Democrats used a nonprofit to engage in a partisan, multi-state campaign to flip states blue during the 2020 election, including Arizona, and plan to do so again in 2024.
Details of the effort — the Everybody Votes campaign by the Voter Registration Project (VRP) — were revealed in a new report by the Capital Research Center. According to a leaked secret draft plan, the campaign funded voter registration drives in eight swing states — Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, and Nevada — over five years beginning in 2016, seeking to register more non-white and other “underrepresented” (unmarried women, young) voters to bring registration parity to white voters.
John Podesta commissioned Everybody Votes while serving as Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign chairman. Podesta, a key player in Russiagate, formerly served as the Clinton White House Chief of Staff and counselor to President Obama; he co-founded and presided over Center for American Progress.
Everybody Votes succeeded in raising $190 million and registering 5.1 million people by 2022, which turned out around 1-2.7 million votes across the eight swing states for President Joe Biden in 2020. The Capital Research Center report estimated that the campaign generated over 198,600 votes in the 2020 election. Biden won in 2020 by over 10,400 votes.
“[T]he Everybody Votes campaign was blatantly partisan, developed by Democratic consultants and pushed by Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager,” stated the report.
Everybody Votes received its millions from progressive billionaires. Barbara Fried — mother of Sam Bankman-Fried, the corrupt cryptocurrency giant under investigation for fraud — co-wrote a 2020 memo for her super PAC led by fellow Stanford Law professors, Mind the Gap, advising donors to give 90 percent of their political cash to three nonprofits engaged in voter registration campaigns “most effective” for getting “additional Democratic votes,” naming Everybody Votes as one of them. Donors receive tax deductions for their contributions.
As AZ Free News reported last November, Bankman-Fried gave $27 million to a Phoenix-based PAC to turn out for Democratic candidates. The PAC’s treasurer, Dacey Montoya, is a key figure in many Democratic dark money network organizations, and received over $1 million from committees for Gov. Katie Hobbs and Sen. Mark Kelly.
Among the billionaires to donate to VRP were Warren Buffet ($5 million), George Soros ($10.4 million), Chuck Feeney ($2 million), the foundation of the deceased Wallace Coulter ($5 million), Barbara Picower ($4 million), Jeffrey Skoll ($1 million), and Pierre Omidyar ($500,000). Prominent dark money groups Proteus Fund, New Venture Fund, Hopewell Fund, Tides Foundation, ImpactAssets, and Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund accounted for around $453 million in funds to VRP.
Arizona organizations tied into the dark money network benefited over $19.16 million from VRP: $7.46 million to Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, $1.73 million for Mi Familia Vota, $5.43 million to One Arizona, $1.82 million for Central Arizonans for a Sustainable Economy (CASE), $1.73 million for Arizona Center for Empowerment, $941,000 for Arizona Coalition for Change, and $51,900 for Rural Arizona Engagement.
Everybody Votes appears to have originated in early 2015 from a plan emailed to Podesta by the Wyss Foundation, a leftist nonprofit with a history of illegal election interference. That plan originated from Bill Roberts, board member of leftist dark money group League of Conservation Voters, within Corridor Partners, a Democratic consulting firm. In November 2015, Podesta received a copy of a similar, retitled plan originating from Robert Richman, CEO of the Democratic campaign strategy group Grassroots Solutions. VRP and Grassroots Solutions shared a D.C. address from 2016 to 2018 according to tax filings, with VRP continuing to pay consulting fees to Grassroots Solutions.
VRP picked up the Everybody Votes campaign. Formerly known as “Voting For America,” VRP was an outgrowth of Obama’s Project Vote. Project Vote was an affiliate of ACORN: the bankrupted activist network guilty of violating election laws repeatedly.
Despite having an outsized impact on the 2020 election, it wasn’t until last year that VRP publicized the Everybody Votes campaign.
VRP plans to use the Everybody Votes campaign plan again for 2024, with hiring targeted in Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin in addition to Arizona.
The IRS prohibits 501(c)(3) nonprofits from engaging in partisan activity, especially that which influences election outcomes. AZ Free News documented in February how leftist nonprofits in Arizona manipulate the tax code to do just that.
Benjamin Franklin once famously said, “[I]n this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes” — true, unless you’re a leftist political nonprofit. For many of them, taxation isn’t certain, even if they run afoul of tax-exempt status requirements.
Funding sources, expenditure recipients, and even those operating these nonprofits may remain secretive under the current state of lax federal enforcement. These tax-free and opacity perks are possible through two interrelated federal tax classifications: 501(c)(3), or “C3,” and 501(c)(4), or “C4.” There are over 27,000 C3s and just over 1,200C4s registered in Arizona. The big difference between the two classifications is that donations to IRS-recognized C3 organizations are deductible under our income tax code. And the Left has learned how to exploit this tax status for their political benefit.
In Arizona, many liberal C3 and C4 nonprofits work in tandem, each executing symbiotic duties while coordinating their activities and sharing data and resources. Sometimes, these C3 and C4 duos are “sister” organizations — meaning, they’re affiliated rather than independent entities allied over common goals.
