Two organizations quietly spent $32 million during last month’s midterm elections to organize to tackle voter denial and promote access to the vote, according to a progressive strategist behind the effort .
The Pro-Democracy Center and the Pro-Democracy Campaign invested this money in 126 organizations in 16 states, with a particular focus on Arizona, Wisconsin and Michigan, as well as a series of national organizations, some of which are on the left. The effort also connected donors with key organizations, resulting in an additional investment of $16 million, said David Donnelly, senior strategist for the initiative. The Pro-Democracy Center and Pro-Democracy Campaign did not directly spend on specific candidates or buy advertising, he said. The initiative, however, focused on keeping Supreme Court justices in Arizona, he said.
Donnelly said the groups invest in organizations that focus particularly on training young voters and people of color, two key elements of the Democratic coalition, and often recommend messaging about threats to freedom and justice. democracy.
“If you go back to the beginning of this year, a lot of ink and pixels were spilled about the possibility of a democratic collapse, and all of that didn’t happen,” Mr. Donnelly said. A number of Republicans who have made a name for themselves as election deniers have lost high-profile races. “That’s not the whole story, but you can’t understand why without raising some of the groups that were organizing and mobilizing in communities of color and among youth.”
Mr. Donnelly would not name the donors behind the groups, which as nonprofits are not required to disclose their contributors. Politico reported for the first time on the efforts of the Pro-Democracy Center and Pro-Democracy Campaign on Monday.
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The effort was among many campaigns that ignited around democracy and voting issues after Donald J. Trump and his associates attempted to overturn the 2020 election results.
On the other side, countless groups have sprung up at the state and local level to promote election conspiracy theories and amplify false claims about the legitimacy of elections. The groups were organized into several overlapping coalitions, in some cases with the participation of Trump allies. While it’s hard to pinpoint how much money was spent on these efforts, prominent supporter Mike Lindell said he spent millions of his own money.
Pro-Democracy Center and Pro-Democracy Campaign have partnered with a long list of organizations, including affiliates of Planned Parenthood, Mi Familia Vota Education Fund in Arizona and Fair Fight Action, the Stacey Abrams-aligned voting rights group, the Democrat who lost her bid for governor. in Georgia.
The initiative says it has spent about $6 million helping national groups, $5.4 million in Arizona, $3 million in Michigan and $2.6 million in Wisconsin, all states where Republicans have nominated candidates who cast doubt on Mr. Trump’s defeat.
The work funded by the initiative varied from state to state, but included support organizations focused on voter registration and participation efforts, groups that supported a ballot measure expanding access to vote in Michigan, as well as a measure in Arizona that was not allowed to vote, and those that funded “souls to the polls” events in Florida.
The initiative also funded national and local groups that provided election observers and helped support hotlines where voters called to report concerns, as well as groups that heal ballots, which which means encouraging voters to fix problems with their ballots.
“After 2020, there was a lot of consternation around elections and election results, so we wanted to proactively build a comprehensive and effective voter protection program,” said Micheal Davis, executive director of the Promote the Vote in Michigan group. , a right to vote. coalition that received a $250,000 pro-democracy campaign grant to promote its election protection work. The group was also heavily involved in pushing for a successful constitutional amendment which, among other things, mandated at least nine days of early voting and increased access to mail-in voting.
Mr. Donnelly said there were “about 15” donors behind the $32million effort, including several people within the families. He described the donors as having a range of ideological views, although without a list of donors, which is difficult to verify independently.
“One thing that Trump and the Holocaust deniers have done is broaden the ideological spectrum of those who care about pulling us out of the precipice,” he said.
Mr. Donnelly said the two groups are already preparing for 2023 and 2024. In Minnesota, for example, the initiative supports a local coalition that is working to lobby for a series of new proposals to expand voting access. , including automatic voter registration.
“We will be inspired by what heads of state believe possible,” he said.
Alexandra Berzon contributed reporting.