Billionaire investor George Soros
© Yuri Gripas / Reuters
Billionaire investor George Soros
A non-profit partially funded by controversial billionaire activist George Soros paid firms tied to Fusion GPS and dossier author Christopher Steele over US$3.8 million in 2017 to provide research and analysis to "government entities", IRS filings have revealed.

The payments - made by The Democracy Integrity Project (TDIP) - are more than three times the funding Fusion GPS and Steele received from by the DNC and Hillary Clinton's campaign during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Perkins Coie, the law firm that represented the DNC and Clinton campaign, paid US$1 million to Fusion GPS in 2016 to investigate Trump - Fusion GPS in turn paid Steele, a former MI6 operative, almost US$170,000 for the project that would eventually produce the infamous 'Trump-Russia' dossier.

The report, alleging a long-running and "well-coordinated conspiracy" between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, is now the subject of intense criticism and scrutiny following the conclusion of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's 22-month-long probe into the allegations, which found no evidence of collusion.

What Integrity?

Daniel Jones
© Truthdig
Daniel Jones
TDIP was founded 31st January 2017 by Daniel J. Jones - former staffer to California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein - in order to resume the DNC's investigation of Trump's illusory links to Russia.

He operated what amounted to, in his own words, a "shadow media organization helping the government" to investigate alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Little is known about the full extent of TDIP's activities, and the identities of most of its donors are anonymous - although in October 2018 the New York Times revealed George Soros had funded the shadowy group to the tune of US$1 million, and was considering whether to give even more in future.

The organisation's 'form 990' sheds further light on the organisation's activities - it states the group planned to work with a "network of experienced organizations and individuals" to gather information on "efforts of foreign interfere in democratic elections around the world".

TDIP is said to have received just over US$7 million in contributions in 2017, spending just under US$5 million - Jones received a salary of US$381,263, and spent US$95,914 on travel.

The 990 form lists TDIP's five "highest compensated" separate independent contractors, four of which provided the organisation with "research consulting", and law firm Zuckerman Spaeder, which has represented Fusion GPS in legal matters relating to the dossier.

​TDIP funds reached Fusion GPS via holding company Bean LLC. Another US$250,000 was paid to Walsingham Partners Ltd., a London-based firm owned by Steele and his partner Christopher Burrows, while around US$150,000 was paid to London-based intelligence firm Istok Associates. The company has released a series of reports investigating alleged Russian funding of Brexit, although has to date been unable to substantiate the charge.

Tangled Web

Istok is just one of many questionable entities with which TDIP has unclear connections. In October 2018, its founder Neil Barnett co-authored a report for The Atlantic Council, the NATO-funded 'think tank', on British businessman Arron Banks' contributions to the Brexit campaign.

In the document, Barnett suggested the Trump campaign received millions of dollars in illicit donations, potentially from Russia - he provided no evidence, merely arguing the Kremlin could have exploited donation rules by simply repeatedly donating US$200, the maximum amount that can be given to political campaigns without a donor needing to disclose their name and address.

Likewise, one of TDIP's founders and board members is Adam Kaufmann, who has served as an attorney for Derwick Associates, a firm that's been accused of money laundering and embezzlement - and enlisted the services of Fusion GPS in 2014. Its been alleged Fusion GPS cofounder Peter Fritsch subsequently pressured journalists to ease off critical reporting of Derwick.

TDIP has also worked closely with New Knowledge, a dubious cybersecurity firm, on a website called Disinfo2018, which tracked stories allegedly being perpetuated by Russian bots during the 2018 US midterms.

New Knowledge made headlines that year when it was revealed it ran a highly dubious 'influence operation' to damage former state supreme court judge Roy Moore's 2017 Alabama Senate campaign.

By the firm's own admission, it "orchestrated an elaborate 'false flag' operation that planted the idea Moore's campaign was amplified on social media by a Russian botnet", and sought to perpetuate sexual assault allegations against Moore to "enrage and energize Democrats" and "depress turnout" among Republicans.

As documented by Grayzone Project, New Knowledge created a Facebook page aimed at appealing to conservative Alabamians, encouraging them to endorse obscure candidate Mac Watson instead of Moore. They also contacted Watson directly via the bogus page, stating they would endorse him, and asking whether he trusted anyone "to set up a super PAC that could receive funding".

They also offered advice on "how to sharpen his appeal to disenchanted Republican voters", and arranged interviews for him with The Montgomery Advertiser and Washington Post. Simultaneously, Watson's Twitter following leaped from 100 to over 10,000.

Many of those new followers were undoubtedly bots, perhaps created by New Knowledge itself - but ironically, the firm flooded the US media with allegations that thousands of Moore's Twitter followers were Russian bots. Local paper Montgomery Observer was first to regurgitate the claims, publishing an article in October 2017 - Russian invasion? Roy Moore sees spike in Twitter followers from land of Putin - which was duly picked up by many other outlets.

Troublingly, TDIP is but one shadowy non-profit run by Jones - on 29th January 2018, he registered Advance Democracy Inc, which received start-up funds of US$500,000 from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, a donor-advised fund that anonymises its contributors.