Closing Range

Archives of Darkness

I fully understand that political dark money laundering is stunningly complex, excruciatingly boring, magnitudes harder to “report” than car wrecks. But dark money matters.

By Dave Skinner

Since I’m on my way out (aren’t you excited!?!?) at the Beacon, I’ve decided to indulge my ego and take a victory lap this week.

For years, I’ve mucked around in America’s ever-growing cesspool of “dark money,” what is today a toxic mess fed by undammed opaque Amazons – raging rivers of billions in cash, with most of it laundered tax-exempt by high-bracket, self-dealing, completely-anonymous oligarchs, more than happy to keep corroding the workings of our Republic.

I’ve even written about dark money here in the Beacon, usually after another wave of filth from “out of nowhere” had poisoned and corrupted Montana’s political backwaters.

Through it all, I’ve mucked alone, hoping someone else would pick up the topic. Some think tanks have engaged. But I especially hoped more journalists would jump on board, armed with our constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of the press, and cognizant of their obligation to well-inform America’s electorate. “Truth to power” and all that jazz, eh? Nah…at least not until recently.

I fully understand that political dark money laundering is stunningly complex, excruciatingly boring, magnitudes harder to “report” than car wrecks. But dark money matters.

The other day, I read an article from Politico’s Scott Bland, about a “left-leaning, secret-money group [that] doled out a whopping $410 million in 2020, aiding Democratic efforts to unseat [Trump and win the Senate].” I’d say $410 million matters, wouldn’t you?

Politico’s article referred to an entity called the Sixteen Thirty Fund. Who dat $410 million baby, hmm? And why dat matter in Montana? Um – because of “$19.4 million in contributions to the North Fund” – which in turn provided $5 million to the Montana pot initiative campaign last year. But, under Montana law the original donors remain undisclosed because five million of dirty cash dumped on Montana was “incidental” to a larger national package of $19.4 million Sixteen gave to North Fund (which ran through $25 million all told in 2020).

Those millions were distributed out of, as the Atlantic Monthly put it this Election Day, “a trendy co-working space in Washington, D.C.’s Dupont Circle — where people wear Chucks and fuss about fancy coffee” that is de facto headquarters for “the progressive movement’s empire of political cash,” spent across multiple “progressive” ballot measures on multiple subjects in multiple states. Pretty convenient.

Of course, I wrote about North Fund and Sixteen Thirty in the Beacon already, once and twice together, and Sixteen clear back in 2018 (North didn’t exist yet). And the organization that spawned both Sixteen and North (and a bunch of others), New Venture Fund? A few, starting in 2013. How about the management company that runs New Venture, Arabella Advisors? At least three times, beginning in 2013. All that from little old Dave, lurking at the end of the Information Dirt Road, in his spare time? Wow!

Back to Politico…reporter Bland does some good digging, revealing some of the funders of that $410 million Sixteen Thirty laundered last election – AND he posted Sixteen Thirty’s public IRS Form 990 tax return. How about Pierre Omidyar, $45 million; Open Society (George Soros) $17 million? Mr. Bland also referred to an April 2021 New York Times article on Sixteen Thirty explaining how, over the years, $135 million came to Sixteen from “nonprofits” funded and controlled by “Swiss billionaire Hansjoerg Wyss.”

Yep, you’ve read about Hans in the Beacon before, too – starting way, way back in 2011. Coincidence? No, I accidentally found proof that Hans gave the cash ($725,000 in 2006) that birthed the Arabella “empire,” the New Venture segment of which cranked through $315 million in 2017. What a rags-to-riches story, eh? Which still hasn’t been reported in the mainstream media in as much boring-yet-scary detail as I (through the Beacon) have provided you over time.

I should have written a book…after I leave, perhaps I will. What you’ve read so far only scratches the surface of what I’ve got in my archives of darkness, archives I’m thankful the Beacon gave me an excuse to build. Happy Thanksgiving! 

Editors Note: Dave Skinner will be leaving us at the end of the year and we’re looking for his replacement. Interested? Send a query email to [email protected] with the subject line “Send Dave Packing” for specifics.