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
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 deep force” acting on
behalf of “Pax Americana”).
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 Ukraine.
Last December, the Financial Times wrote that Rybachuk’s “New Citizen” NGO campaign “played a big role in getting the protest up and
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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