Non-profit

Priorities USA Foundation

Location:

Washington, DC

Tax ID:

82-0675521

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2017):

Revenue: $6,404,462
Expenses: $3,817,568
Assets: $3,001,402

Formation:

2017

President & Executive Director:

Patrick McHugh

Priorities USA Foundation is the charitable arm of Priorities USA, a major Super PAC that supports Democratic candidates and opposes Republican candidates. Founded in 2017, the Foundation primarily funds litigation against voter integrity laws and promotes research to advocate for fewer voting requirements. [1] In 2017, the Foundation paid $2.7 million in legal fees to support several left-of-center groups and plaintiffs in lawsuits against state governments over voter identification laws. [2]

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., Priorities USA Foundation shares the same address and much of the same leadership as Priorities USA and Priorities USA Action, the PAC’s affiliated advocacy organization. [3] Priorities USA chairman Guy Cecil has compared the structure of the organizations to those of Planned Parenthood and EMILY’s List, left-of-center groups which have separate nonprofit and political spending arms. [4]

Grantmaking to Left-of-Center Organizations

In 2017, the Foundation donated to only one group, the left-of-center New Venture Fund. The Fund works as a major funding and fiscal sponsorship organization for left-of-center advocacy and organizing projects and is managed by Arabella Advisors. [5] The Foundation contributed $50,000 to NVF in 2017, earmarking the donation for America Votes, a left-of-center advocacy and voter engagement coalition. [6] Greg Speed, treasurer of Priorities USA PAC, is also the president of America Votes. [7]

In 2018, Priorities USA Foundation upped its grantmaking to over $3.2 million. Despite the massive uptick in grantmaking, the Foundation made only three grants, including an additional $50,000 to NVF, $15,000 to the left-of-center Ultraviolet (formerly Ultraviolet Education Fund), and over $3.1 million to Priorities USA Action. [8]

Litigation Efforts

Priorities USA Foundation financially supports and launches litigation contesting state voter integrity laws, claiming that such laws dissuade minority groups and young people from voting. The Foundation has primarily targeted voting laws in states including Iowa, Missouri, New Hampshire, and Florida. [9]

The Foundation supported a lawsuit in Wisconsin to challenge a state restriction that prevents voters from using certain student identification cards as valid forms of voter identification. The law does not ban student IDs, but merely requires them to include an issuance date, an expiration date of no more than two years from the date of issuance, and a signature in order to be used for voting. The litigation was filed by the Andrew Goodman Foundation, a left-of-center nonprofit that promotes student voting. [10]

The Foundation has supported several other legal challenges to voter identification laws around the country. The Foundation brought a lawsuit in Missouri alleging that the state’s photo identification requirements were unlawful under the federal Constitution and Missouri’s state constitution. [11] Priorities USA Foundation won the lawsuit in January 2020, repealing the measure. [12]

In Iowa, the Foundation paid for a lawsuit brought by the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa and an Iowa State University student alleging that the state’s voter identification laws violated the state constitution. [13] While a judge granted a preliminary injunction against a number of the law’s provisions in July 2018,[14] the courts upheld the voter identification requirements and absentee ballot restrictions in October 2019. [15]

The Foundation has also provided financial support for lawsuits seeking to challenge requirements around voter precincts. In 2017, the Foundation supported a lawsuit filed by the NAACP in Indiana alleging that a state law requiring the consolidation of smaller voter precincts discriminated against African American counties. Priorities USA Chairman Guy Cecil alleged that the law “proved” that Governor Eric Holcomb (R-IN) was “laser-focused on keeping African-American and Hispanic voters” away from the polls. [16] In July 2018, the lawsuit succeeded in blocking the legislation. [17]

In June 2019, the Foundation filed a lawsuit in Florida, arguing that a bill which would limit the use of public university and college campuses as early voting sites would prevent college students from voting. [18]

To augment its legal efforts, the Foundation also engages in digital advertising campaigns that encourage voters to pressure elected officials to vote in favor or against certain legislative measures. In 2018, the Foundation launched a digital advertising campaign in New Hampshire directing voters to sign a petition against a voter residency law that it called a “student voter suppression bill” in the state. The petition also called on New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu (R) to support legislation to implement automatic voter registration and electronic poll books. [19]

Research

In August 2018, Priorities USA Foundation launched a multi-state research effort to identify purported barriers to voting and investigate alleged disparities in ballot counting procedures. The research focused on evaluating minority communities and young people in Midwestern states that former President Donald Trump won in 2016. [20]

The project attracted controversy when the Foundation contracted with an anonymous third-party provider to send hundreds of public records requests to clerks throughout Michigan. The requests asked for copies of ballots and accompanying materials from the 2016 election. [21]

