‘Dark money’ special interests wage war on Pebble Mine



There’s no shortage of wealthy environmentalist groups angling to keep Alaska from making use of its natural resources, usually by exploiting fears of pollution from the proposed Pebble mine, a critical copper and gold mine that promises to restore America’s independence from foreign strategic minerals.

Take SalmonState, a supposedly home-grown nonprofit that claims Alaska’s “salmon habitat is under threat” from the construction of Pebble Mine and wants to shut it down. SalmonState runs its scare campaign through the website Save Bristol Bay, where it claims “Pebble mine threatens one of the world’s last great fisheries” while soliciting donations from concerned observers.

But SalmonState isn’t local, nor is it even a nonprofit—in fact, the group doesn’t hold board meetings or own so much as a pen.

That’s because SalmonState isn’t a real nonprofit—it’s a front for the left-wing New Venture Fund, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in Washington, D.C. that functions as a Left-wing mega-funder. Donations to SalmonState in reality go to the New Venture Fund—something the group’s website fails to mention.

Together with its three “sister” nonprofits, the New Venture Fund forms a massive “dark money” network housed in the D.C. headquarters of Arabella Advisors, a for-profit philanthropy consulting firm created by ex-Clinton administration staffer Eric Kessler.

And Arabella’s empire is dark. Between 2013 and 2017, its four interlocking nonprofits brought in a staggering $1.6 billion—largely from untraceable donors and major foundations on the Left, including George Soros’s Open Society Foundations.

Arabella uses that cash to spawn hundreds of “pop-up” groups just like SalmonState—websites designed to look like fully-fledged nonprofits, when in fact they’re little more than a line-item on a budget. These groups in turn attack conservatives on every issue ranging from judicial nominations to abortion-on-demand to the environment—and they’re rarely identified as fronts for Arabella.

But Arabella also uses its “dark money” to finance special interests outside of Washington, D.C. Case-in-point: the Alaska Center, an eco-activist group which wants you to know that “Alaskans deserve a fair process” when it comes to Pebble, “not one hijacked by D.C. lobbyists and foreign companies.”

That’s rich coming from a group whose top donors include some of the Left’s biggest and darkest funders.

By its own admission, the Alaska Center’s top three donors are the Sixteen Thirty Fund (Arabella’s lobbying shop), the Tides Advocacy Fund, and the League of Conservation Voters—all D.C.-based “dark money” advocacy groups that fund the activist groups behind the eco-Left’s increasingly radical agenda at the expense of the everyday Americans who benefit from cheap energy and abundant minerals.

Altogether, these three mega-funders spent nearly $70 million in 2016, according to their latest IRS filings.

The Alaska Center used its “dark money” to pay for a whopping 158 Facebook ads between July 2018 and March 2019. Many of those ads urged users to oppose the Pebble project and vote for left-wing candidates in the state legislature and in municipal districts.

The Alaska Center also supports an economy-killing carbon tax along the lines of the Canadian carbon tax passed last summer, which is expected to burden families with as much as $1,120 in added annual energy costs in certain parts of the country—the kinds of extremist policies favored by the Alaska Center’s biggest donors in Washington, D.C.

The Tides Advocacy Fund often goes by “The Advocacy Fund,” a name it adopted in 2010 perhaps in order to distance itself from its infamous “sister” group. That’s because Tides Advocacy is the lobbying arm of the Tides Foundation, a well-connected mega-funder that uses grants from numerous major foundations to incubate dozens of left-wing activist groups.

It’s massive, too. Altogether, Tides’ nonprofit network spent a staggering $3.1 billion between 2007 and 2017, much of which went to lobbying work.

Yet the Tides Advocacy Fund’s activism pales in comparison to the League of Conservation Voters, an environmental funder that’s been called a “dark money’ heavyweight” by the left-leaning Center for Public Integrity—despite endorsing and donating nearly $140,000 to the 2018 reelection campaign of Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, the Democrat whose biggest bugbear is so-called “dark money.”

The LCV is a perpetual enemy of oil and natural gas drilling. When Congress voted to lift the 40-year ban on oil exports in 2016, the group railed against the “radical leadership” of the Republican House majority, accusing them of being “more concerned with lining the pockets of Big Oil than standing up for American families.”

The LCV had no problem endorsing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s destructive Green New Deal in February—the resolution which the far-left Green Party estimates could cost between $700 billion and $1 trillion annually.

But the Alaska Center has one thing right: Alaskans do deserve a fair political process, one untainted by professional activists and their special interest friends in Washington, D.C.

And they’ll get one—by ignoring SalmonState, the Alaska Center, and its leftist funders.

Hayden Ludwig is an Investigative Researcher at Capital Research Center. He is a native of Orange County, California, and a graduate of Sonoma State University.

