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Tipsheet

Does Biden's FEC Nominee Have Ties to Foreign Dark Money at Center of FEC Complaint?

AP Photo/Keystone, Georgios Kefalas, File

President Joe Biden hasn't been great at picking nominees for federal posts, having several go down in flames as their controversial track records make overcoming Senate oversight impossible: Saule Omarova, David Chipman, and Sarah Bloom Raskin are just a few of the nominees that have been forced to withdraw their names from consideration. 

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Now, the Senate is considering another nominee — Dara Lindenbaum — for a seat on the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that Biden chose for the post despite her controversial past.

Biden nominated Lindenbaum on January 21, 2022, and a White House release described her as someone who "counsels clients on complying with state and federal campaign finance and election laws, and represents clients before the Federal Election Commission, federal and state courts, and state and local election boards" in addition to serving "as outside general counsel for a number of organizations and works with directors, boards, and staff to structure their programs and navigate the complex legal and compliance landscape."

That all sounds innocuous enough, but what the White House left out of its announcement of Lindenbaum's nomination is her work with Stacey Abrams in Georgia, the formation of Abrams' organization Fair Fight, and her lawsuit against Georgia's Secretary of State that made Lindenbaum an election denier and conspiracy theorist about Abrams'  gubernatorial loss. 

Guy reported here on how Lindenbaum "represented a Stacey Abrams-backed nonprofit in a lawsuit that made several unproven allegations of voter suppression" and "also signed on to court papers alleging voting machines 'switched' votes during the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial race." She expressed zero regret over indulging Abrams' sore loser nonsense when asked about her role in the affair by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX).

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According to Lindenbaum's ethics disclosure completed as part of her confirmation process, she reported receiving $5,000 or more per year from both Fair Fight Action and Fair Fight PAC, and that's where things start to get even more convoluted for Biden's FEC nominee — and it deals with foreign billionaires, dark money groups, and a major conflict of interest should Lindenbaum be confirmed. Buckle up:

Fair Fight Action received $2,229,000 from a group called the Sixteen Thirty Fund in 2020, per their 990 form. The Sixteen Thirty Fund received $31 million from the Berger Action Fund, described by POLITICO as "the left's leading 'dark-money' hub," between April 2020 and March 2021. The Berger Action Fund (formerly Wyss Action Fund) was founded by Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss. Mr. Wyss is a top donor not just to the Sixteen Thirty Fund, but also and its affiliate, the New Venture Fund, both of which are part of a "funding and fiscal sponsorship network" managed by Arabella Advisors. 

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Wyss is also the target of an FEC complaint filed by a watchdog group — Americans for Public Trust (APT) — which recently filed a lawsuit against the FEC for being slow to act on the complaint against Wyss. APT argues that Wyss, as a citizen of Switzerland, can't donate to U.S. political candidates, hence their complaint to the FEC. As APT Executive Director Caitlin Sutherland told The Hill, "Mr. Wyss, who is barred from directly or indirectly influencing our elections, has done just that by potentially funneling hundreds of millions of dollars through the Arabella Advisors network to benefit liberal and left-wing causes. Until the FEC takes action, we won’t know the full extent of his foreign interference in our electoral process," Sutherland added.

So foreign billionaire Hansjörg Wyss used his nonprofit organizations to give tens of millions of dollars to the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a group that gave millions of dollars to Fair Fight Action, a group from which Biden's FEC nominee made at least $5,000, while APT pursues an FEC complaint against Wyss for said donations. 

If the Senate advances Lindenbaum's nomination and votes to confirm her — as soon as this week — it seems her position on the FEC would be a massive conflict of interest. 

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Lindenbaum's indulgence of Stacey Abrams' "the election was stolen from me" bad-loser tour is bad enough for someone who's going to be considering America's election laws. But it's even more alarming for her to be headed toward confirmation while the FEC deals with a foreign dark money case — or potentially similar cases in the future — after working for an organization with apparent ties to said money.

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