As part of the foreign-funded “Hub Project” to transform America
It’s a story that extends to the heart of the Mountains of Shadows of shady funding and professional activism: a foreign billionaire notorious for illegally funding Democrats, sponsoring creepy medical treatments that lead to multiple deaths, and a “dark one.” Money ”of several million dollars. America’s transformation campaign.
Get to know the Swiss-born Hansjörg Wyss (pronounced “Veese”), perhaps the most important megadonor that you have never heard of. His Wyss Foundation, founded in 1998, has tacit assets of an impressive $ 2.2 billion (as of 2018) and pays tens of millions of dollars annually to activist groups – more than half a billion US dollars between 2000 and 2018 – so it’s no wonder He was called the “new George Soros”.
Wyss is one of the best-connected megadonors on the left. He is a member of the Democracy Alliance, a cabal of the rich and powerful that meets regularly to strategize funding for left activists. He is also an important contributor and sits on the board of the Center for American Progress, a leading liberal think-tank founded by Clinton’s sidekick John Podesta, who led Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 presidential campaign. Podesta has reportedly advised Wyss on funding for public order efforts.
As far as Wyss is known, it is for his contributions to green groups like the Wilderness Society that he sits on the board (along with a first lieutenant, Molly McUsic). Over the past two decades, Wyss has made significant contributions to center-left and far-left environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Trout Unlimited, the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, and the Defense Council on Natural Resources.
But his money goes beyond standing up for the environment. For years, Wyss has supported groups involved in voting for Democratic politicians, such as the League of Conservation Voters, Environment America and even the notorious ACORN successor group Project Vote (discontinued in 2017).
That kind of “philanthropy” has made this billionaire a hero of the same Acela Corridor liberals who loathe it idea billionaires who wailed about foreign interference in US politics for years after the 2016 elections. Apart from the hypocrisy of the left, Wyss is the wrong horse.
He refused to even tell New York Times whether he is a US citizen and only declared in 2014 that he does not have a green card that grants permanent residency. He ran into trouble in 2016 when it became known that Wyss had donated $ 41,000 to Democratic Political Action Committees (PACs) in violation of the federal government’s strict prohibition on foreigners conducting political campaigns in the United States. This foreigner has donated at least $ 1 million through his foundation to States Newsroom, a bunch of partisan attack sites posing as impartial news outlets spawned by Washington, DC, Arabella Advisors, since 2018 through his foundation.
So it was refreshing in April when New York Times Reporter Ken Vogel revealed Wyss’ efforts to be the parent company of the Chicago Tribune and other failing newspapers across the country for $ 100 million – evidence of real investigative journalism that came at a time when so many were busy accusing Wyss of being a liberal white knight trying to save a venerable American industry.
Well worth remembering the horror of the same crowd when the libertarian Koch brothers announced they were considering buying this same parent company 2013: It could “serve as a broader platform for the laissez-faire ideas of the cooks,” said the Gray Lady, which could help the brothers “to record media reports that they deny,” she said Washington Postor could even “spark” [a] “Kulturkampf” according to NPR.
Mute liberals likely played no part in Wyss’ rapid change of heart when – just four days after Vogel’s exposé – he tacitly withdrew his offer for the newspapers, reportedly after he had reassessed it Chicago Tribune financial problems.
Wyss, 85, will likely never achieve his goal of becoming a media mogul. His true Legacy will be building a key “dark money” group that was formed to help Democrats win elections and make guidelines. It is part of a $ 731 million not for profit network operated by Arabella Advisors.
No love for the spotlight
Hansjörg Wyss is famous for his secrecy. The few public interviews he has given are mostly about the environment and his deep interest in nature conservation, main goals for his donations.
The future Swiss billionaire came to the United States as a PhD student in 1958 and accepted a position as a surveyor for the Colorado Highway Department. The Rocky Mountains reminded him of the Swiss Alps, he explained in 2017, and he was particularly impressed with America’s national park system compared to Europe, where many natural areas are “privately owned, developed, or otherwise inaccessible to the public. In addition to environmental activism, Wyss funds genuine philanthropy and is a major donor to universities, including the Wyss Institute for Biological Inspired Engineering at Harvard.