Sent through the veil of an anonymous third party, Michigan Director of Elections Sally Williams said the requests “unnerved” local clerks. The Foundation was criticized for the high cost of fulfilling the requests, particularly right as clerks were preparing for the 2018 midterm elections. The Detroit clerk estimated that it would take about a year to process the requests, and that the fulfillment would be highly costly to taxpayers. [22]

In a statement to reporters, the Foundation said the public record requests were made to find “discrepancies” in ballots across “various states and precincts that might disproportionately affect certain communities, particularly communities of color and young people.” [23]

People

Patrick McHugh is the current executive director of the Priorities USA network and president of Priorities USA Foundation. McHugh previously worked as deputy executive director at Priorities USA Action, managing media operations in support of the organization’s left-of-center initiatives during the 2016 election cycle. Before working with Priorities USA, McHugh worked for a number of Democratic organizations, working as research director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) from 2011 to 2014. Before joining the DSCC, McHugh worked on several Democratic Senate campaigns, including those of U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and former U.S. Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC). McHugh also formerly worked for the Democratic National Committee (DNC). [24]

Former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander (D) works as treasurer of the Foundation. [25] Kander previously ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in Missouri in 2016 before founding Let America Vote, a left-of-center PAC, in 2017. Kander was floated as a potential Democratic presidential candidate in the 2020 election but elected not to run. [26]

Left-of-center activist and political strategist Minyon Moore also sits on the board of the Foundation. [27] Moore has a history in Democratic politics, working as Assistant to the President and Director of White House Political Affairs in the Clinton administration before working as CEO of the DNC. [28]

Funding

Priorities USA Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

In its first year of operation (2017), the group gave $50,000 to the New Venture Fund, a major left-wing funder managed by the consulting firm Arabella Advisors, with a grant description indicating the money was to be gifted to America Votes, a left-wing 501(c)(4) voter engagement group. [29] New Venture Fund gave more than $700,000 to America Votes in 2017, according to its 2017 tax returns. [30]

Financial Documents

Priorities USA Foundation received IRS tax exemption in February 2017. Its IRS determination letter is available here.

Priorities USA Foundation’s IRS Form 990 filing for 2017 is available here.

