Big Data is Winning Elections for Democrats—Time for Republicans to Catch Up (Pt. 2)

by | Jun 20, 2023 | Election Integrity

Delve inside the Left’s secret weapon for juicing turnout in the states: NGP VAN.

Cogs in the Machine

When NGP Software and VAN merged, they did more than join forces—they purchased a technology empire for themselves. Today NGP VAN is owned by EveryAction (though the acquisition date and details are muddy), a software developer-turned-umbrella group for numerous subsidiaries on the Left.

EveryAction was already huge when it integrated the services of a key competitor: ActBlue, a major fundraising platform for left-wing PACs and nonprofits. Even its closest “rival,” Catalist, is functionally an NGP VAN partner. A 2015 FEC complaint filed by the conservative Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust explains why: Catalist isn’t interested in profit, but in winning elections for Democrats.

By structuring itself as a limited liability corporation rather than a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Catalist can “do business with candidate campaigns, parties, and outside groups like unions all at once” and (in some cases) even offer “discounted prices” below fair-market value. By offering its voter file to NGP VAN at such a cheap rate, the report adds:

This collaboration has provided an opportunity for Democratic federal campaigns, Democratic party committees and liberal outside groups to use the advantages of a common vendor to ensure that their voter contact efforts are complementary [emphasis added].

Later in 2018 the private equity firm Insight Venture Partners bought a big enough stake in EveryAction to appoint a new board chairman. EveryAction was sold again in late 2021 to the massive London private equity firm Apax Partners—itself partially owned by the Saudi government—to progressive consternation. Activist clients complained that Apax would “hollow it out” while three NGP VAN executives quit. A few months later, EveryAction announced it was rebranding itself “Bonterra” and assimilating each of its satraps into a single brand, a new bid to grow even larger on the Left. And they are numerous.

Blue State Digital was created by staffers from Howard Dean’s ill-fated 2004 presidential campaign and specializes in strategic communications, “grassroots” mobilization, and digital advertising. Its clients include Britain’s Labour Party, Obama’s reelection campaign, and the pro-gay marriage campaign Freedom to Marry,.

GiveGab provides custom-built donation forms that plug into activist groups’ websites and tracks reporting for IRS and FEC compliance, simplifying one of the more tedious (but legally important) parts of nonprofit management.

Salsa Labs is a “digital engagement platform” for advocacy organizations whose software manages email blasts, marketing, fundraising, and supporter communications. It was acquired by EveryAction in 2021 using capital from Insight Venture Partners.

Mobilize hosts event management and volunteer recruitment software for activist groups created after Democrats’ defeat in 2016. The group was acquired by EveryAction shortly after the 2020 election; prior to that Mobilize had already integrated into NGP VAN’s products.

It’s easy to find this nexus in action just by visiting a typical “progressive” group’s website. The email sign-up page is probably run by Salsa Labs. The volunteer page was designed by Mobilize. Click “donate” and you’ll find a form generated by GiveGab or EveryAction. And it’s likely that the slogans attacking “white supremacy” and teaching “anti-racism” were manufactured by Blue State Digital, which hosts guides on “unlearning, relearning, educating, and repeating” how to live an “anti-racist” lifestyle.

EveryAction’s systems enable lobbying groups to send mass emails to elected officials or submit comments on proposed regulation changes—fake grassroots advocacy—using voter file data to identify where volunteers live and match them to the appropriate member of Congress or state legislator. To stem labor unions’ steep membership decline since the 2020 Supreme Court Janus v. AFSCME, NGP VAN created organizing software to enable “virtual labor organizing”—an evolution away from paper membership cards that’s been adopted by practically every major union from AFSCME, to the National Education Association, AFL-CIO, and SEIU.

The supposedly “nonpartisan” Rock the Vote has paid $360,000 for the firm’s consulting services. We’ve uncovered other 6-figure payments to NGP VAN from NARAL Pro-Choice America, one of the top pro-abortion lobbying groups in the country; radical Greenpeace; anti-Trump “resistance” group Indivisible; and America Votes, the self-appointed “coordination hub” of the Left. Monitoring Influence, a left-wing knock-off of the right-leaning website InfluenceWatch, runs its supposedly nonpartisan email blasts through NGP VAN.

State Voices, the nonprofit that’s coordinated Democrats’ get-out-the-vote strategy since the 2008 election, has paid close to $3.4 million for NGP VAN’s services since 2014. According to the Capital Research Center’s Parker Thayer, State Voices has trained at least 520 NGP VAN “data practitioners” since 2017, using its software to help leftist groups win nab new votes. In the lead-up to the 2020 Census, State Voices coordinated a campaign to boost census results in blue states—which conveniently yielded a better voter file in those states, thanks to NGP VAN’s software.

As for the rest of EveryAction’s subsidiaries, we’ve traced their services to numerous leftist groups, including People for the American Way, the Rockefeller Foundation, Planned Parenthood, NAACP, Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund, Nature Conservancy, the LGBT lobbying group Ultraviolet, and even the Obama Foundation.

In each case, NGP VAN ranks among their top vendors, and it isn’t hard to see why. This is infrastructure on an imperial scale, enabled by over 15 years of steady, calculated investment. The end-goal is to help “progressives” pop up new organizations with short notice and help existing groups focus on winning elections instead of administrative tasks—and “at low or no cost.”

Credit: Verity Vote.

