Our new book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. Among other things, it discusses campaign finance.
Spurred by opposition to then-President Trump, donors and operatives allied with the Democratic Party embraced dark money with fresh zeal, pulling even with and, by some measures, surpassing Republicans in 2020 spending, according to a New York Times analysis of tax filings and other data.
The analysis shows that 15 of the most politically active nonprofit organizations that generally align with the Democratic Party spent more than $1.5 billion in 2020 — compared to roughly $900 million spent by a comparable sample of 15 of the most politically active groups aligned with the G.O.P.
A single, cryptically named entity that has served as a clearinghouse of undisclosed cash for the left, the Sixteen Thirty Fund, received mystery donations as large as $50 million and disseminated grants to more than 200 groups, while spending a total of $410 million in 2020 — more than the Democratic National Committee itself
Sixteen Thirty is part of a broader network of progressive nonprofits that donors used to fill specific spaces on the political chessboard.
The groups in the network, which also included Hopewell Fund, New Venture Fund, North Fund and Windward Fund, were administered by a for-profit consulting firm called Arabella Advisors. Taken together, the Arabella network spent a total of nearly $1.2 billion in 2020, including paying Arabella a combined $46.6 million in 2020 in management fees, according to the funds’ tax filings.
And the iron law of emulation:
Honest Elections was housed within a nonprofit called the 85 Fund, a charity that is part of a network formed by Leonard A. Leo, a conservative legal activist, to counter what he saw as the left’s increasing superiority in nonprofit political infrastructure.
Mr. Leo left his position as executive vice president of The Federalist Society last year to become chairman of a company called CRC Advisors, modeled on Arabella. Mr. Leo said in a statement that Arabella and its affiliated nonprofits “have added significant firepower to the left’s political agenda.”
“We believe our enterprise can do the same for the conservative mission,” Mr. Leo said.