Archive for category: Class Oppression
By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: June 28, 2022 ~ In September 1999 the U.S. Department of Justice filed racketeering charges against the major tobacco companies and two of their front groups. The court filings in that case carefully pieced together a half century of conspiratorial conduct and lies that gravely harmed the health of the American people, while lining the pockets of the tobacco industry, its lawyers and its paid shills. The January 6 Select House Committee has that same, once-in-a-lifetime power in its hands. But that window of opportunity will close soon. The January 6 Committee can connect all the dots of the attempted coup leading to the doorstep of Charles Koch and expose his four decades of establishing front groups to shill for the fossil fuels industry and anti-climate change groups, or it can present a false and narrow view that this was all about the ego and … Continue reading →
David de Jong opens his book, Nazi Billionaires: The Dark History of Germany’s Wealthiest Dynasties, with a vignette about an unrepentant heiress. In 2019, Verena Bahlsen, the 26-year-old inheritor of Germany’s most famous cookie company, gave a speech at a conference in Hamburg. Responding to a socialist politician’s suggestion that ownership of Germany’s largest companies should be distributed, she declared her unequivocal support for capitalism and her pride in her immense wealth: “I am a capitalist,” she ad-libbed. “I own a quarter of Bahlsen and I am happy about it. It should continue to belong to me. I want to make money and buy sailing yachts from my dividend.” Days later, a journalist asked her to justify her bragging about her wealth, given that her family’s company used forced labor during World War II, paying foreign workers meager wages in appalling conditions. Again, she was impenitent: “That was before my time and we paid the forced laborers exactly the same as the Germans and treated them well.”
Condemnation was swift, with global headlines announcing outrage and ire. Following Bahlsen’s comments, de Jong writes, journalists at Der Spiegel investigated her family past. They confirmed that her grandfather and great-uncles, who ran the Bahlsen company during the Third Reich, had been Nazis and donated money to the SS, the Nazi paramilitary organization; they had also expropriated a cookie factory near Kyiv, from which they had imported the workers and then paid them slave wages. “After the war, like millions of Germans, the Bahlsen men denied all charges of complicity with the Nazis and got off scot-free,” de Jong writes. To stanch the current outrage, the Bahlsen family hired a prominent German historian to write an independent report on the family’s Nazi-era actions. “The announcement worked,” de Jong reports, “and the controversy faded.”
Attitudes like Bahlsen’s were meant to be a thing of the past. I recall, as a child growing up among secular American Jews in the ’90s, plenty of talk among the generations above me about boycotting German brands. The reviled companies weren’t only the obvious ones, like Volkswagen or Siemens, directly associated with Nazi rule; many also avoided smaller but historical consumer brands like Birkenstock or Nivea or Miele. The assumption was that those companies, if they persisted through the years of the Nazi regime, must have found a way to work within the fascist system that deprived so many of their rights and lives.
Later, as a college student and after, I spent some years living in Berlin; this was at the height of the celebration of Germany as a bastion of Vergangenheitsbewältigung, or working through its past. It was before the entrance of Alternativ für Deutschland into mainstream politics, the era when Germany hosted the World Cup and finally began, without shame at any hint of nationalism, to fly its flag; when, as Tony Judt wrote in 2005 in Postwar, “Holocaust recognition is our contemporary European entry ticket,” and every European capital had to have a memorial to war crimes to be part of the liberal European project. In this, Berlin, studded with publicly funded memorials, was the epitome. I went home to the United States and told my parents and their friends that they needn’t worry about supporting German brands or the country’s economy; the country would always be engaged in holding itself to account for its brutal totalitarian past.
De Jong’s book is a strong rejoinder to that narrative. In a densely researched account of five wealthy German families, each of which not only benefited from but strengthened the Nazi regime, de Jong suggests that neither German society nor the German state has fulfilled its promise to denazify German business and industry, even in the many decades since the end of the war. He offers Bahlsen’s story as just one instance in a pattern of convenient forgetting in contemporary Germany. The promise of Vergangenheitsbewältigung, according to de Jong, has not been fulfilled—at least when it comes to Germany’s wealthiest families.
