Non-profit

Moscow Project

Website:

themoscowproject.org/

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(4)

Founders:

Max Bergmann

Adam Jentleson

The Moscow Project is a Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF) initiative that employs former Congressional and State Department staff, among others, to investigate alleged collusion between Donald Trump and the Russian government and to communicate their findings to the media and the public.[1]

The CAPAF launched the Moscow Project in February 2017, with former State Department staffer and John Kerry aide Max Bergmann at the helm, and former Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) aide Adam Jentleson running the initiative’s “war room” of researchers and communication staff. Alongside the launch of the initiative, CAPAF also released a six-page memo to Capitol Hill offices and digital ads, both of which called for an independent investigation into links between Russia, Donald Trump, and the Trump campaign.[2]  The federal government conducted such an investigation under the auspices of Special Counsel Robert Mueller; the federal investigation identified no criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.[3]

Parent Organization

Former Clinton White House Chief of Staff John Podesta created the Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF) in 2003 by as the 501(c)(4) advocacy and lobbying arm of the Center for American Progress (CAP), a Democratic establishment-aligned think tank also founded by Podesta. It has been called an “action tank” for its role in operationalizing CAP’s political and policy ideas.[4] The projects and initiatives conducted by CAPAF shift to meet the changing political landscape. CAPAF projects have included the formerly influential liberal blog ThinkProgress, the American Worker Project, the National Security Leadership Alliance, Pushback.org, and the Off-Kilter podcast, although only the Off-Kilter podcast and the American Worker project produce new content as of early June 2020.[5] [6] ThinkProgress was shut down in 2019, the National Security Leadership Alliance website is defunct, and Pushback.org was last updated in 2017. [7] [8] [9]

Activities

The Moscow Project is not identified as one of CAPAFs current projects, though it has continued to produce content. New content was released very regularly through February 2020, but the Moscow Project produced only three new posts between March and June of 2020.[10] [11]

The Moscow Project produces a podcast, The Asset Podcast, as a partnership with the Center for American Progress Action Fund, Media Syndication Services, and Protect the Investigation. The Asset Podcast, which claims to “put together the pieces of Trump’s relationship with Russia and Ukrainian extortion campaign” in support of the late 2019 effort to impeach President Donald Trump, launched in April 2019 and continues to produce new episodes.[12]

The Moscow Project is also active on social media, including Twitter and Facebook.[13] [14] The Moscow Project has a YouTube page, but has only uploaded two videos, one in 2017 and one in 2018.[15] The Moscow Project has also posted some content on Medium, but the last post was in November 2017.[16]

Former Harry Reid aide Adam Jentleson was tasked to lead the Moscow Project in February 2017, shortly after U.S. intelligence agencies released a report suggesting Russia had tried to influence the U.S. election in favor of Donald Trump. Leadership at the Center for American Progress was concerned that insufficient attention would be paid to the Russian campaign.[17] Upon launch, the Moscow Project released a memo to Congressional offices and online ads urging an independent investigation of the Russia campaign and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.[18]

By June 2017, the Moscow Project had five people on staff.[19]

Operation

The Moscow Project has operated less as a source of original research about alleged Russia/Trump collusion and connections than as a clearinghouse for public information and as an advocate of the “collusion” narrative. From February to November 2017, Moscow Project staff focused on collecting research and briefing both reporters and lawmakers about their findings.[20]

Working closely with Congressional Democrats and outside groups, the Moscow Project “earned a reputation for its role in spearheading and coordinating the Democratic Party’s efforts to spotlight Russia’s political interference,” according to the Daily Beast.[21]

While initially about the Russian interference with the election, Moscow Project staffer Corey Ciorciari said in June of 2017 that, “This is not about the election anymore,” and the Moscow Project began to look more broadly for links between Russia and Donald Trump and shop those stories to reporters. Ciorciari said, “We work very collegially with The Washington Post and New York Times.”[22]

