The Sixteen Thirty Fund (sometimes styled “1630 Fund”) is a 501(c)(4) advocacy organization founded in 2008. The group says it “promotes social welfare by conducting public education, advocacy, and other campaigns to support progressive policies.”
The group operates quietly, using its funds to provide grants to progressive organizations—a practice criticized as “dark money.” In 2015, the fund provided millions in grants to 29 different organizations. That year, Sixteen Thirty Fund’s largest grant—exceeding $1.9 million—went to the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, the “educational” arm of the League of Conservation Voters, an organization activating and rallying environmentalists to political activism.
Sixteen Thirty Fund often operates alongside its 501(c)(3) “sister” nonprofit New Venture Fund, which provides similar funding and fiscal sponsorship services to center-left organizations. Both groups are administered by Arabella Advisors, a Washington, D.C.-based philanthropy consulting firm that caters to left-leaning clients. Sixteen Thirty Fund’s board of directors is primarily composed of officers from Arabella Advisors, including the firm’s principal Eric Kessler. Eric Kessler is a founder and principal of Arabella Advisors, an investment firm which aims to “help families, corporations and foundations improve the world through philanthropy and impact investing.” The Hopewell Fund and Windward Fund are also 501(c)(3) nonprofits managed by Arabella Advisors that work closely with NVF and Sixteen Thirty Fund.
Both Sixteen Thirty Fund and New Venture Fund have been criticized as “dark money” organizations, serving as a way for left-leaning groups to anonymously funnel money toward various advocacy issues, such as attacking vulnerable Republicans or pushing state-level environmental restrictions.
Low-Profile Funding Activities
The Sixteen Thirty Fund keeps a low profile compared with comparable nonprofit organizations. The organization boasts a one-page website, no Facebook page and no Twitter account. The fund has received little news coverage in the past few years. What little press coverage to be found centered on the 2013 effort to recall Democratic sate legislators in Colorado over their votes on a controversial gun-control measure.
That year, Sixteen Thirty Fund donated $35,000 to a Colorado group founded to defended Democratic state Sen. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo) from a recall effort over her votes for more gun control in the state. Giron lost the effort after only 44 percent voted to retain her. During the same recall effort, Sixteen Thirty Fund donated another $35,000 to a group supporting Colorado state Sen. John Morse (D-Colorado Springs), who also supported stricter gun control. Morse also lost the recall vote when 51 percent voted to oust him.
In 2017, the Washington Free Beacon tied the Sixteen Thirty Fund to progressive efforts to hide big money fueling criticism of President Donald Trump’s nominees to several Cabinet-level posts. Targeted nominees included businessman Andy Puzder (who would later withdraw as nominee for Secretary of Labor) and Steven Mnuchin (later confirmed as Secretary of the Treasury).
Another publication, Tax Analysts, noticed Sixteen Thirty Fund’s financial support for “Tax March” rallies planned to protest President Trump’s unwillingness to release his tax returns. It is unclear how much Sixteen Thirty Fund contributed to the march.
On September 4, 2018, the Missouri-based Kansas City Star reported a $3 million donation from Sixteen Thirty Fund to Raise Up Missouri, a left-wing PAC seeking to raise the state’s minimum wage to $12 per hour through a 2018 ballot initiative. Sixteen Thirty Fund also reportedly gave $500,000 to the PAC in 2017, and an additional $500,000 to it in May 2018.
Eric Kessler, a former Clinton administration environmental policy staffer who also serves as principal of liberal philanthropic and investment strategy firm Arabella Advisors, is president of Sixteen Thirty Fund. He additionally serves as the board chair for the New Venture Fund. More than 100 progressive organizations boast connections to Kessler and the New Venture Fund.
Board of Directors
According to its 2016 tax filing, the Sixteen Thirty Fund board of directors consists of Arabella Advisors principal Eric Kessler, Albright Stonebridge Group senior advisor Michael Madnik, Democratic Party consultant and former Hillary Clinton 2008 campaign spokesman Douglas Hattaway, Arabella Advisors chief financial officer Wilbur Priester, and Arabella Advisors general counsel Andrew Schulz.
Sixteen Thirty Fund also received over $4.5 million from the Atlantic Philanthropies, a now-defunct Bermuda-based philanthropic enterprise that funded left-of-center organizations. Other known funders of Sixteen Thirty include the Tides Foundation.
|Sixteen Thirty Fund: 2015 Grantees|
|Americans for Tax Fairness||$100,000|
|Bread for the World||$12,500|
|Center for Community Change (CCC) Action||$610,000|
|Center for Rights in Action||$50,000|
|Church World Service||$12,500|
|Citizen Action of Wisconsin||$14,000|
|Color of Change||$40,000|
|Color of Change Education Fund||$75,000|
|Demand Progress Action (fiscally sponsored by Sixteen Thirty Fund)||$55,000|
|Earth Day Network||$50,000|
|Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)||$675,000|
|Free Press Action Fund||$125,000|
|Freedom for All Americans||$75,000|
|League of Conservation Voters (LCV)||$1,925,000|
|Louisiana Federation for Children PAC||$70,000|
|New Progressive Network||$13,000|
|Northwest Health Foundation||$10,000|
|One Nation Forward||$5,000|
|Pineros Campesinos Unidos Del||$20,000|
|Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin||$14,000|
|Stand for Children||$80,000|
|Partnership Project Action Fund||$1,450,000|
|The Public Investigator||$28,578|
|United Working Families||$75,000|
|US Global Leadership Campaign||$25,000|
In 2016, the Sixteen Thirty Fund paid $400,000 in consulting fees to the left-wing Democracy Alliance. It also hired Arabella Advisors, which was paid $789,891 in consulting fees; SKDKnickerbocker for $268,944; Block By Block, Inc. for $527,950; and Precision Strategies for $435,141.