund’s revenues for that year.

At least one Wyss Foundation staffer, Kyle Herrig, jumped ship to Arabella-related organizations.[7] Herrig previously served as executive director and board member of the New Venture Fund since 2014 and was a Wyss Foundation staffer from 2012 to 2013. Interestingly, he was one of the individuals interviewed in the 2015 Wyss Foundation report leading to the creation of the Hub Project. As of 2023, Herrig is the executive director of the Congressional Integrity Project (another Arabella-connected “watchdog” organization that has targeted Republican legislators. He is the senior advisor and former president of the left-of-center activist group Accountable.US, a former New Venture Fund project that controls a number of anti-Trump groups that began life as New Venture Fund projects: Restore Public TrustAmerican Oversight, and Western Values Project, which ran an attack site on Trump’s Interior Secretary, David Bernhardt.[8] In early 2021, American Oversight got in trouble for trying to blacklist in Stalinist fashion former Trump administration officials so they wouldn’t be hired by big corporations.[9] This earned the group a critical letter from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, condemning it for “trying to deny Americans the opportunity to earn livelihoods simply because they made the sacrifice to serve on behalf of the President.”

In short, the Hub Project was one of the earlier efforts of a coordinated communications effort tying Arabella-coordinated communications campaigns to benefit Democratic Party interest.

This article was adapted from “Inside the Foreign Funded ‘Hub Project’ to Transform America” by Hayden Ludwig.


[1] InfluenceWatch, “Berger Action Fund (Wyss Action Fund),”

[2] InfluenceWatch, “League of Conservation Voters (LCV),”; Michael Beckel, “League of Conservation Voters Becoming ‘Dark Money’ Heavyweight,” Center for Public Integrity, November 22, 2013,; InfluenceWatch, “Planned Parenthood Action Fund,”; InfluenceWatch, “Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) Action Fund,”; and InfluenceWatch, “Democracy Alliance (DA),”

[3] InfluenceWatch, “Molly McUsic,”; and InfluenceWatch, “Eric Kessler,”

[4] InfluenceWatch, “League of Conservation Voters (LCV),”; and University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law, “Collins v. City of Harker Heights,”

[5] League of Conservation Voters, “Board of Directors and Executive Team,”

[6] InfluenceWatch, “Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC),”; University of California, Hastings, “John D. Leshy CV May 2018,” archived August 12, 2021,

[7] InfluenceWatch, “Kyle Herrig,”

[8] InfluenceWatch, “Accountable US,”; InfluenceWatch, “Restore Public Trust (RPT),”; InfluenceWatch, “American `Oversight,”; InfluenceWatch, “Western Values Project,”; and David Bernhardt. “Meet David Bernhardt,”

[9] Hayden Ludwig, “Former Arabella ‘Pop-Up’ Caught Blacklisting Trump Administration Officials,” Capital Research Center, March 23, 2021,