2020 Election

Liberal Dark Money Group to Spend $1.2 Million Attacking GOP Senators on Coronavirus

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An activist group backed by a major liberal dark money network announced plans to spend more than $1 million attacking Republican senators over the coronavirus pandemic.

Tax March, a coalition of more than 70 left-wing groups, will undertake a $1.2 million ad campaign against Senators David Perdue (R., Ga.), Susan Collins (R., Maine), Pat Toomey (R., Pa.), and Ron Johnson (R., Wis.). Tax March was initially established to demand President Donald Trump release his tax returns. Its ads will attack the senators over their support for the 2017 tax bill that contained relief to some corporations that could benefit from the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package.

The ad campaign joins other high-profile Democratic groups spending millions attacking President Donald Trump's response to the virus. Unlike many of those groups, however, Tax March does not disclose its benefactors. It is a part of an intricate web of activist organizations housed at Arabella Advisors, a massive dark money network that obscured the source of more than $620 million in funneled cash in 2018 alone.

Tax March began airing ads on Atlanta radio stations against Perdue this week. Television and digital ads will follow against Collins, Toomey, and Johnson before April 1.

Tax March is a project of the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a fiscal sponsor at Arabella Advisors that offers its legal and tax-exempt status to groups that the IRS does not recognize as nonprofits. Such a setup creates a layer of secrecy between deep-pocketed liberal donors and the initiatives they fund. Donors who steer money to a group that falls under the auspices of the Sixteen Thirty Fund do not have to designate what organization they are funding. Instead, they can mark the money as going to the fund itself, which is then passed to their intended group.

Tax March's coalition of partners includes John Podesta's Center for American Progress Action Fund, liberal watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and David Brock's Media Matters for America. Tax March's advisory board consists of leaders from various progressive advocacy groups.

The Sixteen Thirty Fund spent $141 million on Democratic causes in 2018. Tax March is just one of dozens of liberal initiatives at the fund. Also under its umbrella is Demand Justice, a group led by former Hillary Clinton press secretary Brian Fallon that pushes back against Trump judicial nominations. Many of its groups are state-based initiatives, including Michigan Families for Economic Prosperity, North Carolinians for a Fair Economy, and Ohioans for Economic Opportunity.

Scott Neilsen, managing director of advocacy at Arabella, has worked with other donor institutions in the past, including George Soros's Open Society Foundations and the Democracy Alliance, an invite-only club of wealthy donors cofounded by Soros. The alliance directs its members to push cash to groups at Arabella as part of a $275 million spending plan for the 2020 elections, according to documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Tax March did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

The campaign comes as other prominent Democratic groups are pouring millions into advertisements criticizing Trump's handling of the pandemic.

Priorities USA, the largest Democratic super PAC, is spending $6 million on such ads. The group received $3 million from Soros's Democracy PAC last month. PACRONYM, the super PAC associated with dark money nonprofit ACRONYM, is spending $5 million on digital advertisements. American Bridge, a group led by David Brock, has also used the outbreak to attack the president.

Despite these attacks, a new Gallup survey showed that 60 percent of Americans approve of Trump's response to the coronavirus.