A Massive Dark Money Group Is Fueling Pro-Biden Super PACs

Robbie Jagger

According to new FEC filings, one of the largest dark money groups in the country — The Sixteen Thirty Fund — donated approximately $11.5 Million to Super PACs that either support Joe Biden or oppose President Trump.

The massive dark money injection came in the form of three massive donations — $3.5 Million to pro-Biden Super PAC “Priorities USA”, $2.2 Million to anti-Trump Super PAC “Black PAC", and $5.7 Million to “Victory 2020" — a joint fundraising committee made up of two massive pro-Biden Super PACS, “Unite The Country" and “AB PAC", the latter being the Super PAC arm of former Clinton operative David Brock’s American Bridge nonprofit.

Sixteen Thirty is a project of Arabella Advisors, a nonprofit consultancy group led by another former Clinton operative, Eric Kessler. Arabella runs four main organizations, three of which are 501(c)(3)s — Hopewell Fund, Windward Fund, and most notably, the New Venture Fund, the largest of the three which also acts as the paymaster for the others. Sixteen Thirty, on the other hand, is Arabella’s sole 501(c)(4), meaning they do not publicly disclose their donors. According to their most recent IRS filings, which cover FY 2018, Sixteen Thirty Fund raised $143 Million that year. When it comes to their individual donors, one anonymous contributor gave north of $50 Million (per Politico¹), and another $26 Million came from the aforementioned New Venture Fund. NVF reported $405 Million in donations in 2018, with 78% coming from foundations — and 25% of that ($81 Million) came from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, likely making them NVF’s largest donor, that we know of.

That anonymous $51 Million and the $26 Million from New Venture Fund accounted for roughly 50% of Sixteen Thirty’s donations for 2018. The group received other foundational support from Tides Center, Democracy Alliance’s State Engagement Fund, billionaire and The Intercept backer Pierre Omidyar’s Democracy Fund, as well as several other prominent nonprofits. 

Sixteen Thirty normally invests their vast quantities of dark money into other less prominent groups, such as America Votes, who they gave $24 Million in 2018 (more than doubling AV’s total receipts from the prior year). This time around it seems they’re doubling down on Super PACs. No Super PAC has been more prominent this cycle than Priorities USA², who have already spent over $33 Million in pro-Biden/anti-Trump ads. Priorities USA has raised around $53 Million this cycle, from donors such as billionaires Donald Sussman and George Soros (via his personal Super PAC, Democracy PAC³) spending close to $33 Million. Sixteen Thirty Fund donated $3.5 Million to Priorities USA in Q2, boosting the group’s war chest.

Black PAC⁴ had raised barely over $1,000,000 through May, half of which came from Democracy Alliance’s State Victory Action as well as America Votes (which is substantially funded by Sixteen Thirty), cranking out the occasional five-digit anti-Trump ad buy. On 06/30, Sixteen Thirty donated $2.2 Million to Black PAC , who— a little over two weeks later — placed a modest $750,000 media buy opposing President Trump; a move that dwarfed anything they had done previously this cycle.

Finally, Sixteen Thirty Fund donated $5.7 Million to a committee called Victory 2020⁵ — which is essentially a joint fundraising group between pro-Biden Super PACs Unite The Country⁶ and AB PAC⁷, the latter belonging to David Brock’s American Bridge organization. Both organizations have spent around $20 Million a piece on pro-Biden and anti-Trump media. $5.7 million donation from Sixteen Thirty Fund to Victory 2020 was split up and distributed — $2.2 Million to AB PAC and $3.5 Million to Unite The Country.

There’s one more connection from Sixteen Thirty Fund to the Biden campaign — media and consulting firm SKD Knickerbocker, for whom Biden’s chief strategist, Anita Dunn, is managing director. According to tax records, SKD Knickerbocker has appeared on the payroll of several Arabella nonprofits over the past few years, most recently being paid $3.2 Million by Sixteen Thirty Fund for “Consulting" in 2018.

Biden has enjoyed substantially more Super PAC support than President Trump. The top three spenders — Priorities USA, Unite The Country, and AB PAC — have spent nearly $73 Million in his support, while the top three Super PACs supporting President Trump barely spent $30 Million. As the general election draws ever closer, the money will continue to get bigger — and darker.

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