Wyss made his fortune as head of Synthes USA, a large medical implant and biomaterials manufacturer that he built from practically nothing and sold to Johnson & Johnson in 2012 for $ 19.7 billion. Today Wyss is valued at $ 8.5 billion.
However, its success is marred by the macabre. In 2009, Synthes – with Wyss at the helm – was accused by the US attorney in Philadelphia of conducting illegal clinical trials on humans: he injected them with a cement that turns into bones in the human skeleton. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reportedly asked the company not to use the cement in spinal surgery. However, Synthes ignored the warning and five people died as a result. Four of Synthes’ top executives were eventually sentenced to prison terms. One wonders if the billionaire liberal privilege saved Wyss from sharing the blame – he was not indicted by the prosecution – on charges of deliberately ignoring clinical trials and a “practical,” “energetic,” “800 -Pound Gorilla “to be. who allowed little dissent in the ranks.
Add to this the 2011 sexual assault allegations brought against Wyss by a former New Jersey employee in late 2017 while the two were staying at a Morris County hotel. It is unclear how the case was resolved.
Whatever the truth, it is hard to shake that Wyss is both a true conservationist and a liberal technocrat, using his vast wealth to control a country he disapproves of. Nothing illustrates Wyss’ paternalism better than his longstanding relationship with the largest “dark money” network in politics.
The Hub Project: Born in “Dark Money”
The story begins in 2015 when the consulting firm Civitas Public Affairs Group, whose clients include the Brady Weapons Control Campaign and the Democratic Group Voter Participation Center, submitted a private report for the Wyss Foundation setting out a plan became for a “communication node”. (It is not known exactly how much the foundation paid for the report, but between 2015 and 2018 it paid over $ 442,000 to Civitas.)
The report interviewed 17 members of the professional left who represented groups such as Pew Charitable Trusts, the Media Matters for America attack group, the Center for American Progress (where Wyss is a board member), and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Abortion giant NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Brennan Center, and the Center for Popular Democracy.
This hub would support the Foundation’s “core issues” and create “research-based message frames” to “drive measurable change” and generate “significant gains” which in turn would “dramatically change the public debate and policy positions of key decision-makers.” Implementation of political solutions at local, state and federal level. ” In other words, it would vote Democrats and run public order.
The IRS strictly prohibits 501 (c) (3) nonprofits from contributing to or intervening in political campaigns “on behalf of (or against) a candidate”. Foundations covered by the rules of 501 (c) (3) are subject to even stricter rules for funding voter registration and lobbying.
From the start, the hub was “funded entirely by the Wyss Foundation,” but its connections to the foundation have been deliberately hidden. The Civitas report even recommends disconnecting from the Wyss Foundation in order to “adequately separate the foundation from the work of the hub” and “allow the hub to engage more robustly than if it were incorporated within the foundation it is possible”.
In other words, the hub was designed to Allow the foundation to bypass the IRS’s ban on intervening in elections.
Instead, the hub would be set up as an “independent organization with a financial sponsor”. His advisory board would consist of representatives from the Wyss Foundation, who would receive quarterly reports on their progress, which would make him a front for an established liberal nonprofit that specializes in creating new interest groups. That sponsor would need to have “the flexibility to work across the spectrum of 501 (c) (3), (h) elections, and 501 (c) (4) activities,” which refers to the lobby caps that the IRS sets for different types of nonprofits. And “15 to 25 percent of the budget for (c) (4) work financed by the Wyss Action Fund” (more on this later) would have to be made available.
Not many fiscal sponsors fit that description in 2015. One thing stands out: Arabella Advisors, the then obscure consulting firm, whose network of four internal non-profit organizations achieved sales of an astonishing $ 332 million in 2015 alone. That number rose to $ 731 million in 2019, the year the Capital Research Center first revealed the network in a groundbreaking report.
