Two former employees of a major liberal dark money group say they were subjected to racism and discrimination in the workplace, according to wrongful termination lawsuits obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
Both suits allege that the New Venture Fund, a dominant player in Democratic politics that operates a network of liberal organizations, paid black women less than white counterparts, and that black employees risked being fired for pushing back against discrimination. One employee, hired as a racial equity consultant, said she was "subjected to racial harassment" and frequently shouted down by white colleagues during discussions about race.
The liberal dark money behemoth claims to "fearlessly" integrate the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion in all its work. The allegations, from employees at separate New Venture Fund affiliates, implicate senior executives and suggest the group's stated commitment to racial "equity" does not extend to its black employees.
The group raised $964 million in 2021 alone from mostly anonymous donors. It used those funds to bankroll hundreds of left-wing entities and operate hundreds more "pop-up" groups. The New Venture Fund is the largest branch of the Arabella Advisors network, the country’s predominant dark money network that raked in a staggering $1.6 billion to finance left-wing causes in 2021.
Both lawsuits accuse New Venture Fund of systematically paying black women less than their white counterparts, and claim minorities risked termination if they dared to blow the whistle on the group's internal racism. The most recent claim comes from Francesca Weaks, who filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against New Venture Fund on Jan. 31. Weaks worked as a racial equity consultant for a New Venture Fund "pop-up" group called the Local Solutions Support Center. She alleges the New Venture Fund looked the other way as she and her diversity, equity, and inclusion colleagues were "subjected to racial harassment."
"It soon became obvious there was a custom of leaders speaking over Black individuals when they were speaking about race, diversity, and equity," Weaks alleges in her lawsuit. The lawsuit also describes a June 2021 incident in which a white executive interrupted Weaks during a discussion on "inequities and Critical Race Theory."
Weaks alleges her contract with New Venture Fund was wrongfully terminated in June 2022 because of the concerns she had expressed regarding the organization’s "unethical and racist practice." She is seeking damages of $250,000.
A second black woman, Sarah Walker, filed a lawsuit late last year saying she was subjected to rampant racial discrimination and was fired in October 2022 after calling attention to structural racial pay inequities and alleging financial fraud. Walker worked for the New Venture subsidiary Secure Democracy from 2019 to 2022 and rose to become the group’s vice president.
Walker, a black woman who says she suffers from lupus, also alleges the group denied reasonable accommodations to treat her condition while simultaneously granting concessions to a white executive who suffered from the same disease.
"The progressive public image of New Venture Fund did not translate to a progressive work environment," Walker alleges in the lawsuit filed late last year. "Ms. Walker faced discrimination during the entirety of her employment, and called out the workplace injustices experienced by her and others."
Walker, who declined to comment for this story, claims in her 41-page lawsuit that in early 2021 she was forced to act as a "race coach" for a white executive obsessed with discussing racial dynamics at every turn. At one point during those sessions, the white executive questioned whether Walker was actually a black woman "because of her light skin color," Walker alleges.
Walker said when she first tried to address her concerns about the organization’s internal culture of racist discrimination, she was coerced into a humiliating confrontation with two white New Venture Fund executives in the presence of "hostile white colleagues." The meeting was "designed with willful disregard for her rights as an employee with claims of discrimination," Walker alleges.
Both women note that New Venture Fund was the entity that employed and contracted the individuals who worked at their respective "pop-up" groups. New Venture Fund also oversees human resource policy adherence at its sponsored groups, the lawsuits added.
Among New Venture Fund’s known donors are the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which poured over $300 million into the group’s coffers from 2008 through 2018. Other major donors include George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, the Ford Foundation, and the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, according to Influence Watch.
Weaks alleges in her lawsuit that her New Venture Fund colleagues duped prospective donors by falsely claiming the organization was partnered with the nation’s most renowned black advocacy organization, the NAACP. Weaks, who once worked for the NAACP, said she was alarmed to learn in 2021 that a white New Venture Fund consultant was trying to trick donors by falsely claiming the charity struck a partnership with her former employer.
Weaks said she urged her white colleague to come clean to their donors that there was never a partnership with the NAACP, but that her plea was ignored. The NAACP did not respond to a request for comment.
A New Venture Fund spokesman didn't respond to the specific claims made in the lawsuits in response to questions from the Free Beacon.
"We are committed to creating a workplace where diverse people, cultures, and perspectives are welcome, and in which all are treated in an equitable and inclusive manner," the spokesman said. "We take HR claims seriously and conduct investigations into all allegations of wrongdoing, making sure appropriate action is taken."
Update Feb. 9, 10:23 a.m.: This piece has been updated with comment from the New Venture Fund.