Dem Dark Money Network Rakes in $715 Million to Bankroll Liberal Causes

Arabella Advisors-managed funds stealthily support progressive initiatives

Getty Images
December 11, 2020

Anonymous donors pumped an eye-popping $715 million into a massive dark money network used to bankroll liberal efforts across the country, new tax forms reveal.

The cash went to funds managed by Arabella Advisors, a D.C.-based consulting firm, in 2019. Once donors send the cash to the funds, it is then transferred to dozens of left-wing initiatives that fall under their auspices, as well as to outside groups.

The Arabella network consists of four funds: the Sixteen Thirty Fund, New Venture Fund, Windward Fund, and Hopewell Fund. Each Arabella-managed fund provides its tax and legal status to the groups that sit beneath them. Under this setup, known as fiscal sponsorship, the sponsored groups are not standalone nonprofits and do not have to file tax forms to the IRS, effectively obscuring information such as financials, board members, and other important details.

The four funds combined to raise an astounding $714.7 million for left-wing initiatives in 2019, the tax forms show. The New Venture Fund is the group's largest entity and raked in $450 million in anonymous cash—including a single donation of $83 million—to pass off to groups. The Sixteen Thirty Fund received $137.2 million, including one donation of $33 million. The Hopewell Fund pulled in $84.2 million, with a single $36 million donation. The Windward Fund took in $43.3 million. Its largest donation was $8.5 million.

The funds disbursed a total of $648 million last year. Nearly $400 million went to outside groups that include America Votes, Center for American Progress, Center for Popular Democracy, Latino Victory Project, and Color of Change.

The dark money network houses some of the nation's most prominent liberal groups. The Sixteen Thirty Fund, for example, houses Demand Justice, a group led by former Hillary Clinton press secretary Brian Fallon to push back against Republican judicial nominations. While Demand Justice does not have to file tax documents to the IRS due to its affiliation with the Sixteen Thirty Fund, the Washington Free Beacon found it received $2.6 million from billionaire George Soros around the time of its inception in 2018.

"In 2019 and 2020 many donors felt compelled to give as never before to support our democracy and advance progressive goals, including some who previously supported Republicans or were not engaged in politics," Amy Kurtz, the fund's executive director, told the Free Beacon. "Through advocacy, fiscal sponsorship, and the types of electoral action typical of 501(c)4 organizations, the Sixteen Thirty Fund was able to invest in the health and strength of our democracy. We have lobbied in favor of reform to the current campaign finance system (through H.R. 1), but we remain equally committed to following the current laws to level the playing field for progressives in this election and the future."

The Sixteen Thirty Fund's Douglas Hattaway runs a strategic communications firm that has advised Soros's Open Society Foundations, according to a cached version of his company's website. Scott Nielsen, the managing director of advocacy at Arabella, has worked with the Open Society Foundations and the Democracy Alliance, a wealthy donor club co-founded by Soros that helped launch well-known groups such as Media Matters.

The Democracy Alliance named Arabella-managed funds in confidential documents as avenues to bankroll initiatives. The Sixteen Thirty Fund has paid the alliance hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees in the past.

Sixteen Thirty also funneled $55 million in secret cash into the 2020 elections to support Joe Biden and other Democrats.

The New Venture Fund fiscally sponsors groups such as Abortion on Our Own Terms and Lady Parts Justice League. The Windward Fund focuses on environmental initiatives. The Hopewell Fund contains groups such as Equity Forward, a watchdog that seeks "to ensure transparency and accountability among anti-reproductive health groups and individuals."

"Hopewell Fund is proud of the work we did in 2019 to help make the world a more equitable place through fiscal sponsorship, charitable initiatives, and grant making," the group said in an email statement. "Our work last year helped nonprofit projects address issues related to income inequality, civic engagement, health care access, and more in the United States."

Eric Kessler, a former Bill Clinton appointee and member of the Clinton Global Initiative, is the founder and head of Arabella Advisors. The tax forms show that Arabella was paid nearly $34 million for administrative, operations, and management services for the four funds.

Arabella did not respond to a request for comment.