How the Voter Participation Center aims to cement Democratic rule by remaking America’s electorate
Blanketing America in Mailers
In total, the Voter Participation Center and Center for Voter Information disgorged an incredible 85.5 million mailers across 32 states between March and October 2022, according to figures reported by Earl Glynn, a private researcher.
The pair’s first wave of mailers in March targeted eligible-but-unregistered individuals with voter registration applications, particularly those “who have just turned 18” and “voters who have recently moved.” In August, the groups specifically targeted New American Majority voters—“people of color, young people, and unmarried women”—largely in Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Pennsylvania. A month later it sent registration mailers to New American Majority voters “who are not very likely to vote” in the midterms.
VPC hammered a whopping 52.8 million homes throughout October with get-out-the-vote (GOTV) mailers, one-third of them New American Majority voters. Glynn points out that in certain states VPC and CVI partnered with local “progressive” groups, such as Mississippi’s NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which sent 103,000 registration applications to black residents across the state in August.
It’s hard to believe that 85.5 million mailers played no role in tipping the 2022 midterms in the Democrats’ favor, especially when one sees where they went.
While VPC didn’t specify any targeted races, certain states were undoubtedly hit hardest: Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Maine, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, and Minnesota.
20 states with U.S. Senate races in 2022 were swamped with VPC/CVI mailers, the vast majority in the last few weeks before Election Day. By the end of October, over 9 million Americans had voted early.
Pennsylvania, which John Fetterman (D) flipped, was VPC’s single most-targeted state at an incredible 14.2 million mailers, 82 percent of which hit mailboxes in October before Fetterman debated Republican nominee Mehmet Oz on October 25th—by which time some 700,000 voters had already cast their ballots. Recall that Pennsylvania also held a competitive race for governor in 2022.
VPC sent 11.8 million mailers to Georgia, where Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) defeated Herschel Walker (R) by 2.8 percent (99,389 votes). 90 percent of them landed in October.
In Wisconsin, Democrat Mandela Barnes came within 1 percent (27,398 votes) of defeating Republican incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson. VPC slammed the state with 4.1 million mailers, 87 percent of them in October. VPC/CVI similarly poured 10.5 million mailers into Michigan, where Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) defeated Republican challenger Tudor Dixon by nearly 470,000 votes. 86 percent of the mailers landed in October.
Democrats held their Senate seat in Nevada by less than 5,000 votes (a margin of 0.5 percent). VPC poured close to 3.9 million mailers into the Silver State, 91 percent of them in October. And VPC sent 7.7 million mailers to Arizona, 90 of them in October. Sen. Mark Kelly (D) defeated Republican Blake Masters by less than 5 percent, or 125,719 votes.
Contrast those tight races with Senate elections in non-battleground states, even populous ones with large minority populations. VPC/CVI sent 5.2 million mailers to New York, California, Maryland, and others with lopsided election results—just 6 percent of its 2022 total.
That’s pretty jarring for a pair of groups supposedly boosting the “New American Majority,” given that 37 percent of New Yorkers are non-white, one-third of Maryland residents are black, and California’s been majority-minority since 2014. And where’s VPC’s outrage over racial disparities in Washington state, where the New York Times reported that 1 out of every 4 disqualified mail-in ballots in the midterms came from a black voter?
But of course we know that the Voter Participation Center was created to help Democrats win elections, not “empower” minorities.
Who Registers, Wins
If that doesn’t infuriate or alarm law-abiding conservatives, it’s because they don’t grasp the power of the Left’s voter registration machine.
The Left’s top 24 voter registration nonprofits spent $434 million in 2020 alone. VPC was the largest, raking in $88 million and spending over $100 million that year. That the money went to politics, not charity, is only highlighted by its finances in 2021, an off-year: Just $11 million in revenue and $15 million in expenditures.
Big foundations funneled roughly $461 million into these 24 nonprofits over the past decade, including the Ford and Tides Foundations, pass-through Proteus Fund, and Warren Buffett’s Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation. A chunk of that money came from Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss; much more flowed through donor-advised fund providers such as the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund and Silicon Valley Community Foundation, totally masking the original donors’ identities.
It may sound counterintuitive to pour money into registration rather than straight get-out-the-vote drives (and they do fund both). But research suggests that 501(c)(3) groups have better reach among independents leery of both parties. Once identified and added to the voter rolls, these individuals tend to vote in the next two to three election cycles, netting 6 years of votes for a one-time cost.
Microtargeting techniques developed by the tech industry have made it possible to target highly specific demographics (e.g. unmarried female college graduates) in a precise geographic location (say, a congressional district). Armed with that priceless data and limitless funding, the Left’s fleet of registration groups can run everything from a mass direct-mail to local door-knocking campaign.
And naturally, they do. In the 2018 midterms, 180 left-leaning nonprofits engaged thousands of eligible-but-unregistered individuals and netted thousands of new registrations. Later analysis showed that “voters of color” constituted 22 percent of all registered voters but 53 percent of the targeted by these groups, each of whom was 4 to 7 percent more likely to turn out in elections after being targeted.
The key to this machine is the “Integrated Voter Engagement Model,” brainchild of a left-wing donors’ collective called the Funders Committee for Civic Participation (a front for the pass-through funder NEO Philanthropy), which assembles these and other mega-funders on the Left to coordinate their spending. In 2020 these members commanded $11.5 billion in combined total expenditures.
