Non-profit

Civic Participation Action Fund (CPAF)

Website:

cpafc4.org

Tax ID:

47-3143631

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(4)

Formation:

2014

Type:

“Dark Money” Funding Group

President:

Stephen McConnell

Vice President:

Katherine Peck

The Civic Participation Action Fund (CPAF) is a secretive left-of-center advocacy group created by the Atlantic Advocacy Fund in December 2014 with a multi-million dollar endowment. The Atlantic Advocacy fund is one of several 501(c)(4) nonprofits created by Atlantic Philanthropies, a principally offshore left-of-center grantmaking foundation associated with duty-free shopping billionaire Charles “Chuck” Feeney. [1]

Background

The Civic Participation Action Fund was designed to be a “limited life initiative” supporting “high-impact civic engagement efforts addressing racial and economic disparity.” [2] The Atlantic Advocacy Fund has given CPAF approximately $50,000,000 in grants since its inception, with smaller cash infusions from Sixteen Thirty Fund, the New Venture Fund, and NEO Philanthropy Action Fund helping to execute a “five-year plan” of activism. [3] [4] [5] [6]

The organization was originally incorporated in Delaware on December 11th, 2014. [7]

Leadership

The Fund is directed by a board of five voting members led by president Stephen McConnell and vice president Katherine Peck. Both McConnell and Peck are paid roughly $300,000 per year, according to the group’s latest IRS filing from 2017. [8]

Prior to 2015, Stephen McConnell worked for several years as the national director of U.S. programs for Atlantic Philanthropies. In a 2015 video announcing the launch of CPAF, McConnell said that “advocacy has always been a key part of the Atlantic Philanthropies strategy,” and that CPAF’s goal was to “engage more people, particularly low-income people of color in the system . . . we want them to get registered, show up at the polls, [and] express their views.” [9]

McConnell is also on the board of directors of U.S. Justice Action Network, a center-left criminal justice advocacy group. [10] CPAF has provided $550,000 in grants to U.S. Justice Action Network. [11] [12] In 2018, McConnell joined the board of Demos, a left-wing policy advocacy group, and is also on the board of Register America, a 501(c)(4) voter mobilization group with which CPAF is heavily involved. [13] [14] [15]

In 2016, Katherine Peck became a board member for the Voter Registration Project, the 501(c)(3) affiliate of Register America. Peck is also the president of State Voices, and serves on the advisory board of the Advancement Project, the Latino Engagement Fund, and the Latino Engagement Action Fund. [16] [17] Prior to her work at CPAF, Gill worked as an advisor to the Gill Foundation for nine years. [18]

Board member David Sternlieb is the chief operating officer for Atlantic Philanthropies. [19]

Board member Bill Roberts worked as the director of U.S. advocacy for Atlantic Philanthropies from 2008-2011, and currently works at Corridor Partners, a political consultancy group. [20] Roberts has also served as the board chair of the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund and worked as executive director of the Beldon Fund. [21]

Between 2009 and 2014, board member Phillip Schiliro worked in several positions within the administration of President Barack Obama, such as director of congressional relations, director of legislative affairs, and special advisor to the President. [22]

Board member Whitney Tymas is treasurer of the Safety and Justice PAC and the Justice and Public Safety PAC; she previously worked at the Vera Institute for Justice. [23] [24] [25]

Political Activities

The Civic Participation Action Fund works together with State Voices and other members of the Democracy Alliance to fund the 501(c)(4) wings of many voter mobilization, voter registration, and canvassing organizations.

In 2016 CPAF spent $2,000,000 to help create Register America. Register America’s only activities for the year were granting $1,736,952 to Mi Familia Vota and $676,622 to New Florida Majority; CPAF itself has also made smaller contributions to both of these groups. [26] [27] [28]

CPAF has also made several large contributions to prominent PACs as part of its activism plan. In 2016 CPAF contributed $1,500,000 to the Immigrant Voters Win PAC, also known as Community Change Voters, a PAC created by Center for Community Change Action which also receives substantial funding from George Soros and Priorities USA Action. [29] [30] In 2018 CPAF granted $550,000 to the Black PAC, and $250,000 to Forward Majority Action. [31]

Smoote Tewes Group

Also see STG Consulting LLC (For-profit)

On CPAF’s IRS filings, Stephen McConnell’s business address is reported to be the same as that of the Smoote Tewes Group (STG), a highly influential left-leaning political consultancy firm. [32]

Funding

Overview

An overview of CPAF’s finances is available below: [33]

Civic Participation Action Fund: Financial Overview
Grand Total:$51,911,436$25,067,879
YearTotal Revenues Total ExpendituresNet Assets
2015$37,522,931$2,075,484$35,499,862
2016$11,855,631$14,462,547$32,892,946
2017$2,532,874$8,529,848$26,895,972

CPAF Grantors

Between 2015 and 2017, CPAF received a majority of its grants from major left-wing foundations. A list of grantors to CPAF is available below: [34]