Each of the five dynasties de Jong covers still numbers among Germany’s wealthiest clans. First, there are the Quandts, who got their start as textile magnates, expanded into steel and munitions, and whose heirs now control BMW, Mini, and Rolls-Royce. Second are the Flicks, a family of industrialists who, despite being the only family represented here who were tried at Nuremberg and sentenced for war crimes, have never paid reparations. Next come the von Fincks, private bankers and insurance scions who helped found Hitler’s Museum of German Art and whose heir now funds German far-right political organizations. There are the Oetkers, who control Dr. Oetker, a consumer foods company valued at $8 billion that is known around the world for its pudding powders and frozen pizzas, as well as a sparkling wine company and a portfolio of luxury hotels. Finally, we have the Porsche-Piëchs, the founders not only of Porsche (and now controlling owners of the Volkswagen group, which includes Audi, Bentley, and Lamborghini) but close associates of Hitler who pitched him the idea of the Volkswagen—a “people’s car”—and used slave labor to build a factory to produce it.
In prose that is readable but not especially artful, de Jong, a reporter for Bloomberg, likely provides more detail on the structures of business deals and family succession than most lay readers would need—at times, his exhaustive detail makes this feel more like an academic text—but in doing so makes a valuable contribution to committing to the record the full account of these families’ crimes. De Jong details how each of these families slowly escalated their support for and intertwinement with the Nazis. Each donated to the Nazis beginning early in the ’30s in an effort to quash democratic society and help Hitler’s party consolidate total control; leveraged close connections to the regime to generate business; contributed to the war effort, whether by financing industry, designing tanks, or producing metals and munitions; expropriated businesses from Jews under Aryanization laws; and used forced labor from concentration camps. In short, these were not the average German citizens who might claim that they didn’t know what was going on. These were the men rubbing shoulders with Nazis leading the charge, and who benefitted mightily from knowing them.
These were not the average German citizens who might claim that they didn’t know what was going on. These were the men rubbing shoulders with Nazis leading the charge, and who benefitted mightily from knowing them.
As with any book that tracks the arc of the Nazi regime, this one gets grimmer and more grotesque as it progresses, moving from accounts of backroom business deals to vivid descriptions of the mistreatment of forced laborers. At the height of the war, any German business could go to the local labor office and request coerced workers; these were largely Ostarbeiter, or workers sent to concentration camps in the occupied East who were then transported to Germany and elsewhere. Alongside more widely known villains like I.G. Farben, Krupp, and Daimler-Benz, the moguls in this book were among the first to do so. By 1943, half of the workers for the Flick family conglomerate—approximately 130,000 people—were forced or slave laborers.
The details of what happened in the sub-concentration camps built expressly to house these families’ forced laborers are chilling and stomach-turning. At one of the lead factories owned by the Quandts, forced laborers were denied protective equipment and so suffered lead poisoning and third-degree burns that required amputations. The Porsche-Piëchs’ forced labor camp was the site of mass rapes of the women working there; once they gave birth, their infants were taken from them by force to an orphanage where at least 365 children died from neglect and infection. At the end of the war, the forced laborers left at the Quandts’ labor camp in Hannover were evacuated to shield their existence from the Allies. But the train they were on was blocked by another bombed-out train on the tracks; with American troops closing in, the SS and Wehrmacht decided to lock the remaining captives in a barn and set it on fire. SS forces threw hand grenades onto the burning structure and gunned down people who tried to flee. American soldiers later discovered the charred bodies of 1,016 people, all of whom had been moved out of the Quandt family business’s dedicated forced labor camp; many had been burned alive.
Some of this may not be entirely new information to Germans, who may have read about or watched documentaries about some of these families in their national press; but a stated and essential part of de Jong’s project is to make this information available to English-language readers. De Jong quotes Rüdiger Jungbluth, a German journalist whose books on the Quandts and Oetkers revealed those families’ crimes, at least in the German-speaking world, without much change in their treatment: “When it’s not written in English, it’s not considered news.” When a company has global reach, presenting information in English, de Jong hopes, might have a more significant impact.
