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Investigation: How Tax-Exempt Nonprofits Skirt U.S. Law to Turn Out the Democrat Base in Elections

By Steve Miller

Will this presidential election be the most important in American history?

Investigation by Steve Miller originally published by RealClearInvestigations and RealClearWire

Even as Democrats such as Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse warn of “right-wing dark-money network seeking to undermine the future of democratic elections in the United States,” progressives have far outstripped Republicans in harnessing the power of putatively non-partisan, nonprofit organizations that push the boundaries to win elections.

More than 150 progressive nonprofits spent $1.35 billion on political activities in 2021 and 2022, according to data compiled by Restoration of America, a conservative political action committee. Although there are no readily available estimates of comparable conservative efforts, observers say they are overmatched.

“The liberal nonprofit sector is much bigger than the conservative nonprofit in the political arena,” said Bradley Smith, a former commissioner with the Federal Election Commission and founder of the conservative Institute for Free Speech.

The progressive nonprofits include faith-based groups, ethnic activist operatives, and colleges and universities, which have taken on an outsized part of the Democratic party’s election strategy.

Related: Why Are Republicans Greenhorns at Rounding Up Absentee Votes?

The groups work around legal restrictions on nonprofits that accept tax-deductible donations by selectively engaging in nonpartisan efforts including boosting voter education and participation.

But, like the estimated $332 million that Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan donated to public elections offices to help run the 2020 elections, much of it winds up in the hands of groups that operate in liberal strongholds and work with reliably Democratic constituencies.

This is in part how two influential groups, the Voter Participation Center and its partner group, the Center for Voter Information, increase Democratic turnout.

Both have the stated mission of encouraging people in specified demographics – “young people, people of color and unmarried women” – to vote. All three groups are part of the Democratic Party’s base. Voters in these groups are up to two-and-a-half times more likely to vote when engaged by a nonprofit, according to research from Nonprofit Vote, an advocacy group for tax-exempt activist groups.

The value of these groups was underscored when the Biden administration prepared to compose his executive order directing federal agencies to “expand citizens’ opportunities to register to vote.” In July 2021 officials met with leading progressive operators, including Democracy Fund, Fair Elections Center, FairVote, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and the George Soros-backed Open Society Policy Center, according to an internal administration email obtained by the Foundation for Government Accountability, a conservative nonprofit that is suing the administration to obtain records related to the executive order.

The Democratic Party’s stance on issues, from climate change to voting procedures, is also echoed by their nonprofit allies. The Fair Elections Center, for example, calls those who questioned the outcome of the 2020 presidential race “election deniers” who oppose the right to vote. Their stance echoes President Biden, who said last year that there were “more than 300 election deniers on the ballot” for the midterms, adding that “It’s damaging, it’s corrosive, and it’s destructive.”

Significant funding for these and other voting activist operations flows from the same sources that put millions of dollars into Democratic and progressive campaigns.

Read the entire investigation here.

Correction, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2023, 1:13 P.M. Eastern
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
An earlier version referred incorrectly to the year of the Arabella Legacy Fund’s formation in its second reference in the article. As the article noted earlier, it was 2006, not 2008.

Investigation by Steve Miller – This article was originally published by RealClearInvestigations and made available via RealClearWire.

Deneen Borelli

Deneen Borelli is the author of Blacklash: How Obama and the Left are Driving Americans to the Government Plantation. Deneen is a contributor with Newsmax Broadcasting. She is a former Fox News contributor and has appeared regularly on “Hannity,” “Fox & Friends,” “Your World with Neil Cavuto,” and “America’s Newsroom.” She has also appeared on Fox Business Network programs “Making Money with Charles Payne,” “The Evening Edit with Liz MacDonald,” and “Cavuto: Coast to Coast.” Previously, Deneen appeared on MSNBC, CNN, the BBC and C-SPAN. In addition to television, Deneen co-hosted radio programs on the SiriusXM Patriot channel with her husband Tom. Recently, Deneen co-hosted the Reigniting Liberty podcast with Tom. Deneen is a frequent speaker at political events, including the FreedomWorks 9.12.2009 March on D.C. which drew a crowd estimated at over 800,000 people. Deneen is also an Ambassador with, a social media platform that promotes free speech, and with the America First Policy Institute (AFPI) which advances policies that put Americans first. Deneen testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources in May 2011 and before the Ohio House Public Utilities Committee in December 2011. Previously, Deneen was a host, Outreach Director with overseeing its outreach program, a Project 21 Senior Fellow, and Manager of Media Relations with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). Prior to joining CORE, Deneen worked at Philip Morris USA for 20 years. During her corporate career at Philip Morris she worked in various positions, her last as Project Management Coordinator in the Information Management department where she was responsible for the department’s mandated quality processes, communications, sales information and database management. Deneen began her Philip Morris career as a secretary and advanced to positions of increasing responsibilities. Deneen worked full-time and attended classes at night for 11 years to earn her B.A. in Managerial Marketing from Pace University, New York City. Deneen served on the Board of Trustees with The Opportunity Charter School in Harlem, New York. She appeared in educational videos for children, worked as a runway fashion model, and auditioned for television commercials. Her interests include ancient history, pistol target shooting, photography, and volunteering at her church. Deneen currently resides in Connecticut with her husband Tom.

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