IN-DEPTH: Left-Leaning Charitable Organizations Finance Voter Registration to Benefit Democrats: Report

Everybody Votes targeted millions of people in 'underrepresented communities' that vote overwhelmingly for Democrats in swing states, the report says.
IN-DEPTH: Left-Leaning Charitable Organizations Finance Voter Registration to Benefit Democrats: Report
A sign for voter registration is pictured on Election Day at the King County Elections office in Renton, Wash., on Nov. 3, 2020. (Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images)
Matt McGregor

A report on a left-leaning nonprofit voter registration campaign exposes an intricate plan to garner votes for Democrat candidates “using truckloads of money from private foundations and public charities.”

Parker Thayer, an investigative researcher at the Capital Research Center (CRC)—a think tank that researches public-policy funding—followed the development of the Everybody Votes plan in his report (pdf), “How Charities Secretly Help Win Elections."

“Nonprofit charitable organizations are forbidden from being partisan and from trying to affect the outcome of elections with their work,” Mr. Thayer told The Epoch Times. “What we show in the report is they were intentionally using voter registration targeted toward demographics that vote overwhelmingly for Democrats and using that as a backdoor into electioneering to help the Democratic Party.”

What Mr. Thayer and other CRC researchers found was that Everybody Votes has become the largest and most partisan voter registration campaign in American history.

“It was requested by Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, designed by Democratic consulting firms, funded with over $190 million from some of the Democratic Party’s biggest supporters, and coordinated with some of the Left’s largest activist networks and for-profit Democratic Party consultants,” the report states.

However, calling the campaign nonpartisan or charitable is a far cry from reality, the report states.

“Somehow, Americans are supposed to accept that it was all above board because the partisans involved used soft-sounding phrases like ‘civic participation’ and ‘underrepresented’ to describe their aims.”

According to the report, Everybody Votes disguised itself as a charity promoting voter engagement by targeting millions whom it described as “underrepresented communities” in swing states.

“The scheme has evolved but remains in action," the report states. “It claims that by 2022 it registered 5.1 million voters. It achieved that with $193 million in donations, largely from private foundations and charities, which are legally prohibited from affecting election outcomes.”

Mr. Thayer and the CRC researchers relied on emails, leaked documents in which key players discussed plans, and 2020 exit polls to determine that the 5.1 million registrations gave President Joe Biden 1 million to 2.7 million votes in eight swing states that were specifically chosen.

“If the Everybody Votes campaign was a political action committee (PAC) or a 501(c)(4) ‘dark money’ group and if the organizers had just admitted they cared more about electoral results than inequality, then there would be no scandal,” the report states. “But it wasn’t, and they didn’t, and the result is an enormous scandal entangling some of the Left’s biggest political donors and many of its most powerful nonprofit activist groups.”

 Gwinnett County election workers handle ballots as part of the recount for the 2020 presidential election at the Beauty P. Baldwin Voter Registrations and Elections Building in Lawrenceville, Ga., on Nov. 16, 2020. (Megan Varner/Getty Images)
Gwinnett County election workers handle ballots as part of the recount for the 2020 presidential election at the Beauty P. Baldwin Voter Registrations and Elections Building in Lawrenceville, Ga., on Nov. 16, 2020. (Megan Varner/Getty Images)

The Plan’s Origin

According to the report, in 2015, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta received an email from Stephanie Schriock, then president of the left-leaning PAC Emily’s List, in which she asked Mr. Podesta if the blueprints contained in the email for Everybody Votes was the program for which he had been hoping.

The plan proposed a five-year program using over $100 million in donations “from interested donors” and private foundations to fund voter registration campaigns in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, and Nevada.

“Above all, it’s clear that ‘Everybody’ in the Everybody Votes plan did not mean ‘everybody,’” the report states. “It meant allegedly ‘underrepresented’—and heavily Democratic—demographics like ‘African Americans, Latinos, unmarried women, and young people.’”

Operating in Secret

Among its supporters was Mind the Gap, a Democrat super PAC led by Stanford University academics that routed millions of dollars to Democrat candidates and groups across the country in the 2018 and 2020 cycles, Vox reported.

One of Mind the Gap’s leaders, Stanford law professor Barbara Fried, is the mother of Sam Bankman-Fried, whose failed cryptocurrency exchange company led to his arrest and several criminal charges such as money laundering and wire fraud.

According to a leaked strategy memo, Mind the Gap advised its donors to keep their contributions to Everybody Votes a secret due to the “magnitude of our efforts, the details of targeting, and the names of the organizations we are recommending.”

Mind the Gap said in the memo that information would have caused Republicans to “ramp up voter suppression efforts and other tactics at their disposal.”

Violation of Internal Revenue Code

The report focuses on the 501(c)(3) classification of a nonprofit. Donors to 501(c)(3)s receive tax deductions for contributions because of the charitable and educational work of the beneficiary.
The Internal Revenue Code for the "Restriction of Political Campaign Intervention by Section 501(c)(3) Tax Exempt Organizations" prohibits organizations under that classification from “directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”

“Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity,” the Internal Revenue Code states.