De Jong feels motivated to revisit these crimes in part because the families continue to obscure them. Almost all of the living members of these families declined to speak to de Jong, and their corporate representatives, if they responded at all, pointed de Jong to the kinds of family-commissioned histories that the Bahlsen family announced—reports written in dense academic German, available only in hidden corners of corporate or foundation webpages. The mere existence of these reports does little, de Jong argues, if they are not widely accessible, or if they do not simultaneously cause the families to take greater responsibility for their crimes. Further, de Jong rails against these families’ use of philanthropy to whitewash history. The Quandts, for example, can still garner prestige from the Herbert Quandt Media Prize, named after a Nazi who committed war crimes; the Ferry Porsche Foundation, dedicated to “reinforcing its commitment to social responsibility,” can endow a professorship in corporate history at a distinguished German university as “an invitation to family companies in particular to engage with their history more intensively and candidly.” De Jong feels unheimlich when he spots Quandt and Flick on a wall of donor names at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.
In an interview with Anand Giridharadas about the book, de Jong argues that “at the bare minimum, the public should expect historical transparency when it comes to [these families’] business successes, their war crimes, their Nazi affiliations. If they don’t want to do that, they should rename their foundations, corporate headquarters, and media prizes. That is minimal justice.” The only response he gets on this front is from Jörg Appelhans, a spokesman for the Quandt siblings who now control BMW: “The Quandt family is convinced that the goals of openness and transparency have been achieved. We don’t believe that renaming streets, places, or institutions is a responsible way to deal with historic figures because such ‘damnatio memoriae’ … prevents a conscious exposure to their role in history and instead fosters its neglect.”
Having made a clear case for just how repugnant each of the families’ patriarchs was, de Jong then goes on to describe how almost all of them were allowed to go free after the Third Reich fell, their fortunes intact. But whereas he went into great detail about how these families accumulated their wealth, his explanations about the justice process in the postwar period are more muddled. Unfortunately, he doesn’t manage to successfully give a bigger picture sense of why denazification failed.
As he better explains in an interview elsewhere, geopolitical priorities shifted so quickly in the postwar period that the appetite for a long judicial accounting of Nazi crimes was short-lived. Although the Allies declared at Potsdam their intention to dissolve Nazi organizations and institutions, repeal Nazi laws, and remove anyone who was more than a nominal member of the Nazi party from positions of power and influence, that process largely failed because the U.S. quickly became more invested in West Germany’s role as a capitalist, democratic bulwark against Soviet Russia. Soon came the Marshall Plan and a new policy stance that emphasized German self-governance over punishment; forgotten or ignored were the crimes that animated the Third Reich. Those who were able to stall the justice process long enough were often let go with lenient sanctions, if they suffered any at all.
Indeed, the Allies initially planned to hold a mass trial at Nuremberg of industrialists, businessmen, and financiers for war crimes, as they had for political figures; some of the families featured in de Jong’s book were considered for inclusion. But by 1947, interest in pursuing such international trials had subsided; that year, the Truman administration decided not to continue to prosecute Germans as the occupying power and instead handed over hundreds of thousands of suspected Nazi perpetrators and sympathizers to local tribunals in what became known as “denazification trials.” Because of the scale of the undertaking, most of the judges and prosecutors were laymen. The German dictatorship had fallen not due to internal revolution but as a result of external, military defeat; when the accused were turned back over to German authorities, the process fell apart. Germans were loath to pass judgment on their compatriots for acts that they either privately condoned or participated in themselves. Of more than 12 million people who were required to register as part of the denazification process, more than nine million, or three-quarters, were found not chargeable. Millions were granted amnesty without trial; of those who were tried, about a third were exonerated. Ultimately, denazification petered out, reopening control of German public, economic, and cultural life to individuals who had only been temporarily prevented from exercising it.
The idea that the country’s institutions have confronted Nazi crimes is an incomplete assessment; perhaps Germany is not, as we’ve thought, a shining model of reckoning with its past.
The families that de Jong profiles all benefitted from these failures. In the end, only three industrialists, one of whom was Friedrich Flick, were tried at Nuremberg. Flick was an exception to the general rule, in that he was found guilty of war crimes and sentenced to seven years in prison. But, as de Jong argues, his punishment was inadequate: He served only five years, after the American high commissioner of occupied Germany, who oversaw a series of controversial acts of clemency, reduced his sentence for good behavior, and he was soon able to return to running his businesses. The other moguls that de Jong profiles collected statements from family, friends, and colleagues to submit to the courts to help exonerate them by refuting their alleged crimes or speaking to their good character. These affidavits came to be known as Persilschein, or “Persil tickets,” named after a famous brand of German laundry detergent, a term used for any statement that sought to wash clean any stain of association with the Nazis. Often, a Persilschein was enough to grant a German defendant accused of Nazism a certificate of good standing, which allowed the person to return to a job or to regain control over a business. Quandt, Porsche, von Finck, and Oetker all used this method with great success.
It’s worth noting that de Jong’s portrayal of the failures of denazification tends to emphasize its worst failures. De Jong selected the families he follows precisely because of the wealth they still hold today, not because they were the most influential business people in the regime. Because the starting point is the continuity of their wealth, that means they cannot really have been held to account. The executives of other companies, such as I.G. Farben, who were tried at Nuremberg, were more seriously sanctioned, and that company was broken up.
De Jong’s exploration of the postwar period left me wondering if his focus on the culpability of the families was sufficient. It’s the descendants, he argues repeatedly, who should acknowledge their wrongdoing. But what about the state? Shouldn’t Germany, both the government and the society, bear some responsibility for this? What might a more comprehensive justice process have looked like? And what options might be available now to rectify these past wrongs?
Nevertheless, de Jong’s thesis holds. By detailing the stories of these five families, he makes a strong case that the German tendency toward self-reflection or addressing past wrongs has only been true up to a point; it has failed when it comes to the country’s wealthiest families. The idea that the country’s institutions have confronted Nazi crimes is an incomplete assessment; perhaps Germany is not, as we’ve thought, a shining model of reckoning with its past. What other explanation is there if the country remains beholden to rich, powerful families and their global companies?
The newly released “Poor People’s Pandemic Report” shows poor people died from COVID at twice the rate of wealthy Americans and that people of color were more likely to die than white populations. “Our country has gotten used to unnecessary death, especially when it’s the death of poor people,” says Rev. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign.
The Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, a major funder of rightwing groups promoting the Big Lie about the 2020 presidential election, is also pushing voter suppression policies in states across the country, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has learned.
Based in Maryland, the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation (“the Foundation”) is led by its namesake, the daughter of Shelby Cullom Davis, who made a fortune on investments and insurance and once chaired the right-leaning Heritage Foundation. The Foundation disclosed net assets totaling $1.5 billion on its 2020 IRS filing obtained by CMD.
In analyzing the Foundation’s latest IRS filings between 2018 and 2020, CMD found that it gave $3.7 million to 13 voter suppression groups. Many of the grants are designated for “election integrity” — rightwing code words for restricting voting rights.
In addition, the Foundation’s IRS filings for those three years detail $24 million in contributions to DonorsTrust, the preferred donor conduit of the Koch political network. DonorsTrust pumped over $137 million into rightwing groups in 2020 alone — including millions to the same voter suppression groups funded by the Foundation — according to a CMD analysis of its last IRS filing.
Here are the voter suppression groups the Foundation supported between 2018 and 2020, presented in descending order of funding granted:
Lawyers Democracy Fund — $625,000
Over the three-year period (2018–20), the Lawyers Democracy Fund (LDF) received a total of $625,000 in Foundation grants for its “election integrity project.” LDF’s IRS filings show that the Foundation’s $200,000 grants in both 2018 and 2019 accounted for its entire revenue those years.
