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Biden admin coordinated with liberal dark money behemoth on 'transforming food system,' emails show

Eric Kessler, the founder and principal of left-wing dark money behemoth Arabella Advisors, was involved in initiatives to "transform" the U.S. food system, emails show.

EXCLUSIVE: The Biden administration coordinated with Eric Kessler, the founder and principal of left-wing dark money behemoth Arabella Advisors, on key agriculture policy issues, according to emails obtained by Fox News Digital.

The internal Department of Agriculture (USDA) communications — obtained by Americans for Public Trust (APT) and shared with Fox News Digital — show that Kessler was involved in initiatives to "transform" the U.S. food system and to crack down on the meat industry for high prices. Kessler was the only individual on the email chains who wasn't affiliated with the USDA.

"These emails reveal that Eric Kessler has direct access to Biden cabinet officials and plays an intimate role in shaping this administration’s agenda," APT executive director Caitlin Sutherland told Fox News Digital.

"As the architect and operator of the largest dark money network in U.S. politics, Kessler’s cozy relationship with Secretary Vilsack raises questions about the level of influence his foreign-funded Arabella network has on the Biden administration and its policies," she continued.

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On July 15, 2021, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack emailed Kessler, Marty Matlock, a USDA senior advisor for food systems resiliency, and Matthew McKenna, a former senior advisor to Vilsack, expressing his excitement about a food processing initiative that he noted the three were helping to "direct and lead."

"Gentlemen- woke up very early this morning thinking about the processing project you are helping to direct and lead," Vilsack wrote in the email. "I can tell you from the response I have received to date there is excitement over the possibility of this helping to create a more dynamic and competitive market."

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Copied on the email were Vilsack's chief of staff Katharine Ferguson and Mae Wu, the USDA's deputy under secretary of marketing and regulatory programs.

The remainder of the July 2021 email was redacted because it contained information that was "pre-decisional" and deliberative, meaning it was related to a policy not yet in effect.

"I believe the pipeline will fill quickly," Kessler responded 20 minutes later. "This is striking a real chord and filling a huge need. The feedback I've heard has been 100% positive around the initiative and the Department's leadership."

Then, shortly after Kessler's response, Matlock indicated that he and McKenna had included the Arabella Advisors founder in conversations about the project.

"Matt, Eric and I have been in nearly daily conversation about elements and strategies," Matlock wrote. "In short we are on the job, moving the many elements necessary, and building program strategies for implementation."

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Months later, in September 2021, Vilsack emailed Kessler and McKenna in an email that USDA completely redacted. However, Kessler responded, thanking Vilsack for the "kind invitation" and adding that he was "looking forward to it."

On Oct. 31, 2021, Vilsack sent another email to Kessler and USDA officials, asking for feedback on a "processing memo." Much of the email was redacted.

And, on Dec. 6, 2021, the agriculture secretary suggested edits to a "transformed food system" memo in an email to Wu and Jenny Moffitt, the USDA's under secretary of marketing and regulatory programs, with Kessler copied.

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"I have reviewed the memo that you prepared on our transforming food system effort," Vilsack wrote. "Appreciate the thought and work that was put into it."

Wu responded, saying that she was scheduled to brief the White House on the transforming food system initiative.

The communications and coordination on the effort appears to have led to a Jan. 3, 2022, event at the White House where President Biden, Vilsack and Attorney General Merrick Garland announced steps that administration would take to "increase processing options" for farmers and ranchers. The event highlighted in part how the Justice Department would work with the USDA on federal enforcement efforts.

"The President was extremely appreciative of your effort," Vilsack wrote to USDA officials and Kessler after the event. "The White House/NEC is anxious to work with us on both the next steps to implement the processing effort and on the supply chain effort." 

"It was a good day for USDA and allowed us to get nearly 2 hours of the President’s day focused on your work," the agriculture secretary added. "Just wanted you all to know the President and I very much appreciate the sacrifices of time you have made to get us to this point."

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Kessler emailed Vilsack in response a day later, saying the White House event "was tremendous." He also said the effort was just beginning.

"A huge success and, while it’s just the beginning of this, it is already a major accomplishment," Kessler told Vilsack. "I have been getting lots of appreciative emails for the effort the Department put into this and offers far and wide to help in any way. Thank you for your steady pursuit of a level playing field and a better food system."

The USDA, though, said the emails and close coordination between Kessler, Vilsack and other top agency officials was an example of its broad stakeholder engagement efforts.

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"There is significant private and philanthropic sector interest in leveraging the Department of Agriculture’s investments in food, agriculture and rural prosperity, such as the $1 billion USDA is investing to expand meat and poultry processing capacity to provide more options for farmers," a USDA spokesperson told Fox News Digital in a statement. 

"External partners are critical in USDA’s effort to maximize our investment in a way that creates new markets and increases income opportunities for producers," the statement added.

Kessler's Arabella Advisors, which is based in Washington, D.C., is a consulting firm that manages at least five nonprofit organizations — Sixteen Thirty Fund, New Venture Fund, Hopewell Fund, Windward Fund and North Fund — that, in turn, host and funnel money to dozens of shadowy left-wing groups. In 2021, the latest year with available data, the network hauled in more than $1.5 billion in anonymous donations.

The funds are involved in a series of social and progressive campaigns around the world. They have also focused particularly on climate change initiatives.

And funds in the network have also given millions of dollars to agriculture-related programs.

"Arabella’s Good Food team works alongside funders, investors, and others who are passionate about transforming our food systems," the firm's website states. "Together, we’re creating a world where delicious, nutritious, sustainably produced food is accessible to all."

Kessler and Arabella Advisors didn't respond to a request for comment.

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