The model’s theory of impact is straightforward: Shuffle money to “democracy groups” advancing “structural reforms” to obtain “power” for Democrats. An older rendition of the theory was even starker: registering and turning out voters to “hold elected officials accountable” and “achieve policy impact.” The Funders Committee expanded the theory in 2017 to include “defend + expand voting rights.”
Many credit the Funders Committee model with turning Colorado from a red to purple state by massively boosting Democratic registration and turnout, flipping the legislature, and ultimately securing election “reforms” like vote-by-mail which further cement Democratic advantages.
Thanks to a secret strategy document uncovered by the Capital Research Center in 2022, we now know that in 2015 the Left ran “large-scale, multi-year voter registration programs” which it believed could “fundamentally reshape the electorate in as many as 13 states” by 2020, exclusively by registering “non-white” residents. Many of the Democratic Party’s gains in places like Maricopa County, Arizona, and Atlanta, Georgia, are the fruits.
The price-tag: $105-$210 million, virtually all of it from the tax-exempt members of the Funders Committee provided the bulk of funds for this project, which has since expanded to every other battleground state in America (and clearly at a much higher cost).
Defeating the Juggernaut
So what can conservatives do about it? This writer sees two strategies for success.
Beat them at their own game
Whereas the Left has hundreds of 501(c)(3)s engaged in voter registration, the Right can count theirs on one hand. Conservatives have instead relied almost exclusively on Republican Party committees and political campaigns to register and turn out voters—think Karl Rove’s famous GOTV campaigns of the past two decades. But these tend to miss wary independents.
The solution: Copy the Left’s strategy and start building data-driven registration nonprofits to discover “hidden” conservatives in battleground states. It isn’t difficult to map out conservative Evangelical and Roman Catholic churches, for instance, nor to tap into the wellspring of volunteer poll-workers and members of grassroots election integrity groups nationwide. Go to places where patriotic, religious, traditionalist Americans gather. Seek out Ross Perot-type independents who are tired of “wokeism” and previously uninterested in a flaccid Republican Party.
But don’t expect to replicate the Left’s election machine, which took hundreds of millions of dollars and decades to build. Conservatives don’t have the time or resources to follow suit. Fortunately, they don’t need to.
When it comes to reliability, the average Republican and Democratic voter are not mirror opposites: Young renters generally make for spotty voters compared with middle-aged homeowners, veterans voted at a higher rate than non-veterans in 2020, etc. Put simply, Republicans are better voters. Democrats need a vast election machine to both register and reliably turn out their voters—but Republicans can pour all their resources into registration.
Even better, they don’t need to match the Left dollar-for-dollar. In a scant few years—and more or less unintentionally—President Trump arguably accomplished for the Republicans what it took Democrats a generation of serious activism to do: Transform millions of disinterested Americans into reliable voters. Conservatives need a fraction of the Left’s funds to register the rest. Savvy activists will also take advantage of the monumental realignment among Latinos to win new voters, many of whom were added to the voter rolls by leftist groups eager to build the “New American Majority.”
Ban nonprofit voter registration
Winning elections means taking the fight to the enemy, something the Left’s GOTV activists have never suffered and certainly don’t expect.
There are 22 Republican trifectas nationwide, states where the GOP completely controls the legislature and the governorship. They should ban 501(c) groups not based in their state from conducting voter registration or get-out-the-vote drives, hamstringing the Voter Participation Center and organizations like it. Better yet, states can ban all 501(c) registration and GOTV work.
All 501(c)(3) nonprofits are officially “nonpartisan” by law, which means they cannot affiliate with a political party (don’t confuse “nonpartisan” with “nonideological”). To reiterate, 501(c)(3)s are strictly barred from intervening in campaigns, either directly or indirectly. They’re only allowed to engage in voter registration drives if
they are conducted in a neutral, non-partisan manner, for example, without reference to any candidate or political party. However, voter education or registration activities conducted in a biased manner that favors (or opposes) one or more candidates is prohibited.
If that wasn’t clear enough, the IRS further adds that
voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention [emphasis added].
The “progressive” nonprofit empire obviously violates the spirit of this prohibition, which was intended to block groups from using 501(c)(3) charities to win elections—the very thing this election machine exists to achieve. Cutting off the use of nonprofits for so much political work is the ethical thing to do.
It’d also gut the left-wing juggernaut and force Democrats to retreat to PAC registration (which is just as problematic for them as it is for Republicans), which is where voter registration belongs. It’d blunt the value of the Left’s data on eligible-but-unregistered individuals, making it significantly harder for turnout groups to reach low-propensity voters in places like Atlanta, Milwaukee, and Detroit. National networks like that of States Voices and America Votes would become near-worthless, since their role is to coordinate local groups’ registration activities and funnel money to battleground states.
Nothing would do more to level the playing field for the Right, which is why bold lawmakers ought to be financially prepared to battle the Left’s army of lawyers in court. The IRS—under Congress’s oversight—governs the rules surrounding 501(c) nonprofits, making it a federal issue. So why not use Congress to ban nonprofit voter registration instead of the states?
Use both. At its core, this is about federalism. The Constitution gives state legislatures, not the federal government, strict control over how elections are run while reserving an oversight role to Congress. Voter rolls are each state’s domain, as is determining how residents are added to the rolls. When 501(c) groups use federal law to engage in voter registration, they’re trampling on the states’ turf—and states should push back, starting with the 22 Republican trifectas. Congressional Republicans can supplement their work by investigating the IRS’s failure to strip tax exemption from nonprofits which violate voter registration rules, and later with legislation banning the practice outright.
Only one question remains: Are lawmakers bold enough to actually fight the Left?