Billionaire “Dark Money” Group Is Making Big Moves

President Joseph Biden and the Democratic Party’s allies received tens of millions in 2021 from a dark money organization backed by a Swiss billionaire. 

Democratic megadonor Hansjorg Wyss has funded the private Wyss Foundation since 1998; the Wyss Foundation’s Berger Action Fund is a left-of-center advocacy and lobbying outfit. 

The fund, which is not required by law to reveal its backers, channeled around $72 million in 2021 to nonprofit advocacy groups that use dark money to promote Biden and help elect Democrats to Congress in the 2022 midterms. Several Democrats, like Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D), have been critical of dark money for years, but they have been unable to pass legislation with bipartisan backing that would force nonprofits to reveal contributors donating more than $10,000 in an election cycle. 

In 2021, the fund collected over $358 million and distributed $72.71 million to 12 organizations engaged in “pro-conservation and social welfare campaigning.”

The fund does not back specific candidates and has strict rules against spending money on voter registration drives, voter turnout campaigns, or organizations that encourage people to cast ballots. To avoid having to submit tax forms to the IRS, the Arabella network acts as a fiscal sponsor for left-leaning organizations.

Support for Biden was provided by grants totaling $410 million from the Sixteen Thirty Fund in 2020, while the organization raised $191 million and spent $174 million in 2021. To leftist PACs, it channeled roughly $940 million between February 2021 and December 2022. Around $20.2 million was given by the Berger Action Fund in 2021 to the dark money organization Fund for a Better Tomorrow, which works on climate change, election integrity, healthcare, and immigrant rights. 

Around $34,000,000 was distributed in grants in 2021 by Fund for a Better Tomorrow, including $20,000 to the Sixteen Thirty Fund and $4.9,000,000 to Fair Fight Action. Around $2.3 million came from the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund to Biden’s 2020 campaign.

About $3.4 million was awarded to the LCV in 2021 from the Berger Action Fund, making it the third largest beneficiary that year. The donation helped the LCV continue its long-term campaign to preserve 30% of U.S. land and seas from development forever and to lobby for congressional action on the climate catastrophe. The Center for Popular Democracy and the Indivisible Project received $665,000 from the Wyss Foundation. 

The Berger Action Fund has given $339 million to progressive organizations since 2016. As of April 2021, Americans for Public Trust had filed a complaint against the Federal Election Commission, alleging that Wyss had broken federal law via his political expenditures.

The case was dropped voluntarily in August 2022.