OAN Brooke Mallory
UPDATED 6:17 PM – Thursday, April 6, 2023
Recently released tax documents showed that in 2021, a dark money group supported by Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss, secretly donated tens of millions of dollars to other dark money organizations linked with President Joe Biden, Democrat politicians, and left-leaning organizations.
“Dark Money refers to political spending meant to influence the decision of a voter, where the donor is not disclosed and the source of the money is unknown,” -via opensecrets.org
According to the documents, the Berger Action Fund (BAF) is connected to the private Wyss Foundation, which Democrat megadonor Hansjorg Wyss has supported since 1998. The same fund, which is not required by law to divulge donor information, sent about $72 million to nonprofit advocacy groups that supported Biden and Democrat congressional candidates during the 2022 midterm elections cycle.
“As long as it remains legal, Democrats will tap into dark money, which you obviously are seeing… But Democrats and nonprofit groups should avoid dark money, as well as setting up super PACs, because I do view that as a contradictory statement of what is right and wrong,” said Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, a left-leaning thinktank.
However, some Democrats like Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), have been long-time critics of dark money schemes and have proposed legislation requiring groups to disclose when benefactors donate $10,000 or more during the election cycle. Left-wing dark money groups reportedly spent more than $1.5 billion to elect Joe Biden in 2020, while Republican groups spent a little over $900 million to endorse Donald Trump.
The Berger Action Fund (BAF) boasted on its website that its funds have been set aside to protect laws like the Affordable Care Act, a law signed by former President Barack Obama in 2010 that overhauled private insurance. According to the organization, its mission is to fight “the biodiversity and climate crises, income inequality, and health disparities.”
Tax documents revealed that the fund received close to $358 million in 2021 and gave $72.71 million to 12 different organizations for “pro-conservation and social welfare advocacy.”
“The Berger Action Fund does not endorse political candidates… We have strict policies prohibiting our funds from being used for get-out-the-vote activities, voter registration, or supporting or opposing candidates or political parties,” claimed a BAF spokesman.
In 2021, BAF contributed $42.4 million to the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a group managed by Arabella Advisors, which is the largest left-wing dark money network in the United States. They financially supported left-leaning organizations that were not required to submit tax returns to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). They also did not identify their donors, like other organizations in the Arabella network.
In 2020, the Sixteen Thirty Fund distributed $410 million in grants, the majority of which went toward supporting Biden. In 2021, the fund received $191 million and spent $174 million of it.
Additionally, between February 2021 and December 2022, the fund also brought over $940 million to liberal political action organizations, like Open Democracy, which had spent over $4.8 million supporting Democrats from December 2021 to December 2022.
“Berger’s funding supported advocacy on behalf of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill and the Inflation Reduction Act, which provided for environmental progress, investments in our infrastructure, and expanded healthcare access for families,” said a spokesperson for Sixteen Thirty Fund.
“None of Berger’s funding supported electoral activities. Like other fiscal sponsor organizations, nearly all of the donations we receive are intended for specific projects or purposes, and every contribution is used in compliance with all guidelines, regulations, and laws,” they maintained.
Tax documents showed that in 2021 the BAF contributed over $20.2 million to “Fund for a Better Future”, an organization that prioritizes causes like the environment, election integrity, healthcare, and immigration rights.
Money from the action fund and other donors helped support “organizations advocating for policies that protect the environment, build climate resilience in communities across the nation, improve our country’s critical infrastructure, and preserve healthcare for working families,” said Niki Woodard, a Fund for a Better Future spokesperson.
Sixteen Thirty Fund received $20,000 in 2021 from Fund for a Better Future, while Fair Fight Action received $4.9 million. Fair Fight Action was founded by Democrat gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who was ordered to pay more than $231,000 to the state of Georgia after losing a lawsuit alleging that her state violated voting rights.
The League of Conservation Voters (LCV), a left-leaning environmental organization whose lobbying arm backed a number of Democratic House and Senate candidates during the 2022 elections, received almost $10.6 million from Fund for a Better Future, according to the 2021 tax forms.
According to campaign filings, the LCV donated approximately $2.3 million to Biden’s 2020 campaign. As the BAF’s third biggest grantee in 2021, the LCV earned more than $3.4 million.
“The Berger Action Fund’s grant supported our long-term efforts to advocate for federal action on the climate crisis and the 30×30 pledge to permanently protect 30% of U.S. lands and oceans by 2030… We’re proud that our advocacy plays a role in game-changing climate policy and recent land conservation actions in the U.S.,” said David Willett, an LCV spokesman.
Some other groups that benefitted from the Wyss-linked cash trail are The Center for Popular Democracy and the Indivisible Project, which has previously faced criticism for posting an online manual instructing activists how they can pressure Congress members. They received $665,000.
According to the filings, the Berger Action Fund (BAF) has given around $339 million to left-leaning nonprofit organizations since 2016. Wyss has reportedly been charged in the past for breaking federal laws through his political involvement.
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