Watchdog group leader urges FEC to take action against liberal donor

Caitlin Sutherland, the executive director of Americans for Public Trust, urged the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to “take action” and investigate a complaint against a Swiss billionaire who has sent money to Democratic causes.

The May 2021 complaint alleged that billionaire Hansjörg Wyss is not a U.S. citizen, which would make donating to political candidates or political action committees illegal. The conservative watchdog group urged the FEC to take action in April in a lawsuit in a district court in Washington, D.C., on Monday, which alleges the FEC has been slow to act on the complaint.

During an appearance on HillTV’s “Rising,” Sutherland said that there has been an “indirect pattern of passing money from one non-profit to another.”

“Until the FEC takes action and investigates that daisy chain of pattern between the money flow, we will not know the full extent of his involvement in our U.S. politics,” she said.

The case is significant as the watchdog group found that Wyss has given millions to so-called dark money groups that fund liberal causes through operations like The Hub Project and Demand Justice.

Sutherland specified that Wyss had given over $135 million to the Sixteen Thirty Fund, which she said gave 60 million dollars to super PACs that supported President Biden.

“A foreign national can absolutely not contribute to a super PAC,” she said. “A foreign national … is contributing to a group and that group has then financed super PACs that support Joe Biden, U.S. Senate candidates, ballot initiatives, everything across the board.”

“That is what we’re seeing as indirect participation and it would also be illegal and that’s why we asked the FEC to investigate.”

The Wyss Foundation and Berger Action Fund have denied the allegations, saying that both organizations “expressly prohibit their grantees from using grant funds for electoral activities.”

“This is a frivolous and baseless lawsuit levied by a partisan dark money group,” it said in a statement to The Hill. “The Wyss Foundation and Berger Action Fund support causes such as conservation of public lands, access to health care, and a strong economy.”

“APT is falsely attacking this charitable and advocacy work in order to obstruct progress on important and popular issues that impact all Americans,” it added.

This story was updated at 5:56 p.m.

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