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Election Integrity News Blog


Goliath Funders Coming for Your State (Part 1)

How Big Money Nonprofits Impacted Voting in Michigan

KRISTINE CHRISTLIEB Reprinted with permission from Trust but Verify Substack. | July 26, 2023


Reform is a good thing, isn’t it? Who would object to reform?

In 2018, a group of farsighted, left-leaning organizations in Michigan took that idea and ran with it.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan, the Detroit chapter of the NAACP, the League of Women Voters of Michigan, and the Michigan League for Public Policy decided their state was in need of election reform!

Promote the Vote was their political action committee (PAC) … and their slogan. Their method of reform was Proposition 3, which, among other things, gave all eligible Michigan voters the right to vote absentee … for no reason. Other states were doing it. Why not Michigan?

The ACLU national organization, with help from the local chapter, raised 49% of the funds. Promote the Vote was successful in persuading other outside organizations to help, including the Sierra Club who tossed in a $68,000 bone, the UAW which gave $150,000, and oil heiress Lynn Schusterman who gave $500,000.

In total, Promote the Vote raised nearly $5 million, and Proposition 3 passed easily with 67% of Michiganders casting their ballots in support of reform.

It just goes to show what a big influx of cash can do.


You are invited to join MFE's weekly Zoom at Noon beginning tomorrow at 12 o'clock PM EST. Learn what you can do to take action. Make a difference.

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In their 2010 book, The Blueprint, Adam Schrager and Rob Witwer detail how data, motivated brainiacs, and cash created the secret sauce that turned bright red Colorado blue.

Here’s how former Congressman Tom Tancredo described the winning secret sauce.

"It doesn't matter if you are running for the state legislature or the president of the United States. Brilliant organization, unlimited resources, and the effective use of technology all in the hands of bright people who are driven more than just simple ideology create the most formidable campaign strategy imaginable."

Schrager and Witwer predicted Michigan would be targeted just like Colorado.

Election Reform Round 2

Jane Fonda famously called the global COVID outbreak “God’s gift to the Left.”

And so it was. The COVID pandemic led to even more voting reforms for Michigan in 2020.

In its Michigan Election Law Blog, the Foster Swift law firm downplayed the significance of the COVID-related reforms saying, “Many of the changes will not be noticeable to most voters.”

But the changes, especially in toto, were significant. Thanks to COVID, Michigan now had drop boxes, ballot harvesting, cure periods, ballot “spoiling,” and a deluge of absentee ballots.

Despite all the changes, Promote the Vote supporters still weren’t satisfied. By January 2022, they were asking to put Proposition 2 on the November ballot, an amendment to the state’s constitution directly addressing the state’s elections.

Election Reform Round 3 – Bring in the Big Guns

Promote the Vote put Proposition 2 before the state’s Board of Canvassers for approval on January 31, 2022.

It was sold to the public as reform that would allow early voting and require voters to have picture identification. It was a winning combination of issues.

Early voting was being widely adopted, and surveys showed 80% of Americans want some form of voter identification.

Forty weeks later, the next round of election reforms were approved by 60% of Michigan voters, a statistic that Michigan Democrats were quick to quote.

But the cost was high for Promote the Vote … and for Michiganders who voted for it, the consequences of which are currently playing out in the Michigan legislature.

In 2018, Promote the Vote raised $4.6 million to win passage of Proposition 3. In 2022, Promote the Vote spent $23 million to claim victory. It was a nearly 400% increase in cost, thus the need for nearly unlimited resources.

As an example of the skyrocketing cost, to get the required number of signatures to put the measure on the November 2022 ballot, Promote the Vote had to spend $18.00 per signature; in 2018, the organization only had to spend $5.00.

The huge influx of cash came from these top contributors, with the Sixteen Thirty Fund providing nearly 50% of the funding.

Donor Cash and In-Kind Contribution

  1. Sixteen Thirty Fund $11,261,370

  2. Voters Not Politicians $1,819,750

  3. Lynn Schusterman $1,500,000

  4. Open Society Foundations $1,200,000

  5. Hopewell Fund $675,000

Of the above funders, only Voters Not Politicians is based in Michigan; the rest are out-of-state organizations, some with global interests, targeting Michigan.

Lynn Schusterman, who was a major contributor to Proposition 3 in 2018, calls Tulsa her hometown. Open Society Foundations is global philanthropist George Soros’ organization.

The Hopewell Fund is a 501(c)4 nonprofit similar to the Sixteen Thirty Fund. Funds donated to these kinds of nonprofits are not tax deductible, but they have the noteworthy advantage of allowing donors to be anonymous.

Wealthy donors who made it possible for the Sixteen Thirty Fund to underwrite passage of Proposition 2 via Promote the Vote never have to be disclosed. So the public doesn’t know, who, specifically signed on to target Michigan through that nonprofit organization.

The Sixteen Thirty Fund and Arabella Advisors, Washington D.C. power brokers you’ve maybe never heard of, will be the focus of Part 2 of this article to be published next week on Thursday, July 13.

# # #

Calendar of Events:

National Working Groups

  • Citizen Research Project | Ned Jones, EIN

  • Election Technology | Jim Womack, NCEIT

  • Introduction to Election Integrity Infrastructure | Kerri Toloczko and Ned Jones, EIN

  • Vote By Mail / USPS | Ned Jones, EIN

  • Legislative Development | Kathleen Harms, Tennessee Coalition

  • Ranked Choice Voting | Kerri Toloczko and Melody Clarke, EIN

  • Voter Roll Maintenance | Cleta Mitchell, EIN

  • Vulnerable Voters | Kerri Toloczko, EIN

  • Media Training | Kerri Toloczko, EIN

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