References

  1. Arke, Raymond. “Liberal super PAC Priorities USA announces $100 million plan for 2020 presidential election.” Open Secrets. February 21, 2019. Accessed December 9, 2019. https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2019/02/liberal-super-pac-priorities-usa-announces-plan-for-2020/ ^
  2. “Priorities USA Foundation.” Return of an Organization Exempt from Income Tax. IRS Form 990. 2017. ^
  3. Profile for Priorities USA Foundation.” Guidestar. Accessed December 9, 2019. https://www.guidestar.org/profile/82-0675521 ^
  4. Arke, Raymond. “Liberal super PAC Priorities USA announces $100 million plan for 2020 presidential election.” Open Secrets. February 21, 2019. Accessed December 9, 2019. https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2019/02/liberal-super-pac-priorities-usa-announces-plan-for-2020/ ^
  5. Ludwig, Hayden. “Democrats Get Out the Vote with Arabella Advisors’ Dark Money.” Capital Research Center. December 10, 2019. Accessed December 11, 2019. https://capitalresearch.org/article/democrats-get-out-the-vote-with-arabella-advisors-dark-money/ ^
  6. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). New Venture Fund. 2017. Schedule I. ^
  7. Ludwig, Hayden. “Democrats Get Out the Vote with Arabella Advisors’ Dark Money.” Capital Research Center. December 10, 2019. Accessed December 11, 2019. https://capitalresearch.org/article/democrats-get-out-the-vote-with-arabella-advisors-dark-money/ ^
  8. Priorities USA Foundation. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (2018), Form 990, Schedule I, Part II. ^
  9. Corasaniti, Nick. “Why Is Cory Booker Spending So Much Time in These 3 Cities?” New York Times. Aug. 13, 2019. Accessed December 11, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/13/us/politics/cory-booker-2020-democrats.html ^
  10. Coleman, Justine. “Foundation for student voters files suit against Wisconsin alleging voter suppression.” The Hill. November 20, 2019. Accessed December 11, 2019. https://thehill.com/regulation/court-battles/471346-foundation-for-student-voters-files-suit-against-wisconsin-alleging ^
  11. Press Release. “Priorities USA and a Missouri Voter File Suit Against Missouri’s Burdensome Strict Photo ID Law.” Priorities.org. June 13, 2018. Accessed December 11, 2019. https://priorities.org/press/priorities-usa-missouri-voter-file-suit-missouris-burdensome-strict-photo-id-law/ ^
  12. https://www.perkinscoie.com/en/experience/priorities-usa-v-missouri.html ^
  13. Rodriguez, Barbara. “Lawsuit says Iowa’s voter ID law violates state constitution.” Associated Press. May 30, 2018. Accessed December 11, 2019. https://apnews.com/0db0f394a29543d4b7d7ee40ac2fee21/Lawsuit-says-Iowa’s-voter-ID-law-violates-state-constitution ^
  14. Press Release. “Priorities USA Foundation Statement on Iowa HF 516 Injunction Win.” Priorities USA. July 25, 2018. Accessed December 11, 2019. https://priorities.org/press/priorities-usa-foundation-statement-iowa-hf-516-injunction-win/ ^
  15. Spoerre, Anna. “Judge upholds ID requirement at polls but strikes down other parts of 2017 Iowa voting reform law.” Des Moines Register. Oct. 1, 2019. Accessed December 11, 2019.  https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/crime-and-courts/2019/10/01/judge-rules-portions-2017-voter-reform-law-unconstitution/3829470002/ ^
  16. Hussein, Fatima. “NAACP sues over Lake County precinct consolidation law.” Indy Star. Aug. 11, 2017. Accessed December 11, 2019. https://www.indystar.com/story/news/2017/08/11/naacp-sues-over-lake-county-precinct-consolidation-law/558229001/ ^
  17. Press Release. “Lawsuit Sponsored by the Priorities USA Foundation Successfully Deters Precinct Consolidation in Indiana.” July 2, 2018. Accessed December 11, 2019. https://priorities.org/press/lawsuit-sponsored-priorities-usa-foundation-successfully-deters-precinct-consolidation-indiana/ ^
  18. Press Release. “Priorities USA Foundation Will File Suit Against Florida Legislature’s Bill Aimed at Preventing Early Voting on Public Colleges and Universities.” Priorities.org. June 22, 2019. https://priorities.org/press/priorities-usa-foundation-will-file-suit-against-florida-legislatures-bill-aimed-at-preventing-early-voting-on-public-colleges-and-universities/ ^
  19. Press Release. “Priorities USA Foundation Statement on HB 1264.” Priorities.org. May 10, 2018. Accessed on December 11, 2019. https://priorities.org/press/priorities-usa-foundation-statement-hb-1264/ ^
  20. Resnick, Gideon. “The Democratic Party’s Biggest Outside Group Is Launching an Ambitious Ballot Research Project.” The Daily Beast. Aug. 27, 2018. Accessed December 11, 2019. https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-democratic-partys-biggest-super-pac-is-launching-an-ambitious-ballot-research-project ^
  21. LeBlanc, Beth. “Voting group behind mystery requests in Michigan.” The Detroit News. Aug. 28, 2018. Accessed December 11, 2019. https://priorities.org/press/priorities-usa-foundation-supports-amended-suit-against-florida-legislatures-bill-aimed-at-preventing-early-voting-on-colleges-and-universities/ ^
  22. LeBlanc, Beth. “Voting group behind mystery requests in Michigan.” The Detroit News. Aug. 28, 2018. Accessed December 11, 2019. https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2018/08/28/voting-nonprofit-sent-mystery-foias-michigan/1120399002/ ^
  23. LeBlanc, Beth. “Voting group behind mystery requests in Michigan.” The Detroit News. Aug. 28, 2018. Accessed December 11, 2019. https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2018/08/28/voting-nonprofit-sent-mystery-foias-michigan/1120399002/ ^
  24. “Patrick McHugh.” Netroots Nation. Accessed January 25, 2021. https://www.netrootsnation.org/profile/patrick-mchugh/. ^
  25. Priorities USA Foundation. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (2018), Form 990, Part VII, Section A. ^
  26. Fortune Staff. “Jason Kander: 2020 40 under 40 in Government and Politics.” Fortune. Fortune, September 2, 2020. https://fortune.com/40-under-40/2020/jason-kander/. ^
  27. Priorities USA Foundation. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (2018), Form 990, Part VII, Section A. ^
  28. “Minyon Moore.” Dewey Square Group, April 19, 2019. https://www.deweysquare.com/team/minyon-moore/.   ^
  29. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). New Venture Fund. 2017. Schedule I. ^
  30. New Venture Fund. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). 2017. Schedule 1. Part II. 2017. Accessed November 1, 2019 ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Tara McGowan
    Director of Digital Strategies

Donor Organizations

  1. Hopewell Fund (Non-profit)
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: October 1, 2017

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2017 Dec Form 990 $6,404,462 $3,817,568 $3,001,402 $414,508 N $6,404,462 $0 $0 $32,946

    Priorities USA Foundation

    1030 15th St NW
    Washington, DC 20005