These arrangements are legal so long as clear distinctions are made between charitable and non-charitable activities. Over the last several months, AZ Free News has conducted an extensive review of over a dozen different liberal nonprofits in the state, examining their websites, tax documents, and social media accounts. Our research has found that many of these organizations have blurred the lines on their political activities via various C3 and C4 groups. In some cases, there appeared to be no distinction at all, with some C3 organizations providing completely different accounts of their tax-deductible program activities to the IRS compared to what they shared publicly.
How the IRS Intended for C3 and C4 Organizations to Operate
C3s have two major qualifiers: they’re supposed to be nonpartisan and apolitical—meaning, they can’t expend funds or use resources to coordinate with political activity being conducted by C4s.
C3s must organize and operate exclusively for purposes that are one or more of the following: charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition, and preventing cruelty to children or animals.
The IRS defines “charitable” as relief of the poor, the distressed, or the underprivileged; advancement of religion; advancement of education or science; erecting or maintaining public buildings, monuments, or works; lessening the burdens of government; lessening neighborhood tensions; eliminating prejudice and discrimination; defending human and civil rights; and combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency.
The IRS expressly prohibits C3s from being an “action organization”: those engaging in political or legislative activities. Political activities include the direct or indirect participation or intervention in any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any political candidate. The IRS also prohibits political campaign fund contributions or public statements of positions, either verbal or written, on behalf of the organization in favor of or opposing any candidate.
The IRS does condone voter education activities, such as get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts like voter registration. However, any evidence of political bias is forbidden: favoritism of a candidate, opposing a candidate in any way, or “hav[ing] the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates.” Lobbying is also largely forbidden.
Comparatively, the IRS classifies C4 organizations into one of two categories: social welfare organizations or local association of employees. The former concerns civic leagues or organizations organized exclusively for social welfare promotion, not profit. The IRS clarifies that social welfare promotion doesn’t include direct or indirect participation or intervention in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate. Those that do must not render that activity as their primary activity, and risk being subjected to taxation. The latter concerns membership-based organizations with net earnings devoted exclusively to charitable, educational, or recreational purposes.
How Leftist C3 and C4s Operate in Arizona
Our review of leftist C3s in Arizona appears to indicate that their activities are overtly partisan and political. They coordinate with politically active C4s to achieve shared, partisan goals, and receive political action committee (PAC) funding while doing so. Often, these leftist C4s have either direct or indirect participation or intervention in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to one or more candidates.
Progressive activists leading these C3s have effectively mastered the art of exploiting the IRS code for partisan advantage, helping to maximize liberal donor partisan impact with their dollars while still hiding their identity. The C3s will claim that their allowable vote (GOTV) efforts, such as voter registration, are nonpartisan. They will claim they’re reaching out to certain, “marginalized” demographic groups; however, these groups turn out to be known Democratic voter bases.
One example of this is Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, the C3 sister organization of Mi Familia Vota, the C4. The former admitted on their 2020 tax filing to coordinating political activity with the latter. The executive director of Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, Hector Sanchez Barba, has publicly advocated for the losses of Republican candidates.
“We will keep working to keep extremism, Trump and MAGA out of our democracy,” wrote Sanchez Barba. “@MiFamiliaVota.”
Sanchez Barba also celebrated the nonprofits’ efforts in assisting Gov. Katie Hobbs’ victory over Republican challenger Kari Lake.
“More voters saying no to MAGA candidates, congratulations @katiehobbs #LatinoVote @MiFamiliaVota #Arizona,” tweeted Sanchez Barba.
In response to a Politico article documenting the GOP’s underperformance in last year’s midterm elections, Sanchez Barba thanked Latino voters for having Democrats win.
“Gracia #LatinoVote,” wrote Sanchez Barba.
Meanwhile, their partner C4s pay for media and partisan activities like ad campaigns for candidates. It’s uncertain whether the funding for these activities comes from their C3 partners since those grant or cost-sharing agreements aren’t public. The IRS requires that C3 funds given to C4s be restricted to charitable uses — not electioneering activity.
The C3-C4 duo targets certain voter demographics to achieve a partisan outcome. They contact Democrat-leaning voters to get their vote cast, convince newly registered voters to vote Democratic through mailers and ads supportive of Democratic candidates and causes, and publicly support certain partisan ballot initiatives.
The C3-C4 sister organizations thinly veil their efforts that a division exists between them. For example, Mi Familia Vota spent tens of thousands on TV advertising that advocated for the election of Reginald Bolding ahead of last year’s primary. However, they listed a staffer for their C3 sister organization, Mi Familia Vota Education, as the point-of-contact on that campaign filing.
As AZ Free News reported in Part One of this series, Mi Familia Vota receives funding from One Arizona, a C3, which in turn receives its funding from the Tides Foundation, George Soros’ Open Societies Foundation, and several different organizations under Arabella Advisors.
Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA), a C4, also spent thousands for Democratic candidates in the final weeks of last year’s midterm election.
LUCHA also receives funding from One Arizona.
Ahead of the midterm election last June, One Arizona advertised a job opening for an independent expenditure (IE) campaign manager. The position appears to be one for a political staffer, which would constitute prohibited electioneering.
Leftist C3s also hire for both the C3 and C4, resulting in shared jobs and salaries. One Arizona (C3) and Arizona Wins (C4) co-hired staff including a field director, field program coordinator, and finance and compliance director. That shared salary should not be used for political work. One recent example of this was a job listing by Arizona Coalition for Change (C3) and Our Voice Our Vote (C4) for a data manager that would work within the duo’s political and grassroots lobbying arms.
These blurred lines surrounding co-hires don’t just apply to staff. Arizona Center for Empowerment (ACE, a C3) and LUCHA (C4) share an executive director, Alejandra (Alex) Gomez, as well as staffers. This relationship is further complicated by the fact that ACE listed LUCHA as its “Employer of Record” on their latest tax return. Under Gomez, both organizations have expressed their partisanship.
Last year, LUCHA launched an initiative to get Democratic candidates elected: “LUCHA Blue.” The nonprofit pledged to prioritize certain races and voter bases in its GOTV efforts. On its hiring page for the initiative, LUCHA disclosed that it would staff between 70 and 105 people.
“We believe that not all candidates align with the mission of LUCHA, and this is why we created a campaign not only to flip Arizona Blue — but LUCHA Blue!” stated LUCHA. “Overall, the goal of the campaign is to win these targeted races, increase Latin/Hispanic voter turnout, and educate voters on the voting process.” (emphasis added)
In one post following Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) winning re-election last November, LUCHA appeared to affirm that both it and ACE assisted in organizational efforts to assure Kelly’s victory.
Wealthy dark money donors have a greater financial incentive to back C3s. 75 percent of their donations can go to politics and qualify as tax deductible — effectively maximizing their gift-giving while affording them a tax break. C4 donations aren’t tax deductible.
The IRS has long been aware of the disparity between the lawful intent for C3 and C4 entities, and the current reality of C3-C4 relationships. As ProPublica revealed in 2019, the IRS essentially gave up on holding nonprofits accountable.
The following are some of Arizona’s liberal C3-C4 nonprofit duos: One Arizona and Arizona Wins, Arizona Center for Empowerment and Living United for Change in Arizona, Mi Familia Vota Education Fund and Mi Familia Vota Victory, Chispa AZ/League of Conservation Voters Education Fund and League of Conservation Voters, Arizona Coalition for Change and Our Voice Our Vote, Instituto Lab and Instituto Power, Rural Arizona Engagement and Rural Arizona Action, and Voto Latino Foundation and Voto Latino.
The relationships between these nonprofits and the awareness of their straining tax law will be further explained in the next installment of this series.
This is Part Two in a series on the Left’s secret infrastructure to turn Arizona blue. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to be notified of Part Three in the series.
There’s a powerful, secretive infrastructure gunning to flip Arizona blue. Its elements appear disparate, coincidental at best. In truth, each element has a specific role to play: some transient with the fervor and impact of an October surprise, others established with the consistency and familiarity that eludes scrutiny. It is the seeming disconnection of these elements that makes the left’s secretive infrastructure that much more powerful.
The principal source of power is money, and though the left often complains about dark money, they are its principal cultivator by far. Despite this fact, they’re very much in favor of a purported solution to dark money on the November ballot: the Voters Right to Know Act, or Proposition 211. Upon closer examination, the rationale for their support is clear: this proposition comes with neat carve outs ensuring that leftist dark money critical to their Arizona infrastructure remains untouched — namely from corporate media, Big Tech, most labor unions, and “nonpartisan” political action committees. If the proposition is successful, it will enable leftist actors to continue building onto their secretive infrastructure to gain a greater hold of Arizona politics.
If money is the lifeblood, then the body of the left’s secret infrastructure exists in the coordination of 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) nonprofits (C3 and C4, respectively), pop-up groups run by nonexistent people and entities that only exist for a few weeks around elections, mystery shell campaigns acting behind a veil on behalf of the Democratic Party and leftist organizations, and political action committees (PACs) dressing up their activity as grassroots work.
Dark money describes a shuffling of funds that intentionally obscures its origins and, ultimately, shapes its targeted political landscape to its liking. This shuffling is accomplished through networks of nonprofits, national organizations backed by a powerful few whose resources eventually shuffle down to more localized organizations.
As you read this article, more discernible traces of this leftist infrastructure are busy at work all around you. In the coming weeks, you will likely notice their fingerprints in campaign ads from groups with unfamiliar, novel names online, on the radio, on TV, and in your mail.
Some of those ads will originate from the Future Forward (FF) PAC, a D.C.-based organization funded initially by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and a favorite of Silicon Valley Democrats. According to a trigger report, they paid nearly $246,500 collectively in recent weeks for ad campaigns opposing three of former President Donald Trump’s endorsed candidates: Mark Finchem for secretary of state, Kari Lake for governor, and Abraham Hamadeh for attorney general. Their ad buys were estimated to be a little over $82,100 per candidate.