Civic Participation Action Fund: GrantorsYearAmount
Grand Total:$51,886,729
The Atlantic Advocacy Fund2015$37,575,346
The Atlantic Advocacy Fund2016$8,959,322
The Atlantic Advocacy Fund2017$2,408,061
Sixteen Thirty Fund 2016$1,100,000
NEO Philanthropy Action Fund2016$1,000,000
Open Society Foundations 2016$367,000
New Venture Fund2016$367,000
Paul Graham TTEE2017$50,000
Conway Family Trust 2017$50,000
Michael Yang2017$10,000

Grant Recipients

In 2015, CPAF spent $1,386,093 on grants. In 2016, the group made $12,119,593 in grants. In 2017, CPAF reported $7,067,107 in grants. A list of grants made CPAF is available below: [35]

Civic Participation Action Fund: Grant RecipientsYearAmount
Grand Total:$20,572,793
Register America2016$2,000,000
Every Citizen Counts2016$1,800,000
New Futures Fund 2017$1,600,000
Immigrant Voters Win PAC2016$1,500,000
Equality Virginia Advocates2017$850,000
State Victory Fund2017$800,000
Colorado Families for a Fair Wage2016$700,000
The Advocacy Fund (Tides)2016$500,000
Retain A Just Nebraska2016$500,000
State Engagement Fund 2016$500,000
Win Florida, Inc. 2016$500,000
Florida For All2017$500,000
Latino Victory Project2017$450,000
Arizona Wins 2017$437,675
Win Florida 2017$400,000
Arizonans for Fair Wages 2016$350,000
Make North Carolina First2016$350,000
Latino Victory Project2015$325,000
America's Voice2015$300,000
U.S. Justice Action Network2016$300,000
Floridians for a Fair Democracy2017$300,000
Social Security Works2017$300,000
Illinois Safety and Justice2016$299,608
Sixteen Thirty Fund2016$280,000
Bus Federation Action Fund2016$261,000
U.S. Justice Action Network2015$250,000
Pacific Market Research 2016$244,000
Make the Road Action2016$228,585
ProgressNow Arizona2017$218,032
California Calls Action Fund2016$200,000
Georgia Engaged2017$200,000
SIX Action2017$191,400
Community Catalyst 2016$175,000
New Futures Fund 2016$175,000
Analyst Institute, LLC2016$153,000
Center for Popular Democracy2015$150,000
LUCHA2016$150,000
Ballot Initiative Strategies2016$150,000
Black Progressive Action Coalition2017$150,000
New Virginia Majority2017$150,000
ParentsTogether Action 2016$118,400
Sixteen Thirty Fund2017$110,000
Mainers for Fair Wages 2016$100,000
Texas Organizing Project2016$100,000
Committee on States2016$100,000
National Immigration Forum2015$85,000
Community Catalyst 2015$75,000
Florida Freedom PAC2016$75,000
Flippable 2017$75,000
ABQ Working Families 2017$75,000
Organize Florida2017$75,000
National Immigration Forum2016$65,000
Mi Familia Vota 2016$60,000
TakeAction Minnesota 2016$60,000
Color of Change PAC2017$50,000
PICO Action Fund2015$45,593
National People's Action2015$40,500
Grassroots Solutions, Inc.2015$40,000
TakeAction Minnesota 2017$40,000
Democracy Alliance2015$30,000
PowerPAC.org2016$30,000
Democracy Alliance2016$30,000
Committee on States2015$25,000
Grassroots Solutions, Inc.2016$25,000
Chicago Votes Action Fund 2016$25,000
Texas Organizing Project2017$25,000
Democracy Alliance2017$25,000
ABQ Forward Together2017$25,000
Mississippi NAACP2015$20,000
New Florida Majority2017$20,000
ProgressNow New Mexico2016$15,000

Financial Documents

CPAF’s IRS Form unredacted filings for 2015, 2016, and 2017 are available below:

References

  1. Wooster, Martin Morse. “The Atlantic Philanthropies: Right –and Wrong– Ways to Give Away Money.” Capital Research Center. June 1, 2011. Accessed June 27, 2019. https://capitalresearch.org/article/the-atlantic-philanthropies-right-and-wrong-ways-to-give-away-money/.
  2. “Advancing Democracy Through Civic Engagement Among People of Color.” Civic Participation Action Fund. Accessed June 18, 2019. http://cpafc4.org/.
  3. Vadum, Matthew. “Dark Money Ascendant: Mission Accomplished.” Capital Research Center. Accessed June 18, 2019. https://capitalresearch.org/article/dark-money-ascendant-part-4/.
  4. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). Sixteen Thirty Fund. 2016. Additional Data Table.
  5. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). New Venture Fund. 2016. Additional Data Table.
  6. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). NEO Philanthropy Action Fund. 2016. Additional Data Table.
  7. Division of Corporations – Filing. Accessed June 24, 2019. https://icis.corp.delaware.gov/Ecorp/EntitySearch/NameSearch.aspx.
  8. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). The Civic Participation Action Fund. 2017. Schedule A. Part VII. Section A. Original URL: http://990finder.foundationcenter.org/990results.aspx?990_type=&fn=The+Civic+Participation+Action+Fund&st=&zp=&ei=&fy=&action=Search. Archived here: https://www.influencewatch.org/cpaf-2017-990/
  9. “Stephen McConnell on the Civic Participation Action Fund | Atlantic Philanthropies.” The Atlantic Philanthropies, www.atlanticphilanthropies.org/videos/stephen-mcconnell-on-the-civic-participation-action-fund.
  10. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). US Justice Action Network. 2016. Schedule A. Part VII. Section A.
  11. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). The Civic Participation Action Fund. 2015. Schedule I. Part II. Original URL: http://990finder.foundationcenter.org/990results.aspx?990_type=&fn=The+Civic+Participation+Action+Fund&st=&zp=&ei=&fy=&action=Search. Archived here: https://www.influencewatch.org/cpaf-2015-990/.
  12. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). The Civic Participation Action Fund. 2016. Schedule I. Part II. Original URL: http://990finder.foundationcenter.org/990results.aspx?990_type=&fn=The+Civic+Participation+Action+Fund&st=&zp=&ei=&fy=&action=Search. Archived here: https://www.influencewatch.org/cpaf-2016-990/.
  13. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). Demos A Network for Ideas and Action. 2018. Schedule A. Part VII.
  14. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). Register America. 2016. Schedule A. Part VII. Section A.
  15. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). Register America. 2016. Schedule A. Part VII. Section A.
  16. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). State Voices. 2016. Schedule A. Part VII. Section A.
  17. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). The Advancement Project. 2016. Schedule A. Part VII. Section A.
  18. “Katherine Peck.” Social Transformation Project. Accessed June 24, 2019. http://stproject.org/lio_directory/katherine-peck/.
  19. “David Sternlieb | Atlantic Philanthropies.” The Atlantic Philanthropies. Accessed June 24, 2019. https://www.atlanticphilanthropies.org/about/bios/david-sternlieb.
  20. Roberts, William. “William Roberts.” LinkedIn. https://www.linkedin.com/in/william-roberts-6475057/.
  21. Roberts, William. “William Roberts.” LinkedIn. https://www.linkedin.com/in/william-roberts-6475057/.
  22. “Phil Schiliro.” The Washington Post. July 25, 2012. Accessed June 24, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/phil-schiliro/gIQAnKHr9O_print.html.
  23. “Race and Prosecution in Manhattan.” Vera. Accessed June 24, 2019. https://www.vera.org/publications/race-and-prosecution-in-manhattan.
  24. “Safety & Justice PAC Summary.” Center for Responsive Politics. Accessed June 24, 2019. https://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/lookup2.php?strID=C00616094&cycle=2018.
  25. “Justice & Public Safety PAC Summary.” Center for Responsive Politics. Accessed June 24, 2019. https://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/lookup2.php?cycle=2018&strID=C00651505.
  26. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). Register America. 2016. Schedule I. Part II.
  27. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). The Civic Participation Action Fund. 2016. Schedule I. Part II. Original URL: http://990finder.foundationcenter.org/990results.aspx?990_type=&fn=The+Civic+Participation+Action+Fund&st=&zp=&ei=&fy=&action=Search. Archived here: https://www.influencewatch.org/cpaf-2016-990/
  28. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). The Civic Participation Action Fund. 2017. Schedule I. Part II. Original URL: http://990finder.foundationcenter.org/990results.aspx?990_type=&fn=The+Civic+Participation+Action+Fund&st=&zp=&ei=&fy=&action=Search. Archived here: https://www.influencewatch.org/cpaf-2017-990/
  29. “Browse Individual Contributions.” FEC.gov. Accessed June 25, 2019. https://www.fec.gov/data/receipts/individual-contributions/?two_year_transaction_period=2016&contributor_name=Civic Participation Action Fund&min_date=01/01/2015&max_date=12/31/2016.
  30. “Browse Receipts.” FEC.gov. Accessed June 25, 2019. https://www.fec.gov/data/receipts/?two_year_transaction_period=2016&data_type=processed&committee_id=C00612820&min_date=01/01/2015&max_date=12/31/2016.
  31. “Browse Individual Contributions.” FEC.gov. Accessed June 25, 2019. https://www.fec.gov/data/receipts/individual-contributions/?two_year_transaction_period=2018&contributor_name=Civic Participation Action Fund&min_date=01/01/2017&max_date=12/31/2018.
  32. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). The Civic Participation Action Fund. 2015-2017. Schedule A. Part VI. Section C. Original URL: http://990finder.foundationcenter.org/990results.aspx?990_type=&fn=The+Civic+Participation+Action+Fund&st=&zp=&ei=&fy=&action=Search. Archived here:

    2015: https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2019/07/Civic_Participation_Action_Fund_2015_Form_990.pdf

    2016: https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2019/07/Civic_Participation_Action_Fund_2016_Form_990.pdf

    2017: https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2019/07/Civic_Participation_Action_Fund_2017_Form_990.pdf

  33. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990) (multiple). Civic Participation Action Fund. 2015-2017. Schedule A, Lines 12, 18, 22.
  34. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990) (multiple). Civic Participation Action Fund. 2015-2017. Schedule B.
  35. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990) (multiple). Civic Participation Action Fund. 2015-2017. Schedule I.

Coalition Memberships

  1. Democracy Alliance (DA)
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