A nonprofit group run by a former top aide for Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein and funded in part by left-wing philanthropist George Soros spent the post-2016 era funneling millions of dollars to British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s company and the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, helping the groups continue their Russia-related research despite the discrediting of the dossier.
Daniel Jones, lead author of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s interrogation program, founded the Democracy Integrity Project in January 2017. Tax records show he funded Steele, Fusion, and others involved with Russia-related inquiries, keeping a web of groups working and donor money flowing to the tune of millions. The new filings contend that “the purpose of the Democracy Integrity Project is to promote democracy in the United States and around the world.”
Tax records from the Democracy Integrity Project filed in November 2020 and made public in April show the Jones organization sent $1,222,714 in 2019 for “research consulting” to Bean LLC, the parent company for Fusion GPS, co-founded by former Wall Street Journal reporters Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, and $700,000 for “research consulting” in 2019 to Walsingham Partners, which, according to business records, is co-owned by Steele and his business partner, Christopher Burrows.
The newly revealed IRS 990 form for 2019, the most recent year available, joins records from 2018 and 2017, showing Jones sent $959,613 to Fusion GPS in 2018 and $3,323,924 in 2017 for a total of $5,506,251, along with sending Steele’s company $197,608 in 2018 and $251,689 in 2017 for a total of $1,149,297.
Steele put his research together at the behest of Fusion GPS, funded by Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee through the Perkins Coie law firm. According to Simpson, Fusion was paid $50,000 per month from Perkins, and Marc Elias, head of the Perkins political law group and Clinton’s campaign counsel, hired Fusion, which paid Steele $168,000.
Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a report in 2019 concluding Steele's dossier played a “central and essential” role in the FBI's effort to wiretap Carter Page, a 2016 Trump campaign adviser who was never charged with a crime. The DOJ watchdog criticized the bureau for 17 “significant errors and omissions.” Declassified footnotes from Horowitz’s report indicate the bureau became aware that Steele’s dossier may have been compromised by Russian disinformation.
Jones also runs the Penn Quarter Group as well as Advance Democracy, controlled by the Democracy Integrity Project. The Democracy Integrity Project’s tax filings said the group spent $1,511,687 on “research” in 2019 and the same amount on “analysis and reporting” that year. It received $3,423,600 in contributions in 2019, $2,563,085 in 2018, and $7,005,649 in 2017 — totaling just under $13 million.
Jones, president of the Democracy Integrity Project, received compensation of $373,937 in 2019, $309,921 in 2018, and $381,263 in 2017. The group helped funnel money to other groups too.
It provided $264,826 in 2019, $202,031 in 2018, and $149,544 in 2017 to Istok Associates. Neil Barnett is listed as director of the London-based group, which his bio describes as “a corporate intelligence and investigations consultancy.” Barnett penned a November 2017 article for the American Interest on “Russia’s Brexit Subversion” in which he contended that “Britain’s gravest secret” was that “Russia interfered in the Brexit referendum.” The Free Russia Foundation report titled “Misrule of Law: How the Kremlin Uses Western Institutions to Undermine the West” was partly authored by Barnett. Among many things, the report laid out how Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya worked with Fusion GPS to go after Putin foe Bill Browder in 2016.
The DOJ alleged Russia-owned real estate company Prevezon Holdings laundered fraudulent money, and the company later settled with the DOJ for $5.9 million. Veselnitskaya hired BakerHostetler to help Prevezon in court, and the firm hired Fusion. The DOJ later unsealed an indictment against Veselnitskaya, alleging she obstructed justice through secret collaboration with Russia.
Jones also sent $283,000 in 2019, $166,633 in 2018, and $127,915 in 2017 to Edward Austin, co-founded by Edward Baumgartner, whose LinkedIn describes it as “a UK-based research and business intelligence consultancy specialising in the former Soviet Union.” Simpson’s Senate Judiciary Committee testimony said Baumgartner is a Russian speaker and subcontractor for Fusion, including the Prevezon case.
Baumgartner told Business Insider in January 2018 that Fusion hired him to “interface” with Veselnitskaya and they worked “very closely together” on the Prevezon case. “I was never made aware of Chris Steele's work or the dossier,” he claimed.
The Zuckerman Spaeder law firm, which represented Fusion in Steele dossier-related litigation, received $148,231 from the Democracy Integrity Project in 2017.
The Democracy Integrity Project also sent $180,000 in 2019 and $230,000 in 2018 to Popily, also known as New Knowledge, now called Yonder. New Knowledge released a report in December 2018 on “The Tactics & Tropes of the Internet Research Agency” at the request of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which gave New Knowledge access to “an expansive data set of social media posts and metadata.”
New Knowledge and the Democracy Integrity Project collaborated on a November 2018 report titled “Tracking Information Warfare in the 2018 U.S. Midterm Elections.”
The New York Times revealed in December 2018 that “as Russia’s online election machinations came to light last year, a group of Democratic tech experts decided to try out similarly deceptive tactics in the fiercely contested Alabama Senate race” between Roy Moore and Doug Jones. The outlet said an internal New Knowledge report said that “we orchestrated an elaborate ‘false flag’ operation that planted the idea that the Moore campaign was amplified on social media by a Russian botnet.”
Soros gave at least $1 million to the Democracy Integrity Project, the New York Times reported in 2018. The Daily Caller reported that the left-wing Fund for a Better Future provided $2,065,000 to the Jones group in 2017, according to tax records. Further filings show the Fund for a Better Future gave the Democracy Integrity Project another $980,000 in 2018 and $171,500 in 2019.
Separately, the Daily Caller obtained texts in 2018 between Jones and Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska's Washington, D.C.-based lawyer, Adam Waldman, including one in which Jones told Waldman in March 2017 that “our team helped with this” in reference to a Reuters article that “found that at least 63 individuals with Russian passports or addresses have bought at least $98.4 million worth of property in seven Trump-branded luxury towers in southern Florida.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report in August 2020 found that “the Russian government coordinates with and directs” Deripaska “on many of his influence operations.” Steele was working for Deripaska in early 2016, helping recover millions of dollars the oligarch claimed Trump 2016 campaign manager Paul Manafort had stolen from him.
Steele sought help in the effort from Fusion, which hired Steele soon after. The U.S. intelligence community believes the Kremlin relied on Deripaska to spread disinformation on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The Senate investigation found “multiple links between Steele and Deripaska” and “indications that Deripaska had early knowledge of Steele's work” and “multiple witnesses,” including Simpson and Waldman, “either told the Committee or implied to the Committee that Steele had a business relationship with Deripaska.”
Deripaska sued the Treasury Department in 2019 in an effort to fight U.S. sanctions against him, and in 2020, he called U.S. claims that he helped the Russian government launder money a “mish-mash of total nonsense” and “hearsay and unfounded gossip.” Last year, Steele defended the dossier, telling an Oxford Union crowd: “I stand by the integrity of our work, our sources, and what we did.”
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation concluded that Russia interfered in a “sweeping and systematic fashion” but “did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
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