Grant maker pass-through for dark money sets up shop in Durham

Arabella Advisors logo via Global Newswire

RALEIGH — An organization with sub-groups that serve as a pass-through for dark money has set up shop in Durham.

Arabella Advisors describes itself as a “philanthropic advising firm” that is a “Certified B Corporation that provides guidance and support to the world’s leading philanthropists and impact investors.”

The organization opened its fifth office in Durham during the second quarter of 2020. The Durham location was originally slated to have a staff of 20.

According to a press release, Arabella Advisors’ CEO Sampriti Ganguli said, “With this new office, Arabella Advisors will expand our geographic footprint to better serve the broad community of philanthropists, attract new talent, and retain the exceptional talent driving the firm’s growth and helping our clients achieve their diverse social-impact goals.”

Tucked under Arabella Advisers’ umbrella are “grantmaking” organizations that redistribute funds from dark money sources to other groups and non-profits that include the Sixteen Thirty Fund, The Hopewell Fund, and the New Venture Fund.

Funds managed by Arabella Advisors dropped around $896 million into progressive campaigns and activities during 2020.

As reported recently by the Capital Research Center, Arabella Advisers’ in-house advocacy arm The Sixteen Thirty Fund dropped $410 million into “lobbying, anti-Republican ads, and grants to left-wing PACs and other political groups, which helped oust President Donald Trump, retain a slim majority in the House of Representatives, and take control of the Senate (with the vice president’s tie-breaking vote).”

Capital Research Center (CRC) is a watchdog organization that tracks and examines “how foundations, charities, and other nonprofits spend money and get involved in politics and advocacy.”

Highlighted in the CRC’s report was that North Carolina was a major target for the Sixteen Thirty Fund and Arabella Advisers.

“Arabella’s biggest target by far was North Carolina, where Sixteen Thirty Fund poured out $9.5 million, 85% of it to just two groups: Fair Future NC and Piedmont Rising,” the report reads.

“Fair Future NC” is a 501(c)(4) launched in 2019.

“While its 2020 finances aren’t available, the group received $1.05 million from Sixteen Thirty in 2019, about three times its entire 2019 budget,” CRC writes. “The North Carolina secretary of state reports that Fair Future NC spent close to $172,000 in TV attack ads against two Republican state senators, Joyce Krawiec (SD-31) and Amy Galey (SD-24), who both won reelection in 2020.”

Piedmont Rising, a partisan political activism outfit, has portrayed itself as a news outlet through its political advertisement spending on social media and spent more than $118,000 on Facebook ads in 2020. The group spent upwards of $1.2 million attacking Republican U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis during 2020.

Groups masquerading as news outlets funded by money funneled by Arabella Advisers’ grantmaking groups helped to blanket the 2020 election cycle with hyper-partisan ads and fake news coverage.

As reported by North State Journal in July of 2020, dark money funded political activism was masquerading as journalism through Cardinal & Pine, a state affiliate of Courier Newsroom.

The money flowing into Courier Newsroom was mainly coming from ACRONYM, a progressive dark money group that at the time was headed up by Democratic strategist Tara McGowan. Late last year, progressive billionaire George Soros and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman acquired McGowan’s Courier News to run “Good Information, Inc.,” which seeks to “combat disinformation.”

Another apparent dark money-tied group residing in the Tarheel state is States Newsroom, which operates a network of left-wing and hyper-partisan fake news websites. The organization is headed up by Chris Fitzsimon, formerly of Policy Watch, a blog run by the left-leaning NC Justice Center.

States Newsroom, based in Chapel Hill, started as a project of the Arabella-run 501(c)(3) Hopewell Fund under the name “Newsroom Network.” During our reporting in 2020 on Courier Newsroom, North State Journal also reached out to States Newsroom for comment but did not receive a response.

“In June 2019, States Newsroom was spun off as an independent nonprofit with its own 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, but a number of its local affiliates are used by the Hopewell Fund as its own legal aliases,” according to CRC. States Newsroom has two dozen affiliates, including NC Policy Watch.

NC Policy Watch founder and former director Chris Fitzsimon run States Newsroom, which was previously called the “Newsroom Network.”

Also employed at State Newsroom is Andrea Verykoukis as deputy director. She previously was an author for the Progressive Pulse, the left-leaning legislative offshoot of NC Policy Watch. Nelle Dunlap who was the media director for NC Policy Watch is the digital director of State Newsroom.

Both the Washington Post and OpenSecrets.org have reported on States Newsroom, comparing it to that of ACRONYM’s Courier Newsroom.

OpenSecrets.org obtained a copy of IRS filings and financial documents for States Newsroom revealing the group’s plans to acquire an additional $27 million by the end of last year. Among the financial documents was a $1 million donation offer from the Wyss Foundation, named for and funded by Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss.

In 2021, Wyss was worth an estimated $8.5 billion. He amassed his wealth as the head of Synthes USA, a medical implants and biomaterials manufacturing business. Wyss sold Synthes USA to Johnson & Johnson for a whopping $19.7 billion in 2012.

Wyss has dumped tens of millions of dollars into dark money Democratic and progressive groups, including the Fund for a Better Future, which has front groups promoting various aspects of President’s Biden’s Build Back Better plan, such as climate change.

According to the New York Times, since 2009, the Wyss Foundation has funneled close to $57 million into Arabella’s New Venture Fund.

About A.P. Dillon 651 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_