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August 28, 2023

Mark Hemingway: The Progressive Foreign Mega-Donor Who Evades Campaign Finance Laws Prohibiting Foreigners From Donating to Political Causes

You'll never, ever guess which party he donates to.

The Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss has a profound interest in American politics. Over the years, he has pumped $475 million he has earned manufacturing medical devices into left-wing advocacy groups -- $72 million in 2021 alone, according to a new report from the conservative watchdog group, Americans for Public Trust.

According to a biography of Wyss written by a sister, Wyss' goal is not to bend laws to his business's advantage but to "[re]interpret the American Constitution in the light of progressive politics."

Although foreigners are prohibited from donating money directly to political causes, Wyss has donated lavishly to progressive political organizations. The New York Times reported in 2021 that these include the "Center for American Progress and Priorities USA, as well as organizations that ran voter registration and mobilization campaigns to increase Democratic turnout, built media outlets accused of slanting the news to favor Democrats, and sought to block Mr. Trump's nominees, prove he colluded with Russia and push for his impeachment."

Since 2016, some $245 million of his spending on American politics has gone to Arabella Advisors, which controls a vast network of progressive nonprofits which, among other activities, has financed hundreds of smaller groups that campaign for specific issues and candidates. Arabella, which raised $1.6 billion in 2021, was dubbed by The Atlantic "The Massive Progressive Dark-Money Group You've Never Heard Of."

Critics argue that Wyss' largesse illuminates a gaping loophole in political finance that essentially allows wealthy foreigners to launder their contributions -- one that has been exploited far more robustly by Democrats than Republicans. That may help explain why the issue became more prominent on Aug. 14, when House Republicans announced an investigation "into whether entities that qualify as tax-exempt under Section 501 of the U.S. Code are abiding by the statutory and regulatory prohibitions against ... foreign sources of funding ... being funneled through such organizations to influence America's elections." As part of that probe, the House Ways and Means Committee produced an open letter detailing the problem and requesting information from the public. A significant portion of the letter discussed the political donations of a single foreigner -- Hansjörg Wyss.

Ah. I remember the Committee noting that new investigation into foreign donations, but I didn't know specifically want it was about.

This scumbag's organization says that they donate to these groups only with the stipulation that their grant money will not be used to support individual candidates or to fund get-out-the-vote efforts. Such uses of dirty foreign money are banned by US law.

In theory, at least. Once you donate to the dark money front group, the SPECTRE of leftwing funding, who knows where the money goes to?

And money is fungible. If this guy's donations are supposed to be used for purposes other than direct support of a candidate or GOTV efforts, Arabella can just use other donors' money for that, while using this guy's money for the stuff that other donors' money would have been used for.

"There's no way for us right now to even check up on, let alone stop, wealthy foreign interests, say from China or Russia, from cutting a check to an American foundation that disappears into its coffers and winds up in the hands of a political nonprofit," says Hayden Ludwig, Director of Policy Research at the Restoration of America, a right-leaning nonprofit that investigates the undisclosed donations to nonprofits commonly disparaged as "dark money." "And if it's 501I4 [the IRS tax designation for organizations that can engage in activity supporting political candidates and electoral issues] that money can absolutely be used for independent expenditures, running political ads, hammering Republicans and electing Democrats."

Arabella, along with its subsidiary organizations, declined to comment for this article.


Arabella was founded by Eric Kessler, a former Clinton White House appointee, as well as a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, which was plagued by fundraising controversies. Under Kessler, Arabella achieved great success in wrangling wealthy liberal donors and thereby making many organizations on the left dependent on its largesse: The Arabella network spent $1.2 billion in 2020. "Altogether this is absolutely one of the largest fundraising machines I have ever come across," Robert Maguire of the left-leaning watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington told Politico in 2021. "I am really struggling to think of any other group, especially recently, that could rival it,"

The structure of Arabella Advisors is complicated and opaque by design.

In other words, they deliberately obscure where their money is ultimately directed towards. They have created over 500 front groups which pretend to be grassroots, "pop-up" organizations.

With Arabella, donors' money is extremely fungible. Because it is routed through two or three organizations before it gets spent, it is difficult to determine how donations from foreigners such as Wyss are disbursed.


And despite the broad freedom Citizens United created for political spending, serious questions about the legality of these arrangements remain. Two years ago, Americans for Public Trust filed a complaint with the FEC regarding Wyss and Arabella. "Foreign nationals cannot give to Super PACs, but what we'd see a pattern where the foreign national gives to a nonprofit, that nonprofit turns around and gets the money to a Super PAC. We've been calling this the foreign influence loophole," says Sutherland. "So we filed an FEC complaint that basically argued just that, that the money flow needs to be investigated by the FEC."

Read the whole thing. Democrats are literally selling this country to foreign billionaires. And they had the chutzpah to accuse Trump of "colluding with Russia!"

Hemingway notes that Barack Obama deliberately turned off the credit card verification system when soliciting donations online in 2008 and 2012. Without the three-digit credit card code, the system could not tell which donations were being made from accounts inside the US and which were being made from foreign accounts.

Of course that was deliberate. It is completely routine and customary to ask for this code, the CVV, in every online transaction. As was reported at the time, the software Obama was using for campaign donation solicitations asked for the CVV by default. Obama made the active, deliberate choice to turn off this normal verification precisely so he could take illegal donations from his foreign friends and handlers with plausible deniability.

You know all that.

What you probably don't know is that the biggest Democrat online fundraising group, ACT BLUE, still has credit-card verification turned off on its software, to this very day.

That's in the article too.

digg this
posted by Ace at 03:50 PM

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