In particular, the Moscow Project research focused on Trump’s financial dealings, due to the decision by Congressional committees to forgo investigating Trump’s finances and project leaders’ belief that “indebtedness to a foreign power” would be the most likely source of leverage for Russian to have over Donald Trump. In November 2017, the Moscow Project launched a website, TheMoscowProject.org, to deliver the information to the public.[23]

In 2017, Newsweek described the Moscow Project’s “greatest team discovery” as the finding that Facebook, which had announced that it found $150,000 in advertising tied to the Russian influence campaign, had not identified all of the foreign advertising buys. The Moscow Project’s Diana Pilipenko found that Facebook had focused entirely on Russia’s Internet Research Agency and had overlooked other sources of potential Russian influence buying on the platform.[24]

In 2019, the Center for American Progress considered shuttering the Moscow Project, which then employed six people, many of whom were beginning to look for other jobs. At the time, there appeared to be some friction within the Center for American Progress, with some in leadership at the Moscow Project pushing aggressively for impeachment proceedings while leadership at CAP had largely followed the preference of Congressional Democrats to hold back on impeachment proceedings. However, the Center for American Progress ultimately decided to continue supporting the initiative through the end of the 2020 election.[25]

The Moscow Project has become less active in 2020, releasing only four podcast episodes between January and May of 2020, and only three new “Briefings” between February and June of 2020.[26] [27]

Leadership

Max Bergmann is the co-founder and director of the Moscow Project, and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. Previously, he was on staff at the State Department in the Office of Policy Planning. Before that, he was a speechwriter for Secretary of State John Kerry.[28] [29] As the Moscow Project has wound down, Bergmann has largely focused on broader geopolitical issues rather than Moscow Project content for the Center for American Progress.[30] In 2018, Bergmann was paid approximately $149,000 for his work with CAPAF.[31]

Adam Jentleson is the co-founder of the Moscow Project, where he ran the war room.[32] [33] Previously, he was a staffer for Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). After launching the Moscow Project in 2017, Jentleson moved on to become public affairs director at Democracy Forward in January 2018.[34] In 2017, Jentleson was paid $134,000 for his work with CAPAF.[35]

Diana Pilipenko, a former corporate accounting investigator at Deloitte who was born in Ukraine, was the associate director and did corporate accounting investigation for the Moscow Project.[36] In 2018, Pilipenko was paid $157,000 for her work with CAPAF.[37] Pilipenko left the Center for American Progress in February of 2019 for staff work on Capitol Hill.[38]

Former Hillary Clinton policy advisor Corey Ciorciari was also briefly with the Moscow Project upon launch. However, he quickly left, joining Democracy Forward in March 2017.[39] [40]

Financials

The Center for American Progress provided the initial funds for the Moscow Project, but the Moscow Project eventually received donations specifically to support the project. The Moscow Project declined to identify its donors.[41] CAP Action’s revenue was over $9 million in 2017.[42]

 

References

  1. [1] The Moscow Project, About. Accessed June 08, 2020.
    https://themoscowproject.org/about/

    ^

  2. Debenedetti, Gabriel, “Liberal group launches ‘Moscow Project’ to pressure Trump,” Politico, February 22, 2017. Accessed June 08, 2020.
    https://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/trump-russia-moscow-project-235286

    ^

  3. McCarthy, Andrew  C. “The Folly of the Mueller Investigation,” April 4, 2019. https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2019/04/22/the-folly-of-the-mueller-investigation/. ^
  4. Influence Watch, Center for American Progress Action Fund. Accessed June 08, 2020.
    https://www.influencewatch.org/non-profit/center-for-american-progress-cap-action/

    ^

  5. Medium, Off-Kilter Podcast. Accessed June 08, 2020.
    https://medium.com/@OffKilterShow

    ^

  6. American Progress Action Fund, American Worker Project. Accessed June 08, 2020.
    https://www.americanprogressaction.org/projects/american-worker/view/

