Documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon shed new light on the billion dollar D.C.-based operation that finances and controls many of the left-wing groups that influence politics throughout Maine.
Arabella Advisors, a for-profit consulting firm, manages five non-profits, and those funds have given millions of dollars to organizations and activists in Maine who back progressive political projects.
The structural organization of the firm and its various legal entities facilitates the flow of anonymous political spending, often called dark money.
Although Arabella Advisors originally positioned itself as an HR consultant helping the non-profits during a start up phase, the novel arrangement has endured for more than ten years.
Rather than a mere support organization, the Free Beacon report shows that Arabella and its funds exercise tight control over the activities of its supposedly “grass roots” organizations.
Further, the report shows that Arabella goes to elaborate lengths to create the impression that its activities are locally driven.
Experts interviewed by the Free Beacon said that some of the activity revealed in the documents could imperil the tax-exempt status of Arabella’s non-profit funds.
The result is that very wealthy people, including some who aren’t even U.S. citizens, can wield more influence over Maine’s state and local politics than average voters or activists.
From Free Beacon:
[The documents] provide a rare window into the inner workings of the Left’s dark-money network, revealing just how centrally controlled a vast swath of activist organizations are by a central clearinghouse based in the nation’s capital—as well as the lengths to which Arabella’s leaders go to disguise that control and create the illusion of grassroots political activism…
Arabella’s five funds serve as fiscal sponsors of the network’s pop-up groups, organizations that exist for a brief period and then disband, often rallying support for or opposition to a particular political objective. Fiscal sponsorship is a unique arrangement that allows the initiatives to operate as nonprofit entities without disclosing their board members and obfuscates the sources of their revenue, expenses, or to whom they distribute grants. From protest movements to lobbying, if there is a new liberal pet cause, there is usually an Arabella group to advocate on its behalf.
The documents obtained by the Free Beacon include the employee handbook for New Venture Fund and other not-yet-published materials.
In addition to the New Venture Fund and the Sixteen Thirty Fund, Arabella administers the Hopewell Fund, the Windward Fund, and the North Fund.
In 2021, the New York Times reported that Arabella’s groups spent more than $63 million boosting Democratic candidates and attacking Republicans in the 2020 elections.
According to the New Venture Fund’s 2021 tax filing, the dark money fund gave $160,000 to the Maine Center for Economic Policy, $207,000 to “Maine Initiatives”, and $20,000 to the Maine People’s Resource Center, the 501(c)3 arm of the Maine People’s Alliance.
In 2020, Sixteen Thirty Fund reported big spending on some of the same groups.
According to tax documents, the fund gave $15,000 to the Maine Center for Economic Policy, $1,936,000 to Maine Momentum, $60,000 to the Maine People’s Alliance, and $15,000 to the Maine People’s Resource Center.
The Windward Fund, Arabella’s environmentalist arm, gave $150,000 to the Maine People’s Resource Center in 2020, according to tax documents.
In the same year, the Hopewell Fund gave $40,000 to the Maine AFL-CIO, $125,000 to the Maine Center for Economic Policy, $40,000 to Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, $15,000 to Maine Equal Justice, $35,000 to the Maine People’s Resource Center, and $66,400 to Mainers for Working Families.
According to its 2009 application for nonprofit status, the Sixteen Thirty Fund was created with seed money from several left-wing groups, including the now-defunct ACORN and the Sierra Club.
Although the majority of donors to these funds are anonymous, related tax filings and investigative reporting sometimes uncovers their identities.
For example, an Associated Press report earlier this year revealed that one of the largest donors to these funds is Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss.
Under existing campaign finance law, Wyss cannot donate directly to Maine political candidates; however, he can donate to Arabella-managed funds which transfer money to Maine nonprofits that hire politically aligned activists, policy analysts, lobbyists, and more.
What’s more, there’s nothing in Maine’s current ethics regulations that prevents someone who is paid through an Arabella fund from continuing to receive those payments while they serve in the State Legislature.
The Arabella-funded groups operating in Maine push for left-wing policies at the State House, but the groups have also mobilized to influence Maine’s federal elections.
In the same year that it received nearly $2 million from Sixteen Thirty Fund, Maine Momentum reported spending $3.5 million on television commercials attacking Republican Sen. Susan Collins.
In its campaign against Collins, the dark money group ran advertisements that even the liberal Washington Post found were “mostly false” or contained “significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions.”
According to the Capitol Research Center, a conservative nonprofit that publishes investigative reporting into left-wing dark money operations, the Arabella groups regularly create “pop-up” websites and groups designed to give the appearance of local grassroots support for an agenda driven by Arabella.