Tara McGowan

SHILLS: Pro-Democrat ‘Local News’ Operation Raked in Cash From Prolific Dark Money Network in Lead-up to Elections

DCNF(Daily Caller)—A media network promoting Democratic candidates and their agendas that runs pop-up new websites in swing states received more than $1 million in support from a major liberal dark money network during 2022, a midterm election year.

Courier Newsroom, a network of websites that appear to be local news outlets but work to boost Democratic candidates, received $1.2 million from New Venture FundHopewell Fund and the Sixteen Thirty Fund, nonprofits managed by Arabella Advisors. The Sixteen Thirty Fund is not required to disclose the source of its funding due to its 501(c)(4) nonprofit tax status, leading some to accuse the fund of operating as a dark money group.

New Venture Fund gave the network $940,000, Hopewell Fund gave it $100,000 and Sixteen Thirty Fund sent $125,000 to Courier Newsroom.

Courier Newsroom runs a network of websites that present as “local news” and publish positive stories about Democrats in nine states, according to its website. The group says it is planning to launch new websites focused on New Hampshire and Texas soon.

UpNorthNews, covering Wisconsin, and the Copper Courier, focused on Arizona, were among the news operations under Courier Newsroom pumping out articles targeted at states holding high-profile elections in 2022.

Wisconsin was a key state in 2022, with vulnerable incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson up for reelection and a competitive governor’s race on the ballot.

UpNorthNews published stories in 2022 rounding up the purported ways Democrats had helped Wisconsin under Biden, criticizing Republican efforts to cut taxes, accusing Republicans of being election deniers, attacking Sen. Johnson and providing positive coverage for a liberal Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate.

Arizona, where the Copper Courier focused its efforts, was of similar electoral importance to Wisconsin in 2022. The races for the governor’s mansion and one of the state’s Senate seats were considered competitive by pollsters.

The Copper Courier ran articles and made posts in 2022 accusing the Republican nominee for attorney general of being a conspiracy theorist, promoting Democrats running for state legislature and accusing a Republican state house candidate of being an election denier, among other things.

Some liberal outlets, like the Daily Beast and Jacobin, have published articles critical of Courier Newsroom’s network.

“Media outlets have fallen like dominos for the seduction of political partisanship,” Ryan Zickgraf wrote for Jacobin, a publication that describes itself as “a leading voice of the American left.”

Conservatives have also criticized Courier Newsroom.

Former Republican Nevada Attorney General and 2022 Republican Senate candidate Adam Laxalt called the group “a fake news operation.”

The 2022 midterms were not the first elections Courier Newsroom was active in.

Courier Newsroom paid for digital ads to place articles published by their media operations in the news feeds of Facebook users in the lead-up to the 2020 elections, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

Tara McGowan, who founded Courier Newsroom in 2019, is a Democratic political operative. McGowan worked on Barack Obama’s reelection campaign, as a Democratic senator’s press secretary and has held positions at several liberal advocacy groups, according to her LinkedIn page.

Arabella’s dark money network wasn’t the only major player to transfer funds to Courier Newsroom in 2022. George Soros’ philanthropic network, for instance, has also funded the organization to the tune of millions of dollars.

Fund for Policy Reform, a group founded and funded by Soros, gave Courier Newsroom $2.5 million in 2022, matching the $2.5 million it gave the group in 2021.

Courier Newsroom is ramping up its activities ahead of the 2024 elections.

The group is expanding its network of newsletters, podcasts and video content, Semafor reported.

Courier Newsroom wasn’t the only media operation to receive support from Arabella’s dark money network.

Capital B News, “a Black-led, nonprofit local and national news organization reporting for Black communities across the country,” received $950,000 from the New Venture Fund and the Windward Fund in 2022, both of which are managed by Arabella Advisors.

States Newsroom, a network of local news websites similar to Courier Newsroom’s, received $14,045 from the Hopewell Fund in 2022.

Rewire News Group, a pro-abortion news website, got $12,550 from the Hopewell Fund, while the New Venture Fund gave $125,000 to the 19th News, a feminist outlet.

Courier Newsroom, the Sixteen Thirty Fund, the New Venture Fund, the Hopewell Fund and Arabella Advisors did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.

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