Saturday, March 1, 2014

Pierre Omidyar co-funded Ukraine revolution groups with US government, documents show

Pierre Omidyar co-funded Ukraine revolution groups with US government,
documents show

By Mark Ames
On February 28, 2014

Just hours after last weekend's ouster of Ukrainian president Viktor
Yanukovych, one of Pierre Omidyar's newest hires at national security blog
"The Intercept," was already digging for the truth.

Marcy Wheeler, who is the new site's "senior policy analyst," speculated
that the Ukraine revolution was likely a "coup" engineered by "deep forces"
on behalf of "Pax Americana":

"There's quite a bit of evidence of coup-ness. Q is how many levels deep
interference from both sides is."

These are serious claims. So serious that I decided to investigate them. And
what I found was shocking.

Wheeler is partly correct. Pando has confirmed that the American government
- in the form of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) -
played a major role in funding opposition groups prior to the revolution.
Moreover, a large percentage of the rest of the funding to those same groups
came from a US billionaire who has previously worked closely with US
government agencies to further his own business interests. This was by no
means a US-backed "coup," but clear evidence shows that US investment was a
force multiplier for many of the groups involved in overthrowing Yanukovych.

But that's not the shocking part.

What's shocking is the name of the billionaire who co-invested with the US
government (or as Wheeler put it: the "dark force" acting on behalf of "Pax

Step out of the shadows.. Wheeler's boss, Pierre Omidyar.

Yes, in the annals of independent media, this might be the strangest twist
ever: According to financial disclosures and reports seen by Pando, the
founder and publisher of Glenn Greenwald's government-bashing blog,"The
Intercept," co-invested with the US government to help fund regime change in

* * * *

When the revolution came to Ukraine, neo-fascists played a front-center role
in overthrowing the country's president. But the real political power rests
with Ukraine's pro-western neoliberals. Political figures like Oleh
Rybachuk, long a favorite of the State Department, DC neocons, EU, and
NATO-and the right-hand man to Orange Revolution leader Viktor Yushchenko.

Last December, the Financial Times wrote that Rybachuk's "New Citizen" NGO
campaign "played a big role in getting the protest up and running."

New Citizen, along with the rest of Rybachuk's interlocking network of
western-backed NGOs and campaigns- "Center UA" (also spelled "Centre UA"),
"Chesno," and "Stop Censorship" to name a few - grew their power by
targeting pro-Yanukovych politicians with a well-coordinated anti-corruption
campaign that built its strength in Ukraine's regions, before massing in
Kiev last autumn.

The efforts of the NGOs were so successful that the Ukraine government was
accused of employing dirty tricks to shut them down. In early February, the
groups were the subject of a massive money laundering investigation by the
economics division of Ukraine's Interior Ministry in what many denounced as
a politically motivated move.

Fortunately the groups had the strength - which is to say, money - to
survive those attacks and continue pushing for regime change in Ukraine. The
source of that money?

According to the Kyiv Post, Pierrie Omidyar's Omidyar Network (part of the
Omidyar Group which owns First Look Media and the Intercept) provided 36% of
"Center UA"'s $500,000 budget in 2012- nearly $200,000. USAID provided 54%
of "Center UA"'s budget for 2012. Other funders included the US
government-backed National Endowment for Democracy.

In 2011, Omidyar Network gave $335,000 to "New Citizen," one of the
anti-Yanukovych "projects" managed through the Rybachuk-chaired NGO "Center
UA." At the time, Omidyar Network boasted that its investment in "New
Citizen" would help "shape public policy" in Ukraine:

"Using technology and media, New Citizen coordinates the efforts of
concerned members of society, reinforcing their ability to shape public

". With support from Omidyar Network, New Citizen will strengthen its
advocacy efforts in order to drive greater transparency and engage citizens
on issues of importance to them."

In March 2012, Rybachuk - the operator behind the 2004 Orange Revolution
scenes, the Anatoly Chubais of Ukraine - boasted that he was preparing a new
Orange Revolution:

"People are not afraid. We now have 150 NGOs in all the major cities in
our 'clean up Parliament campaign' to elect and find better
parliamentarians..The Orange Revolution was a miracle, a massive peaceful
protest that worked. We want to do that again and we think we will."

Detailed financial records reviewed by Pando (and embedded below) also show
Omidyar Network covered costs for the expansion of Rybachuk's
anti-Yanukovych campaign, "Chesno" ("Honestly"), into regional cities
including Poltava, Vinnytsia, Zhytomyr, Ternopil, Sumy, and elsewhere,
mostly in the Ukrainian-speaking west and center.

* * * *

To understand what it means for Omidyar to fund Oleh Rybachuk, some brief
history is necessary. Rybachuk's background follows a familiar pattern in
post-Soviet opportunism: From well-connected KGB intelligence ties, to
post-Soviet neoliberal networker.

In the Soviet era, Rybachuk studied in a military languages program half of
whose graduates went on to work for the KGB. Rybachuk's murky overseas
posting in India in the late Soviet era further strengthens many suspicions
about his Soviet intelligence ties; whatever the case, by Rybachuk's own
account, his close ties to top intelligence figures in the Ukrainian SBU
served him well during the Orange Revolution of 2004, when the SBU passed
along secret information about vote fraud and assassination plots.

In 1992, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Rybachuk moved to the
newly-formed Ukraine Central Bank, heading the foreign relations department
under Central Bank chief and future Orange Revolution leader Viktor
Yushchenko. In his central bank post, Rybachuk established close friendly
ties with western government and financial aid institutions, as well as
proto-Omidyar figures like George Soros, who funded many of the NGOs
involved in "color revolutions" including small donations to the same
Ukraine NGOs that Omidyar backed. (Like Omidyar Network does today, Soros'
charity arms-Open Society and Renaissance Foundation-publicly preached
transparency and good government in places like Russia during the Yeltsin
years, while Soros' financial arm speculated on Russian debt and
participated in scandal-plagued auctions of state assets.)

