Mystery Solved: Left-Wing Billionaire Pierre Omidyar Bankrolls Shadowy Anti-Musk Group

Omidyar money behind organizations pushing corporate boycott of Twitter

Left-wing billionaire Pierre Omidyar at the 2010 Clinton Global Initiative / Getty Images
February 21, 2023

The left-wing billionaire and media donor Pierre Omidyar is behind the dark-money group that has kept its donors secret for nearly a year and is leading a corporate boycott campaign against Twitter owner Elon Musk.

Omidyar, the eBay founder and financial backer of the Intercept and ProPublica, donated $509,500 to Accountable Tech in 2021 and 2022, according to a recently updated list of grants disclosed by Omidyar's foundation. Omidyar also gave $2 million to at least six other organizations that targeted Musk, criticizing him in letters and op-eds as "uniquely ill-suited for the job of running a social media platform" and warning that he would turn Twitter into a "free-for-all of hate and harassment."

The news reveals one of the primary forces behind the anti-Musk campaign. Accountable Tech has been dodging questions about its donors for months. Over the past year, Accountable Tech and other groups bankrolled by Omidyar organized campaigns to pressure corporations to boycott Twitter and issued statements and op-eds denouncing Musk and calling for government investigations into the billionaire. "I wonder who funds them," wrote Musk in May, in response to a Washington Free Beacon report about the organization's secretiveness.

A spokeswoman for the Omidyar Network confirmed the funding but told the Free Beacon that the foundation didn't order the Twitter boycott campaign. "We routinely support organizations that share our vision for a responsible technology system, but do not direct their day-to-day activities," said spokeswoman Beth Kanter.

It is unclear the exact amount Omidyar gave to Accountable Tech. As of Sunday, Omidyar Network listed grants on its website worth $509,500 that were given in 2021 and 2022. After the Free Beacon reached out for comment on Monday, the Omidyar Network edited its database to show just one $209,500 grant to "North Fund 2022 Accountable Tech P&P Project Funding" on Oct. 24, 2022. It also removed the grants to two other organizations that criticized Musk.

Kanter said the website updates were actually made on Friday, although they were not reflected when the Free Beacon visited the website over the weekend. She said the foundation removed funding that had expired, including a prior grant to Accountable Tech from 2021 to 2022.

The Free Beacon reported last year that Accountable Tech—which calls itself a "small nonprofit taking on Big Tech companies"—has no physical footprint and is a registered trade name of the North Fund, a $66 million nonprofit group that uses aliases to push an array of left-wing causes from a shell office in Washington, D.C.

Accountable Tech did not respond to a request for comment.

Omidyar's ties to the anti-Musk campaign is notable due to the personal history between the two billionaires. The eBay founder helped launch Musk into the ranks of the super-wealthy by buying PayPal for $1.5 billion in 2002. Over the next two decades, Musk multiplied this fortune and climbed his way to the top of the Forbes billionaire list.

But the two tech moguls now find themselves on opposing sides of the political debate. Omidyar has poured millions into pro-Democrat dark-money groups such as the Sixteen Thirty Fund, while Musk has praised Republicans like Florida governor Ron DeSantis and rolled back Twitter's speech restrictions targeting conservatives.

Last year, Accountable Tech and UltraViolet—a progressive activist group that received $50,000 from Omidyar—organized a letter to Twitter's advertisers warning that Musk's acquisition would "toxify our information ecosystem and be a direct threat to public safety, especially among those already most vulnerable and marginalized."

They called on the companies to "pull your advertising spending from Twitter" if Musk lifted bans on Republican politicians such as former president Donald Trump.

In November, a coalition of left-wing activist groups sent a similar letter to the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Coca-Cola, Disney, and other major Twitter advertisers. That letter was signed by the Tech Oversight Project, which received $400,000 from Omidyar, and the Center for American Progress, which received $200,000 from Omidyar. The Tech Oversight Project grant was removed from the Omidyar Network database following Free Beacon inquiries.

The Open Markets Institute, a group that raked in $900,000 from Omidyar, sent a letter in November asking the Department of Justice and other federal agencies to investigate Musk's purchase of Twitter.

In April, Data for Progress—a group that took $365,000 from Omidyar—called out Musk on Twitter for allegedly paying "$0 in federal income taxes in 2018." That grant was also removed from the Omidyar Network following Free Beacon inquiries. And in November, the director of Fight for the Future, which received $95,000 from Omidyar, published a column in Time magazine calling on activists to stop using Twitter and switch to competing platforms.

Earlier this month, Omidyar was also listed as a sponsor of the Digital Content Next Summit. The trade association, which represents mainstream media outlets, is run by Jason Kint, one of Musk's most vocal critics.

In December, Kint warned that he would have Musk "hauled in front of Congress" if the Twitter owner didn't restore the accounts of several journalists who had been suspended for posting public information about the billionaire's jet. The Omidyar Network told the Free Beacon that it paid $35,000 to sponsor the summit.

Update 2:04 p.m.: This piece has been updated to include additional comment from an Omidyar Network spokeswoman.