Non-profit

Represent.Us

Logo for the organization Represent.Us (link) by Thomasheath is licensed CC BY-SA 4.0 (link)
Location:

FLORENCE, MA

Tax ID:

26-2369596

DUNS Number:

08-615-4115

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(4)

Budget (2016):

Revenue: $3,262,016
Expenses: $3,473,299
Assets: $728,164

Formation:

2012

Represent.Us, founded in 2012, is a legally “nonpartisan” organization focused on reducing what it claims are the negative effects of campaign funding in American politics.[1] The organization promotes proposed legislation that aims to increase certain campaign donation restrictions, create a $7.5 billion government subsidy program for political campaigns, and regulate the time of day that members of Congress can fundraise, to name a few.[2]

Represent.Us works with several Hollywood celebrities, most notably Jennifer Lawrence, as part of a “creative council” to create promotional material.[3] While the organization does not disclose its donors (according to IRS rules), its 501(c)(3) fundraising arm, the Represent.US Education Fund, has received financial contributions from a number of left-leaning organizations such as the Atlantic Foundation, Tides Foundation, and Park Foundation.[4]

Background

Represent.Us was founded by Josh Silver and Josh Graham Lynn in November 2012. By 2013, the group was organizing local chapters. Represent.Us claims 42 chapters in 22 states as of July 2018.[5] The organization’s website claims that corruption in America stems from the fact that the few people who have the ability to contribute large sums of money to politics have more of a say in our government than the average American.[6]

Represent.Us centers its advocacy on proposed legislation titled “The American Anti-Corruption Act.”[7] The proposal includes provisions to generally increase certain campaign donation restrictions, to create a $7.5 billion government subsidy for political campaigns, to prohibit people who are paid to lobby from donating to campaigns, to prevent politicians from raising money during the workday, and to immediately disclose political fundraising and spending online.[8]

The organization declared that Tallahassee, Florida made history in 2014 when it was the first city to approve an Anti-Corruption Act,[9] an initiative that Represent.Us supported.[10] The amendment for the city of Tallahassee included a provision to hire an ethics board, among other things. However, the board was criticized for “ethics problems.”[11] The nominees for the board are approved by the commissioners that it oversees and the board “quietly agreed to hire as their legal counsel the very same law firm that represents the city commission – which the board is supposed to police.”[12]

Political Activism

Represent.Us is active in promoting legislation and ballot initiatives which restrict anonymous speech, restrict public policy activity, and promote liberal-aligned voting procedures.

2018 Ballot Measure Campaigns

In 2018, Represent.Us’ South Dakota chapter has supported a ballot measure, Amendment W, in the state in response to the repeal of Measure 22 in 2017 by South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard and the state legislature. [13] If passed, the measure purports to “lower campaign contribution limits,” “ban lobbyist gifts to politicians,” and establish a “citizens ethics commission” to replace an existing state agency with “broad power to investigate, adopt rules, issue advisory opinions, and conduct audits” of any “appointed official, judge, or State or local government employee.” [14] [15] According to filings from the Amendment W campaign, financial supporters include Represent.Us and Represent.Us South Dakota ($181,830) and End Citizens United ($33,536). [16] [17]

Represent.Us also supported a successful veto referendum on the June 2018 ballot in Maine. Question 1 repealed parts of a law passed by the state legislature suspending the implementation of a ranked-choice voting system in the state. [18] Financial supporters of the referendum included Represent.Us ($52,256), Action Now Initiative ($188,500), and Level the Playing Field ($213,000).[19]

2016 Ballot Measure Campaigns

In 2016, Represent.Us supported sixteen ballot measures and initiatives in eight states: South Dakota, Washington, Missouri, Maryland, Illinois, California, Oregon, and Rhode Island. Thirteen were passed by voters.[20]

Successful measures included South Dakota Measure 22, which revised campaign finance and lobbying laws and established a publicly funded campaign finance program (which was later repealed by the state legislature after it passed in a narrow vote);[21] San Francisco Proposition T, which prohibited lobbyists from making campaign contributions to elected municipal officials whose agency they are registered to lobby;[22] and Washington Initiative 735, an initiative to the state legislature urging the state congressional delegation to propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution which would strip citizens assembled in corporate structures of their rights to speak on public issues.[23]

Celebrity Activism

Several celebrities are involved with Respresent.us and are a part of the organization’s “creative council,” a group designed to create “smart, engaging programs and content that unites conservatives, progressives, and everyone in between to unrig America’s corrupt political system.”[24]