Though they are permitted to engage in nonpartisan voter registration campaigns “if neither the drive’s intent nor its effect helps a particular party or candidate,” the nonprofits have nonetheless used “sophisticated voter databases and Democrat-aligned microtargeting firms” to zero in on demographics and states with a Democrat voting history, the CRC report says.

“Over the years, registering people in demographics and localities more likely to vote for Democrats has developed into its own multi-hundred-million-dollar industry,” the report states. “These ‘nonpartisan’ voter registration tactics have also allowed the Left to quietly access billions of dollars stashed in private foundations, which were once kept at arm’s length from politics by tax laws and IRS rules but are now effectively partisan megadonors as powerful as, say, Michael Bloomberg and George Soros.”

 Volunteer Justin Clark (R) guides American citizen Glory Nix through the online voter registration process at a registration drive by the nonpartisan group in Berlin on Sept. 1, 2020. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Volunteer Justin Clark (R) guides American citizen Glory Nix through the online voter registration process at a registration drive by the nonpartisan group in Berlin on Sept. 1, 2020. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The Voter Registration Project

The Everybody Votes campaign operates as a 501(c)(3) under the title of the Voter Registration Project (VRP), which evolved from the Obama-era Project Vote.

Project Vote was affiliated with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, also known as ACORN, an organization that disbanded in 2010 after voter fraud accusations, the report states.

“Since 2016, the Voter Registration Project has been extremely secretive, staying completely out of the public eye,” the report states. “Until recently, it had no website, and it has never spoken to the press or been covered in detail by any news organization.”

Among its progressive donors are the George Soros-endowed Foundation to Promote Open Society, which gave VRP $10.4 million, while Warren Buffett’s Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation gave VRP over $5 million.

According to the report, VRP's work went unnoticed from 2016 to 2020 but has since ramped up its registration efforts and moved more into the limelight.

“To do all this registration, tax records show that VRP and its sister groups have distributed $127 million in grants from 2016 through 2021 to more than 80 different state and national left-leaning activist organizing groups,” the report states. “These grants paid for an unprecedented scale of ‘non-partisan’ voter registration work, with roughly $56 million paid out during 2020 alone.”

The report states that there's "no conservative equivalent" for this level of electioneering.

"At most, a handful of scattered conservative charities spend a fraction of their budget on voter registration or get-out-the-vote efforts, but they don't attempt anything resembling the sophisticated, centrally controlled, nine-figure-funded, high-tech operations of the VRP network, nor do the largest conservative foundations fund such work," the report states. "The 'charitable' voter registration racket, unlike most types of money in politics, exists on only one side of the aisle."

‘Enormous Impact’

The Everybody Votes plan initially discussed in Mr. Podesta’s email in 2015 had been carried out, but how effectively?

“The campaign generated over a million votes for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign in eight targeted swing states with tremendous sway over the balance of the Electoral College,” Mr. Thayer said. “The goal of the program was to change the shape of the American electorate in order to make it more favorable to the Democratic Party, so it had an enormous impact.”

Today, Everybody Votes is more public and has its own website which boasts registering 5.1 million people, 76 percent of which are nonwhite voters, 56 percent being women, and 47 percent being under the age of 35.

“It’s incredible that they’re keeping such careful count of this,” Mr. Thayer said.

According to the report, Everybody Votes is already organizing for the 2024 campaign by putting out job listings for training in Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin.

“They got away with it in 2020,” Mr. Thayer said. “They realized that the IRS and the [Federal Elections Commission] are going to do nothing to stop them, so they’ve increased their operations.”

‘Fuzzy Legal Rules’

These foundations and charities will continue to find loopholes in the “fuzzy legal rules” until the IRS directly prohibits them from financing voter registration drives that flood the Democrats with votes, Mr. Thayer said.

“The charitable voter registration industry needs to be afraid of the IRS and the FEC again,” he said. “They’ve been allowed to get away with blatant partisanship and that should be enforced.”

Mr. Thayer suggested prohibiting 501(c)(3)s altogether from engaging in voter registration activities.

“It’s simply not a function that needs tax incentives,” he said. “Politicians already have more than enough reason to make sure their voters are registered. We don’t need to be giving billionaires tax write-offs for what are glorified political contributions.”

The Epoch Times contacted Project Vote for comment.

Big Money on Both Sides

Democracy in America—an organizations advocating for the abolishment of big-money campaign donors in politics—argued that both the Democrat and Republican parties “make all kinds of end runs” around the tax code and campaign finance laws.

Mr. McMillan largely focuses on 501(c)(4) nonprofits, or social welfare organizations that have frequently been identified as sources for dark money.

“They don’t have to report to their donors as long as less than 50 percent of their activity is political, but the definition of political is infinitely elastic and really not enforced,” he told The Epoch Times. “The campaign finance laws are increasingly not enforced and altogether, the campaign finance laws are so loose that there’s an enormous amount of dark money coming in—money that we don’t know what the source of is.”

Both Republican and Democrat parties have become brazen in flaunting the tax code and the campaign finance laws to the degree that money is flooding the political system in a torrent, he said.

“We don’t even know what the sources are,” Mr. McMillan said. “It has really become a complete free for all and I think it reflects a culture of entitlement among politicians and operatives in both parties.”