Arabella’s nonprofits specialize in attacking Republicans, overturning elections, and passing radical laws. Each of these nonprofits runs a variety of pop-up groups, websites designed to fool viewers into believing they are grassroots activist groups. To date, CRC has counted around 350 such “popups”, of which more appear every month. Having studied this network for the past two years, it is clear that it is the height of professional left activism. When a donor goes to Arabella, they expect a political payout.
So it’s not hard to guess what results the Wyss Foundation expected when it began donating millions of dollars ($ 57 million since 2009) to the New Venture Fund, Arabella’s flagship 501 (c) (3) flow.
The “communication hub” described in the 2015 Civitas report is strikingly similar to an existing Arabella group that was founded in January 2017 – the hub project. The Hub Project consists of two organizations: an action arm front for the Sixteen Thirty Fund, Arabella’s lobby wing 501 (c) (4), and a research arm front for the New Venture Fund. Many Arabella groups use this type of pairing scheme to maximize their respective tax status advantages for lobbying and fundraising.
The Hub project has been busy flipping Congress and the White House since its inception. As the New York TimesVogel puts it this way: “The Hub project was born out of the idea that Democrats should more effectively convey their arguments through the news media and directly to voters.”
Early in 2017, the group organized a series of marches to claim President Trump’s tax return. Politico reports that the group helped Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections on “health care, taxation and the economy”. The Atlantic Cheerfully credits the Hub Project for doing “remarkable damage” to President Trump’s reputation with Wisconsin voters in the run-up to the 2020 election. In April 2021, the group hired a campaign leader whose final role was to change the Senate for a top democratic PAC in 2020.
The hub project does not contribute directly to campaigns. As the name suggests, it offers messaging strategies and research other Groups involved in elections and issues such as DC statehood and the elimination of the filibuster.
But the hub project connects with in a good Arabella way other Arabella-led groups to form a constellation of grass-roots advocacy organizations: Arizonans United for Healthcare, Floridians for a Fair Shake, Keep Iowa Healthy, New Jersey for a Better Future, and North Carolinians for a Fair Economy have been widely identified . Each of these groups is actually operated by the Sixteen Thirty Fund, but acts as a tentacle to the Hub Project and further obscures the network’s connection to Arabella.
The Hub project staff come from the Obama administration, Democratic PACs, and a variety of activist groups. Its founding director, Arkadi Gerney, is an old Arabella hand who holds senior positions in the government of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Bloomberg-funded Everytown for Gun Safety, and the Center for American Progress Action Fund (the lobbying arm of the think tank where Wyss is a board member). Between 2016 and 2018 (and possibly before) he was Project Leader for the New Venture Fund (remuneration 2018: $ 339,517). He is also listed on Form 990 of the Sixteen Thirty Fund for 2019 (total compensation: USD 145,468 for 8 hours per week to just under USD 350 per hour).
A foundation with a lobbying arm?
Enter the Berger Action Fund, which was founded in 2007 as the Wyss Action Fund and is perhaps the most unusual piece of the puzzle. Foundations tend to be cautious about partnering with 501 (c) (4) advocacy nonprofits because the IRS has strict limits on their political activities. But the Berger Action Fund is formally listed as the Wyss Foundation’s advocacy arm on their Form 990 – a phenomenon this author has never seen before, even though regular (c) (3) nonprofits regularly work with a (c) (4) arm – because the two groups “Share staff and facilities,” for which the foundation reimbursed the lobbying arm between 2017 and 2018 with USD 173,012.
It was officially renamed in 2016, presumably after Wyss’ sister Susi Berger (born Susanna Ottilia Franziska Wyss, 1938–2019), a well-known graphic artist and furniture designer in Switzerland. It is unclear what triggered the change, but it is possible that closer scrutiny of Wyss and his foundation in 2015-2016 led his foundation to distance itself from its action arm.