    ^

  7. Murphy, Heather, “ThinkProgress, the Progressive News Site, Shuts Down,” New York Times, September 06, 2019. Accessed June 08, 2020.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/06/business/media/thinkprogress-closing.html

    ^

  8. National Security Leadership Alliance, Website. Accessed June 08, 2020.
    https://nationalsecurityleadershipalliance.org/

    ^

  9. Pushback, Website. Accessed June 08, 2020.
    https://pushback.org/

    ^

  10. Center for American Progress Action Fund, Our Projects. Accessed June 08, 2020.
    https://www.americanprogressaction.org/projects/our-projects/

    ^

  11. The Moscow Project, Briefings. Accessed June 08, 2020.
    https://themoscowproject.org/briefings/

    ^

  12. Apple Podcasts, The Asset. Accessed June 08, 2020.
    https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-asset/id1461422307

    ^

  13. Twitter, The Moscow Project profile. Accessed June 08, 2020.
    https://twitter.com/moscow_project

    ^

  14. Facebook, The Moscow Project. Accessed June 08, 2020.
    https://www.facebook.com/capmoscowproject/

    ^

  15. YouTube, The Moscow Project. Accessed June 08, 2020.
    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbBCB_b8A_NR_eLx4bCEF3g/featured

    ^

  16. Medium, The Moscow Project. Accessed June 08, 2020.
    https://medium.com/@moscowproject

    ^

  17. Fryer-Biggs, Zachary, “Concerned Russia Election Meddling Wouldn’t Get Probed, This Think Tank Started Its Own Investigation,” Newsweek, November 08, 2017. Accessed Jun 08, 2020.
    https://www.newsweek.com/think-tank-running-own-russia-investigation-705384

    ^

  18. Debenedetti, Gabriel, “Liberal group launches ‘Moscow Project’ to pressure Trump,” Politico, February 22, 2017. Accessed June 08, 2020.
    https://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/trump-russia-moscow-project-235286

    ^

  19. Clift, Eleanor, “The Center for American Progress’ Moscow Project Is Gunning for Trump,” The Daily Beast, June 05, 2017. Accessed June 09, 2020.
    https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-center-for-american-progress-moscow-project-is-gunning-for-trump

    ^

  20. Fryer-Biggs, Zachary, “Concerned Russia Election Meddling Wouldn’t Get Probed, This Think Tank Started Its Own Investigation,” Newsweek, November 08, 2017. Accessed June 08, 2020.
    https://www.newsweek.com/think-tank-running-own-russia-investigation-705384
    ^
  21. Stein, Sam, “Top Dem Think Tank Scraps Talk of Killing Russia Project,” The Daily Beast, September 10, 2019. Accessed June 09, 2020.
    https://www.thedailybeast.com/center-for-american-progress-a-top-democratic-think-tank-will-keep-russia-project-after-talks-of-killing-it?ref=scroll

    ^

  22. Clift, Eleanor, “The Center for American Progress’ Moscow Project Is Gunning for Trump,” The Daily Beast, June 05, 2017. Accessed June 09, 2020.
    https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-center-for-american-progress-moscow-project-is-gunning-for-trump
    ^
  23. Fryer-Biggs, Zachary, “Concerned Russia Election Meddling Wouldn’t Get Probed, This Think Tank Started Its Own Investigation,” Newsweek, November 08, 2017. Accessed June 08, 2020.
    https://www.newsweek.com/think-tank-running-own-russia-investigation-705384
    ^
  24. Fryer-Biggs, Zachary, “Concerned Russia Election Meddling Wouldn’t Get Probed, This Think Tank Started Its Own Investigation,” Newsweek, November 08, 2017. Accessed June 09, 2020.
    https://www.newsweek.com/think-tank-running-own-russia-investigation-705384