The celebrities involved with the creative council include a slew of actors, musicians, film directors, and film producers such as Jennifer Lawrence, Kerry Washington, Rachel McAdams, Sia, Jack Black, Elizabeth Banks, Misha Collins, J.J. Abrams, and Kate Walsh. [25]

Many of these celebrities have donated large sums of money to Democratic political campaigns. In 2016, Misha Collins donated $2,700 to Hillary Clinton’s campaign and $1,900 to the DNC Services Corp.[26] Elizabeth Banks donated $2,700 to Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2015.[27] In 2012, Jack Black donated $30,800 to the DNC Services Corp.[28]

Since the beginning of 2018, Jennifer Lawrence has been particularly active with Represent.Us. After describing that the result of Donald J. Trump becoming president “will be the end of the world”[29] in 2015, and saying that she felt like her “head exploded” after he was elected in 2016,[30] she recently stated that she is taking a break from acting to “help ‘fix our democracy’” by working with Represent.Us.[31]

Funding

Represent.US is a 501(c)(4) advocacy nonprofit, and as such is not required by the IRS to disclose its grantors.

According to the group’s website, however, left-of-center foundations including the Atlantic Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Park Foundation, Tides Foundation, and Bohemian Foundation have each given at least $100,000 to the 501(c)(3) Represent.US Education Fund.[32]

People

Founders

Josh Graham Lynn is the managing director and co-founder of Represent.Us. His previous work includes branding and marketing at a food marketing company called Pure Branding and a credit union called EverythingCU.[33]

Josh Silver is the director and co-founder of Represent.Us. He was the campaign manager for a controversial, 1998 “Arizona Clean Elections” ballot initiative and was the co-founder and former CEO of Free Press, a left-wing media criticism organization. Silver is a frequent contributor at the left-leaning HuffPost.[34]

The 1998 Clean Elections Ballot Initiative sought to institute a government funding system for state political campaigns by making public funds “available to candidates who agree to participate in a system of campaign spending limits.”[35] However, in 2011 a case against the act was brought to the Supreme Court of the United States, which struck down part of the government-funding program.[36]

Board Members

Kulpreet Rana, an attorney and the former head of intellectual property at Google, is the Chair of the Represent.Us board.[37]

Todd Dipaola, CEO and founder of InMarket, is the Chair of the Represent.Us Education Fund board. Dipaola is also a board member of the University of California Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy.[38]

Other notable board members include:

  • Jennifer Lawrence – American actor
  • Alan Schwartz – a managing partner at Guggenheim Partners, a financial advisory firm.
  • John Johnson – co-founder of Buzzfeed, current chairman and founder of Harmony Labs.[39]
  • Jon DeVaan – former vice president of Microsoft Windows development, current “social activist.”[40]
  • Matt Cutts – former head of Google’s web spam team.[41]
  • Adam McKay – an American screenwriter, director, and comedian. [42]
  • Jim Greer – founder and CEO of CounterPAC, an organization pushing for campaign finance reform.[43]

Despite the efforts of Represent.Us to curtail campaign contributions, many of Represent.Us’ board members participate in the same kind of high-dollar political funding that the organization criticizes. John Johnson donated $100,000 to Mayday PAC in 2014,[44] an ironic “super PAC that would spend big money in order to fight super PACs and other groups that spend big money.”[45]

In 2016, Jon DeVaan donated over $12,000 to a variety of Democratic political candidates such as Hillary Clinton, Suzan DelBene, and Patty Murray.[46] In 2014, Matt Cutts donated $50,000 to Every Voice Action,[47] the PAC for a 501(c)(4) organization, Every Voice, which endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016.[48]

