Gates Foundation Was Major Donor to Pro-Biden 'Dark Money' Network

The parent organization of a Democratic "dark money" behemoth received nearly $70 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2020 as it financed super PACs boosting Joe Biden's presidential campaign.

Gates Foundation Was Major Donor to Pro-Biden 'Dark Money' Network
Bill Gates speaks at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum on September 20, 2017 in New York City.

This post is authored by journalist Robbie Jaeger

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gave nearly $70 million last year to a major liberal charity that acts as the “parent” organization of one of the largest pro-Democrat dark money groups, a recent update to the group’s online grant database reveals. It was the largest one-year commitment the foundation has made since 2014, and its second largest ever. 

The donations were given to Arabella Advisors’ New Venture Fund (NVF), a major player in the political nonprofit sphere that is the payroll reporting agent for Sixteen Thirty Fund, a dark money group that funneled tens of millions to super PACs during that 2020 election cycle that backed Democratic candidates including President Joe Biden. The most recent tax returns available (2019) show that New Venture Fund, which raised $450 million from anonymous sources that year, transferred $33 million to Sixteen Thirty—the largest single donation given by the former and received by the latter.

Gates’ Commitments By The Numbers

There are an abundance of questions concerning who funds New Venture Fund, but Bill Gates’ foundation has had a prominent role over the past 13 years. According to the foundation’s online grant database, it committed $8.6 million to the group in 2008, and over the next five years additional annual commitments fluctuated between $3.5 million and $13.5 million—until 2014, when the Microsoft founder pledged a massive $95.5 million. As New Venture Fund’s annual revenue ballooned, so did the Gates Foundation’s donations. From 2015 to 2019, it made annual commitments of roughly $26 million, $25 million, $47 million, $59 million, and $48 million—making the nearly $70 million committed during 2020 the foundation’s largest single-year commitment in over half a decade. 

Overall, Bill Gates’ private foundation has committed over $419 million dollars to Arabella’s dark money behemoth, which describes its missions as “[helping] to build a just, equitable, and sustainable future by getting the right types of philanthropic capital into the hands of people with the right ideas.” As for 2021, the Gates Foundation has committed roughly $4 million (per its online grant database). Over the 13 year relationship, Gates Foundation’s numerous grants to NVF have been described by the database as being intended for a myriad of projects both in the U.S. and abroad: Issues related to “gender equality”, “K-12 education”, and “agricultural development”, and “general public policy” seemingly being the basis for the largest allocations. 

Regarding the Gates Foundation’s grant commitments, many of them span varying lengths of time—some spanning 2, 3, 6, even 9 years before the grant has been paid in full. Given this staggered method of cash distribution, grant amounts on the foundation’s tax returns vary widely in some cases from the amount committed. According to an analysis of Gates Foundation tax returns, the organization had a substantial role in the earlier days of NVF’s financing—accounting for nearly 24% of NVF’s yearly donations from 2009 through 2012. Overall, NVF has received over $250 million from Gates Foundation since 2009—making up just under 10% of its total funding during that timespan, and making Gates Foundation a cornerstone donor of one of the largest dark money networks in the country.

Founded in 2000 with a grant of Microsoft stock worth $20 billion, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has become an institution in the philanthropy world with roughly $50 billion in assets, raising and spending billions annually on hundreds of organizations. In 2006, Berkshire Hathaway founder Warren Buffett signed on as a trustee, and during his tenure (which ended with his resignation earlier this year), donated approximately $33 billion in Berkshire stock to the foundation. In his June resignation letter, Buffett stated that he had been an “inactive trustee,” though the nonprofit is still “100% in sync” with his philanthropic goals. Traditionally, the foundation has allocated its funding with a strong focus on global vaccine development and distribution, as well as other public health related subjects (the World Health Organization and the Clinton Health Access Initiative, for example, draws most of their funding from Gates’ foundation)—so it’s easy to overlook its substantial contributions to politically focused organizations like New Venture Fund. 

The Arabella Umbrella

New Venture Fund has exploded from a $6 million venture in 2008 to the $450 million juggernaut it is today, and a large portion of its operations, as well as details about who funds it, are mostly shrouded in mystery. In 2019 alone, NVF spent roughly $242 million in grants to approximately 650 nonprofits and universities. Fourteen percent of that, or roughly $33 million (their largest donation to any organization), went to its political dark money vehicle, Sixteen Thirty Fund—which accounted for nearly a quarter of the $137 million the group brought in that year. 

Sixteen Thirty Fund was a major player in the 2018 midterm elections, but played an even more significant role in the 2020 cycle, spending roughly $60 million funding the most prominent pro-Joe Biden super PACs, including seven-figure donations to Future Forward USA, League of Conservation Voters Action Fund, Take Back 2020, Priorities USA, Unite The Country, American Bridge, America’s Progressive Promise, Pacronym and other groups that spent hundreds of millions of dollars combined on anti-Trump and pro-Biden ads. The Republican-led anti-Trump group the Lincoln Project received $300,000 from Sixteen Thirty Fund in 2020.