    ^

  25. Stein, Sam, “Top Dem Think Tank Scraps Talk of Killing Russia Project,” The Daily Beast, September 10, 2019. Accessed June 09, 2020.
    https://www.thedailybeast.com/center-for-american-progress-a-top-democratic-think-tank-will-keep-russia-project-after-talks-of-killing-it?ref=scroll

    ^

  26. Apple Podcasts, The Asset. Accessed June 08, 2020.
    https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-asset/id1461422307
    ^
  27. The Moscow Project, Briefings. Accessed June 09, 2020.
    https://themoscowproject.org/briefings/

    ^

  28. Center for American Progress, “STATEMENT: Moscow Project’s Max Bergmann on Attorney General Barr’s Whitewashed Letter,” March 24, 2019. Accessed June 09, 2020.
    https://www.americanprogressaction.org/press/statement/2019/03/24/173556/statement-moscow-projects-max-bergmann-attorney-general-barrs-whitewashed-letter/

    ^

  29. LinkedIn, Max Bergmann profile. Accessed June 09, 2020.
    https://www.linkedin.com/in/max-bergmann-085bbb15/

    ^

  30. Center for American Progress, Max Bergmann staff bio. Accessed June 09, 2020.
    https://www.americanprogress.org/about/staff/bergmann-max/bio/

    ^

  31. Guidestar, Center for American Progress Action Fund, 2018 990. Accessed June 09, 2020.
    https://pdf.guidestar.org/PDF_Images/2018/300/192/2018-300192708-112f926b-9O.pdf
    ^
  32. Goldberg, Michelle, “Our Sovereignty Was Violated,” Slate, June 19, 2017. Accessed June 08, 2020.
    https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2017/06/the-trump-russia-scandal-and-the-moscow-project.html

    ^

  33. Debenedetti, Gabriel, “Liberal group launches ‘Moscow Project’ to pressure Trump,” Politico, February 22, 2017. Accessed June 08, 2020.
    https://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/trump-russia-moscow-project-235286

    ^

  34. LinkedIn, Adam Jentleson profile. Accessed June 09, 2020.
    https://www.linkedin.com/in/adamjentleson/

    ^

  35. Guidestar, Center for American Progress Action Fund, 2017 990. Accessed June 09, 2020.
    https://pdf.guidestar.org/PDF_Images/2017/300/192/2017-300192708-0fb179a2-9O.pdf

    ^

  36. LinkedIn, Diana Pilipenko profile. Accessed June 09, 2020.
    https://www.linkedin.com/in/diana-p-1474a61b/

    ^

  37. Guidestar, Center for American Progress Action Fund, 2018 990. Accessed June 09, 2020.
    https://pdf.guidestar.org/PDF_Images/2018/300/192/2018-300192708-112f926b-9O.pdf

    ^

  38. LinkedIn, Diana Pilipenko profile. Accessed June 09, 2020.
    https://www.linkedin.com/in/diana-p-1474a61b/

    ^

  39. Clift, Eleanor, “The Center for American Progress’ Moscow Project Is Gunning for Trump,” The Daily Beast, June 05, 2017. Accessed June 09, 2020.
    https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-center-for-american-progress-moscow-project-is-gunning-for-trump
    ^
  40. LinkedIn, Corey Ciorciari profile. Accessed June 09, 2020.
    https://www.linkedin.com/in/diana-p-1474a61b/

    ^

  41. Fryer-Biggs, Zachary, “Concerned Russia Election Meddling Wouldn’t Get Probed, This Think Tank Started Its Own Investigation,” Newsweek, November 08, 2017. Accessed June 09, 2020.
    https://www.newsweek.com/think-tank-running-own-russia-investigation-705384

    ^

  42. Guidestar, Center for American Progress Action Fund, 2017 990. Accessed June 09, 2020.
    https://pdf.guidestar.org/PDF_Images/2017/300/192/2017-300192708-0fb179a2-9O.pdf

    ^

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