References

  1. “About us.” Represent.Us. Accessed April 4, 2018. https://Represent.Us/about/#our-team/. ^
  2. “The American Anti-Corruption Act Full Provisions.” Campaign Legal Center. Accessed April 9, 2018. http://www.campaignlegalcenter.org/sites/default/files/AACA_Full_Provisions.pdf ^
  3. “About us.” Represent.Us. Accessed April 9, 2018. https://represent.us/about/ ^
  4.   “Full Donor List.” Represent.Us. Accessed April 04, 2018. https://Represent.Us/donor-list/. ^
  5. “Start a Chapter.” Represent.Us. Accessed April 05, 2018. https://volunteer.represent.us/chapters. ^
  6. “The Problem.” Represent.Us. Accessed April 9, 2018. https://act.represent.us/sign/the-problem/ ^
  7. “American Anti-Corruption Act (AACA).” Campaign Legal Center. February 06, 2017. Accessed April 05, 2018. http://www.campaignlegalcenter.org/document/american-anti-corruption-act-aaca. ^
  8. “What’s in the Act – Summary of Provisions.” The American Anti-Corruption Act. Accessed April 05, 2018. https://anticorruptionact.org/whats-in-the-act/. ^
  9. “Progressives and Tea Party Join Forces, Beat Big Money in Florida.” Represent.Us. Accessed April 11, 2018. https://represent.us/action/tallahassee/. ^
  10. Hill, Charlotte. “Left and Right Must Work Together to Battle Government Corruption.” The Huffington Post. January 10, 2015. Accessed April 11, 2018. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/charlotte-hill/left-and-right-must-work-_b_6130078.html. ^
  11. Ossowski, Yaël. “Anti-corruption Group’s Ethics Boards Face Ethical Problems.” Watchdog.org. December 01, 2017. Accessed April 11, 2018. https://www.watchdog.org/florida/anti-corruption-group-s-ethics-boards-face-ethical-problems/article_e573779d-dbda-566c-9610-56e9d66d947f.html. ^
  12. Ossowski, Yaël. “Anti-corruption Group’s Ethics Boards Face Ethical Problems.” Watchdog.org. December 01, 2017. Accessed April 11, 2018. https://www.watchdog.org/florida/anti-corruption-group-s-ethics-boards-face-ethical-problems/article_e573779d-dbda-566c-9610-56e9d66d947f.html. ^
  13. “South Dakota Revision of State Campaign Finance and Lobbying Laws, Initiated Measure 22 (2016).” Ballotpedia. Accessed July 18, 2018. https://ballotpedia.org/South_Dakota_Revision_of_State_Campaign_Finance_and_Lobbying_Laws,_Initiated_Measure_22_(2016). ^
  14. “Breaking: South Dakota Voters Bringing Anti-corruption Amendment in 2018.” Represent.Us. Accessed July 18, 2018. https://act.represent.us/sign/cosponsor_SD_Act?akid=s63157..tdEuBc. ^
  15. State of South Dakota. Initiated Constitutional Amendment Petition: South Dakota Voter Protection and Anti-Corruption Amendment. Accessed July 18, 2018. https://sdsos.gov/elections-voting/assets/2018_CA_CampaignFinLobbyingLaws_Petition.pdf. ^
  16. “South Dakota Constitutional Amendment W, State Campaign Finance and Lobbying Laws, Government Accountability Board, and Initiative Process Amendment (2018).” Ballotpedia. Accessed July 18, 2018. https://ballotpedia.org/South_Dakota_Constitutional_Amendment_W,_State_Campaign_Finance_and_Lobbying_Laws,_Government_Accountability_Board,_and_Initiative_Process_Amendment_(2018) ^
  17. State of South Dakota. Campaign Finance Disclosure Report: Represent South Dakota (Statewide Ballot Question Committee). Accessed July 18, 2018. https://sdcfr.sdsos.gov/Document.aspx?DocumentID=23565&type=doc ^
  18. “Maine Question 1, Ranked-Choice Voting Delayed Enactment and Automatic Repeal Referendum (June 2018).” Ballotpedia. Accessed July 18, 2018. https://ballotpedia.org/Maine_Question_1,_Ranked-Choice_Voting_Delayed_Enactment_and_Automatic_Repeal_Referendum_(June_2018) ^
  19. “THE CHAMBERLAIN PROJECT BQC 2018.” Maine Ethics Commission Campaign Finance. Accessed July 18, 2018. ^
  20. “2016 Election Results.” Represent.Us. Accessed July 18, 2018. https://represent.us/2016map/. ^
