Non-profit

Public Interest Legal Foundation

Website:

publicinterestlegal.org/

Location:

INDIANAPOLIS, IN

Tax ID:

45-4355641

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2018):

Revenue: $1,469,765
Expenses: $1,138,607
Assets: $1,032,621

Type:

Nonprofit Election Integrity Organization

Founded:

2012

President:

J. Christian Adams

The Public Interest Legal Foundation is a right-of-center group founded by former U.S. Department of Justice attorney J. Christian Adams that litigates and publishes reports to raise awareness about what it considers to be threats to election integrity. [1] [2]

The group has pushed local jurisdictions to clean up their voter registration rolls to remove the deceased, non-citizens, and others. [3] The group had to correct its data after a defamation lawsuit challenged one of its report about Virginia registered voters. [4]

Background

The Public Interest Legal Foundation is a conservative-leaning organization that brings lawsuits and publishes reports regarding ineligible voters on voter registration rolls, absentee ballot problems, and other shortcomings in the election process. [5] [6]

The foundation has won cases to clean up outdated voter registration rolls. It also built a nationwide database of combined voter rolls to allow data to be used in real-time election analysis for election litigation. [7]

PILF worked with the American Civil Rights Union in 2013 in its first lawsuit over voter registration list maintenance. Over the years, the group has sued counties it believes had voter rolls including large numbers of ineligible registrants; most have settled with consent decrees, with the counties agreeing to clean the rolls of ineligible registrants. [8]

Activities

Public Interest Legal Foundation president J. Christian Adams said the group’s national database identified seven active registration voter forms from one person in Pennsylvania. [9]

The organization noted that in litigation against Broward County, Florida over voting registration lists, it discovered three registered voters on the rolls since Grover Cleveland was president in the 1890s. [10]

In 2017, PILF sent out notices to 248 county elections officials asking them to eliminate deceased persons, non-citizens, people who have moved out of a voting jurisdiction, and other ineligible names from their voter registration rolls, or face a federal lawsuit for violation of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. [11]

In 2018, PILF sued Harris County, Texas alleging violations of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. The county settled the lawsuit in March 2020 by allowing the legal foundation to have access to voting and registration records. [12]

During the lead-up to the 2020 election, when many states were promoting mail-in voting because of the COVID-19 pandemic, PILF issued warnings about ballots that are undeliverable and went missing in the 2018 election. The left-leaning investigative reporting organization Pro Publica reported that it forced PILF to correct its original estimates. [13]

Virginia Report

In 2018, PILF issued a two-part report called “Alien Invasion,” that asserted more than 5,000 non-citizens were registered to vote in Virginia. The report said 1,852 of the illegal registrants had voted, casting a combined 7,474 ballots. PILF came to this number by cross-checking the voter registration lists against a Virginia Department of Motor Vehicle list of “declared non-citizen” registry. However, three individuals listed in the report — Eliud Bonilla, Luciana Freeman, and Abby Jo Gearhart — sued PILF for defamation because they were American citizens. [14] [15]

In 2019, as part of a settlement, Adams apologized to the persons that PILF wrongly described as noncitizens. It also added a note to the online version of the report stating, “PILF recognizes that individuals in [the removed exhibits] were in fact citizens and that these citizens did not commit felonies. PILF profoundly regrets any characterization of those registrants as felons or instances of registration or voting as felonies.” [16]

Leadership

Christian Adams is the president and general counsel of the Public Interest Legal Foundation. He is also the founder of the Election Law Center. From 2005 to 2010, Adams was a lawyer in the U.S. Justice Department’s Voting Section. While at the Department, Adams litigated the Voting Rights Act case of United States v. Ike Brown in federal court in Mississippi. Before going to the Justice Department, Adams was the general counsel for the South Carolina secretary of state’s office. [17] President Donald Trump appointed Adams in 2017 to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. [18]

Shawna Powell is the chief of staff for the Public Interest Legal Foundation. She joined the organization in 2012.[19] She is also the secretary of the PILF board of directors. [20]

Cleta Mitchell is the chairwoman of the board of directors for the Public Interest Legal Foundation. Mitchell, once a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, was also the president of the Republican National Lawyers Association. She was a past chairwoman of the American Conservative Union Foundation. [21]

Ken Blackwell is the treasurer of the board of directors for the Public Interest Legal Foundation. Blackwell, a former Ohio Secretary of State, is a senior fellow for human rights and constitutional governance at the Family Research Council. [22]

Along with Adams and Powell, other board members are John C. Eastman, a former law professor at Chapman University; Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation; and William E. Davis, a litigation lawyer with the law firm Foley & Lardner LLP. [23]