Since nonprofits aren’t legally obligated to disclose their donors, even for election expenditures, they may trade funds back and forth in the dark at will. Effectively, the leftist infrastructure “washes” the money before it reaches its final destination — they’re arguably the best at it.
The leftist infrastructure far outspends the right. For example, in the 2020 Arizona Corporation Commission race, the left backing Democrats had around $10.2 million in outside spending versus Republicans’ $156,000.
A vast majority of this “washed” money traces back to a few with deep pockets: the Arabella Advisors (Washington, D.C.), the Tides Foundation (San Francisco, California), and George Soros (Katonah, New York). Each boasts revenues and expenditures in the billions annually.
Arabella Advisors issues funds through five distinct nonprofits: the Hopewell Fund, the Sixteen Thirty Fund, the New Venture Fund, the North Fund, and the Windward Fund. In the 2020 election, Arabella Advisors’ nonprofits funneled vast amounts of money into Arizona. The company has nearly $10 billion at its disposal. Their current president and CEO is Rick Cruz.
Arabella Advisors launched in 2005 under Eric Kessler: a self-described “serial entrepreneur” whose career began elsewhere within the left’s network, working as a national field director for the League of Conservation Voters (LCV). When the LCV executive director at the time, Bruce Babbitt (also former Arizona attorney general and then governor), moved up in the political world with the election of President Bill Clinton, Kessler got a boost, too. He became an Interior Department appointee under Babbitt. Once the Clinton administration ended, Babbitt joined former secretary of state Madeleine Albright’s National Democratic Institute (NDI), and shortly after, he launched Arabella Advisors. He remains a senior managing partner for the organization.
The Tides Foundation is one of many nonprofits within a larger network underneath the Tides Network, which is part of the Tides Nexus. It’s similar to another nonprofit within the network, Tides Advocacy (formerly the Tides Advocacy Fund, the Advocacy Fund, and the Tsunami Fund). The Tides Foundation is chaired currently by Roslyn Dawson Thompson, the former president and CEO of Texas Women’s Foundation (formerly Dallas Women’s Foundation), another left-wing nonprofit.
The Tides Foundation began in 1976 with Drummond Pike, a liberal political activist allied with Wade Rathke, who founded the defunct advocacy group esteemed by Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). The organization received initial financial backing from Reynolds tobacco heiress Jane Lehman, who chaired the organization until her death in 1988.
Finally, George Soros is considered a principal financial backer for a wide array of Democratic Party efforts. Soros channels funds to various Arizona PACs and organizations through his Open Society Foundations (OSF). He also channeled funds through his Democracy PAC, which funneled over $1 million at least into Arizona for the 2020 election to Not Our Faith, Arizona Wins, and ProgressNow Arizona, respectively. The Democracy PAC gave $100,000 last year to Way to Lead PAC, chaired by Dacey Montoya. Montoya, also former chair of the now-inactive Not Our Faith, also owns the Money Wheel: a consulting firm that Democratic candidates and groups have paid hundreds of thousands into since 2018.
The C3-C4 Relationship
Leftist C3 and C4 nonprofits have a unique codependency in Arizona. While both receive tax-exempt income, C4s may engage in political activities like lobbying and campaigning while C3s generally may not.
Since C4s may engage in election activities, politically driven C3s fund C4s. However, those C3s don’t stop there. They ensure that their funds are spent properly by coordinating through grassroots lobbying. In contrast to direct lobbying, grassroots lobbying mobilizes the public on political issues.
In Arizona, major politically driven C3s include AZ Wins, One Arizona, ProgressNow AZ, and Save Our Schools Arizona (SOSAZ) Network.
One Arizona exemplifies the C3 to C4 relationship. This C3 nonprofit is a coalition of leftist groups, among which is Mi Familia Vota, a C4. One Arizona routes funds to Mi Familia Vota and coordinates grassroots lobbying efforts. Their biggest funders include the Tides Foundation, George Soros’ Open Societies Foundation, and several different organizations under Arabella Advisors.
C3 resources and support put the wind in C4 sails. In 2020, it was Mi Familia Vota that successfully sued to extend the voter registration deadline another 18 days — just 11 days before the Election Day.
The Pop-Up Groups
Another integral component of the left’s secretive infrastructure exists within various “pop-up groups.” These are political groups that appear shortly before an election and become inactive after the election ends, made up to appear like an authentic group of concerned citizens and not political activists working on behalf of a party.
Oftentimes, the identifying information given by these pop-up groups upon registration is untraceable: faulty or fake phone numbers, addresses, and personnel. Yet somehow, even with their tight deadline and obscurity, these pop-up groups manage to have enough voter contacts and resources for mass outreach efforts.
