How These Liberal Billionaires Are Invading Your State | NTK Network How These Liberal Billionaires Are Invading Your State

How These Liberal Billionaires Are Invading Your State

Laura and John Arnold, through their foundation and initiatives, are spending millions of dollars to change society to how they see fit.

By NTK Staff | 09.12.2018 @8:00am
How These Liberal Billionaires Are Invading Your State

Little-known organizations tied to liberal Texas billionaires Laura and John Arnold are spending massive amounts of money to influence the daily lives of Americans across the country, according to an NTK Network investigation.

Through groups like the Action Now Initiative and Patients for Affordable Drugs, the Arnolds are working to impose taxes on soda drinks, change the way legislatures draw political districts, bankroll political candidates to do their work in Washington, and even change the way Americans vote.

John Arnold, 44, made a fortune working for Enron before it filed for bankruptcy in 2001. Since then, he opened and shuttered a hedge fund, formed the Laura and John Arnold Foundation with his wife, and began parachuting into local- and state-level issue campaigns in states as diverse as California, Missouri, and Maine.

Arnold’s goal? To use his massive wealth to shape major U.S. institutions, like the pension and justice systems, to his liking.

In New Mexico, for example, Arnold pushed for a “risk assessment system” that used an algorithm to determine whether someone released on bail would commit another crime. In Utah and Michigan, Arnold wants to create “independent” commissions that are responsible for redrawing district lines for political races and requiring state legislatures vote on the maps they produce. And perhaps most overt of all, in New Jersey, Arnold is backing a political candidate who agrees with his way of thinking.

It’s an incredibly ambitious and wide-reaching effort that could potentially impact the life of every American. Below is just a partial list of some of the Arnold’s state-based projects:


The California measure is part of a broader national strategy by the beverage industry to head off local soda taxes, which have passed in eight communities. Berkeley’s passage of a major soda tax paved the way for other cities to act. Philadelphia, San Francisco, Oakland, Calif., and the county that includes Chicago, imposed their own such measures in 2016, followed by Seattle in 2017. The soda industry spent at least $38 million fighting the taxes in 2016, which were backed by public health advocates and the billionaires Laura and John Arnold and Michael R. Bloomberg, former mayor of New York, who contributed $20 million to the Bay Area soda tax campaign.


As of the end of July, Fair Maps Colorado had raised more than $700,000, according to state campaign finance data. As of September, it raised much more. …

Also a top contributor is Action Now Initiative, which Governing magazine reported is funded by John Arnold, a former hedge-fund billionaire who focuses much of his attention and money on pension reform.


So in June, Maine will hold the nation’s first statewide primary election using ranked choice voting, a rarely used system championed by political reformers whereby voters get to rank their candidate preferences, rather than simply choosing their favorite. The election is the result of a citizen’s referendum passed nearly two years ago, and a whole lot of wrangling and maneuvering in between, and will even include a ballot question that, in effect, will decide whether the system is used in November’s U.S. Senate and House races as well. …

They gathered tens of thousands of signatures on Election Day, 2014—which ended with LePage’s reelection with 48 percent of the vote—and ultimately got the issue on the November 2016 ballot to take advantage of presidential-year turnout. “We got on the ballot and spent the next year literally knocking on doors and holding ranked-choice voting events, like pizza parties or pub nights where people would practice ranking their candidates,” recalls Russell, who toiled on the ballot question committee, a well-financed entity backed by Cutler associates, progressive Democratic campaigners, billionaire former Enron trader John Arnold’s Action Now Initiative and hundreds of small donors. “We built up a lot of excitement.”


The group Voters Not Politicians has been fighting in court to get a proposal to re-draw political districts on the ballot. The fate of the ballot proposal is now in the hands of the Michigan Supreme Court.

If approved by voters, the ballot initiative would create an independent commission to determine Michigan’s political districts. …

Its biggest donor during that time was Action Now Initiative, a Texas advocacy group started by billionaires John and Laura Arnold. After Action Now Initiative’s $250,000 donation, the second-largest donation was $100,000 from the Michigan UAW Community Action Program Council.


A Post-Dispatch review of campaign finance records shows Clean Missouri, which is backing the Amendment 1 referendum on the November ballot, took in $312,000 from the Action Now Initiative and $13,287 from the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center. …

The Houston-based Action Now Initiative was launched by billionaires John and Laura Arnold. The group works in conjunction with the Laura and John Arnold Foundation to advocate for policy changes to state pensions, education and anti-obesity measures.

New Jersey:

A Texas billionaire who has poured millions of dollars into education issues across the Philadelphia region and helped fund the defense of the city’s controversial soda tax is now bankrolling another cause: helping New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez keep his U.S. Senate seat.

Newly disclosed campaign finance records show John Arnold — a former hedge fund executive turned philanthropist – as the driving force behind a multimillion-dollar ad campaign against Menendez’s opponent, Republican Bob Hugin.

New Mexico:

A Texas-based public policy group is pushing to expand the use of a risk assessment tool to help judges determine the fate of defendants pending trial as it looks to boost research on how effective such algorithmic systems are in predicting whether someone will commit another crime while on bail.

The Laura and John Arnold Foundation announced Wednesday that it’s seeking proposals as part of a five-year, multimillion-dollar project to determine the effectiveness of its assessment, which relies on several factors.


We’ve known since June that most of the money for the pro-tax campaign came from billionaire and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. He gave about $1.6 million. Billionaire philanthropists Laura and John Arnold, who made their money in the energy sector and hedge funds chipped in about $400,000 through their Action Now Initiative.


Backers of Better Boundaries are busy raising money for what may be a $1 million campaign for the initiative creating an independent commission to assist with the upcoming redrawing of political districts across Utah. …

Those include $355,000 from the Houston-based Action Now Initiative …

The single biggest contributor, Action Now Initiative, is a nonprofit advocacy organization that works with a foundation started by billionaire hedge fund manager John Arnold and his wife, Laura, to support a wide variety of causes.

Sign Up

for NTK updates every week.

View Privacy Policy