New Report Reveals Nearly $100 Million From Foreign-Funded Group Financing State Ballot Campaigns

Today, Americans for Public Trust released a new report revealing Sixteen Thirty Fund, the top dark money group funded by foreign billionaire Hansjorg Wyss, spent $97.6 million to influence state ballot campaigns in target states over the last several election cycles.

Click here to read the report on foreign dark money funding state ballot initiatives.

Ballot issues allow citizens to enact laws by placing important issues directly on the ballot, rather than through the typical legislative process. Beyond being used to implement state policy changes, ballot initiative campaigns can be used to drive voter turnout in competitive, concurrent political elections. 

While federal law prevents foreign nationals from donating to U.S. political candidates, committees, and Super PACs, there is no federal law preventing foreign nationals from donating to ballot committees. To close this loophole, Senator Bill Hagerty is introducing the Prevent Foreign Interference in American Elections Act. Among other things, the bill would prevent foreign nationals from spending to directly or indirectly influence state ballot initiatives.

“It is irresponsible and alarming that our laws leave the door open to foreign nationals and U.S. adversaries influencing American politics. Our report reveals that Sixteen Thirty Fund alone is acting as a conduit for massive amounts of money from a foreign billionaire with an expressed desire to reshape U.S. politics to align with his out-of-touch worldview. After years of national discourse about fears of foreign influence in our elections, this commonsense proposal to close the foreign influence loophole should be something everyone can support.” – Caitlin Sutherland, Americans for Public Trust 

“After years of hysteria over Russiagate and alleged foreign influence in American elections, it turns out Democrats have recently benefited from hundreds of millions of dollars in election-related contributions from a shadowy foreign billionaire, sidestepping the federal ban on foreign-national contributions in U.S. elections. This type of influence undermines democracy and self-government here in America, and its staggering scope should be alarming. I’m pleased to introduce this commonsense and critical legislation that will put an end to covert foreign influence on our elections and protect Americans’ voice in electing their leaders.” – Senator Bill Hagerty

“Foreign billionaire Hansjorg Wyss is pumping hundreds of millions of dollars through a tangled web of left-wing ‘dark money’ groups like the Sixteen Thirty Fund to influence American elections across the country. It is illegal for foreign nationals to contribute to candidates running for office, but this new report by Americans for Public Trust exposes how a foreign influence loophole has turned state ballot measures into a trojan horse for foreign influence. This loophole must be closed, which is exactly what Senator Hagerty’s legislation would do. No matter their ideological persuasion, foreign nationals should not be interfering in American elections.” – Jason Snead, Honest Elections Project 

Key Facts

  • Hansjörg Wyss, a Swiss billionaire, has funneled more than $243 million to the dark money group Sixteen Thirty Fund. 
  • Sixteen Thirty Fund then invested $97.6 million in ballot campaigns across 25 states over the last 10 years.  
  • Battleground states such as Michigan, Ohio, Colorado, and Nevada are among the states that have seen the most foreign dark money funding ballot initiatives. 
  • The Prevent Foreign Interference in American Elections Act would prevent foreign nationals from improperly influencing American elections by: 
    • Clarifying that the existing foreign-national ban on “indirect” contributions covers attempts to circumvent the ban through intermediaries or instructions
    • Prohibiting foreign nationals from funding ballot harvesting or GOTV activity
    • Prohibiting foreign nationals from funding U.S. election administration
    • Prohibiting foreign nationals from spending to influence state ballot initiatives