While there’s no shortage of data vendors and consultants available to political groups on both sides of the aisle, this network—if it’s not already clear—is completely off-limits to conservatives. Take it from EveryAction’s general manager for digital products, Mike Liddell, who wrote in 2021:

We remain committed to working with Democratic and progressive campaigns . . . . We have declined, and will continue to decline, to work with organizations that focus on being anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ rights, anti-action on climate change, anti-racial justice, etc. 

Put simply, this is a factory for stamping out legions of new activist groups, Henry Ford-style, and the Right has nothing to rival it. So why are America’s cities and states contracting with this partisan outfit?

Who Runs Our Elections?

From Lenin to Alinsky, leftists love organizing and list-making. Perhaps that’s why “progressives” have succeeded in inserting activists—and now entire organizations—into America’s election machinery, taking it over from the inside-out.

NGP VAN is one of them. In April 2020, the Michigan Department of State contracted with two firms—among them NGP VAN—for COVID-19 contact tracing to “provide software to help organize remote phone banking and track information and contacts,” which ran to $200,000 over eight weeks. (The other group was a nonprofit run by Democratic consultant Michael Kolehouse, who’s written on Facebook that Trump should “get Coronavirus ASAP” and someone should “do the country a favor and cough on that man.”)

Understandably, Republicans were aghast. Even Gretchen Whitmer, the state’s notoriously rabid Democratic governor, balked at sharing sensitive personal information on state residents with a partisan campaign vendor. A day later her office canceled the contract, explaining:

The executive office is uncomfortable with this vendor for the same reason others are. The public needs to have confidence that this tracing work is being done by a nonpartisan firm.

More accurately, Whitmer’s office got caught trying to pull a fast one on the public. The contract was only cancelled after Wes Nakagiri, a Republican county commissioner, brought the scheme to light. “This enables NGP VAN to share this confidential information with both the MDHHS and Democrat candidates,” he revealed.

This scheme is an insidiously clever and deceitful way to take political advantage of the biggest public health crisis of our lifetimes. Providing confidential information collected from contact tracing to Democrat candidates is an egregious violation of the public trust.

Trouble in Philly

But that pales in comparison with NGP VAN’s cozy relationship with the city of Philadelphia.

Public filings reveal that in October 2021 the city signed a sole source contract with NGP VAN—meaning it was awarded without competitive bidding—to “collect, track, and utilize engagement data” on Philadelphia residents. (“Engagement” is a common euphemism on the Left for voter turnout.) Further filings reveal a relationship with NGP VAN dating back to at least 2019. And Philadelphia job postings for an NGP VAN software administrator show that the data-collection is citywide.

Mary Jim Kenney (D)’s office claims that NGP VAN is the “only program available to capture the data necessary for this process.” But that’s ridiculous; there are dozens of nonpartisan data vendors that could perform the same service. Kenney’s claim only makes sense if the true objective is feeding voter data into the Democratic Party’s get-out-the-vote machine.

Credit: Verity Vote.

Consider that the city’s website solicits donations to partisan pro-abortion organizations like Planned Parenthood, New Voices for Reproductive Justice, and the Abortion Liberation Fund, which describes its mission as using “community organizing to lift the insurance bans [on] and eradicate all other barriers” to abortion-on-demand. It also asks visitors to “call your state legislators” and oppose SB 106, a proposed constitutional amendment that would’ve declared that “there is no constitutional right to taxpayer-funded abortion” or abortion in general.

It’s little wonder, then, that the Mayor’s office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Service—an agency with a $600,000 budget—is powered by NGP VAN.

Credit: Verity Vote.

The office offers services to teach activists “how to plan for recruitment, build a contact list, and track your work along the way”—in other words, how to use NGP VAN software to run a successful campaign. That includes allowing subscribers to give their pronouns (with a choice of nearly two dozen sets), their sexual orientation, and announce whether they “identify as transgender”—all on a website hosted by NGP VAN.

Credit: Verity Vote.

Consider the value of the information pumped into this partisan company by the city of Philadelphia. Good campaign data is the difference between victory and defeat. NGP VAN already has critical information on voters across the state thanks to years of campaign list-building; now it’s supplemented by official municipal data handed out at taxpayer expense… and only Democrats benefit.

That’s the equivalent of giving valuable voter data to the Democratic National Committee. Leftists would never abide giving it to a Republican-aligned group; yet the watchdog media is utterly silent.

Pennsylvania state law (25 Pa. Stat. § 2705) prohibits “directly or indirectly soliciting, receiving, collecting, handling, disbursing or accounting for assessments, contributions or other money for a partisan political purpose.” Public employees who violate this law “shall be removed from employment.”

25 Pa. Stat. § 2607 adds that:

State and local governments, including their public officers, public officials, employees and agents, acting in their official capacity, may not solicit, apply for, enter into a contract for or receive or expend gifts, donations, grants or funding from any individual, business, organization, trust, foundation, or any nongovernmental entity for the registration of voters or the preparation, administration or conducting of an election in this Commonwealth [emphasis added].

It seems likely that Philadelphia broke the law by contracting with NGP VAN, but we won’t know for certain until legal action is taken. We do know that Democrats Josh Shapiro and John Fetterman won a stunning 86 percent and 83 percent of the votes in Philadelphia, respectively—their largest margins anywhere in the state—in the race for governor and U.S. senator last year. In contracting with NGP VAN, the city opened a data pipeline to the biggest get-out-the-vote machine in the country—and it belongs entirely to the Democrats.

Printable PDF version available here

This report was made possible by research from Heather Honey and Verity Vote