This year, a pop-up PAC by the name of “Defend Arizona Rights” registered in late June. As of this report, nearly all of their income — which came from Damon Ely, a Democratic state representative and attorney from New Mexico — went toward a website to oppose Proposition 309 (SCR1012), the ballot measure to require voter ID.
A prominent example of a pop-up group from 2020 was “Arizonans for Energy Independence,” which focused on the Arizona Corporation Commission race. They registered with the secretary of state about two weeks before the election. Their listed phone number led to an alarm business, their address was a shipping service location, and the only listed officer appears to be a ghost. Those who signed petitions from NextGen America received text from Arizonans for Energy Independence in late October.
NextGen America (formerly NextGen Climate) is one of multiple major leftist C4s that bankrolls the leftist infrastructure.
The Shell Campaigns
Much like pop-up groups, leftist shell campaigns are driven and largely funded by a political party. Unlike pop-up groups, however, these shell campaigns last for the entire election year and usually hire several identifiable staffers. Markers of a shell campaign include political attack-dog websites, ad campaigns, and artificial demonstrations staffed by professional activists staged to look spontaneous.
One example of a shell campaign from 2020 was Arizona Families First — not to be confused with Arizona Families F.I.R.S.T., an Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS) program for parental substance abuse.
The Arizona Families First PAC was live for all of 2020, then went inactive after the election. The Arizona Democratic Party was the primary bankroller, pouring $1.7 million total into the PAC; the party launched the PAC with $45,000 contributions from February to March of 2020.
The PAC spent close to $2 million altogether on outreach: over $1 million on mailers, $916,900 on digital ads, $25,000 on radio ads, and $10,800 on its website. It also spent nearly $21,000 on legal services from Coppersmith Brockelman — a go-to law firm for Democrats, from which the newly appointed Biden nominee for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Roopali Desai, hailed. The director of Arizona Families First, Ramon Alvarez, earned over $70,400.
With the 2020 election concluded and their work done, the PAC refunded their remaining $15,400 back into the Arizona Democratic Party last February.
Other major funders of the Arizona Families First PAC included tens of thousands respectively from the National Institute for Reproductive Health Action Fund, Healthcare Rising AZ, Working for Working Americans Non-Federal Arizona PAC, 314 Action Victory Fund, and Trilogy Interactive.
Several corporations gave thousands to the PAC: Zillow, Pepsi, Intuit, and Sanofi. Additionally, the PAC received a smaller donation from one of the prominent families contributing to the state’s leftist infrastructure: Abby Rockefeller.
An example of a shell campaign from this year was Arizonans for Free and Fair Elections PAC. They launched last December with the purpose of getting their eponymous initiative on the ballot, which aimed to roll back voter ID, allow same-day registration, allow outside money into elections offices, and thwart challenges to future ballot initiatives and election results. AZ Free News issued a detailed report in July on the leftist infrastructure funding behind this shell campaign.
According to the secretary of state’s campaign finance reporting site, the last expenditure for that shell campaign was $50,000 to the Barton Mendez Soto law firm last November — a month before the PAC registered with the secretary of state.
The Left’s Use of Arizona-Based PACs to Shuffle Money
There are over 900 PACs listed as active through the Arizona Secretary of State. Of these, a handful serve as consistent conduits for the leftist infrastructure’s funds under the title of grassroots work. These include One Arizona/Arizona Wins, Mi Familia Vota, Arizona Advocacy Network, ProgressNow AZ, Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA), Opportunity Arizona, Mijente, PODER in Action, Forward Majority Action Arizona, Way to Lead Arizona (Way to Lead PAC), and Future Now Arizona.
None of them broke the secretary of state’s campaign finance top ten for major income and expenditures this year. There are others who made that list: those who have raised and spent mass amounts of funds in a short window of time this year. They may be classified as shell PACs integral to the leftist infrastructure since they assume a local identity while receiving and distributing funds from out-of-state Democratic billionaires and the three primary financiers of Democratic money (Arabella Advisors, Tides Foundation, and George Soros).
According to the secretary of state’s campaign finance portal, these are the PACs with the top 10 incomes this year:
$8.2 million, The PAC for America’s Future – AZ
$7.6 million, Arizonans for Free and Fair Elections (review previous section for details)
$3.5 million, Arizonans Fed up with Failing Healthcare, or Healthcare Rising AZ
$2.2 million, Put Arizona First
$2 million, Worker Power PAC
$1.4 million, Our Voice Our Vote Arizona PAC
$1.3 million, DLCC Victory Fund
$775k, ActBlue Arizona
$737k, Arizona Pipe Trades 469
$665k, United Food & Commercial Workers Union of AZ Local 99
And these are the PACs with the top 10 expenses this year:
$5.2 million, Republican Governors Association (RGA) Arizona PAC
$3.4 million, Arizonans Fed Up with Failing Healthcare (Healthcare Rising AZ)
$3.3 million, The PAC for America’s Future – AZ
$2.2 million, Put Arizona First
$1.5 million, Republican Attorney Generals Association (RAGA) Arizona for Freedom PAC
$1.3 million, Arizonans for a Just Democracy
$885k, Planned Parenthood Votes
$817k, Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters Legislative Improvement Committee
$800k, National Rifle Association (NRA) Political Victory Fund
$786k, Arizona Pipe Trades #469
Of all these PACs, a prime example of the left’s money “washing” that’s also most cryptic in its origins and nature would be Arizonans for a Just Democracy. The PAC launched last July, with a mailing address located at the same UPS store in Phoenix as ProgressNow Arizona and Arizona Wins. Their website hasn’t been updated since their launch.
