Meet The “New George Soros” Using Front Groups To Influence Elections

The following is an excerpt from Scott Walter’s “Arabella: The Dark Money Network of Leftist Billionaires Transforming America,” published by Encounter Books. It can be purchased here.

It’s a story that goes to the very heart of the Left’s mountain of shadowy funding and professional activism: a foreign billionaire infamous for illegally funding Democrats, enriched by selling ghoulish medical treatments that resulted in multiple deaths, and bankrolling a multimillion-dollar “dark money” campaign to transform America.

Meet Swiss-born Hansjörg Wyss (pronounced “Hans-yurg Veese”), perhaps the most important mega-donor you’ve never heard of. His Wyss Foundation, founded in 1998, quietly commands a stunning $2.7 billion in assets (as of 2021) and annually pours out tens of millions of dollars to activist groups—around a billion dollars between 2002 and 2021—so it’s little wonder he’s been called the “new George Soros.”

Wyss is one of the best-connected mega-donors on the left. He’s a member of the Democracy Alliance, a cabal of the rich and powerful that meets regularly to strategize funding to leftist activists. He’s also a substantial contributor to and sits on the board of the Center for American Progress, a leading liberal think tank founded by John Podesta, who chaired Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 presidential campaign. Podesta has reportedly advised Wyss on his funding of public policy efforts, and Podesta and Wyss Foundation president Molly McUsic have collaborated on stealthy nonprofit schemes to win elections for the Democratic Party.

Wyss’s Meddling

Wyss’s efforts to influence American policy debates and election outcomes have not gone unnoticed. In May 2021, the right-leaning Americans for Public Trust filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, arguing the evidence already available indicates “Mr. Wyss indirectly funded federal electoral advocacy through his nonprofit organizations, the Wyss Foundation, and the Berger Action Fund. The intended recipient of these funds was ultimately a variety of organizations whose primary purpose is to engage in electoral advocacy.”

The complaint observed that “the law prohibits foreign nationals from making contributions to political committees whether directly or indirectly” because of the near-universal view that foreign interests should not intervene in American elections. Unfortunately, the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) rarely does much to enforce the law, so after waiting a year, Americans for Public Trust filed a lawsuit in late April 2022, aiming to prod the Commission to investigate Wyss’s alleged illegal donations to left-wing groups and various Democratic politicians, including Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and former Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA)—now governor of Washington State—and former Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO), who was later elected to the Senate. Wyss has bragged to Swiss media about his contacts in the White House and support for Democrats.

Federal law prohibits foreign nationals from making contributions of any kind “in connection with any federal, state, or local election,” according to the FEC. It’s also illegal for campaigns, PACs, and other such organizations “to knowingly accept such donations from a foreign national.”

With the lawsuit pressing it, the FEC general counsel finally produced a document with recommendations for what the commission should do regarding Wyss and his relations with the Arabella network. The general counsel said an investigation into Arabella’s Sixteen Thirty Fund’s relations with its largest grant recipients in the 2018 and 2020 election cycles should be conducted to see if the group should have been registered as a PAC rather than a 501(c)(4) nonprofit. Even with evidence already available, the general counsel found grave violations and recommended that the FEC “Find reason to believe that the Sixteen Thirty Fund and The Hub Project”—the latter launched and sustained through the Arabella network by Wyss and his nonprofits—had “violated 52 U.S.C. §§ 30102, 30103, and 30104 by not registering as a political committee and meeting the Act’s organizational, record keeping, and reporting requirements.”

The complaint to which the FEC general counsel responded alleges the Hub Project has served as a vehicle for Mr. Wyss’s political spending. This is demonstrated by the fact that Mr. Wyss has not publicly disclosed his role in founding the Hub Project. Neither his influence nor his financial support can be found anywhere on the group’s website. Indeed, the intrepid New York Times reporter only learned of Wyss’s connection to the Hub Project with the help of “interviews with five people with knowledge of The Hub Project, an internal memo from another liberal group that was obtained by the New York Times, and the appearance of The Hub Project’s business plan in a tranche of data made public by WikiLeaks.”

However, as the New York Times makes clear, it is not a right-wing “conspiracy theory” that this foreign donor is shaping our politics in powerful ways, especially in the area of environmental policy close to his heart. For example, the Times observes, the Hub Project appeared in 2015 “as a sort of incubator for groups backing Democrats and their causes,” and it “created more than a dozen groups with anodyne-sounding names that planned to spend $30 million attacking Republican congressional candidates before the 2018 election.”

And the inauguration of Joseph Biden as president only led to more influence for Wyss. “Several officials from the Hub Project were hired by the Biden administration,” the Times reports, “including Rosemary Enobakhare, a former Environmental Protection Agency official in the Obama administration who returned to the agency under Mr. Biden; Maju Vargheseas director of the White House Military Office; and Janelle Jones as chief economist for the Labor Department.” Then there’s Wyss’s top aide, Wyss Foundation and Berger Action Fund president (and former Sixteen Thirty Fund board member) Molly McUsic: she “was a member of the Biden transition team that reviewed Interior Department policies and personnel.”

The Man Behind the Curtain

Especially given the FEC’s slow response to complaints and eventual decision to ignore its own general counsel’s recommendations, Wyss’s fortune will continue to influence public policy debates for many years. Wyss still commands billions of dollars that will exist in perpetuity in his tax-free private foundation. As with so many of the big left-wing donors, his death will likely not liberate America from the reach of his money.

And just as billionaires yearning to control Americans seem to keep multiplying, so do Arabella’s nonprofits keep proliferating.

Scott Walter is president of the Capital Research Center in Washington, D.C.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of

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