Biden’s chief of staff leads White House employees with ties to progressive dark money groups 

At least 60 people within Joe Biden‘s White House have ties to a liberal Washington DC think tank which does not disclose its funding, according to reports – leading to questions about the power of progressive ‘dark money’.

The Center for American Progress was founded in 2003 by John Podesta, Bill Clinton‘s chief of staff and a counselor to Barack Obama.

It is one of a number of lobbying groups and policy organizations which do not disclose how they are funded, leading to concern about who is behind their significant power and influence. 

Some of the best-known ‘dark money’ groups are the NRA, Planned Parenthood, the NAACP, the Heritage Foundation and the American Bankers’ Association. 

Biden’s chief of staff, Ronald Klain, was on the board of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the advocacy arm of the Center for American Progress, from 2011-13.

Ron Klain, one of Biden's closest allies and now chief of staff, was on the board of a think tank

Ron Klain, one of Biden's closest allies and now chief of staff, was on the board of a think tank

Ron Klain, one of Biden’s closest allies and now chief of staff, was on the board of a think tank

Biden, seen Thursday in Louisiana, has hired many people with connections to CAP

Biden, seen Thursday in Louisiana, has hired many people with connections to CAP

Biden, seen Thursday in Louisiana, has hired many people with connections to CAP

Klain was Biden’s chief of staff when he was vice president, and before then served as Vice President Al Gore’s chief of staff.

The CAP was founded in 2003 by Podesta

The CAP was founded in 2003 by Podesta

The CAP was founded in 2003 by Podesta

Of the 60 CAP alumni known to be serving in or nominated by the Biden administration, 21 of them were affiliated with the think tank until this year, an analysis by Insider showed last month.  

They include Denis McDonough, head of the Department of Veterans Affairs, who was Obama’s chief of staff, and became a senior fellow at CAP.

Carmel Martin, deputy director of the White House Domestic Policy Council for economic mobility, and Kelly Magsamen, chief of staff to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, also worked for the group.

Biden and Klain have worked together for years; Klain worked for Vice President Al Gore

Biden and Klain have worked together for years; Klain worked for Vice President Al Gore

Biden and Klain have worked together for years; Klain worked for Vice President Al Gore

Hillary Clinton is seen with John Podesta, her campaign chair and CAP founder, in July 2016

Hillary Clinton is seen with John Podesta, her campaign chair and CAP founder, in July 2016

Hillary Clinton is seen with John Podesta, her campaign chair and CAP founder, in July 2016

The executive vice president for policy at CAP, Mara Rudman, said the number of associates and friends of the group in the White House was a cause for celebration for them.

‘It’s a win-win for us,’ she told Insider. 

‘It’s no surprise to many of us that we have a lot of talented people that we feel very fortunate to draw in and would expect or hope that the skills and abilities of those people are embraced by a progressive administration.’

Another ‘dark money’ group with influence in the Biden White House is Media Matters for America, a left-wing media watchdog. 

Jennifer Granholm, the Energy Secretary, served as a senior adviser to the group from January 2017 until November 2020, receiving monthly retainer payments from the group totaling over $200,000, according to her financial disclosure report analyzed by Fox News

Denis McDonough, currently Veterans Affairs Secretary, was a senior fellow at CAP

Denis McDonough, currently Veterans Affairs Secretary, was a senior fellow at CAP

Denis McDonough, currently Veterans Affairs Secretary, was a senior fellow at CAP

Biden climate advisor Gina McCarthy, who led the EPA under the Obama administration, was president and chief executive officer of the Natural Resources Defense Council

Biden climate advisor Gina McCarthy, who led the EPA under the Obama administration, was president and chief executive officer of the Natural Resources Defense Council

Biden climate advisor Gina McCarthy, who led the EPA under the Obama administration, was president and chief executive officer of the Natural Resources Defense Council

What is ‘dark money’? 

Both Republicans and Democrats accuse each other of profiting from ‘dark money’ – making their opponents seem shadowy and untrustworthy.

‘Dark money’ literally means money which is not declared.

According to Open Secrets, which attempts to shed light on it, the term ‘refers to political spending meant to influence the decision of a voter, where the donor is not disclosed and the source of the money is unknown.’ 

Dark money only came into existence in 2010, with the Citizens United ruling, which effectively ended the rules by which all political donations had to be registered. 

Since then an estimated $1 billion has been spent by dark money groups — mainly on television and online ads and mailers. 

Some of the best-known dark money groups are the NRA, Planned Parenthood, the NAACP, the Heritage Foundation and the American Bankers’ Association. 

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And two more organizations, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund, are also benefitting from their senior figures entering the White House. 

Environmental Protection Agency administrator Michael Regan served as associate vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund. 

Biden climate advisor Gina McCarthy, who led the EPA under the Obama administration, was president and chief executive officer of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Critics point to the power of Arabella Advisors, a D.C.-based consulting firm, which manages the four ‘dark money funds’ that have poured billions into left-wing groups. 

CAP Action Fund has received $1.4 million from Arabella Advisors, Fox reported.

Media Matters has been given nearly $1 million, and the Environmental Defense Fund and its advocacy arm have taken in $3 million from funds in Arabella’s network.

‘From his White House climate czar to his chief of staff, White House Counsel’s office and even his own press secretary, Joe Biden has filled top positions in his administration with people who worked for groups that are part of the massive Arabella Advisors liberal dark money network; they have more influence over judicial nominations, extreme environmental policy and other issues than anyone else,’ said Caitlin Sutherland, president of Americans for Public Trust. 

The issue of ‘dark money’ is a feature of American political life, and something which Biden has vowed to combat.

Michael Regan, head of the EPA, previously worked at the Environmental Defense Fund

Michael Regan, head of the EPA, previously worked at the Environmental Defense Fund

Michael Regan, head of the EPA, previously worked at the Environmental Defense Fund

During the election, Christian right groups, many with close links to the Trump administration, spent at least $280 million.

Their money was spent on campaigns against the rights of women and LGBTQ people across five continents, openDemocracy found. 

Politico reported that last month Trump’s supporters hosted a meeting to strategize how to make better use of ‘dark money’ to further their own campaigns. 

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