Arizonans for a Just Democracy only has four donors listed, of which three are: Merle Chambers, millionaire Democratic funder; the Arabella Advisors’ Sixteen Thirty Fund, and a ghost of a PAC called “The Future We Want.” That last PAC also has a mailing address at the same UPS store; its chair is Juliana Horwin, a former educator with the Arizona Education Association (AEA).
According to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), a similarly named Super PAC was active from 2018 to 2019 and its sole financier totaling $547,000 was a Phoenix-based PAC called “Citizens for Accountable Government” (yet somehow it spent over $716,000). Citizens for Accountable Government’s mailing address is also located at the same UPS store and shares the same treasurer as The Future We Want, Isis Gil of the Puente Human Rights Movement. Citizens for Accountable Government’s chair is Chris Love: the former Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona (PPAZ) chair. Their primary funds come from either The Future We Want or Arizona Wins.
Arizonans for a Just Democracy’s chair, Grecia Lima, is the national political director for Community Change (also known as Center for Community Change) and its advocacy arm, Community Change Action. Community Change receives mass funding from the Democratic network: Democracy Alliance, AFL-CIO, Planned Parenthood. The PAC’s treasurer is Sarah Michelsen: the senior campaign strategist for the ACLU, and as of June 2021 the owner of “Michelsen Strategies,” a Phoenix-based campaigning firm. From the moment Michelsen launched her firm until present, she’s raked in at least $18,300 from the Arizonans for a Just Democracy PAC.
Michelsen has worked with the Center for Progressive Leadership, Arizona Wins, NARAL Pro-Choice Arizona, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, and Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.
Then there’s PAC for America’s Future – AZ. Of their $8.2 million in income this year, not even half of a percent came from Arizonans ($16,800, composed of many individual donations ranging from $25 to $1,000). The vast majority of the PAC’s major funding came from Democrat billionaires. This PAC plays an integral role in ensuring Arizona’s leftist infrastructure is relied upon both locally and nationally — it passes along funds to PACs, organizations, and committees across other states. Only $106,000 went to Arizona candidates, all Democrats; $260,000 went to the Arizona Democratic Party. That’s four percent of their income this year.
As AZ Free News reported in August, about half of Healthcare Rising AZ’s funds came from the California union, SEIU United Healthcare Workers. Its main expenses were for signature-gathering efforts for its Predatory Debt Collection Act, a ballot initiative to thwart debt collection efforts.
The RGA Arizona PAC receives its funds from its national affiliate, the Republican Governors Association, and all of its expenditures went toward ad campaigns against Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs.
RAGA Arizona for Freedom has spent nearly equal amounts of over $700,000 each on ad campaigns to support Republican attorney general candidate Abraham Hamadeh and oppose Democratic attorney general candidate Kris Mayes.
Likewise, the NRA Political Victory Fund spent nearly equal amounts of over $400,000 each on ad campaigns to support Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and oppose Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs.
This is Part One in a series on the Democratic dark money network in Arizona. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to be notified of Part Two in the series.
One of the kingpins of Democratic dark money, 91-year-old George Soros (92 on Friday), lingers still behind the scenes of Arizona’s elections. His millions, traceable effectively wherever a Democratic candidate arises, may define the upcoming Maricopa County Attorney election. One of Soros’ main objectives is to grow his network of progressive prosecutors.
Soros made his mark in Arizona known through the 2016 elections. He was the primary financier of the Maricopa Strong PAC, spending over $2.3 million to defeat Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (a success). Soros was also the primary financier of the Arizona Safety and Justice PAC, spending $1 million in the Maricopa County attorney’s race to defeat then-incumbent Bill Montgomery (a failure).
After 2016, Soros’ personal spending in criminal justice-related races appeared to cease entirely. The contentious 2020 election came and went without word of Soros’ millions flooding county races. Yet, Soros assured the country in an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal last month that he remains committed to his goal of establishing liberal, reform-oriented prosecutors nationwide.
Soros may have rejected the media attention for his direct financing, and opted to direct his funds through less overt channels: political action committees (PACs) entrusted to pass on the cash to his desired candidates.
Soros candidates are identifiable by the following criminal justice reform goals: bail abolition, reduced incarceration numbers, mental health response services (as opposed to police), diversion programs in lieu of trial, mental health and drug courts as alternatives to criminal courts,
Those who share a similar vision for criminal justice reform are Julie Gunnigle, Democratic candidate for Maricopa County Attorney, as well as Laura Conover, current Pima County Attorney.