No donors were identified for the Berger Action Fund. But Berger paid out nearly $ 159 million in grants to left-wing groups between 2008 and 2019, including six- and seven-digit grants to the League of Conservation Voters (referred to as a “dark money heavyweight” by a left-wing watchdog) Parenthood Action Fund and the Center for Popular Democracy Action Fund, the lobbying wing of a union-funded successor to an ACORN agitation group and a Democracy Alliance favorite.
The key grants from Berger are US $ 12.4 million for Arabella’s Sixteen Thirty Fund and US $ 1.3 million for the New Venture Fund (2010-2017). Berger did not specify how those funds were spent on Form 990, but the grants likely funded the Hub project. We may never know, however, as officials from Arabella Advisors, the Hub Project, Sixteen Thirty Fund, New Venture Fund, Wyss Foundation, and Berger Action Fund declined to comment on that New York Timess Ken Vogel on her finances.
Guided tour is linked to the Arabella network
The connections that connect Wyss to the Arabella network – and possibly Arabella’s origins – begin in the Clinton administration. Molly McUsic, President of the Wyss Foundation (total compensation for 2018: $ 458,349) and Eric Kessler, founder of Arabella Advisors, both worked for the Clinton Administration Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt (1993-2001), former Democratic Governor of Arizona (1978 –1987) and aggressive environmental watchdog.
How closely McUsic and Kessler worked is unclear, but both were political representatives of the broader activist world. Kessler came from the League of Conservation Voters, where he led field operations. McUsic, who served on Babbitt’s legal advisory team, worked for US Supreme Court Liberal Justice Harry A. Blackmun (draftsman of the Court of Justice) Roe v. calf) and Dorothy W. Nelson, a person appointed by Carter. Interestingly enough, McUsic is now on the board of the League of Conservation Voters.
To that pair, add McUsic’s predecessor at the Wyss Foundation, John Leshy. Leshy – a former associate attorney for the Carter Department of the Interior and Natural Resources Defense Council – was Attorney General of Babbitt’s Interior (1993-2001), which would have made him McUsic’s boss. Leshy may have led the Wyss Foundation in its infancy in 1998 (information prior to 2002 is scarce) but was certainly its president from at least 2002 to 2008, when then Chief Operating Officer McUsic took over. Leshy, professor of real estate law at the University of California at Hastings since 2001, co-chaired President Obama’s transition team for the Home Office in 2009.
Although Kessler did not establish Arabella Advisors until 2005, it appears that his connections with McUsic linked him to Hansjörg Wyss when the Wyss Foundation began providing six-figure annual grants to the New Venture Fund (then the “Arabella Legacy Fund”) in 2007, just one year after the fund was set up. In fact, Wyss could be called the forerunner of the Arabella network. His foundation’s 2007 grant represented 55 percent of the New Venture Fund’s revenue that year.
At least one Wyss Foundation employee, Kyle Herrig, jumped into Arabella. Herrig has reportedly been on the board of the New Venture Fund since 2014 (although this cannot be verified in the Form 990 records) and was an employee of the Wyss Foundation from 2012 to 2013. Interestingly, he was one of the people interviewed in the 2015 Wyss Foundation report leading to the creation of the Hub Project. He now heads the leftist activist group Accountable.US, a former New Venture Fund project that controls a number of anti-Trump groups that started out as New Venture Fund projects: Restore Public Trust, American Oversight, and Western Values Project (which operated a point of attack on Trump’s Interior Minister David Bernhardt). In early 2021, American Oversight got into trouble for trying to blacklist former Trump administration officials in a Stalinist way so they wouldn’t be hired by big corporations. This earned the group a critical letter from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform condemning them for “denying Americans the opportunity to earn a living simply because they made the sacrifice of serving on behalf of the President” .
The man behind the curtain
Wyss still has billions of dollars that will almost certainly persist in his tax-free private foundation. Like any of the big left donors, his death is unlikely to put America out of the reach of its money. The country has to pay attention to the name Hansjörg Wyss. It won’t be the last time we hear.
Hayden Ludwig is a lead investigative researcher for the Capital Research Center.