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Major outdoor clothing company quietly operating liberal dark money group hit with FEC complaint

EXCLUSIVE: Government watchdog group Americans for Public Trust is filing a complaint with the Federal Election Commission to ask for an investigation into Patagonia's political contributions.

EXCLUSIVE: Watchdog group Americans for Public Trust (APT) has filed a campaign finance complaint against outdoor clothing company Patagonia's tax-exempt arm for allegedly misrepresenting donations.

According to the complaint filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), a collective of climate-focused tax-exempt groups — which altogether hold 98% of Patagonia's nonvoting shares worth nearly $1.8 billion — misidentified political contributions made to Democrat political action committees in 2022.

Such a misidentification, the complaint alleges, violates the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), which prohibits individuals from making contributions in the name of another and prohibits the use of one’s name to be used to make contributions in the name of another. As a result, APT requested the FEC conduct an investigation to determine, and impose appropriate sanctions for, any and all violations.

"With these tremendous resources, and the subsequent desire to pour this money into American politics, there should come great responsibility and transparency," the complaint states, pointing to the Patagonia collective's vast assets. "The very bedrock of these responsibilities should include providing accurate contributor information so that most basic disclosure and transparency requirements of [FECA] can be met."

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Federal elections filings analyzed by APT and reviewed by Fox News Digital show that in late 2022 the so-called Holdfast Collective donated $100,000 to the Senate Majority PAC, which is devoted to electing Democrats to the Senate; $50,000 to the Jane Fonda Climate PAC, which gives solely to left-wing campaigns; and $25,000 to the Galeo Impact Fund PAC, which donated only to Democrat Georgia Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

The Holdfast Collective gave another $20,000 to Activate America, another PAC devoted entirely to supporting Democrats.

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However, the campaign contributions appear to have actually originated from the Holdfast Trust and Chalten Trust, two separate 501(c)(4) nonprofits overseen by the Holdfast Collective, but which are distinct from that entity. 

In 2022 tax filings obtained by Fox News Digital, the Holdfast Trust listed the contributions totaling $175,000 to Senate Majority PAC, Jane Fonda Climate PAC and Galeo Impact Fund PAC as grants. And in its tax forms, the Chalten Trust listed the $20,000 contribution to Activate America as a grant. Unlike the donations from the Holdfast Trust, the Chalten Trust was listed in federal elections filings in a "memo item" under Holdfast Collective's contribution to Activate America.

According to APT, the discrepancies in the filings suggest the two nonprofits executed the contributions but incorrectly identified the Holdfast Collective as the contributor in its forms submitted to the FEC, a possible violation of FECA.

"It is unacceptable that a for-profit company posed as a donor to mask a network of nonprofit organizations working to quietly influence our political system," APT Executive Director Caitlin Sutherland told Fox News Digital. "By misreporting the source of the donations, Holdfast is trying to hide its true organizational structure that operates as a $1.7 billion ATM for liberal groups."

In a statement to Fox News Digital, Patagonia spokesperson Corley Kenna suggested the misidentifications in the FEC filings could be the result of an error made by the recipient political action committees.

"If you review the respective 990s these organizations have filed with the IRS, you will see a list of our political contributions, which are accurate as to the donating organization," Kenna said in an email.

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Meanwhile, the contributions underscore Patagonia's unconventional approach to financially supporting various left-wing environmental and social causes, in addition to Democrat political campaigns.

Two years ago, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard relinquished ownership of the successful clothing company in an effort to guarantee that its profits were spent entirely on mainly climate-related campaigns and initiatives, the New York Times reported last month. To achieve that aim, the company established a web of trusts and limited liability corporations designed to "protect the independence of the clothing company" while distributing its profits through the Holdfast Collective.

The Holdfast Collective — which is registered as a for-profit firm known as Four Seas LLC in Wyoming, according to state business records — manages five nonprofits: the Holdfast Trust, Chalten Trust, Sojourner Trust, Wilder Trust and Tail Wind Trust, all of which are also based in Wyoming. Since September 2022, the groups have funneled more than $71 million to various causes, the New York Times reported.

Tax filings reviewed by Fox News Digital covering the five groups' first six months of operations reveal massive donations to left-wing groups like the Conservation Fund, Rewild, Northeast Wilderness Trust Corporation, Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Center for American Progress Action Fund, Black Voters Matter Fund, the Nature Conservancy, and Southern Environmental Law Center.

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