Gunnigle pledged to expunge marijuana-related criminal records, reduce incarceration rates, end cash bail, oppose the death penalty, fight elongated sentences for gang and weapons-related charges, establish mental health response services, and avoid prosecution for abortion offenses. Gunnigle, who earned over 312,000 votes in the primary, faces off against incumbent Rachel Mitchell, who earned over 235,000 votes (beating Republican challenger Gina Godbehere, who earned over 175,000 votes).
Out of the latest PAC donations reported, Gunnigle received over $6,500 from Way to Lead Arizona. That PAC received $100,000 from Soros’ Democracy PAC last year, though it’s primarily funded by its national counterpart: Way to Lead PAC. That PAC has received millions combined from Soros, his family, or the organizations he either funds or founded, according to Federal Election Contribution (FEC) campaign finance records.
Gunnigle has denied that she benefited from Soros funding.
During her 2020 run for the county attorney’s office, Gunnigle received $12,900 from the Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona (PPAZ) PAC, nearly $10,900 from Arizona List PAC, and over $6,000 from Emily’s List PAC.
The SOS database reflects that PPAZ’s biggest donors are private individuals donating over tens of thousands of dollars each. However, PPAZ’s SOS profile doesn’t reflect their receipt of over $9,100 from Planned Parenthood Votes that year, who in turn received $2.5 million from September 2019 to August 2020 from Soros’ Democracy PAC according to FEC records.
Arizona List PAC received $2,500 from Arizona Wins that year, who received $350,000 from Soros’ Democracy PAC in June 2020. Arizona Wins has given tens of thousands to Arizona List since launching in 2008. Arizona List PAC has also received $6,000 every year, including this year, from Emily’s List PAC. Soros’ Democracy PAC gave Emily’s List a $1 million nonfederal contribution in early 2020.
Since 2020, the Soros-funded Emily’s List has given $525,000 to the Arizona Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (ADLCC), a project of the Arizona Democratic Party co-founded by Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. This year so far, they’ve given $50,000 to the ADLCC.
Arizona Wins — who appears under several different profiles with variations of its name on the SOS database, such as “Arizona Wins!” and “Arizona Wins/One Arizona” — has received money from and sent money to Soros’ affiliated or founded organizations apart from Democracy PAC. This includes just under $100,000 given to Forward Majority Action Arizona, whose primary funder is its national arm, Forward Majority Action. Soros’ Sixteen Thirty Fund issued millions to Forward Majority Action throughout 2020, with an additional individual contribution of $200,000 from Soros’ eldest son, Robert.
Arizona Wins’ former program manager, Josselyn Berry, went on to become the executive director of a PAC that received $650,000 from Soros’ Democracy PAC in 2020: ProgressNow Arizona (sometimes listed as Progress Now Arizona). Berry, formerly the Arizona State Senate Democratic Caucus Communications Director, also serves as a staffer for the Arizona Democratic Party. Arizona Wins and Progress Now Arizona both listed the same address for campaign finance reports.
ProgressNow Arizona also received $25,000 from the Future Now Fund in 2020, whose Arizona arm has received thousands over the years from Soros’ daughter-in-law, Jennifer, and submitted about $509,800 to the Arizona Democratic Party in 2020.
Pima County’s attorney, Laura Conover, has pledged to advance criminal justice reform initiatives that align with Soros’ vision. Her campaign received funding from some of the same sources as Gunnigle.
Last December, Conover pledged to not charge individuals arrested for simple drug possession in order to avoid jail crowding. Most recently, Conover pledged to not give jail time to individuals who seek or assist with abortions. Among her goals: cease prosecutions for the “poor, sick, and addicted,” through efforts like abolishing cash bail and limiting deportations.
In response to a constituent complaint on Facebook in 2020, Conover neither confirmed nor denied that she benefited from Soros funding.
“You may review my financials at your leisure. Bipartisan. Transparent. Sorry to disappoint,” wrote Conover’s campaign page.
According to the secretary of state’s (SOS) campaign finance records, the PPAZ PAC paid $12,900 to Conover’s campaign in July 2020. Conover’s campaign also received over $7,300 from the Arizona List PAC in 2020.
Soros’ money bleeds into other aspects of Arizona’s legal world. Incidentally, traces of his financial support touched the 2020 interests of newly-confirmed Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judge: the accomplished, favorite Arizona attorney of the Democratic Party, Roopali Desai.
The funds benefited other left-wing criminal reform agendas in Arizona through Arizonans for Second Chances, Rehabilitation, And Public Safety: another PAC backed by Soros money, in addition to Big Tech’s Mark Zuckerberg. From June to September of 2020, the PAC received nearly $256,700 from the Alliance for Safety and Justice Action Fund, a project of Soros’ Tides Advocacy.
The PAC also received about $552,600 from Fwd.Us, Zuckerberg’s pro-immigration lobbying group co-founded with liberal megadonor Joe Green. Fwd.Us made headlines in late 2021 for bankrolling “farm teams” that produced at least five members of President Joe Biden’s immigration policy team.
