Democrats are using tax-exempt and allegedly nonpartisan nonprofits to conduct voter registration campaigns targeting likely-Democrat voters in key battleground states.
Anew report reveals how the left has been actively weaponizing nonprofit organizations, which are legally required to function as non-partisan, to conduct explicitly partisan voter registration campaigns to help Democrats win elections.
Released by Restoration of America, the two–part report unveils how Democrats employ tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofits to administer voter registration campaigns targeting likely-Democrat voters in key battleground states and districts. Notably, federal law expressly prohibits partisan voter registration through nonprofits: “voter education or registration activities conducted in a biased manner that favors [sic] (or opposes [sic]) one or more candidates is prohibited.”
According to the report, some of the most notable groups engaged in such efforts are the Voter Participation Center (VPC) and Center for Voter Information (CVI), a pair of D.C.-based nonprofit organizations founded by Page Gardner. Gardner, who “registered voters for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential primary campaign,” is often given credit for “discovering the ‘marriage gap’ … a statistical revelation showing that unmarried women were less likely to be registered or turn out than married women but were more likely to support Democrats,” the report says.
Figures cited in the report estimate VPC and CVI sent out approximately 85.5 million mailers in 32 states in the months leading up to the 2022 midterms. In October alone, VPC mailed get-out-the-vote materials to an estimated 52.8 million homes, with battleground states such as Georgia and Pennsylvania among those the report estimates were “hit hardest.”
The group’s efforts were also noticeable in the 2020 election, in which VPC’s registration-by-mail campaign purportedly netted an additional 272,443 votes. Most of them (214,000) came from the election-crucial states of Ohio, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona, Texas, and Pennsylvania.
“VPC and CVI were created to identify and register likely Democrats, cleverly using statistics to predict how individuals vote and microtargeting techniques to discover where they live. Using demographic data is the sharpest way to register certain voters without explicitly violating the IRS ban on biased registration drives,” the report reads.
While speaking with Restoration of America, Thomas More Society election lawyer Erick Kaardal noted the uphill battle election integrity groups face when litigating against such efforts.
“The challenge is to have state courts hold that 501(c)(3) funds can’t be used for voter registration of targeted progressive demographic groups,” he told report author Hayden Ludwig. That often includes “urban residents or students.”
“The Internal Revenue Service has stated such funds can’t be used directly or indirectly for biased voter registration. But there is no authorization for suing in federal courts. So, the only remaining choice is taxpayer standing lawsuits in state courts—which is good enough,” Kaardal said. “But eventually the U.S. Supreme Court will have to rule whether urban cities and public universities can lawfully use 501(c)(3) funds for the political purpose identified: voter registration campaigns targeted to progressive voters.”
Where are groups like VPC and CVI getting the funds to run this massive operation?
According to Restoration of America, Democrat super PACs such as Mind the Gap, which was founded by Barbara Fried — the mother of disgraced former FTX CEO and Democrat mega-donor Sam Bankman-Fried — are encouraging wealthy leftist donors to give their money to nonprofits focused on voter registration (such as VPC and CVI) instead of “campaign committees.”
In a 2019 memo, Mind the Gap claimed this strategy, if focused on Democrat-leaning so-called “underrepresented groups,” could be “2 to 5 times more cost-effective at netting additional Democratic votes than the tactics that campaigns will invest in (chiefly, broadcast media and digital buys).” In other words, Democrat PACs are telling donors to spend on “nonpartisan” 501(c)(3) groups specifically in order to boost Democrats’ electoral prospects.
In her 2021 bestselling book, “Rigged: How the Media, Big Tech, and the Democrats Seized Our Elections,” Federalist Editor-in-Chief Mollie Hemingway documented how Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg used nonprofits to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars into local election offices in battleground states. These efforts largely boosted Democrat turnout in the 2020 election.
Whether it’s skirting federal law or injecting partisan money into election offices, Democrats will stop at nothing in their bid to rig elections in their favor. That means it’s incumbent upon Republicans to wake up and completely revamp their game plan for winning elections, including by exposing and prosecuting violations of election laws.
Shawn Fleetwood is a Staff Writer for The Federalist and a graduate of the University of Mary Washington. He also serves as a state content writer for Convention of States Action and his work has been featured in numerous outlets, including RealClearPolitics, RealClearHealth, and Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnFleetwood