America Votes is a left-of-center 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organization. Its stated purpose is to “coordinate and promote progressive issues, policies, initiatives and referenda, and to pursue electoral reform that expands access to the ballot.”America Votes bills itself as the “Coordination Hub of the Progressive Community.” The organization was created ahead of the 2004 election by a group of liberal political operatives and longtime Democratic activists, including Partnership for America’s Families President Steve Rosenthal, EMILY’s List founder Ellen Malcolm, former Clinton administration official Harold Ickes, then-Service Employees International Union (SEIU) president Andy Stern and Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope.
According to the group’s spokeswoman, America Votes is focused on maximizing the impact of every dollar spent by left-wing organizations engaging voters on liberal issues.
Through the years, America Votes has become much more than a coordination hub for the wide array of left-wing organizations. AV in conjunction with America Votes Action Fund has turned into a permanent advocacy and campaign infrastructure operation that gives out millions of dollars to progressive organizations and bills itself as “the largest grassroots voter mobilization effort in the country today.”
America Votes had its first formal meeting on May 1, 2003 at the offices of pro-abortion candidate recruiting group EMILY’s List. The organization was created ahead of the 2004 presidential election in order to organize and coordinate labor unions, issue advocacy groups, voter mobilization organizations, and media firms to help elect Democrats. The organization was the “brainchild of several longtime Democratic activists, including EMILY’s List founder Ellen Malcolm, former Clinton official Harold Ickes, SEIU President Andy Stern and Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope.”
Together these progressive leaders “saw an enormous amount of duplication and wasted resources among progressive organizations” and came together as a conglomeration of 527, 501(c)3 and 501(c)4 groups, in order to coordinate amongst themselves.
Led by a former staffer to U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and future Planned Parenthood Federation of America president, Cecile Richards, during the 2004 campaign, “America Votes held bi-weekly meetings of liberal activists to plot strategy. America Votes allowed member organizations to share voter files, survey data, and demographic information. This allowed America Votes staff to coordinate the efforts of groups such as the Sierra Club, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and the League of Conservation Voters in stimulating voter turnout and contacting swing voters.”
America Votes, along with other related organizations, have since been described during the 2004 campaign as a Democratic “shadow party” that was “not competing with the parties; they were nodes within the broader party networks”
Also see America Votes Action Fund (Political Action Committee)
America Votes continues to operate as a coordination hub for various progressive nonprofits. AV President Greg Speed in a 2013 promotional video described AV’s mission as one of avoiding duplicity among progressive organizations, stating, “Every contact with a voter that’s duplicated needlessly is a wasted dollar.”
The group has grown to become much more than just a coordination hub for progressive groups. The organization has built a permanent advocacy and campaign infrastructure that provides coordination, data and targeting services to progressive organizations partly through its 527 political action committee, America Votes Action Fund.
According to a America Votes job announcement, the organization has “built a permanent advocacy and campaign infrastructure that provides coordination, data and targeting services to progressive organizations.”
In 2014 the group reported that it had $13,425,247 in revenue for the year and spent $13,492,844. Additionally, the group reported that in 2013, they received $8,630,134 in revenue and spent $7,863,339.
The following chart depicts the organization’s tremendous financial growth from $72k in revenue in 2008 to nearly $13.5 million in worth of revenue in 2014.
|Year||Revenue||Expenses||Revenue less Expenses||Net Assets|
In 2014, America Votes indicated that they spent $11.15 million on program expenses including:
- $6.32 million to “advance progressive policies, expand access to the ballot, coordinate issue advocacy,”
- $4.83 million “to coordinate election campaigns.”
