Commentary

Shining Light on the Left's Dark Money

By Tony Perkins | January 14, 2022 | 5:02pm EST
Featured is a hat bearing the likeness of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic donkey. (Photo credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)
Featured is a hat bearing the likeness of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic donkey. (Photo credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)

The Left isn't just trying to cheat at elections -- it's also playing dirty in how to finance them. In an explosive story that's been brewing for months, investigative researchers have traced millions of dollars in extremist organizations to a dark-money "nonprofit" that's bypassing the IRS rules. If you thought the 2020 Zuckerbucks scheme was bad, hang on to your hats. The Democrats have more money secrets than anyone saw coming.

It started back in 2018 when Politico's reporters started sniffing around a group called the Sixteen Thirty Fund. During that November's midterms, more than a few eyebrows were raised at the "green wave," an "unprecedented gusher of secret money" from a "little-known" D.C. nonprofit. The Sixteen Thirty Fund's tax filings, Politico discovered, showed that the group was a major player that year, dropping a whopping $141 million on more than 100 extreme causes -- everything from stopping Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to changing laws on voting and redistricting.

The spending was massive by normal standards and also anonymous (including one mystery donation that dropped everyone's jaws at $51.7 million). It was the kind of gift, Robert Maguire said, that's "unheard of on the liberal side." But now, almost three years later, groups like Hayden Ludwig's Capital Research Center wonder if it's really as rare as people thought -- or an operation that has simply become more sophisticated as time has worn on.

Raising even more suspicions, the Sixteen Thirty Fund operated under "four dozen different trade names in 2018," making it impossible, Ludwig explained, "to trace their donors." One of its latest campaigns, Fix Our Senate (whose purpose is to destroy the legislative filibuster), is another "pop-up" organization that bursts onto the scene, runs its attack ads, and disappears before anyone can track it.

"Because Fix Our Senate and other 'pop-ups' aren't real nonprofits, they don't file IRS Form 990 disclosures or publicly report their budgets, boards, or lobbying–making it impossible to trace their donors," Ludwig explained. "Instead, all that money moves through the Sixteen Thirty Fund, itself created and managed by the for-profit company Arabella Advisors as a way for liberal mega-donors to quietly fund many of the Left's most extreme causes."

It's the opposite, Ludwig argues, of grassroots activism. Instead it's a front for a multi-billion dollar dark money network that can't be held accountable.

"That's the most unfortunate thing about this," he explained on "Washington Watch." "There's no law prohibiting them from doing this because these websites are basically owned and operated by another nonprofit run by that consulting firm...Arabella Advisors. So Fix Our Senate, if you go to a lot of these pop up campaign websites, they don't disclose their relationship to Arabella or its nonprofit network. They don't mention that if you donate to them, you're not actually donating to this particular group...." In other words, there's no transparency.

In the last three years of digging through data and following the money, Ludwig says that this is the new cutting edge of Democratic politics. "It's also how the Left is increasingly shifting to pushing policy in Washington. They don't want the people to see the real nonprofits and professional activists running these organizations, so they give them phony names and slick campaign websites to totally obfuscate the political debate."

And all the while, at the helm, is this "swanky" for-profit consulting firm called Arabella Advisors, pulling the strings for a fleet of "nonprofits" who all share their address. "In fact, the boards of directors are all run by Arabella staff. Well, these nonprofits, in turn, accept huge contributions. We're talking hundreds of millions of dollars....It's like a Fortune 500 company. These nonprofits are hired by outside foundations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation or George Soros's Open Society Foundations or the Ford Foundation, to take money from these organizations and create these kinds of pop-up campaigns that cannot be traced to the original donors."

It's exactly the sort of pass-through money scheme that Democrats claimed to oppose. And, of course, these are supposedly 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) charitable dollars, meaning they have to abide by certain limits on lobbying or direct campaign activity -- unless, like here, you can avoid filing the same kind of IRS nonprofit disclosures of other nonprofits.

"It's a brilliant way to basically move money from foundations, which, I should point out, are usually shy [about] being perceived as too political -- they want to be seen as more highbrow and philanthropic -- even though what they fund is usually things like...abortion campaigns, for instance." They can do this electioneering and campaigning without admitting the kind of organization they are -- and with the help of the IRS's very generous tax exemptions and deductions.

"It's not done out in the open. It's not done with most people's knowledge. It's very insidious," Ludwig argues.

And yet, here's the irony -- no matter how much money these organizations spend, or how successfully they deceive America and take advantage of the system, they have very few victories to show for it.

"I find it very striking that the Left seems afraid to bring these policy debates out front and center and actually have a real discussion about their merits with the American people. Instead, they rely on all of these underhanded tactics."

Ludwig is right. The Left makes a lot of noise, but it doesn't win. Why? Because in the face of a lying narrative, the truth will ultimately prevail. And as discouraging as things may seem right now, that's the reality we need to hold onto. The Left and their media will eventually reap what they've sown. Until they do, Christians need to play the long game -- knowing the truth and standing on it.

Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council.

Editor's Note: This piece originally appeared on the Family Research Council.

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