Editor’s note: Save Bristol Bay is a joint campaign of Trout Unlimited and SalmonState which financially benefits Trout Unlimited.


  1. OMG! They will quit at nothing! I want to use the word “irony” but it has “iron” in it, and that comes from the ground…could be a problem… But, this is a great article! Expose these SOB’s for what they are.

  2. With a name like “Open Society” you know its meant to mislead about truth and transparency.

  3. Maybe the Capital Research Center should stick to D.C. politics?
    Smells like propaganda to me.

    • As to the accuracy of the article? What do we have to judge your sense of smell? Or are you just throwing stuff against the wall hoping someting sticks?

  4. Alaskans voted against Stand for Salmon last fall. We elected Dunleavy. These environmentalist fruitcakes are from New York City, San Francisco, etc. They visit Alaska for 48 hours on a cruise and become instant experts. Unfortunately, they are aided by our local enemies in the Democratic Party and the Leftist media, like the aging Cole twins in Fairbanks. So we just keep fighting them, head on, and BEATING THEM!

    • Ironically,
      It appears this propaganda piece is written by a Californian…yet you are bashing environmentalists from California?
      Seems like hypocrisy to me.
      “The Capital Research Center (CRC) is a conservative think tank whose stated mission is to do “opposition research” exposing the funding sources behind consumer, health and environmental groups…
      It maintains a searchable online database of funders for groups ranging from the Sierra Club to the American Cancer Society, which can be a useful research tool provided you take its pro-tobacco, pro-industry bias with a grain of salt.”

      • Propaganda piece? Steve, your many comments at MRAK employ propaganda. You are a person of shifting loyalties and shifting opinions. I view that as a dark sort of infiltration. Or, you could be just a narcissist and love seeing your name and photo in print at MRAK.

      • Steve,

        I find it ironic that you think the state sponsored media of Venezuela is a reliable news source, when by the very fact it is sponsored by a tyrannical socialist government is a clear indication that it is nothing but a propaganda arm of that government. It’s also strange that the comment you link to acknowledges that CRC is a useful research tool, maybe prwatch is nothing but propaganda too?

      • Maybe the “responders” can keep to the issue (like the Capital Research Center’s Hypocrisy in calling out “Dark Money”).
        The truth is CRC accepted tons of corporate money themselves to fight the environmental movement.
        “CRC has received large donations from pro-fossil fuel groups like Exxon and the Koch Family Foundations through its Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation. 
        In November 2010, CRC published a report criticizing the Sierra Club for its work in transitioning the US away from coal plants, portraying it as an attack on “American prosperity.”…
        So it is AFP (Koch Industries) that is sponsoring these hits pieces on any environmental concerns in Alaska?
        Alaskans need the truth, not watered down lies.
        Gaslighting the messenger does not change the fact that AFP is funding CRC and that is who sponsored Hayden to write this “hit piece”.
        This is the cycle of Outside forces (and writers) laying the foundation of Propaganda in Alaska.
        Remember the $8.5 Million that pro mining and fossil fuel companies tossed to fight Stand for Salmon?
        Propaganda works and media is the method of choice for the Neo-Cons.

        • Wait, so you are saying we shouldn’t attack the messenger while you yourself are literally attacking the messenger? Man I really love how you continually fail to see the irony and hypocrisy in your own posts.

          Remember Steve, the very link that you provided acknowledges that CRC is a useful research tool.

          • Steve O,
            Listing the sources of funding for a new con think tank and reiterating the purpose of “opposition research” on the environmental movement is not an “attack” in any sense of the definition…
            Neither is pointing out that both CRC and AFP are Koch Industry mouthpieces.
            What you try and do is bring in unrelated opinions that I may have expressed in the past.
            Stick to the issue at hand and you may have more to add….
            Like the fact that Hayden (the author) was born and raised and added college in California.
            What stake does he have in a potentially lost natural run of Salmon in Alaska?
            Probably not much and this is all just the truth.

          • Steve,

            If you wanted to stay on topic you wouldn’t have attacked CRC as propaganda or the writer as just another out of touch Californian. You are out of excuses for your ironic and hypocritical posts.

  5. Not surprised. It’s harder to find truths in anything that is sent from these environmentalists. Literally pages of lies and misinformation to scare the average individual. Nice to see someone actually dig a little and expose them for who and what they really are.

  6. Great Article exposing the truth. Those opposing Pebble seem to have a real struggle grasping the concept of truth and facts.

    • Matthew,
      If you don’t mind, a quote from me: “No matter what action or words are presented against it, the truth remains the truth”.

  7. Here’s a solution, BYPASS, ABORT as in ; ABORTION. they don’t play fare
    Why should the state ?
    Give their dark money some light
    an ABORTION sounds right in this fight.

