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.
On Thursday, three GOP groups intervened in a lawsuit challenging Arizona’s new law requiring proof of citizenship in order to register to vote.
The Republican National Committee (RNC), National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), the Republican Party of Arizona (RPAZ), the Mohave County Republican Central Committee, and the Gila County Republican Committee intervened to challenge the plaintiffs: two activist organizations advocating for progressive policies, Mi Familia Vota and Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA).
In their motion to intervene, the GOP groups asserted that voter ID preserved election integrity.
“[T]he question for this Court is not whether Movants have an interest in maintaining an ‘unconstitutional’ law. The question is whether Movants have an interest in preventing a federal court from enjoining a valid law that increases voter confidence and promotes election integrity,” read their motion.
Both Mi Familia Vota and LUCHA received help from one of the top lawyers for the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign: Russiagate hoax lawyer Marc Elias.
In a press release, GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel defended the new Arizona law as common-sense policy. She added that the law would hold Democrats accountable for their “underhanded election tactic” of rejecting voter ID.
“American elections should be decided by American citizens: full stop. When it comes to non-citizens voting, Democrats are trying to change the rules of the game because their radical ideas won’t win on an even playing field,” said McDaniel.
Democrats argued that requiring proof of citizenship in order to vote was unconstitutional and against federal law.
However, legal experts like former Arizona Supreme Court Justice Andrew Gould clarified that the Constitution never empowered non-citizens with the right to vote. Gould toldArizona Daily Independent that the Constitution actually excludes non-citizens.
“Of course, non-citizens have never had a right to vote under the Constitution, and so it is absurd to argue that HB2492 takes away a legal, constitutional right to vote from anyone,” said Gould. “Requiring proof of citizenship to vote is a neutral, reasonable, non-discriminatory restriction that operates to exclude one group: non-citizens.”
If the new law withstands legal challenges, it wouldn’t go into effect until 2023.
Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA), an activist organization that’s pushed for a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, sued Arizona over the latest election integrity law passed, HB2492, which requires proof of citizenship in order to vote. LUCHA describes itself as a nonpartisan social justice nonprofit.
The nonprofit’s complaint alleged that applicants would have the county election officials using “outdated” citizenship data from “unreliable” sources. Therefore, LUCHA claimed, the government would only succeed in intimidating individuals born outside of the country that are citizens, not preventing any non-citizens from voting.
LUCHA also claimed that millions of Americans lack ready access to documents that prove their citizenship status. They stretched their argument to frame the new law as having a greater burden and therefore discrimination on the elderly, the poor, and black Americans.
LUCHA made headlines last fall for its members following and filming Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) while in an Arizona State University (ASU) bathroom. The activists were upset with Sinema’s lack of support for President Joe Biden’s reconciliation bill.
As AZ Free Newsreported earlier this week, another social justice organization, Mi Familia Vota, also sued Arizona officials over the new law. The organization received help from the lawyer behind the Russiagate hoax, Marc Elias.
Attorney General candidate Andrew Gould opined that the lawsuits were unsubstantiated. Gould asserted that the bill was a “neutral, reasonable, non-discriminatory restriction” affecting non-citizens.
“The current lawsuits appear to assume that it is unconstitutional to disenfranchise non-citizens. Of course, non-citizens have never had a right to vote under the Constitution, and so it is absurd to argue that HB2492 takes away a legal, constitutional right to vote from anyone,” wrote Gould. “[I]n these lawsuits, the parties appear to argue that ANY restriction whatsoever on registering to vote is unconstitutional. They are wrong on the facts and the law.”
Arizona State University (ASU) Police Department confirmed with AZ Free News that they are investigating the activists who followed and filmed Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) inside a bathroom. The senator had stepped out of a class that she teaches at ASU to use the bathroom when activists with Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA), an nonprofit activist organization, accosted her and followed her into the bathroom. While filming Sinema, they also filmed other students using the bathroom. The activists demanded that Sinema vote “yes” on the reconciliation bill.
“The ASU Police Department is working with Senator Sinema and conducting a full investigation of the incident that occurred Sunday at the University Center on the Downtown Phoenix campus. Due to the active status of the investigation, we are unable to provide more information at this time,” stated ASU.
One of the LUCHA activists, Karina Ruiz de Diaz, is an illegal immigrant as admitted in a report by CNN. She also accosted Sinema on Monday during a flight, repeatedly asking Sinema to ensure that she and others would be given a pathway to citizenship.
