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espionage

Military contractor Erik Prince reportedly helped fundraise for spy operation to 'gather dirt' on anti-Trump groups

Erik Prince, the founder of the private military firm Blackwater, was approached by former British spy Richard Seddon in the summer of 2018 for help launching a new venture that sent undercover agents "to infiltrate progressive groups, Democratic campaigns and other opponents of [former President Donald Trump]," The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Prince reportedly acted as "celebrity pitchman" to raise money for the operation, which was focused on gathering intel "that could discredit politicians and activists in several states," the Times writes. His role in the effort has not been previously shared. 

Once Seddon and Prince met with Susan Gore — "a Wyoming heiress to the Gore-Tex fortune" — in August 2018, Gore became "the project's main benefactor." During that meeting, Prince and Seddon said the goal of Seddon's venture was to "gather dirt" on Democrats and RINOs, a term for "Republicans in name only," the Times writes, per a source familiar with the conversation. The project would originate in Wyoming, then expand outward.

"Over two years, [Seddon's] undercover operatives also developed networks in Colorado and Arizona, and made thousands of dollars in campaign donations posing as Democrats, both to the Democratic National Committee and individual campaigns," the Times adds.

The revelation as to Prince's role in the undercover effort "sheds further light on how a group of ultraconservative Republicans employed spycraft to try to manipulate the American political landscape," the Times writes. Prince's "willingness to support [Seddon's] operation is fresh evidence of his engagement in political espionage projects at home during a period when he was an informal adviser to Trump administration officials."

Prince's sister is Betsy DeVos, who was the education secretary under Trump.