  8. All the groups mentioned above certainly don’t have the best interests of Alaska or America as their motivation. Outside funding (non-Alaskan/American) is being used by them to try and destabilize the country and destroy our industrial base, both Alaskan and American. Total BS. Don’t forget the “carbon tax”. That, right there, explains a lot. Use the pseudo environmentalist, outside/foreign funded organizations, to protest American/Alaskan resource development/industry, while surely being in the front position to profit from their nonsense, fake science and “carbon tax”.

  9. The truth is SalmonState is an Alaska based organization that pays the New Venture Fund for completing admin overhead expenses so they can work with Alaskans to stop a mine Ted Stevens said was the wrong mine in the wrong place.
    The DC hack that wrote this screed needs to get the facts right.

    • Joe,
      Sounds like you may have a few of your “facts” mixed up. Any organization connected to new venture fund is part of the problem, as a front, as a sponsor (payer) of it, or any connection to it. You can’t separate garbage from trash, typically. Any foreign $$ connected to opposition of Alaskan development is one and the same, to me. Makes no difference how you say it. Ted Stevens was a great Alaskan. I dislike his name being used in an objectionable manner. When Ted spoke against the Pebble mine, it was mostly under the auspices of Rio Tinto. Anyone with half a brain would/did dislike it then.

    • In these things, following the money is always important. And when the vast majority comes from Outside, like it did for the Stand for Salmon ballot initiative (fronted by an Oregon-based outfit, BTW), it is not a home grown operation. Rather, the local enviro NGOs are simply laundering money into political campaigns.

      Nice of you guys to keep quoting Ted years after running him out of the Senate in favor of Mark Begich. A logical response to Ted’s quote is that he didn’t last long enough in the Senate for the mine to make its jobs case to him. Woulda coulda shoulda. Cheers –

  10. Mr. Colder: I recognize Alaska has legalized recreational marijuana.
    Make an attempt to stay one toke over the line instead of tendering your thoughts based on free association disconnect from reality.
    Joe G.

    • Joe,
      My comments are based on reality and common sense. Not toking. People that use insults and innuendo as a response to a legitimate comment are amateurs, with reality and common sense as a sideline, as far as I am concerned. My “reality” is the reality of giving Alaska it’s full potential in safe resource development. Not letting foreign/outside $$ rule the issue, in any way, shape or form. Where does your “paycheck” come from?

  11. So I think it’s funny the people that are bashing this project seem to be quite the hypocrites. Let me start. Many of these minerals and metals in Pebble are used in technology and electric cars like Tesla. So they will type a message on this board using a computer or smart phone made with metals and minerals that have to be mined from somewhere. So they don’t care about the environment. They only care that it’s mined from China and not in Alaska. So they’re fine with “ruining” China’s environment but not Alaska. So first off. Throw your smart phone away. Get rid of your Tesla. Get rid of your technology. It all needs metal and minerals that you apparently despise. Oh but it’s fine if it’s mined elsewhere so don’t give us this act like you truly care about the earth. It’s a sham and it’s nothing more than virtue signaling to act as though you care about the earth. Not to mention the pebble mine is not going to ruin the earth ala the DEIS!

  12. So I think it’s funny the people that are bashing this project seem to be quite the hypocrites. Let me start. Many of these minerals and metals in Pebble are used in technology and electric cars like Tesla. So they will type a message on this board using a computer or smart phone made with metals and minerals that have to be mined from somewhere. So they don’t care about the environment. They only care that it’s mined from China and not in Alaska. So they’re fine with “ruining” China’s environment but not Alaska. So first off. Throw your smart phone away. Get rid of your Tesla. Get rid of your technology. It all needs metal and minerals that you apparently despise. Oh but it’s fine if it’s mined elsewhere so don’t give us this act like you truly care about the earth. It’s a sham. It’s nothing more than virtue signaling to act like they care about the environment while they use products that have to be mined from somewhere. God forbid America actually mine it’s own materials.


    Send some to Ben Colder. He’s out there free associating.

    Somebody help him.

  14. My first thought when someone is bashing Pebble…have you been to the deposit site? In the spring breakup time you can see the “sheens” of the naturally occurring minerals that “leach” out of the rock associated with this area. It’s not a manmade thing, it’s just natural. There were hundreds of millions of dollars spent and still being spent studying the geology, nature (i.e. Animals, bugs, fish, all living things) out there. They had set up mini tests using all the different rock types to see which could be stored together, to not create “a toxic tidal wave” behind the tailings dam. This is a major deposit and I believe they can develop responsibly. Just my 2 cents..

  15. Thank you Suzanne for reprinting this article. I haven’t commented because I knew that several from StockTwits forum would. You may not get a lot of “hits” from us, but we post your work and over 20,000 of us read them.
    About once a month I remind them to donate to your work. We’re almost all small retail investors, so we don’t have a lot of extra money, but you’re worth every penny.

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