NYT: Swiss Billionaire Behind ‘Hub Project’ to Influence U.S. Media, Politics; Bids for Tribune Co.

Hansjorg Wyss (Craig Barritt / Getty for Oceana)
Craig Barritt / Getty for Oceana

Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss, who emerged Tuesday as a top bidder for the Tribune Media Company, has also created a group called the Hub Project to influence U.S. elections, primarily through favorable media coverage for Democrats, the New York Times reports.

Wyss, 85, “also sits on the board of directors of the left-wing Center For American Progress, founded by longtime Clinton confidant and 2016 presidential campaign chairman John Podesta,” Fox News reported Tuesday. He also donated millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation.

The Times reports that Wyss (pronounced Veese) is behind the Hub Project, which was first exposed by Wikileaks in 2016:

The organization, called The Hub Project, was started in 2015 by one of Mr. Wyss’s charitable organizations, the Wyss Foundation, partly to shape media coverage to help Democratic causes. It now has 60 employees, according to its website, including political organizers, researchers and communications specialists. Mr. Wyss and his charitable foundation are not mentioned on The Hub Project’s website, and his role in its creation has not been previously reported.

Information about his involvement came from interviews with five people with knowledge of The Hub Project, an internal memo from another liberal group that was obtained by The New York Times, and the appearance of The Hub Project’s business plan in a tranche of data made public by WikiLeaks. According to U.S. officials, the data was stolen by Russian intelligence from the emails of John Podesta, who has been an adviser to Mr. Wyss and was a top aide to the former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

The Hub Project’s activities include organizing paid advertising campaigns that criticized Republican congressional candidates in 2018, as well as a series of marches in 2017 that called on then-President Donald J. Trump to release his tax returns. As The Hub Project’s website notes, it also developed a podcast last year, “Made to Fail,” hosted by the former Obama administration official and current CNN legal analyst Elliot Williams, that was critical of conservative policies.

The Hub Project is part of an opaque network managed by a Washington consulting firm, Arabella Advisors, that has funneled hundreds of millions of dollars through a daisy chain of groups supporting Democrats and progressive causes. The system of political financing, which often obscures the identities of donors, is known as dark money, and Arabella’s network is a leading vehicle for it on the left.

The Times notes that it could not determine whether Wyss, who attended Harvard Business School in the 1960s, is also a U.S. citizen.

In 2016, the Daily Caller reported that Wyss was investigated over charges that his biotech company, Synthes, performed unapproved clinical trials. He was not indicted, but several executives were convicted and imprisoned. The company settled a related lawsuit in Washington state after a woman died during spinal surgery that used a Synthes bone cement product that did not have government approval. Critics faulted Wyss for his leadership of the company at the time.

Wyss has apparently outbid Alden Global Capital, which is currently the largest shareholder of the Tribune Company.

The libertarian Koch brothers considered a bid for the Tribune Company in 2013, but were met with strident protest from the media, which feared they might use the Tribune’s media properties to promote conservative ideas.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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