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Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Memo Reveals Clinton Foundation Donor's $100 Million Registration, Turnout Push
Document released by hacker
who claims to have breached DNC network
speaks during a press conference of Swiss medical devices maker Synthes Inc /
A Swiss billionaire
and seven-figure Clinton Foundation donor is pouring millions of dollars into a
nonprofit voter registration and turnout operation and appears to have shared
information about the project with the Democratic Party, a leaked document
Hansjörg Wyss is
accelerating a $100 million registration and get-out-the-vote plan in order to
more quickly impact elections and the U.S. policy landscape, according to a document
detailing the proposed work by his charitable group, the Wyss Foundation.
The document details the scope of Democratic efforts to boost
grassroots organizing, and sheds light on how some of the left’s deepest
pockets are facilitating those efforts through nonprofit vehicles generally
restricted to charitable activity.
Wyss is a
controversial figure. He is currently being sued in Washington state court over allegations that illegal drug tests by his former medical
device company resulted in patient deaths.
According to the
memo, the Wyss Foundation initially planned to spend $100 million over the next
five years on voter registration, outreach, organizing, and legal and policy
advocacy on voting laws. But that won’t be enough, the group said.
The document, titled
“Wyss Foundation Democracy Strategy Discussion Memo,” was saved in a Microsoft
Word file suggesting it was created in March 2015.
“We believe these
efforts will alter the electorate, but they will not do it in time to fully
achieve the Wyss policy agenda within the next ten years,” the memo stated.
To speed the effort,
“we are proposing … to accelerate a portion of that (approximately $75 million)
into an immediate five year window, and spend it on a registration and
The bulk of that
increased spending, or $50 million, would go toward the registration surge.
“Given the high cost, this would have to be done in partnership with other
funders,” the memo notes.
Another $25 million
would go toward “integrated engagement and organizing” and “non-voter research
“If we don’t invest
heavily in the Democracy strategies now, there is a risk that our ability to
drive our issue agenda will be severely curtailed,” the memo warned. “These
investments lay the groundwork for robust, transformative issue campaigns.”
The Wyss Foundation
is a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation, meaning it cannot finance explicitly
political projects. But the group sees opportunities to shift the electorate in
ways that advance its policy agenda under a nonpartisan banner.
The foundation did
not respond to questions about its funding plan and why its strategy memo ended
up in the hands of the Democratic National Committee. It was one of a number of
internal documents released by a hacker who claims to have breached the DNC
Wyss, a Swiss
citizen, has donated to numerous federal and state political campaigns
despite legal bans on political contributions by foreign nationals. While the
law provides exceptions for lawful permanent residents, Wyss revealed in 2014
that he does not have a U.S. green card.
In addition to
political campaigns, Wyss has generously supported the Clinton Foundation. The
foundation’s website states the Wyss Charitable Endowment has given it
between $1 million and $5 million.
Wyss’ now-defunct HJW
Foundation previously employed Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta,
who received $87,083 from the group in 2013 for consulting services.
Podesta is the
founder and former chairman of the Clinton-friendly Center for American
Progress. Wyss is a CAP board
member and has donated more than$1 million to the group since 2011.
The Wyss Foundation
is also a member of the Democracy Alliance, a leading left-wing donor club that
is financing efforts similar to the foundation’s work on registration and turnout
Those activities are
carried out through a number of state-focused “funds” that pool donor resources
and distribute them to DA-backed groups to maximize the money’s impact.
A representative of
the Wyss Foundation sits on the advisory board of one of those initiatives, the
Democracy Fund, which has similar goals as the Wyss Foundation’s proposed
grassroots funding efforts.