The Foundation’s 2019 IRS filing states that the $200,000 is for “educational initiatives, policy research activities and public interest litigation efforts with respect to the vital issues of electoral system integrity throughout the United States.” Its 2020 grant of $225,000 is similarly worded.
LDF President Harvey Tettlebaum was the former president of the Republican National Lawyers Association (2003–06) and LDF Secretary Elliot Berke currently serves as Georgia’s special assistant attorney general and on the Board of Advisors of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
LDF advocates for strict voter ID laws and opposes all mail-in ballots and mandatory voter registration — policies that make it more difficult for people to exercise their right to vote.
Much of LDF’s public-facing work is in the courts. In January it helped overturn Pennsylvania’s no-excuse absentee voting law in Commonwealth Court and filed an amicus brief with Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) in the Supreme Court case Berger v. North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, arguing in favor of giving the state legislature the power to intervene to defend the constitutionality of North Carolina’s voter ID law.
LDF and two other grant recipients, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Honest Elections Project, also filed briefs in the case, which was argued on March 21. The groups are trying to get the Supreme Court to embrace the “independent state legislature doctrine,” a fringe theory that resurfaced during attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, by arguing that only state legislatures can control federal elections — without any limitations from state courts or constitutions.
As the ranking member on the U.S. House Administration Committee, Davis leads Republicans in their Faith in Elections Project to combat efforts by Democrats to safeguard elections and expand access to the ballot box.
American Civil Rights Union — $550,000
The American Civil Rights Union (ACRU), rebranded as the American Constitutional Rights Union in 2019, received $550,000 in grants from the Foundation for its voter suppression efforts. ACRU had $810,000 in revenue as of its last IRS filing and is led by Lori Roman, ALEC’s former executive director.
ACRU received grants of $125,000 in 2018 and $150,000 in 2019 for “election integrity” and $300,000 in 2020 for a project to “protect elderly and military votes” and “voter educational initiatives.” The longtime voter suppression group launched its Protect Elderly Votes Project in April 2020 “to protect seniors from those who may wish to defraud them of their vote.”
ACRU’s Project “applauded” the Racine Sheriff in Wisconsin for identifying what he claimed were eight cases of voter fraud at a nursing home in the area. The sheriff recommended criminal charges against five election commissioners, but prosecutors have not acted due to a lack of evidence.
Two national leaders of misinformation about widespread voter fraud serve on ACRU’s policy board: Ken Blackwell, chairman of the MAGA Voter Suppression Center, and Hans von Spakovsky, manager of the Heritage Foundation’s Election Law Reform Initiative.
Judicial Education Project / The 85 Fund — $450,000
The Foundation granted the Judicial Education Project — now rebranded as The 85 Fund — $450,000 in 2020 for “election integrity initiatives in various states.” The large grant likely went to the fund’s Honest Elections Project (HEP).
HEP is a dark money voter suppression group formed in February 2020 by Leonard Leo‘s network. Known as Trump’s “judge whisperer,” Leo worked behind the scenes during the Trump administration to organize a rightwing takeover of the U.S. Supreme Court.
In addition to pushing misinformation about voter fraud, HEP has placed ads opposing mail-in balloting and advocated for purging voter rolls. It is also developing model voter suppression policies for ALEC, and organized at least two multi-day voter suppression summits for ALEC members preceding its Annual Meeting, along with last year’s States and Nation Policy Summit.
CMD obtained memos that HEP distributed to ALEC members at the summit, loaded with rightwing spin on Congress’s Freedom to Vote Act, state election laws, and polling from HEP Action claiming that West Virginia voters oppose the Freedom to Vote Act and ending the Senate filibuster.
Blackwell and HEP’s Executive Director Jason Snead, a former senior policy analyst for the Heritage Foundation (where he developed the Heritage Election Fraud Database with Spakovsky), were among the speakers at the first voter suppression summit.
