by Chuck Ross
A dark money group with links to several high-profile liberal activists contributed $2 million to The Democracy Integrity Project, an organization founded by a former Dianne Feinstein staffer that has contracted with Fusion GPS and Christopher Steele to investigate President Donald Trump.
Fund for a Better Future (FBF) donated $2,065,000 to The Democracy Integrity Project (TDIP) in 2017, according to IRS filings reviewed by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
TDIP was founded on Jan. 31, 2017, by Daniel Jones, a consultant who worked for Feinstein, a California Democrat, when she controlled the Senate Intelligence Committee. Jones has disclosed to the FBI that he hired Fusion GPS and Steele, the author of the anti-Trump dossier, to continue an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
He also told an associate that TDIP operated as a “shadow media organization helping the government.” Jones suggested to the associate, Adam Waldman, that his TDIP team planted several anti-Trump articles.
Little is known about the donors behind both TDIP and FBF. Both of the organizations are 501(c)(4)s, the type of public advocacy group most closely associated with “dark money” contributions. FBF has contributed to a mix of environmental organizations and politically active groups, including Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Priorities USA — the political group that backs Democrats — and the League of Conservation Voters, a progressive dark money group.
Scott Walter, the president of Capital Research Center, a conservative watchdog that tracks liberal groups’ funding, said the arrangement is a prime example of “dark money.”
“You’ve found one ‘dark money’ outfit providing dark millions to another ‘dark money’ outfit and refusing to reveal anything to you. That’s ‘dark’ two or three times over,” Walter told TheDCNF.
“Ironically, ‘dark money’ is most often applied only to conservative funding,” said Walter, who noted that “the Left has a vast empire of ‘dark money’ groups, including the Fund for a Better Future and The Democracy Integrity Project.”
An environmentalist who served as California’s undersecretary for resources, Michael Mantell, runs FBF. Board members in 2017 included David and Lucille Packard Foundation trustee Jason Burnett and Molly McUsic, the president of the Wyss Foundation, a charity founded by Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss, who funds numerous environmental causes.
Another FBF board member is Open Space Institute President Christopher Elliman. A trustee of that New York-based nonprofit is Hume Steyer, the older brother of Tom Steyer, the billionaire environmentalist financing a campaign to impeach Trump. Tom Steyer hired Fusion GPS in 2012 to work on a California ballot initiative.
There is no indication from FBF’s filings that Tom Steyer has contributed to the group, but a current FBF board member has also worked closely with the California billionaire.
Kathleen Welch, of the election strategy firm Corridor Partners, was listed by Politico along with Tom Steyer as two of Hillary Clinton’s top green energy donors during the 2016 presidential campaign. Clinton campaign emails published by WikiLeaks showed that Welch and Tom Steyer took part in conference calls with the Clinton campaign to discuss environmental issues.
According to FBF’s most recent audit, the organization has four main donors, none of whom are identified.
One other prominent TDIP donor has been publicly identified.
George Soros contributed $1 million to TDIP, a spokesman for the billionaire financier told The New York Times in October. That disclosure came only after TheDCNF reported that Jones told his associate, Waldman, that Soros was one of TDIP’s funders.
According to a report released by the House Intelligence Committee in April 2018, Jones told the FBI in March 2017 that his group would receive $50 million in funding from seven to 10 wealthy donors from New York and California. TDIP’s tax filings in 2017 show that the group received far less: $9,036,836.
Jones also said that TDIP “planned to share the information he obtained with policymakers … and with the press” and that his group “had secured the services of Steele, his associate [redacted], and Fusion GPS to continue exposing Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.”
Fusion GPS, which was founded by former Wall Street Journal reporter Glenn Simpson, hired Steele in June 2016. Fusion was working at the time for the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee to investigate Trump’s links to Russia.
Few details are known about the work Fusion and Steele, a former MI6 officer, have done since the 2016 election. Both have been ensnared in legal fights over publication of the dossier, which remains unverified and has been heavily disputed. But there is some evidence they have continued their efforts to bolster the dossier and to plant negative stories in the press about Trump.
In a March 17, 2017, exchange obtained by TheDCNF, Jones sent Waldman, a lawyer with ties to Steele, a text message with a link to a Reuters article about Russian investments in Trump Organization properties in Florida.
“Our team helped with this,” Jones wrote Waldman.
TDIP has also worked closely with New Knowledge, a cybersecurity firm that has been accused of orchestrating a self-described “false flag” operating in the special election for an Alabama Senate seat in 2017. TDIP and New Knowledge partnered to work on a website called Disinfo2018, which tracked the stories Russian bots promoted during the 2018 midterm elections.
New Knowledge collaborated with the Senate Intelligence Committee on a report about Russian disinformation that was released in December.
A spokeswoman for Mantell declined to comment on specifics about the FBF’s donors or its relationship with TDIP. McUsic, the Wyss Foundation executive, did not respond to a request for comment.
Jones has also not responded to numerous requests for comment.
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Chuck Ross is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation. Follow Chuck on Twitter.