The Dark Money That Funded ‘Dark Money’

Liberal groups sponsor a documentary faulting conservative groups that sponsor political advocacy.

By Scott Walter    Mr. Walter is president of the Capital Research Center
October 17, 2018
Left-wing interests are raving about the documentary “Dark Money.” Airing this month on PBS, “Dark Money” purports to expose the effects of right-wing political spending in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The Los Angeles Times calls the film a “political thriller.” NPR lauds it for revealing the “assault on the American electoral and judicial process by corporations whose agenda is nothing less than the dismantling of government itself.”

There’s one problem: This attack on conservative-funded political advocacy is itself liberal-funded political advocacy. The proof? The end credits listing the film’s funders.

Top billing goes to the Ford Foundation, the third-largest private political-advocacy philanthropy in the U.S. Its sheer size—$12.4 billion in assets—isn’t unique on the left. Even before hedge-fund billionaire George Soros injected $18 billion into his Open Society Foundations, eight of America’s 10 largest private foundations (ranked by giving as of 2013) were aligned with the political left.

Nominally nonpartisan but actually liberal foundations and nonprofits spend three or four times as much as their conservative peers on “education” and advocacy, as the Capital Research Center documents.

How partisan are these “nonpartisan” groups? Consider “Dark Money’s” notable funder No. 2, the CrossCurrents Foundation. It’s led by Ken Grossinger, who has been a political strategist for the two most important labor unions in the U.S., the Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO, for which he ran legislative operations.

Mr. Grossinger is now a principal in Democracy Partners, a major Democratic political consultancy, where he works “to advance policy and program priorities,” as per his biography at the Alliance for Justice website. He also chairs the board of the alliance, a liberal judicial-policy group that vigorously opposed Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.

Left-of-center foundations are not immune to routing their contributions to advocacy projects through other organizations. Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute, another funder of “Dark Money,” does more than hold its eponymous film festival. Numerous liberal donors funnel money into Sundance to support advocacy filmmaking and other media projects. The layer of separation obscures their political agenda.

The American public often hears stories, including in this film, about nefarious right-wing oligarchs using complex financial products and tax-exempt organizations to get their way. But nonobvious money trails are popular on both ends of the spectrum.

The message of “Dark Money” and similar projects is that conservatives’ post-Citizens United advantage in electoral spending by independent groups is corrupt. Liberals’ far larger advantages in foundation funding, on the other hand, are never mentioned. That’s kept in the dark.

Mr. Walter is president of the Capital Research Center.



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