One of LUCHA’s paid activists, Blanca Collazo, told Sinema that she was a product of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. Collazo complained that she wasn’t able to visit her deported grandfather before his death because she doesn’t have her citizenship yet. DACA recipients may not leave the country without the government’s prior permission, or “advance parole.” Collazo held her face mask below her nose and mouth as she spoke at Sinema.
“My name is Blanca. I was brought into the United States when I was three years old. And in 2010 my grandparents both got deported because of SB1070. And I’m here because I definitely believe that we need a pathway to citizenship. My grandfather passed away two weeks ago, and I was not able to go to Mexico and visit him because there is no pathway to citizenship,” said Collazo. “We need to hold you accountable to what you told us – what you promised us that you were going to pass when we knocked on doors for you. It’s not right.”
Collazo intended to attend Grand Canyon University (GCU), where she’d been given a scholarship, but toldCronkite News that she opted to work full-time instead due to the pandemic.
Another activist, Sophia Marjanovic, told Sinema that she endured human trafficking because of the lack of worker protection laws. Shortly after, Marjanovic posted on Facebook that she’d caught Sinema “during her pee break” and encouraged others to accost the senator, sharing the location of her class.
“Always have a Lakota Auntie on board! I descend from people who neutralized Custer; I can neutralize anyone. #F***AroundAndFindOut,” wrote Marjanovic. “I told you I wasn’t going to allow this woman to pee in peace in public and mission accomplished!”
As their videos went viral, Marjanovic posted again to chastise her critics. She said that nobody could condemn her actions because she’s a human trafficking survivor, the critics are on “stolen” land anyway, and that white people shouldn’t be allowed to speak on this incident.
“For now, connect with the fact that you are on stolen Indigenous land and Indigenous women and children go missing and murdered because we don’t have access to stable jobs, stable housing, clean water, clean food, or stable decent healthcare [sic] despite the fact that Indigenous people have upheld our end of the treaty in assimilating and getting educated,” wrote Marjanovic. “Give my Indigenous relatives to the South of the US-Mexican border citizenship now! White Communications Departments of organizations, media and campaigns uphold White supremacy. Step out of the way!”
According to Arizona law, it is illegal to film someone in the bathroom and publish it without their consent.
“A. It is unlawful for any person to knowingly photograph, videotape, film, digitally record or by any other means secretly view, with or without a device, another person without that person’s consent under either of the following circumstances: 1. In a restroom, bathroom, locker room, bedroom or other location where the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy and the person is urinating, defecating, dressing, undressing, nude or involved in sexual intercourse or sexual contact. […] It is unlawful to disclose, display, distribute or publish a photograph, videotape, film or digital recording made in violation of subsection A of this section without the consent or knowledge of the person depicted.”
On Monday, Sinema addressed the incident in a statement. She denounced the approach and intentions of the LUCHA activists.
“After deceptively entering a locked, secure building, these individuals filmed and publicly posted videos of my students without their permission — including footage taken of both my students and I using a restroom. In Arizona, we love the First Amendment. We know it is vital to our democracy that constituents can freely petition, protest, or criticize my policy positions and decisions. The activist group that engaged in yesterday’s behavior is one that both my team and I have met with several times since I was elected to the Senate, and I will continue engaging with Arizonans with diverse viewpoints to help inform my work for Arizona. Yesterday’s behavior was not a legitimate protest. It is unacceptable for activist organizations to instruct their members to jeopardize themselves by engaging in unlawful activities such as gaining entry to closed university buildings, disrupting learning environments, and filming students in a restroom.”
It is unclear how the activists gained entry into the locked building.
Sinema won’t support the $3.5 trillion price tag on the reconciliation bill, or the “Build Back Better Act.” Though LUCHA activists mentioned a “pathway to citizenship,” the nearly 2,500 pages of legislation doesn’t expressly include that provision yet. Democrats have been advocating for the inclusion of permanent legal status for illegal immigrants in the bill. However, Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough has twice rejected versions of that proposal.
That doesn’t mean that a pathway to citizenship won’t be included in the final bill. Congressman Adriano Espaillat (D-NY-13) told The New York Post last week that they intend to push three more versions of the proposal to secure a pathway to citizenship.