American Legislative Exchange Council — $440,000
The Foundation granted ALEC a total of $550,000 in 2020, with $440,000 of that designated exclusively for “accurate and verifiable voter rolls: an American public awareness campaign.” ALEC’s revenue for 2020 was just under $8 million.
In the past year, CMD has repeatedly blown the whistle on ALEC for falsely claiming that it does not work on voting issues. In September 2021, CMD obtained and published a video of CEO Lisa Nelson enumerating the states where ALEC was working on voting issues and stating that it would outsource actual model policy development.
“We don’t have model policy,” Nelson told the Council of National Policy audience. “We will be developing that at the Honest Elections Project [seminar] — through them.” ALEC held voter suppression summits with HEP at both of its national conferences in 2021.
In April 2021, The New York Times published details of a $24-million Heritage Action for America voter suppression plan (obtained by Documented) that described its efforts to work closely with ALEC to move legislation in “crucial states.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) also said at the time that he had spoken with state legislators through ALEC about passing state bills that restrict voting rights and impose greater legislative control over how elections are run. CMD research found that more than 100 Republican politicians connected to ALEC in just six battleground states were lead sponsors or co-sponsors of those bills.
When a broad coalition of more than 300 civil rights and democracy reform groups called for ALEC’s corporate members to leave the organization in June 2021 because of its voter suppression efforts, ALEC’s response was swift and righteous.
“ALEC doesn’t have ‘template legislation’ on voting because ALEC doesn’t work on voting issues,” its CEO Lisa Nelson wrote in a Real Clear Politics opinion piece. “The allegation is a literal fabrication.”
And, in a letter obtained and published by CMD, Nelson told ALEC members that “the assertions included in the coalition letter are categorically false…. ALEC does not create or promote policy models on election reform/security.”
The Foundation grant to ALEC — specifically earmarked for voting work — provides the latest evidence that ALEC is lying to both the public and its corporate members.
Public Interest Legal Foundation — $300,000
The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) received a total of $300,000 in 2019 and 2020 for “public interest litigation activities in connection with preserving the constitutional framework of the American elections project” and “election integrity.”
PILF is led by J. Christian Adams, who has moved the group to focus on the threat of “voter fraud,” despite lack of evidence that this is a widespread problem. PILF has filed numerous lawsuits across the country with the goal of purging state voter rolls, and saw its revenue climb to $3.8 million in 2020.
Its Board Chair Cleta Mitchell is a senior legal fellow at the Conservative Partnership Institute, where she chairs its Election Integrity Network. She participated in the infamous call in which Trump told Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn Biden’s victory in the state.
Blackwell, Spakovsky, and insurrectionist John Eastman are also PILF board members.
Texas Public Policy Foundation — $300,000
In 2019 and 2020, the Foundation distributed grants totaling $300,000 to the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) for “election integrity.”
With revenues of $17.7 million in 2020, TPPF launched an Election Integrity Project in March 2020 that spread the myth of widespread voter fraud and helped Texas Republicans put the right spin on the voter suppression bills passed there in 2021.
TPPF also spread misinformation about the For the People Act, the federal voter protection legislation that has stalled out in Congress.
Thomas More Society — $250,000
The Thomas More Society (TMS) received $250,000 in 2020 for its “election integrity initiatives.” The rightwing litigation outfit’s 2019 and 2020 IRS filings show its revenues almost doubled in that one year — from $9.6 million to $17.4 million.
TMS’s Amistad Project has played a key role in challenging the results of the 2020 presidential election alongside rightwing allies in the swing states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
TMS is a proponent of the election subversion strategy of giving state legislatures (such as in Michigan) the ability to certify electors.
Earlier this month TMS also released a report on its review of the 2020 election in Wisconsin, where it claimed it found evidence of voter fraud. The organization shared an office with former Wisconsin Supreme Court Judge Michael Gableman, who was hired by State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) to conduct an election review.
Eagle Forum Educational and Legal Defense Fund — $200,000
The Foundation distributed $200,000 in 2020 to the Eagle Forum Educational and Legal Defense Fund (EFELDF) for an “election integrity project.” EFELDF’s 2020 IRS filing is not publicly available but it brought in $1.3 million in funds in 2019.
