Investigative Group

Charity Backed By Silicon Valley Tech Titans Gave $500K To Fusion GPS-Linked Group

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Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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  • A former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer who has worked with Fusion GPS and Christopher Steele quietly formed a pro-democracy nonprofit group in 2018 called Advance Democracy Inc. 
  • A Daily Caller News Foundation investigation found that a multi-billion dollar charity backed by Silicon Valley tech titans donated $500,000 to the group last year.
  • The staffer operates a similar charity called The Democracy Integrity Project, which receives funding from George Soros. He allegedly told one associate that the group operates as a “shadow media organization” that works with the U.S. government. 

A Silicon Valley charity gave $500,000 to a nonprofit group founded by a former Senate staffer who is working with Fusion GPS and Trump dossier author Christopher Steele.

The Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF), which has received significant funding from tech industry billionaires, gave the donation in 2018 to Advance Democracy Inc., a Virginia-based 501(c)(3) group, according to a database the recipient group runs.

A Daily Caller News Foundation investigation found that Advance Democracy shares the same address as The Democracy Integrity Project (TDIP), another nonprofit group started by a former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer for California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Daniel Jones.

Mystery surrounds both of Jones’s operations. The identities of both groups’ donors have largely been kept secret, as Jones has avoided revealing his backers.

The secrecy would appear at odds with Advance Democracy’s website description that it is an “independent, non-partisan organization that promotes accountability, transparency, and good governance in the United States and around the world.”

Jones created TDIP on Jan. 31, 2017, according to registration records filed in Washington, D.C. Through that group, Jones partnered with Fusion GPS and Steele to continue a private investigation into President Donald Trump and Russia. One goal of the organization, Jones told the FBI, was to provide information to the media, lawmakers and the FBI.

Jones, who worked for Feinstein on the Senate Intelligence Committee through 2015, allegedly told one associate that his operation worked as a “shadow media organization” with the U.S. government, TheDCNF previously reported. He also took credit for planting anti-Trump stories in the press.

Jones formed Advance Democracy on Jan. 29, 2018 — four days after then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley identified Jones in letters seeking information related to Steele’s dossier regarding Trump’s alleged relationship with Russia. (RELATED: Dark Money Org Gave $2 Million To Group Working With Fusion GPS, Steele)

Fusion GPS Co-Founder Glenn Simpson listens as his lawyer, Joshua Levy, speaks to members of the media following a meeting with members of the House Judiciary and Oversight Committee in the Rayburn Office Building on Capitol Hill on October 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson listens following a meeting. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

It’s unclear why Jones created two separate organizations. While the two groups share the same Virginia address registered to Jones, they have different tax statuses with the IRS. TDIP is a 501(c)(4), meaning that donations are not tax-deductible, in contrast to Advance Democracy, a 501(c)(3).

Jones also operates The Penn Quarter Group, a Washington, D.C.-based “research and investigative advisory” firm.

It is also unclear who is ultimately behind the SVCF contribution to Advance Democracy. The foundation, whose donors include Silicon Valley tech titans, lists grant recipients in an online database, but does not identify who funded each grant.

A spokeswoman for SVCF declined to disclose the donor. Jones did not respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has donated nearly $2 billion in his company’s stock to SVCF since 2010, according to Forbesincluding $214 million in November 2018. Twitter and Square founder Jack Dorsey contributed $21 million in Square stock in 2015, and Netflix founder Reed Hastings gave $100 million in 2016. Google co-founder Sergey Brin gave $10 million in 2015.

Starbucks founder and potential 2020 presidential candidate Howard Schultz gave $1 million in 2014. J.B. Pritzker, the Democratic governor of Illinois, gave $605,000 in 2016 through his family foundation, according to Forbes, which pulled donor information from Security Exchange Commission filings.

SVCF uses donor-advised funds to accept donations and make grants. Donors receive an immediate tax benefit for contributions, many of which are made in the form of stocks and other assets, but can distribute funds on a longer timeline than would be required at a traditional private foundation. They can also recommend who receives the grants using their donations.

The funds, known as DAFs, also provide an extra layer of anonymity for donors compared to a foundation funded by an individual or family. Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat, has said that the donor-advised fund industry fosters “identity laundering.”

SVCF has more than 1,000 donor-advised funds, a spokeswoman for the group told TheDCNF.

The contribution to Advance Democracy is the first donation to the Jones group to be revealed. TDIP received $1 million from progressive billionaire financier George Soros in 2017, while the Fund for a Better Future, a Sacramento-based dark money group in California, contributed $2,065,000 to TDIP that same year.

Jones’s activities have slowly trickled into public view over the past year.

After Grassley, an Iowa Republican, identified Jones in his January 2018 letter, The Federalist reported that Jones was working with Fusion GPS and Steele to investigate Trump. On April 27, 2018, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released a report that quoted from an interview that Jones conducted with the FBI in March 2017.

According to the report, Jones told FBI agents that he had raised $50 million from between seven and 10 donors from California and New York to “continue exposing Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.”

Jones said he hired Fusion GPS and Steele and “planned to share the information he obtained with policymakers … and with the press.”

In a text message provided to TheDCNF, Jones took credit for the publication of anti-Trump news stories. In one text that linked to a March 17, 2017, Reuters article, Jones said that “our team helped with this.”

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