Dark Money Group Who Spent Millions Electing Democrats Boosted By $12M Mystery Donor
America Votes raised nearly $30 Million through June 2020, but saved the bulk of their $50 million in election spending until after their fiscal year ended-delaying disclosure another year.
According to tax documents obtained and reviewed by PolitiFi, America Votes—a leading “progressive” nonprofit who was one of the top 5 dark money spenders in the 2020 election cycle—raised $29,467,188 in anonymous donations from 07/2019 through 06/2020, with the bulk of it coming in the form of a $12,016,147 contribution from an undisclosed source. While FEC data shows that the group spent $50 million influencing the election, a large portion of that apparently came and went after June 30, as America Votes reported spending $15,495,500 funding pro-Democrat Super PACs and liberal dark money groups in the preceding 12 months
Founded in 2003, America Votes, a registered 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organization who is not required to disclose the identities of their donors, describes themselves as the “the coordination hub of the progressive community”; their website stating that their work has been “the common link between many of the largest and most influential issue and membership organizations in the country.”—and has for years been a sponsored portfolio organization of the secretive liberal billionaire donor collective, Democracy Alliance. For FYE 2020, America Votes reported 177 donations during the fiscal year, and three individuals (or organizations) donated $1 million or more—in addition to the $12,000,000 previously mentioned, the group reported donations of $2,300,000 and $2,007,616. Two donors gave between $750,000 and $999,999; two more gave $500,000-$749,999. Eight donors contributed between $250,000 and $499,999; 15 gave $100,000-$249,999; 30 donors gave $50,000-$99,999—and the rest of the reported anonymous contributors (112) gave between $5,000 and $49,999.
The organization spread out their $15.4 million in grants among 86 other progressive and liberal 501(c)(4)s and Super PACs before the end of June 2020—with many of the groups focused on swing state elections, such as North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio. Their largest grants went to well known organizations such as League Of Conservation Voters ($1,300,000), whose Super PAC LCV Victory Fund—which America Votes would contribute $1,000,000 to later in the year—spent tens of millions on pro-Democrat and anti-Republican ads during the cycle. America Votes also gave $1,000,000 to Priorities USA, the dark-money arm of the eponymous Super PAC which, as one of Joe Biden’s biggest supporters, spent upwards of $120 million on advertising to get him elected. However, America Votes’ impact was seemingly felt more by the smaller dark money groups which they funded, laying the groundwork for many of their electioneering later in the cycle.
America Votes gave $115,000 to Advance North Carolina, who would spend $200,000 on the NC Senate race—$150,000 on anti-Thom Tillis ads, and $50,000 pro-Cal Cunningham—as well as $50,000 supporting Biden. AV also contributed $500,000 to Alliance for Youth Action, who spent $1,200,000 on pro-Biden ads and communications. A Better Wisconsin Together, who gave $180,000 to a pro-Biden Super PACs, the silicon valley executive backed “Tech For Campaigns”, also received $250,000 from America Votes between 07/2019 and 06/2020.
Dark money group Action For Liberation, who received $114,000 from America Votes, donated $40,000 Super PAC Michigan Liberation Action, who themselves spent $16,000 on pro-Biden electioneering down the 2020 stretch. AV gave $50,000 to Alianza For Progress, who spent $11,000 against Donald Trump. The Asian American Advocacy Fund and Asian Pacific Islander Political Alliance received $100,000 and $117,000 from America Votes, respectively, the former spending heavily in the GA special election with $358,000 pro-Warnock and $238,000 pro-Ossoff communications (as well as $42,000 backing Biden), and the latter spending $160,000 in support of the current President. America Votes would contribute another $80,000 to Asian Pacific Islander Political Alliance down the stretch of 2020.
America Votes gave $500,000 to Black Progressive Action Coalition between July 2019 and June 2020, another dark money group who would go on to spend nearly $5 million late in the 2020 cycle: $2,200,000 backing Biden; $1,300,000 backing NC Democratic Senate candidate Cal Cunningham; and $362,000 a piece supporting GA Special candidates Warnock and Ossoff, as well as Michigan Senator Gary Peters. According to FEC records, America Votes would contribute another $2,360,000 between 07/01/2020 and 12/31/2020—dates that extend beyond the organizations current tax returns.
Another prominent Democrat-supporting Super PAC obtained significant funding from America Votes—though the majority is not accounted for on the groups latest tax returns, due to date the contributions occurred. Prior to June 30, America Votes had only given $500,000 the Super PAC in question, Black PAC, but would donate another $9,760,000 as the election grew closer—accounting for nearly 25% of the independent expenditure group’s $44,000,000 haul for the cycle. Black PAC would spend over $14,000,000 funding pro-Biden ads during the election, as well as roughly $4,000,000 backing Warnock, Ossoff, and Gary Peters. The Super PAC also spent roughly $2,000,000 in anit-Trump communications, as well as $2,000,000 benefitting Cal Cunningham over incumbent Thom Tillis.