EFELDF’s activities around elections and voting appear to center on filing amicus briefs such as the one in support of U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly in Kelly v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which asked the U.S. Supreme Court to forbid Pennsylvania from certifying its 2020 election results because the legislature allowed for no-excuse absentee voting.
Virginia Institute for Public Policy — $160,000
The Virginia Institute for Public Policy (VIPP) received $60,000 in 2019 for “election integrity programs” and $100,000 in 2020 for “the Tuesday Morning Group coalition impact and election integrity program.”
The organization’s latest publicly available IRS filing (2019) details the smallest total revenue — $141,501 — among all of the Foundation’s grant recipients.
On its website, Virginia Institute claims its Tuesday Morning Group “has over 1,000 participants representing more than 260 organizations.” It’s unclear whether the Virginia Institute-led Virginia Fair Elections Coalition is an offshoot of this group or the same one but with a different name.
Virginia Institute published The Virginia Model on “election integrity” earlier this month, detailing an approach that Lynn Taylor, president of VIPP and chair of Virginia Fair Elections, credits with helping the GOP realize massive gains in the 2021 elections.
In listing the “experts” it consulted with, the Virginia Fair Elections Coalition cites J. Christian Adams from PILF, Cleta Mitchell from Conservative Partnership Institute, Hans von Spakovsky from the Heritage Foundation, Ken Cuccinelli from Election Transparency Initiative, and Chris Marston, general counsel for the Republican Party of Virginia. The Thomas More Society’s Amistad Project is also listed as a “partner.”
As a guest on Mitchell’s Who’s Counting podcast, Taylor and her host recently touted the efficacy of the Virginia model in achieving voter suppression goals.
Abby Spencer Moffat, the Foundation’s CEO, sits on VIPP’s board of directors.
Judicial Watch — $150,000
The Foundation gave Judicial Watch $150,000 in 2020 for “election integrity initiatives.” Tom Fitton leads the group, which reported $110 million (2020) in revenue and, like PILF, has focused its voter suppression efforts on purging voter rolls in the states.
The same year it received the grant, Judicial Watch published a “study” making dubious claims “that 353 U.S. counties had 1.8 million more registered voters than eligible voting-age citizens.”
While not directly addressing the study, the Brennan Center calls large-scale purges “risky because of the sheer numbers of records involved,” and cautions against using “third-party information” to remove voters because it does “not come directly from a voter” and “will inevitably include errors.”
Americans of Faith — $100,000
The Foundation gave Americans of Faith (AOF) $100,000 in 2020 for an “election integrity project.” AOF has no web presence beyond a Facebook page that hasn’t been active since May 2020.
Its latest publicly available IRS filing (2019) shows that it brought in $1.1 million for the mission of “voter education.”
AOF is led by Ralph Reed, founder and president of the dark money group Faith & Freedom Coalition and a GOP operative. Faith & Freedom is a Christian right electioneering outfit that works to turn out Republican voters.
FreedomWorks Foundation — $100,000
FreedomWorks Foundation received $100,000 in 2020 “to be allocated exclusively toward the election integrity program.” Despite bringing in $8.3 million in revenue that year, FreedomWorks Foundation does not have a web presence.
Its larger sister organization, FreedomWorks, is a major rightwing group that launched the National Election Protection Initiative in March 2021. Led by Mitchell, it has focused on opposing federal voting rights bills, backing voter suppression legislation, and building state “election integrity” infrastructure in the swing states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
In 2020, the year its Foundation received the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation grant, FreedomWorks held “Election Protection” trainings for activists to counter “mail-in ballot fraud.”
Ballotpedia — $50,000
The Foundation granted Ballotpedia $50,000 in 2019 for “general support and the Election Integrity Content Project.” Officially registered with the IRS as the Lucy Burns Institute, Ballotpedia brings in over $8 million in revenue, and is run by rightwing operative Leslie Graves.