In early 2005, Orange Revolution leader Yushchenko became Ukraine's
president, and he appointed Rybachuk deputy prime minister in charge of
integrating Ukraine into the EU, NATO, and other western institutions.
Rybachuk also pushed for the mass-privatization of Ukraine's remaining state

Over the next several years, Rybachuk was shifted around President
Yushchenko's embattled administration, torn by internal divisions. In 2010,
Yushchenko lost the presidency to recently-overthrown Viktor Yanukovych, and
a year later, Rybachuk was on Omidyar's and USAID's payroll, preparing for
the next Orange Revolution. As Rybachuk told the Financial Times two years

"We want to do [the Orange Revolution] again and we think we will."

Some of Omidyar's funds were specifically earmarked for covering the costs
of setting up Rybachuk's "clean up parliament" NGOs in Ukraine's regional
centers. Shortly after the Euromaidan demonstrations erupted last November,
Ukraine's Interior Ministry opened up a money laundering investigation into
Rybachuk's NGOs, dragging Omidyar's name into the high-stakes political

According to a Kyiv Post article on February 10 titled, "Rybachuk:
Democracy-promoting nongovernmental organization faces 'ridiculous'

"Police are investigating Center UA, a public-sector watchdog funded by
Western donors, on suspicion of money laundering, the group said. The
group's leader, Oleh Rybachuk, said it appears that authorities, with the
probe, are trying to warn other nongovernmental organizations that seek to
promote democracy, transparency, free speech and human rights in Ukraine.

"According to Center UA, the Kyiv economic crimes unit of the Interior
Ministry started the investigation on Dec. 11. Recently, however,
investigators stepped up their efforts, questioning some 200 witnesses.

". Center UA received more than $500,000 in 2012, according to its
annual report for that year, 54 percent of which came from Pact Inc., a
project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. Nearly 36
percent came from Omidyar Network, a foundation established by eBay founder
Pierre Omidyar and his wife. Other donors include the International
Renaissance Foundation, whose key funder is billionaire George Soros, and
National Endowment for Democracy, funded largely by the U.S. Congress."

* * * *

What all this adds up to is a journalistic conflict-of-interest of the worst
kind: Omidyar working hand-in-glove with US foreign policy agencies to
interfere in foreign governments, co-financing regime change with well-known
arms of the American empire - while at the same time hiring a growing team
of soi-disant "independent journalists" which vows to investigate the
behavior of the US government at home and overseas, and boasts of its
uniquely "adversarial" relationship towards these government institutions.

As First Look staffer Jeremy Scahill told the Daily Beast.

We had a long discussion about this internally; about what our position
would be if the White House asked us to not publish something.. With us,
because we want to be adversarial, they won't know what bat phone to call.
They know who to call at The Times, they know who to call at The Post. With
us, who are they going to call? Pierre? Glenn?

Of the many problems that poses, none is more serious than the fact that
Omidyar now has the only two people with exclusive access to the complete
Snowden NSA cache, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. Somehow, the same
billionaire who co-financed the "coup" in Ukraine with USAID, also has
exclusive access to the NSA secrets-and very few in the independent media
dare voice a skeptical word about it.

In the larger sense, this is a problem of 21st century American inequality,
of life in a billionaire-dominated era. It is a problem we all have to
contend with-PandoDaily's 18-plus investors include a gaggle of Silicon
Valley billionaires like Marc Andreessen (who serves on the board of eBay,
chaired by Pierre Omidyar) and Peter Thiel (whose politics I've
investigated, and described as repugnant.)

But what is more immediately alarming is what makes Omidyar different.
Unlike other billionaires, Omidyar has garnered nothing but uncritical,
fawning press coverage, particularly from those he has hired. By acquiring a
"dream team" of what remains of independent media - Greenwald, Jeremy
Scahill, Wheeler, my former partner Matt Taibbi - not to mention press
"critics" like Jay Rosen - he buys both silence and fawning press.

Both are incredibly useful: Silence, an absence of journalistic curiosity
about Omidyar's activities overseas and at home, has been purchased for the
price of whatever his current all-star indie cast currently costs him. As an
added bonus, that same investment buys silence from exponentially larger
numbers of desperately underpaid independent journalists hoping to someday
be on his payroll, and the underfunded media watchdogs that survive on
Omidyar Network grants.

And it also buys laughable fluff from the likes of Scahill who also boasted
to the Daily Beast of his boss' close involvement in the day to day running
of First Look.

"[Omidyar] strikes me as always sort of political, but I think that the
NSA story and the expanding wars put politics for him into a much more
prominent place in his existence. This is not a side project that he is
doing. Pierre writes more on our internal messaging than anyone else. And he
is not micromanaging. This guy has a vision. And his vision is to confront
what he sees as an assault on the privacy of Americans."

Now Wheeler has her answer - that, yes, the revolutionary groups were
part-funded by Uncle Sam, but also by her boss - one assumes awkward follow
up questions will be asked on that First Look internal messaging system.

Whether Wheeler, Scahill and their colleagues go on to share their concerns
publicly will speak volumes about First Look's much-trumpeted independence,
both from Omidyar's other business interests and from Omidyar's co-investors
in Ukraine: the US government.

Editor's note: Pando contacted Omidyar Networks for comment prior to
publication but had not received a response by press time. We will update
this post if they do respond.

* * * *

Chesno document showing total funding from USAID and Omidyar Network to
"Centre UA":


Chesno document showing numerous Omidyar fundings for activities in regional

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