Liberal Dark Money Network Received $80M+ Anonymously Through Fidelity Charitable
The Nation's Largest Donor-Advised Fund Was A Prime Facilitator For Donations To Dark Money Groups, Filings Show.
Recently released tax forms first reported by PolitiFi show that the nation’s largest donor-advised fund, Fidelity Charitable, facilitated over $80 million in anonymous donations to dark-money juggernaut, New Venture Fund—who acts as the parent group to another major (and politically active) dark money group, Sixteen Thirty Fund. The donation(s) occurred between the dates of 07/01/2019-06/30/2020. The donations bring New Venture Fund's total haul through Fidelity Charitable at over $153 million since 07/2018.
Donor-advised funds allow their clients to remain anonymous by way of their structure: when you donate to a DAF, you get the benefit of the tax write-off right away, though you may wait an undetermined amount of time before you actually direct it to be donated to an actual charity. Like a normal savings account, if you choose to let your money sit, it will slowly accumulate interest. Here’s the sticky part, especially when it comes to dark money: when you do decide to move your funds to a charity, the donation is made in the name of the institution through which your DAF is maintained—in New Venture Fund’s case, Fidelity Charitable—giving the donor an extra layer of confidentiality. The $80 million-plus ranked as the second largest amount given to any organization through Fidelity during the time period, per the documents.
Through New Venture Fund, nonprofit management firm Arabella Advisors allocates tens millions of dollars to be directed to other politically motivated groups—usually using Sixteen Thirty Fund to do so. The latest available tax documents show that New Venture Fund was Sixteen Thirty’s largest 2019 donor by far, to the tune of $33M, roughly 25% of what the group brought in. Sixteen Thirty, whose donors remain anonymous, spent over $60 million in the 2020 election cycle funding pro-Democrat Super PACs such as SMP, Priorities USA, American Bridge, Future Forward, and several others—giving the groups a financial boost in their mission to flood the airwaves with election-influencing ads.
New Venture Fund also got significant funding from Bill Gates’ private foundation in 2020, data reviewed by PolitiFi shows. New Venture Fund received roughly $19.5 million from the Gates Foundation during last year—with $10 million coming some time in November. PolitiFi’s recent breakdown of New Venture Fund’s recent donors, we found that Gates donated approximately $25 million to the network in 2019 (which made them NVF’s second largest identifiable donor for the period)—and flashing forward to present day, has given them over $3 million in 2021, per the Gates Foundation website's grant database.
Fidelity Charitable’s tax documents also show another Arabella Advisors-ran nonprofit rounding out the top ten largest donation-getters, the Hopewell Fund, who received over $38 million via the institution.
Several other prominent political groups received substantial donations through Fidelity. Sierra Club Foundation brought in over $34 million; Planned Parenthood and the Environmental Defense Fund each received over $24 million. Another prominent liberal-leaning dark money organization who benefitted was Tides Foundation, who got over $20 million—their sister group, the Tides Center, received $2.4 million. “Progressive” nonprofit Center For Popular Democracy got more than $11 million—while Priorities USA, Joe Biden’s largest Super PAC in the previous cycle (who spent over $80 million to get him elected) received an even $10 million to their nonprofit arm through Fidelity.
The Bradley Impact Fund, who has previously bankrolled right-wing groups such as Turning Point USA (who themselves got over $600K through Fidelity) and Prager U, received nearly $8 million in anonymous cash—as did liberal think-tank Center For American Progress. Other Progressive groups, such as Indivisible, brought in nearly $5 million, and Make The Road, just over $4 million.
As anonymously funded organizations like Sixteen Thirty Fund become more and more prevalent in politics, the need to put a name on who funds them becomes more important to keep track of the people anonymously cutting the checks meant to influence our elections and political systems as a whole, whether intentionally or indirectly. Fidelity Charitable doled out over $9 billion in anonymous grants in 2020—something lawmakers need to consider as the conversation around campaign finance reform and dark money continues. New Venture Fund’s 2020 tax records will be available later in the year.
Stay tuned to PolitiFi for more information on this issue as more information becomes available.