Organization Trends

Who is Behind the Groups Pushing Obamacare?


[Editor’s Note: This piece continues Capital Research Center’s original reporting on the “dark money” groups that sponsor the pro-Obamacare groups Get America Covered and Protect Our Care.]

If you listen to advertisements from activist groups like Save My Care, Protect Our Care, and Get America Covered, you might get the impression that there’s an army of concerned citizens desperately trying to save Obamacare from the ash heap.

“Healthcare is the most important issue to Americans,” wrote Save My Care in the leadup to the 2018 midterm election. “The results are in, [and 2018] was the healthcare election,” added Protect Our Care. The most blunt was the aptly-named Health Care Voter, which swore that the midterm election was “all about healthcare.”

Whether voters had healthcare on their minds when they went to the polls in November is debatable, considering the wealth of other issues at stake: immigration, impeachment, and the confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh were just a few hot-button election issues. But even less convincing is these groups’ image of a single-issue “healthcare voter.”

Perhaps that’s because Save My Care, Protect Our Care, Get America Covered, and Health Care Voter are all front groups for three heavyweights in professional left-wing organizing.

In fact, at least thirteen pro-Obamacare organizations aren’t independent organizations at all, but websites hosted by a handful of mega-funder nonprofits: the Sixteen Thirty Fund, New Venture Fund, and Hopewell Fund.

Those three funds are in turn managed by Arabella Advisors, a mysterious consulting firm based in Washington, D.C. Arabella Advisors advises wealthy clients on what it calls “strategic philanthropy.” In practice though, Arabella’s strategic giving involves philanthropic investments to left-leaning causes and organizations.

The firm hosts four such Funds sporting benign names—three 501(c)(3) nonprofits and one 501(c)(4) advocacy group: the three listed above plus the Windward Fund, which funds environmentalist projects.

Together, these four groups earned a staggering $417 million in 2016, according to their latest tax filings. Were they combined into a single organization, the Funds would be the 29th-wealthiest public charity in the United States, according to Forbes’ 2016 figures, earning more than the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, and the Clinton Foundation.

The Funds work in tandem to provide a range of services that make them indispensable to the professional Left. The New Venture Fund, for example, provides millions of dollars each year to a vast range of activist groups such as the Sierra Club Foundation and Center for American Progress. The Windward Fund receives huge grants from the Walton, Rockefeller, and Kellogg Foundations to fund climate change “education” initiatives. And the Hopewell Fund, launched in 2015 with an $8.4 million grant from the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, runs groups like the Economic Security Project, itself co-founded by the president of the Center for Community Change, Facebook co-founder and Obama 2008 campaign adviser Chris Hughes, and Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza.

But arguably the Funds’ most important role is incubating new activist groups, which use the tax-exemptions and established infrastructures of the Sixteen Thirty Fund and the New Venture Fund while they wait for the IRS to process their own applications for tax exemption. The Sixteen Thirty Fund alone hosts at least nineteen such projects, each of them designed to look like a single-issue advocacy group at a casual glance.

Take Demand Justice, a judicial activist group CRC originally identified in June 2018 after it launched its first media campaign attacking Thomas Farr, a lawyer nominated for a federal judicial post by the Trump administration. Demand Justice doubled down on these tactics to help smear now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh when President Trump nominated him to the U.S. Supreme Court a month later.

Because Sixteen Thirty Fund is a 501(c)(4) advocacy group, it can dedicate significantly more money to lobbying than its 501(c)(3) counterparts. The benefit to having a 501(c)(3) counterpart is that donations to it are tax-deductible (donations to 501(c)(4) groups are not) and that it’s easier for wealthy foundations like Ford and Rockefeller to give to 501(c)(3) nonprofits.

As a result, the Sixteen Thirty Fund and the New Venture Fund tend to run projects like Demand Justice in tandem, creating a New Venture Fund-hosted front group for fundraising alongside a Sixteen Thirty Fund-hosted front group for lobbying.

One such arrangement is between All Above All, a project of New Venture Fund, and All Above All Action Fund, a project of Sixteen Thirty Fund. Together, the groups want to overturn the Hyde Amendment, a 1976 congressional provision that bans the federal government from funding abortions, except in extreme circumstances. It’s a clever package that gives the groups fundraising advantages through the New Venture Fund’s tax-deductible status while maximizing their ability to lobby for legislation through the Sixteen Thirty Fund—all while masking Arabella Advisors’ sophisticated network of ultrawealthy nonprofits under the guise of “grassroots activism.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the campaign to save Obamacare with pop-up lobbying groups like Health Care Voter closely resembles the campaign by professional activists to pass the healthcare legislation in 2010. Brad Woodhouse, a co-chair for Health Care Voter, previously served on the steering committee for Health Care for America Now (HCAN, the 501(c)(4) umbrella group CRC reported on last year which ran the “$60 million five-and-a-half year campaign to pass” Obamacare—something HCAN itself brags about.

Like Health Care Voter, HCAN’s own origins are shadowy; the organization fueled its $60 million Obamacare campaign with $27 million from Atlantic Philanthropies, which was only able to give such support because it’s chartered in Bermuda. As Matthew Vadum reported last year for CRC, the passage of Obamacare was “‘the culmination of a campaign’ by Atlantic Philanthropies and its allies.”

Woodhouse also heads Protect Our Care, the self-described “war room for the ACA” (Obamacare) that supported Democrats in the 2018 midterm election. Protect Our Care is also a project of the Sixteen Thirty Fund.

As if to quietly advertise just how fake these supposedly grassroots groups really are, Health Care Voter’s coalition list includes at least 9 groups that are also projects of an Arabella-run Fund: Tax March, Save My Care, Ohioans for Economic Opportunity, New Jersey for a Better Future, Michigan Families for Economic Prosperity, SoCal Health Care Coalition, Keep Iowa Healthy, Keep Birth Control Copay Free, and Floridians for a Fair Shake. In fact, many of those groups—including other ostensibly state-based groups not on the coalition list—are so similar that they share carbon copy websites.

If that’s not convincing enough, consider Health Care Voter’s co-chair membership—or rather, who used to be a member.

The list currently includes Brad Woodhouse; Anton Gunn, a former Obama-era Health and Human Services communications director; Laura Packard, a Democratic political consultant; and a slew of other activists.

The website formerly listed Center for American Progress Vice President Topher Spiro among its co-chairs, whose tenure as a senior staffer to former Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) included helping to draft the Obamacare bill. (In professional politics, it’s common practice for groups to hire legislative experts like Spiro; it’s also a clear indicator that Health Care Voter should be taken seriously.)  Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, a rapper, has since replaced Spiro as co-chair.

Abraham Lincoln was right. You can fool some of the people all of the time, and you can fool all of the people some of the time—but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. If Health Care Voter was honest about its self-image, it would simply call itself “Democratic Voter.”

Until then, it should be seen as what it really is: another group of left-wing activists playing professional politics.

Hayden Ludwig

Hayden Ludwig is an Investigative Researcher at Capital Research Center. He is a native of Orange County, California, and a graduate of Sonoma State University.
+ More by Hayden Ludwig