A leading progressive group that's campaigning to kill the Senate filibuster has extensive ties to a dark-money behemoth, making it virtually impossible to identify who's financing the fund, according to public incorporation records.
The documents showed that Fix Our Senate, which is leading a coalition of dozens of progressive groups to pressure moderate Democrats to eliminate the filibuster, is actually a subsidiary of Sixteen Thirty Fund, information that the group does not disclose on its websites or digital ads.
Sixteen Thirty Fund, which operates as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, is a dark money group that directs money from secret donors to project that it sponsors, effectively allowing them to operate anonymously. It acts as a fiscal sponsor for more than 50 groups that lack tax-exempt status or do not exist as separately incorporated entities.
The group is closely tied to Arabella Advisors, a firm that advises donors and nonprofits about where to give money. It was founded by former Clinton administration appointee Eric Kessler, who serves as the president and chair of Sixteen Thirty Fund.
Arabella Advisors provides "business and administrative services" to the nonprofit, including offering "the systems and services to ensure compliance with federal, state and local regulations related to charitable solicitation and provides HR, legal, payroll and other administrative functions," according to a recent tax filing.
Because Fix Our Senate is a project of the Sixteen Thirty Fund, the group does not have to disclose its donors or tax files, meaning there is no paper trail. The Washington Free Beacon first reported the news.
Several of the biggest donors and organizations in Democratic politics have ties to Sixteen Thirty Fund, including Mike Bloomberg, who donated $250,000 to a super PAC linked to Sixteen Thirty Fund, Change Now, in 2018, according to Politico. The outlet also reported that the Democratic donor group Democracy Alliance, which has dozens of members, including billionaire George Soros, suggested in the spring of 2018 – just a few months before the midterm elections – that donors invest several million dollars into Sixteen Thirty Fund.
Critics of dark money, which obscures the source of the funds, argue that voters should know who's funding political advertisements and campaigns. The Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan group, has called it a "serious threat to our democracy," and Issue One, another nonpartisan group that aims to reduce the influence of money in politics, has called it "the most toxic force in politics."
Fix Our Senate did not immediately respond to a FOX Business request for comment.
Although Democrats have previously introduced legislation to crack down on dark money donations, it did not stop them from accepting anonymous donations themselves as they fought to defeat former President Donald Trump. In fact, a report published by Bloomberg News shows that President Biden raked in about $145 million in donations from anonymous donors to outside groups backing him, far outstripping the $28.4 million spent on behalf of his rival, Trump.
It also tops the previous record of $113 million in dark money donations spent on behalf of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012.
In recent weeks, Fix Our Senate has ramped up the pressure on Democrats to get rid of the filibuster, the Senate cloture rule that requires lawmakers to have 60 votes in order to end debate and bring a bill to vote. Certain progressive priorities – such as a $15 minimum wage increase, voting rights legislation and Washington, D.C., statehood – are likely only possible through a simple majority vote in the Senate.
The group launched a six-figure ad buy in mid-March, arguing the filibuster has "prevented voting rights and civil rights from passing the U.S. Senate."
With their thinnest-possible 50-50 majority, Democrats currently lack the votes to kill the filibuster: Sens. Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema, centrist Democrats, have said they have no interest in gutting the chamber's supermajority threshold; but Democrats could potentially have a path to killing the filibuster once and for all if they managed to pick up open seats in Pennsylvania or North Carolina in 2022.
"Momentum to eliminate the filibuster is growing each day, and we’re going to keep working to make sure people across the country understand why the filibuster needs to be eliminated to make progress on the issues they care about most,” Eli Zupnick, Fix Our Senate spokesperson, said in a news release.