America Votes gave $100,000 to Care In Action, who spent $923,000 backing Raphael Warnock in GA; and $60,000 to Carolina Federation, who spent $26,000 backing Cal Cunningham. Casa In Action, another 501(c)(4), received $315,000 from America Votes (plus another $130,000 from their PAC)—and the group would spend nearly $150,000 supporting Biden. Citizen Action Of Wisconsin, who spent over $100,000 on pro-Biden media, also received $225,000 from America Votes.
$100,000 went to the dark money group Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, the primary funders of Legislative Majority PAC—who primarily pools funds to be distributed to the Democratic House and Senate Caucuses of Virgina, of whom the PAC was a top five contributor, bringing in over $1 million to the respective institutions. Equality Florida, who spent $284,000 supporting Joe Biden in 2020, received $80,000 from America Votes early in the cycle, and another $60,000 near the cycle’s end.
America Votes contributed $500,000 to Fair Fight Action, the dark money arm of the eponymous Super PAC (mostly funded by Democratic mega donors Michael Bloomberg, Karla Jurvetson, Reid Hoffman, Donald Sussman and others) who spent over $63,000,000 funding other Democratic focused PACs during 2020. AV also gave $70,000 to Faith In Public Life Action, who spent $231,000 funding pro-Biden media during the election.
Family Friendly Action Fund, another 501(c)(4), got $900,000 from America Votes before the midway point of 2020, and would wind up spending $682,000 and $584,000 supporting Democrats Joe Biden and Cal Cunningham, respectively. After June, AV would give $14,690,000 to FFAF’s affiliated Super PAC—accounting for nearly 80% of the roughly $18,250,000 the PAC raised for the cycle. FFAF’s SuperPAC would spend millions on ads supporting Joe Biden ($4,200,000); Theresa Greenfield ($3,800,000); Sara Gideon ($3,500,000); Steve Bullock ($2,400,000); Gary Peters ($816,000); and John Ossoff ($100,000), among others.
For Our Future is another example of how America Votes waited until after their fiscal year was over to make a massive contribution. For Our Future’s nonprofit received $915,000 from America Votes prior to July 2020— after which AV would donate $8,490,000 to For Our Future’s Super PAC, accounting for over 25% of its funding. For Our Future would spend $5,600,000 in media benefitting Joe Biden, as well as roughly $250,000 a piece in support of GA candidates (now Senators) Raphael Warnock and John Ossoff.
America Votes gave $200,000 (then another $162,000 down the stretch) to the NC A Phillip Randolph Educational Fund, who spent $158,000 on pro-Cal Cunningham ads in the NC Senate race. AV would also donate $175,000 to the New Georgia Project Action Fund, who would go on to spend roughly $300,000 a piece in support of GA candidates Warnock and Ossoff. Organize Florida, who received $300,000 from America Votes per the tax documents, would donate approximately $1,000,000 to Super PAC Win Justice—a PAC America Votes would personally donate $1,520,000 to near election day.
Pennsylvania United, who ran $328,000 in anti-Trump ads in 2020, received $40,000 from America Votes in the early going—but would get another boost from the organization later on, with $245,000 coming from AV proper, and another $130,000 coming from their PAC. America Votes also gave $125,000 to Progress Michigan, a dark money group who would donate $245,000 to Nuestro PAC, the almost completley dark money funded, pro-Biden Super PAC started by former Bernie Sanders aide Chuck Rocha. America Votes also gave $175,000 to New Florida Majority, who spent $131,000 supporting Democrat Elizabeth Warren during her Presidential primary campaign; $235,000 to Voces De La Frontera Action, who spent $171,000 supporting Biden; and $105,000 to the “progressive” organization, Working Families.
While the roughly $30,000,000 America Votes raised from 07/2019 through 06/2020 is less than half of the preceding fiscal year’s $63,000,000 (bolstered by $27,000,000 from dark money powerhouse Sixteen Thirty Fund), it’s obvious the group shows no sign of slowing down. Even though America Votes was ranked in a recent report by Center For Responsive Politics as the fifth largest dark money spender in the 2020 election cycle at roughly $50,000,000, judging by the discrepancy between their latest tax form and FEC records for the cycle, most of their spending—at least $43,000,000 worth—and income for 2020 came after the June 30 end of their fiscal year, going into which AV only had $8,870,851 in reserves. That means we’ll have to wait another year before we really can see the likely massive influx of money that was injected into the organization as the election grew closer in November. What’s clear is that America Votes has turned into a dark money powerhouse in their own right, and as other organizations release their 2020 tax returns over the course of the remainder of this year, we should at least be able to gather more of an idea of the institutional donors who contributed to their influence machine.