Did Paso Robles vineyard owner make illegal campaign donations?

May 18, 2022

Hansjorg Wyss

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

Swiss billionaire and owner of Halter Ranch Vineyard in rural Paso Robles, Hansjörg Wyss, is facing allegations he bankrolled Democratic causes with dark money and that he made illegal campaign contributions, which is the subject of a lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

It is unclear if Wyss, who lives in Wyoming and regularly visits San Luis Obispo County, is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Permanent residency in the United States is required for foreign nationals to make direct donations to federal political candidates and political action committees. However, foreign nationals without permanent residence are allowed to donate to other groups seeking to influence public policy.

Last May, Americans for Public Trust filed a complaint with the FEC, alleging Wyss and organizations he controls made and accepted prohibited contributions from foreign nationals; unlawfully concealed the identity of contributors; made contributions in the name of another through the use of conduits; and failed to register and file required disclosures with the FEC. The FEC acknowledged receiving the complaint, but has failed to properly investigate the matter,  Americans for Public Trust alleges.

On April 26, 2022, Americans for Public Trust filed a lawsuit against the FEC in the Washington D.C. District Court, urging the commission to take action on alleged illegal donations made by Wyss.

Americans for Public Trust alleges Wyss is deeply involved in the Democratic Party, has boasted about his White House contacts and has claimed to support U.S. senate campaigns. FEC records show Wyss has donated directly to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and former congressmen Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Mark Udall (D-CO).

“Americans for Public Trust is suing the FEC for failing to investigate foreign money in our elections,” Americans for Public Trust Executive Director Caitlin Sutherland said in a statement. “Mr. Wyss, who is barred from directly or indirectly influencing our elections, has done just that by potentially funneling hundreds of millions of dollars through the Arabella Advisors network to benefit liberal and left-wing causes. Until the FEC takes action, we won’t know the full extent of his foreign interference in our electoral process.”

The New York Times previously reported, between 2016 and early 2020, two of Wyss’s organizations donated $208 million to three nonprofit funds, which then doled out money to a wide array of groups that backed progressive causes and helped Democrats win the White House and Congress in 2020. Wyss has also donated tens of millions of dollars since 2016 to groups that opposed former President Donald Trump and promoted Democrats and their causes.

Wyss has quietly become one of the most important donors to left-leaning advocacy groups, and he is an increasingly influential force among Democrats, the May 2021 New York Times report states. The report also describes Wyss’s donations as being “channeled through a daisy chain of opaque organizations that mask the ultimate recipients of his money.”

The Swiss billionaire, who reportedly has a net worth of more than $5 billion, made his fortune in the medical manufacturing industry. Wyss is the former CEO and largest shareholder of Synthes, a multinational medical device manufacturer. In 2012, Wyss sold Synthes to Johnson & Johnson for $20.2 billion.

Wyss purchased Halter Ranch in 2000 and enlarged the vineyard. The estate currently spans more than 2,700 acres with 200 acres of grapes, 15 acres of walnuts and 17 acres of olives. Wyss previously stated he believes Paso Robles is the best place in California to pursue his dream of producing world-class grapes and wines.

Last year, the billionaire mounted a failed bid to purchase Tribune Publishing Company, the publisher of the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News and other American newspapers. Wyss is currently part of an ownership group that is in the process of purchasing Chelsea Football Club in the United Kingdom from Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich.

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Jon Tatro

Great another rich scumbag trying to ruin our county.


retiredpoliceofficer

I think he makes a great contribution to our county. We have all these small time crooked politicians. It’s about time we added a billionaire into the mix.


Wino

Ha, nothin a big ol check can’t cover…


kevin rise

I’d love for every billionaire to leave here, move to Mars, and never ever come back. Or a mental institution; as being rich is a sign of mental illness. It’s relative to psychopathy. Before it’s too late for us regular folks to inhabit an earth they destroyed, the 1 percent ruined it all.


kayaknut

On no, most of our elected officials, congressmen and senators, would be gone, however would we survive without their guidance?


commonsenseguy

Wow! Imagine that another corrupt Democrat donor trying to swing elections. Sorry, but it’s kind of hard to spin this as nothing to see. But I’m sure others like Dave C. will say. ” Nothing to see here, just mud slinging and a right-wing conspiracy.” “Zero proof of corruption involving Hansjorg Wyss.”


Sounds like another George Soros, the Socialist Hungarian infiltrating our justice system and politics for years with his insurgency supporters, the Progressives/Democrats in this nation. All bought and sold with evilness by his billions. Sounds like the need for a couple of bounty’s on there asses.


Adam Trask

Sure, Republican billionaires like the Kochs or Mercers have always played by the rules.


commonsenseguy

I don’t condone any of their actions. I call them out as well. Their just as corrupt as the ones you seem to support, embrace, and look the other way as they attack our freedoms and democracy with their greed for power and control.


kettle

“I don’t condone any of their actions. I call them out as well.”


Everyone who votes for them supports and condones their actions irregardless of a few “words”. In for a penny…..


For example the 192 gop members who voted against doing something about the baby formula shortage after trying to politicize the shortage by blameing others. Pro birth movement indeed.


By comparison a single hellfire missile costs around 200K (army version) and the gop votes yes every time, how may families killed and injured by them?


commonsenseguy

Kind of like the 40 billion Biden and the idiots on both sides of the isle are sending to Ukraine. Those billions would be better spent on the needs of this nation securing our borders and fentanyl epidemic that’s killing thousands, not to mention the major Democrat cities across the nation where the murder rates are through the roof.

The best place to start caring for others is your own home. Please don’t preach to me about killing families when the Democrat party you support are okay with aborting 62 million innocent children in this nation in the name of healthcare. There’s no comparison to match those deaths for the voters who support and condone that pure evilness.


kettle

What about, What about the innocent children!!


I’m glad you asked, see the gop does not want feed those children or educate them either. That’s just free stuff they have not earned, like health care.


A birth costs what 100K? Get a job at micky d’s, that will pay for it. What healthcare? But what about child care, cant have that it’s more free stuff.


Does anyone see Tx or Ok expanding/improving the foster care system? Improving the adoption rate, food security, early years education? Nope that’s just more free stuff.


Those babies are freeloaders and they need to pull themselves up by the tiny bootstraps because the gop wants them born, then they can go F off and find out the fate of the uneducated masses.


When the gop supports children’s actual lives and the quality of life, be sure to let us know. Family values and all.


derasmus

Simple, Don’t have children you can’t afford.


And for the mistakes, the exceptions, we need a robust safety net.


kettle

“we need a robust safety net.” That the gop will not allow because they would rather watch the country burn then support free stuff.


derasmus

I agree!


derasmus

Did you read the bill regarding the baby formula? I did, you should as well before you criticize those who voted against it.


kettle

I read both of them.


But you can criticize first if that’s all you have.


Michael A.

He a new Euro Soros character willing to throw around a lot money and influence our elections. He needs and deserves much scrutiny. Watch this guy closely.


Gramelin

What?? Corruption for the Biden Win?? Na…couldn’t be true…Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”