From June to August 2020, the PAC paid out about $380,300 to the Coppersmith Brockelman law firm, where Desai has been a longtime partner. They also paid out over $3.3 million to AZ Petition Partners (dba Petition Partners): a signature-collecting company charged in November 2020 by the Arizona Attorney General’s office for illegal bonus programs. Desai is serving as one of the attorneys for the company’s appeal case.
That company also received $1.25 million from “Smart And Safe Arizona,” the PAC behind the eponymous ballot initiative, Prop 207, which successfully legalized recreational weed in the state. Desai authored Prop 207’s language. Desai also provided legal services for Prop 208, Invest in Education, whose eponymous PAC rallying for an additional income tax to increase teacher funding paid at least $150,000 to Petition Partners.
A proposed ballot initiative for this November seeks to implement a sprawling 25-page overhaul of elections processes, accruing over $7.6 million so far from the national network of Democratic dark money. Namely, the Arizonans for Free and Fair Elections initiative would eliminate voter ID and proof of citizenship for voter registration, allow same-day voter registration, bar election audits like the one authorized by the state senate for the 2020 election, raise small business taxes to increase political campaign funding, and restore private funding in election administration.
Additionally, the ballot initiative would also require universal vote centers, extend in-person early voting through the day before Election Day; require a court order to rule someone too incapacitated to vote; implement automatic voter registration for driver’s license and state ID recipients, as well as of-age high schoolers; allow curbside voting; allow “nontraditional residential addresses” such as mile markers or “geographic or other identifying features” when registering to vote; restore the permanent early voting list; restore inactive voters to active status; permit “signature-only” voter registration; allow third parties to register voters; and reduce contribution limits.
The ballot initiative is the effort of a Democratic coalition of major players in state and national politics filtered through the Arizona Democracy Resource Center (ADRC) as “ADRC Action.” Although the initiative appears to be a local effort at first glance, there are glimpses into the source of its millions in funds: the massive, national Democratic network of dark money. Arizonans for Free and Fair Elections actually sources back to a national donor network called “Way to Win,” which launched as a direct response to former President Donald Trump’s 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton. They asserted that their over $110 million funneled to states in 2019 flipped Arizona and George blue in the 2020 presidential election.
Way to Win’s major funding comes from the likes of globalist billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Foundations and his family, Stryker Corporation heiress Patricia Stryker, and the prominent dark money D.C. consulting firm Arabella Advisors’ Sixteen Thirty (1630) Fund.
The Soros family has invested personally in Arizona’s elections as well. To date, the family has invested $10,000 in former Maricopa County Recorder and secretary of state candidate Adrian Fontes’ campaign, $10,000 to Democratic attorney general candidate Kris Mayes’ campaign, and $10,600 to Secretary of State Katie Hobbs’ gubernatorial campaign.
According to the latest campaign finance filings, ADRC Action has accumulated well over $7.6 million from in-kind contributions, over $5.5 million of which were from ADRC itself, and expended only $50,000. The second-largest donation came from the Tides Foundation-backed One Arizona, which donated $925,000.
Activate 48 donated $600,000 — they partner with Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA), who donated $500,000 themselves and receives support from the Arabella Advisors 1630 Fund and the National Education Association (NEA); Mi Familia Vota; secretary of state candidate Reginald Bolding’s scandal-ridden, dark money-linked Our Voice Our Vote; and Chispa Arizona. The Education Foundation of America also donated $50,000.
All of the $50,000 expenditures went to counsel from Barton Mendez Soto, an election and employment law firm.
The firm’s co-founder, Jim Barton, has a number of high-profile and controversial clients under his belt, including the ballot initiative predecessor to Prop 208, the Arizona Democratic Party, and LUCHA. Barton was previously a partner at Torres Law Group: a firm whose partner is linked to a Democratic political action committee (PAC) that’s invested over $120,200 into a Republican state representative’s re-election campaign.
The Secretary of State’s office is processing the signatures. Arizonans For Free and Fair Elections will need over 237,600 valid signatures to qualify. They submitted over 475,000.
Coalition leadership includes ADRC Co-Executive Director Alison Marciniak, serving as the coalition’s chairwoman, and ADRC Communications Co-Director Joel Edman, serving as the coalition’s treasurer. Marciniak previously worked as a regional field director and organizer for the Arizona Democratic Party, as well as a field director and organizer for Central Arizonans for a Sustainable Economy (CASE): a nonprofit that advocates for immigration law and voting reforms. Edman clerked with the Arizona District Court and Arizona Supreme Court, as well as interned with the ACLU.
Another one of the coalition members, Eric Kramer, ran a similar ballot initiative last year. The initiative encompassed one of the goals of the coalition’s initiative by repealing HB2569: a bill signed into law last year which bars election officials from using private funds to run elections. HB2569 was prompted by the swell of funds provided by the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, who funneled $5 million to Arizona election officials. That initiative didn’t file signatures when the deadline rolled around.