Monday was, in many ways, a defining moment for the country as a federal stimulus bill failed to pass a procedural vote that would allow the Senate to vote on the bill itself. The bill, negotiated in bipartisan fashion over the weekend, allotted $500 billion in loans to distressed companies and $75 billion for hospitals. But it did not — according to Democratic Party leaders — have enough in it about environmental regulations or other items on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s “wish list.” At the 11th hour, Pelosi and her counterpart in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, squashed the bill their own caucus had negotiated in good faith in hopes of forcing passage of something that better fit their “vision.”
But the squashing isn’t the worst part. The cynical politicization of the coronavirus crisis is. And it began a week or so before, with the purchase of a huge ad campaign funded by left-leaning activist groups and aimed at convincing Americans that President Donald Trump had botched the national coronavirus response.
That ad campaign — which set the stage for what’s happening right now in the Senate — isn’t even trying to distance itself from the overt politicization of a virus that has infected over 40,000 Americans and killed just over 500 as of Monday. The campaign is helmed by PACRONYM, a group the Capital Research Center discovered was linked to the $600 million network of leftist groups run by Arabella Advisors, which is a for-profit consultancy that helped direct money to ACRONYM, a sister group to PACRONYM. The PACRONYM ad campaign seeks, as one observer put it, to funnel “millions of dollars toward advertisements in key swing states, with the intent of politicizing the Wuhan coronavirus crisis and blaming the pandemic on President Donald Trump.”
Although PACRONYM isn’t the only game in town, it does share a funding source with the other players. On the Thursday before the failed Senate vote, a group called Protect Our Care announced it was creating a “coronavirus war room,” run by former aides to Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton, to attack the Trump administration’s response. It’s no surprise that Protect Our Care is a pop-up group run by the Arabella Advisors network as a project of the Sixteen Thirty Fund, which is Arabella’s in-house lobbying wing, described by Politico as “an unprecedented gusher of secret money” boosting left-wing causes and Democratic campaigns.
And there’s more. While PACRONYM already has its ads rolling, a similar ad campaign is in the works from the liberal attack group American Bridge, which was founded by Clinton stalwart David Brock and recently declared its allegiance to Joe Biden’s campaign. American Bridge has enjoyed hundreds of thousands of dollars in combined funding from Arabella’s Sixteen Thirty and New Venture funds.
Then there’s a mysterious new kid on the block: Fellow Americans, which appears to have only just entered the fray by posting an ad that repeats the debunked claim that Trump called the coronavirus a “hoax” (he didn’t). Fellow Americans is also run by a Hillary Clinton alum, Hailey Arends, but passes itself off as a group for disaffected Republicans who plan to vote against Trump in November — hence its anti-Trump ads on social media.
As cynical as it sounds, the politicization of the coronavirus response began a week before the Senate stimulus gridlock, even as people were entering ICU units across the country, and even as hospitals and health-care professionals were facing shortages of supplies. And the politicization effort had a clear vision of its own, unrelated to anyone’s health: stopping Donald Trump from winning a second term and electing Democrats to the House.
Analysis of this frightening time and how the administration reacted to it will dominate political discourse for the rest of the year. And if Democrat-led “dark money” groups have their way, Americans will see a biased take on the issue on every device they own from now until November.
Scott Walter is president of the Capital Research Center.