Currently, the reconciliation bill would offer two years of free community college; child care assistance and universal pre-K; Medicare expansion to cover dental, vision, and hearing, as well as allowing the program to negotiate drug prices to reduce them; a near-four year extension of child tax credits; 12 weeks of comprehensive paid family and medical leave; financial incentives for companies that increase renewable energy supplies, and penalties for those who don’t; an entrepreneurial program for formerly-incarcerated individuals; grants to local governments or groups for community violence prevention.
Funding for this bill would come from raising taxes on corporations, top income earners, and capital gains, as well as strengthening IRS oversight. One proposal to afford further funding would grant the IRS access to total transactions for bank accounts with over $600.
In a press conference addressing the bill on Monday, President Joe Biden was dismissive of what Sinema endured. He insinuated that Sinema would’ve been fine had she had a security detail, prompting the phrase “Based Biden” to trend on Twitter.
“I don’t think they’re appropriate tactics but it happens to everybody,” laughed Biden. “The only people it doesn’t happen to is people who have Secret Service standing around them. So, it’s a part of the process.”
Democrats on the local level weren’t sympathetic to Sinema’s plight, either. State Senator and treasurer candidate Martin Quezada (D-Phoenix) said Sinema was to blame for how her constituents approached her.
“Pro tip for politicians. A good way to not get harassed in restrooms by your constituents is to be available to meet and hear them out on the issues they are passionate about using normal channels,” tweeted Quezada.
Pro tip for politicians. A good way to not get harassed in restrooms by your constituents is to be available to meet and hear them out on the issues they are passionate about using normal channels.
Quezada made clear to AZ Free Newsthat he never approved of how Sinema was treated. He informed us that Sinema hasn’t been keeping the lines of communication open for her constituents.
“[I] do believe that the focus of any story should be more on how Senator Sinema is an elected official. Part of her job is to listen to her constituents, not hide from them. She does not take calls or meetings and her office hangs up on constituents who try to use official channels to communicate with her. When elected officials become completely unaccountable to the people who elected them, you have to understand how they may feel as if they have no other choice but to contact her in unofficial channels,” said Quezada. “Like Senator Sinema, there are certain spaces that I would never want to be approached in. In order to avoid that happening, I fulfill my responsibility of having an open door and communicating with my bosses, the people I serve, through official channels, be they email, phone, in person meetings, Zoom meetings, social media, etc., etc., etc.”
AZ Free News inquired with Sinema’s communications team about these allegations of closing down communications with constituents. They didn’t respond by press time.
Quezada hasn’t been keen on Sinema as of late. The state senator is backing a crowdfunded campaign threatening to fund a primary challenger against Sinema if she doesn’t vote to end the filibuster. The CrowdPAC has already achieved over half of its goal contribution amount.
State Representative and attorney general candidate Diego Rodriguez (D-Phoenix) didn’t condemn the activists’ behavior.
“Clearly, the people of Arizona are not going [to] simply sit back and allow their wants and needs to be ignored by the same ELECTED officials they helped put into office,” wrote Rodriguez.
Clearly, the people of Arizona are not going simply sit back and allow their wants and needs to be ignored by the same ELECTED officials they helped put into office. https://t.co/7fPrIb4mE0
Rodriguez doesn’t take issue with public exposure of things traditionally considered private. The self-described “sex positive” representative has defended his habit of liking and commenting on both risque and pornographic posts via his personal Twitter account.
— Columnated Ruins- Real GOP Accountability Project (@DominofromAZ) October 4, 2021
Certain Republican elected officials and candidates had a different take on the situation.
Congressman Andy Biggs (R-AZ-05) stated in an interview with The Conservative Circus that the LUCHA activists were examples of how society functions in a totalitarian regime.
“I think what she’s doing is principled. I think it’s what she believes in, and she’s getting the crud kicked out of her by her own party, and they’re spending millions to try to embarrass her,” said Biggs. “You’ve got these yo-yos on ASU’s campus that are chasing her into the bathroom while she’s in a stall to harass and harangue her while she’s there. I mean, that’s the kind of thing that goes on in totalitarian regimes. I mean, that’s really what it is: they’re trying to ostracize her and browbeat her. But I’ll tell you what, I know few people who are tougher than Kyrsten Sinema. I’m hopeful that she’s going to hold out on her principles.”
The bathroom incident wasn’t the first time that LUCHA activists confronted Sinema over these last few days. They disrupted a private fundraising event in Royal Palms Resort and Spa in Scottsdale on Saturday. As stated earlier in this report, the illegal immigrant Ruiz de Diaz confronted Sinema on a plane.