In 2014, America Votes gave out almost $4 million worth of grants to 40 organizations. Including the following major grants:
|Grantee Organization||City, St.||Type||Cash Grant $|
|Organize Now||Orlando, FL||501C(4)||$409,000|
|Patriot Majority USA||Washington, D.C.||501C(4)||$100,000|
|Planned Parenthood Advocates of MI||Lansing, MI||501C(4)||$125,000|
|Planned Parenthood Advocates of WI||Milwaukee, WI||501C(4)||$80,000|
|Progress Michigan||Lansing, MI||501C(4)||$312,000|
|Voter Access Institute||Decatur, GA||501C(4)||$150,000|
|Charlie Crist for Florida||Orlando, FL||527||$150,000|
|America Votes Action Fund Florida||Washington, D.C.||527||$345,000|
|Making Colorado Great||Denver, CO||527||$200,000|
|Natl. Council of La Raza Action Fund||Miami, FL||501C(4)||$50,000|
|NC Citizens for Protecting our Schools||Raleigh, NC||501C(4)||$200,000|
|North Carolina Families First||Raleigh, NC||527||$100,000|
|Citizen Action of Wisconsin||Milwaukee, WI||501C(4)||$100,000|
|Give Arkansas a Raise||Little Rock, AR||501C(4)||$400,000|
|League of Conservation Voters||Washington, D.C.||501C(4)||$50,000|
|Maine Votes||Portland, ME||501C(4)||$100,000|
|Planned Parenthood Action Fund||Washington, D.C.||501C(4)||$170,000|
Although America Votes spends much of its efforts attacking conservative and libertarian donors, AV does not clearly disclose its donors on its website nor in any federal election filings.
On its website, America Votes list about three dozen organizations as “national partners”— including the EMILY’s List, the Sierra Club and many labor unions — although it doesn’t say how much money they’ve provided. Several state-specific partners are also named.
Between 2012 and 2013, America Votes received millions of dollars in contributions from labor unions, including $1 million from the National Education Association, $443,000 from the Service Employees International Union, $333,000 from American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and $28,000 from the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).
Additional progressive groups, such as Michael Bloomberg-founded gun control organization Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the League of Conservation Voters, and the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, have also financially supported America Votes in the past, according research by the Center for Responsive Politics and a Center for Public Integrity review of tax filings maintained by CitizenAudit.org.
According to annual IRS filings, the following organizations have given major grants to AV during the calendar year preceding each organization’s IRS filing end date.
|Grantor Organization Name||Amount $||IRS Filing End Date|
|America’s Families First||$2,280,000||12/31/10|
|Atlantic Advocacy Fund||$1,000,000||12/31/10|
|Atlantic Advocacy Fund||$200,000||12/31/10|
|Atlantic Advocacy Fund||$800,000||12/31/11|
|Ballot Initiative Strategy Center||$250,000||12/31/12|
|Fair Share Alliance aka Progressive Future, Inc.||$40,000||6/30/11|
|Fund for Policy Reform||$1,000,000||12/31/12|
|Fund for Policy Reform||$1,000,000||12/31/13|
|League of Conservation Voters||$180,000||12/31/12|
|League of Conservation Voters||$960,000||12/31/14|
|Maine People’s Alliance||$20,000||12/31/12|
|Mayors Against Illegal Guns Action Fund||$350,000||12/31/10|
|Mayors Against Illegal Guns Action Fund||$275,000||12/31/11|
|Mayors Against Illegal Guns Action Fund||$370,000||12/31/12|
|National Education Association||$72,500||8/31/13|
|Patriot Majority USA||$60,000||12/31/14|
|Patriot Majority USA||$807,500||12/31/10|
|Patriot Majority USA||$150,000||12/31/10|
|Patriot Majority USA||$45,000||12/31/13|
|Pennsylvania State Education Assn.||$100,000||8/31/13|
|Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors||$105,000||12/31/10|
|Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors||$75,000||12/31/11|
|Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors||$140,000||12/31/11|
|United Food & Commercial Workers||$50,000||12/31/12|
|United Food & Commercial Workers||$27,727||12/31/13|
|VoteVets Action Fund||$15,000||6/30/13|
Greg Speed is the current president of America Votes, he took over for Joan Fitz-Gerald in Nov. 2013. Greg previously served as executive director for AV since late 2007 and as communications director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during the 2004 election cycle. His total 2014 compensation was $272,509.
Sara Schreiber is the managing director of America Votes, where she leads day-to-day management of the organization and supervises directors of key departments. Her total 2014 compensation was $151,526
Bubba Scott Nunnery was National Political Director with a total 2014 compensation of $157,423
AV’s website also lists each of its “core” state directors:
- Florida, Josh Geise
- North Carolina, Jessica Laurenz
- Pennsylvania, Jessica Walls-Lavelle
- Ohio, Khaled Salehi
- New Hampshire, Paula Hodges
- Michigan, Patrick Schuh
- Wisconsin, Mitch Wallace
- Minnesota, Dave McGonagle
- Colorado, Jayson Sime
- New Mexico, Nick Voges
- Nevada, Kenia Morales