References

  1. About. Public Interest Legal Foundation. Accessed September 10, 2021. https://publicinterestlegal.org/about/ ^
  2. Team. Public Interest Legal Foundation. Accessed September 10, 2021. https://publicinterestlegal.org/about/team/ ^
  3. Timm, Jane C. “Vote Fraud Crusader J. Christian Adams Sparks Outrage.” NBC News. August 27, 2017. Accessed September 11, 2021. https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/donald-trump/vote-fraud-crusader-j-christian-adams-sparks-outrage-n796026 ^
  4. Sneed, Tierney. “Ex-Trump Voter Fraud Commissioner Settles Lawsuit Over ‘Alien Invasion’ Reports.” Talking Points Memo. July 17, 2019. Accessed September 11, 2021. https://talkingpointsmemo.com/muckraker/trump-voter-fraud-comissioner-defamation-lawsuit-settled ^
  5. Public Interest Legal Foundation. Cause IQ. Accessed September 10, 2021. https://www.causeiq.com/organizations/public-interest-legal-foundation,454355641/ ^
  6. About. Public Interest Legal Foundation. Accessed September 10, 2021. https://publicinterestlegal.org/about/ ^
  7.  About. Public Interest Legal Foundation. Accessed September 10, 2021. https://publicinterestlegal.org/about/ ^
  8. Timm, Jane C. “Vote Fraud Crusader J. Christian Adams Sparks Outrage.” NBC News. August 27, 2017. Accessed September 11, 2021. https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/donald-trump/vote-fraud-crusader-j-christian-adams-sparks-outrage-n796026 ^
  9. Grant Recipient Spotlight: Public Interest Legal Foundation. Bradley Impact Fund. Accessed September 10, 2021. https://www.bradleyimpactfund.org/blog/grant-recipient-spotlight-public-interest-legal-foundation ^
  10. Wines, Michael. “Culling Voter Rolls: Battling Over Who Even Gets to Go to the Polls.” The New York Times. November 25, 2017. Accessed September 10, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/25/us/voter-rolls-registration-culling-election.html ^
  11. Wines, Michael. “Culling Voter Rolls: Battling Over Who Even Gets to Go to the Polls.” The New York Times. November 25, 2017. Accessed September 10, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/25/us/voter-rolls-registration-culling-election.html ^
  12. Banks, Gabrielle “Harris County officials settle lawsuit, agreeing to disclose records of foreign nationals who tried to vote in Texas”. Houston Chronicle. March 18, 2020. Accessed September 11, 2021. https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Harris-County-officials-settle-lawsuit-agreeing-15141354.php ^
  13. Willis, Derek. “A Conservative Legal Group Significantly Miscalculated Data in a Report on Mail-In Voting.” Pro Publica. May 2, 2020. Accessed September 11, 2021. https://www.propublica.org/article/a-conservative-legal-group-significantly-miscalculated-data-in-a-report-on-mail-in-voting ^
  14. Pilkington, Ed. “Thousands at risk from rightwing push to purge eligible voters from US rolls.” The Guardian. September 23, 2018. Accessed September 11, 2021. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/sep/23/voters-purges-elections-rolls-americans-pilf ^
  15. Timm, Jane C. “Vote Fraud Crusader J. Christian Adams Sparks Outrage.” NBC News. August 27, 2017. Accessed September 11, 2021. https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/donald-trump/vote-fraud-crusader-j-christian-adams-sparks-outrage-n796026 ^
  16. Sneed, Tierney. “Ex-Trump Voter Fraud Commissioner Settles Lawsuit Over ‘Alien Invasion’ Reports.” Talking Points Memo. July 17, 2019. Accessed September 11, 2021. https://talkingpointsmemo.com/muckraker/trump-voter-fraud-comissioner-defamation-lawsuit-settled ^
  17. Team. Public Interest Legal Foundation. Accessed September 10, 2021. https://publicinterestlegal.org/about/team/ ^
  18. Lewis, Simon and Tanfani, Joseph. “How a small group of U.S. lawyers pushed voter fraud fears into the mainstream.” Reuters. September 9, 2020. Accessed September 11, 2021. https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-usa-election-voter-fraud-specialrepor-idINKBN2601GR ^
  19. Team. Public Interest Legal Foundation. Accessed September 10, 2021. https://publicinterestlegal.org/about/team/ ^
  20. Board of Directors. Public Interest Legal Foundation. Accessed September 10, 2021. https://publicinterestlegal.org/about/board-of-directors/ ^
  21. Board of Directors. Public Interest Legal Foundation. Accessed September 10, 2021. https://publicinterestlegal.org/about/board-of-directors/ ^
  22. Board of Directors. Public Interest Legal Foundation. Accessed September 10, 2021. https://publicinterestlegal.org/about/board-of-directors/ ^
  23. Board of Directors. Public Interest Legal Foundation. Accessed September 10, 2021. https://publicinterestlegal.org/about/board-of-directors/ ^
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: June 1, 2013

  • 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
    2018 Dec Form 990 $1,469,765 $1,138,607 $1,032,621 $38,453 N $1,381,709 $76,090 $0 $238,564 PDF
    2017 Dec Form 990 $2,196,405 $1,039,275 $698,018 $35,008 N $1,025,453 $1,136,897 $25,000 $235,722 PDF
    2016 Dec Form 990 $2,011,986 $892,089 $545,500 $14,167 N $969,841 $1,019,084 $0 $231,071
    2015 Dec Form 990 $561,867 $761,747 $385,204 $3,926 N $287,406 $246,797 $0 $221,286 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $1,914,588 $1,775,147 $687,425 $8,043 N $1,455,665 $458,923 $0 $30,000 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $1,669,539 $1,218,054 $628,111 $88,169 N $1,033,725 $635,814 $0 $366,729 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $1,255,825 $1,168,959 $143,442 $56,576 N $747,037 $508,788 $0 $272,500 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Public Interest Legal Foundation

    32 E WASHINGTON ST STE 1675
    INDIANAPOLIS, IN 46204-3563