  21. “South Dakota Revision of State Campaign Finance and Lobbying Laws, Initiated Measure 22 (2016).” Ballotpedia. Accessed July 18, 2018. https://ballotpedia.org/South_Dakota_Revision_of_State_Campaign_Finance_and_Lobbying_Laws,_Initiated_Measure_22_(2016). ^
  22. “San Francisco, California, Restrictions on Gifts and Campaign Contributions from Lobbyists, Proposition T (November 2016).” Ballotpedia. Accessed July 18, 2018. https://ballotpedia.org/San_Francisco,_California,_Restrictions_on_Gifts_and_Campaign_Contributions_from_Lobbyists,_Proposition_T_(November_2016) ^
  23. “Washington Advisory Question about the Rights of Corporations and Money as Free Speech, Initiative 735 (2016).” Ballotpedia. Accessed July 18, 2018. https://ballotpedia.org/Washington_Advisory_Question_about_the_Rights_of_Corporations_and_Money_as_Free_Speech,_Initiative_735_(2016) ^
  24. “About us.” Represent.Us. Accessed April 4, 2018. https://Represent.Us/about/#our-team/. ^
  25. “About us.” Represent.Us. Accessed April 4, 2018. https://Represent.Us/about/#our-team/. ^
  26. Center for Responsive Politics. “Misha Collins.” Opensecrets.org. Accessed April 11, 2018. https://www.opensecrets.org/donor-lookup/results?name=misha+collins&order=desc&sort=D ^
  27. Center for Responsive Politics. “Elizabeth Banks.” Opensecrets.org. Accessed April 11, 2018. https://www.opensecrets.org/donor-lookup/results?cand=&cycle=&employ=actress&name=elizabeth+banks&order=desc&sort=D&state=&zip= ^
  28. Center for Responsive Politics. “Jack Black.” Opensecrets.org. Accessed April 11, 2018. https://www.opensecrets.org/donor-lookup/results?cand=&cycle=&employ=actor&name=jack+black&order=desc&sort=D&state=&zip= ^
  29. Sperling, Nicole. “President Trump Would Be ‘the End of the World,’ Says Jennifer Lawrence.” EW.com. October 1, 2015. Accessed April 04, 2018. http://www.ew.com/article/2015/10/01/donald-trump-mockingjay-jennifer-lawrence/ ^
  30. Fernandez, Alexia. “Jennifer Lawrence Says She ‘Felt Devastated’ After Donald Trump’s Election: ‘My Head Exploded’.” PEOPLE.com. February 23, 2018. Accessed April 04, 2018. http://people.com/movies/jennifer-lawrence-head-exploded-after-trumps-election/. ^
  31. “Jennifer Lawrence to Quit Acting for a Year to ‘fix Our Democracy’.” Fox News. February 20, 2018. Accessed April 04, 2018. http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2018/02/20/jennifer-lawrence-to-quit-acting-for-year-to-fix-our-democracy.html. ^
  32. “Full Donor List.” Represent.Us. Accessed April 04, 2018. https://Represent.Us/donor-list/. ^
  33. “Josh Graham Lynn.” Represent.Us. Accessed April 04, 2018. https://Represent.Us/staff/josh-graham-lynn/. ^
  34. “Josh Silver.” Represent.Us. Accessed April 04, 2018. https://Represent.Us/staff/josh-silver/. ^
  35. “Arizona 1998 Ballot Question on Public Campaign Financing.” Office of Legislative Research. Accessed April 5, 2018. https://www.cga.ct.gov/PS98/rpt%5Colr%5Chtm/98-R-1441.htm ^
  36. Middleton, Matt. “Who Does Represent.Us… Represent?” Capital Research Center. Accessed April 05, 2018. https://capitalresearch.org/article/who-does-represent-us-represent/. ^
  37. Butter, Susannah. “Meet the A-list Actresses Turned Activists.” Evening Standard. February 21, 2018. Accessed April 05, 2018. https://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/london-life/actresses-who-are-also-activists-jennifer-lawrence-emma-watson-a3772456.html. ^
  38. “Board of Advisors.” Goldman School of Public Policy – University of California, Berkeley. Accessed April 04, 2018. https://gspp.berkeley.edu/about/leadership/board-of-advisors. ^
  39. “John S Johnson.” Harmony Labs. Accessed April 04, 2018. https://harmonylabs.org/john-johnson/. ^
  40. “Jon DeVaan.” Oregon State University Foundation. Accessed April 4, 2018. http://www.osufoundation.org/s/359/foundation/index.aspx?sid=359&gid=34&pgid=342&cid=9228&ecid=9228&ciid=39794&crid=0 ^
  41. “About Me.” Matt Cutts: Gadgets, Google, and SEO. March 10, 2018. Accessed April 04, 2018. https://www.mattcutts.com/blog/about-me/. ^
  42. “Adam McKay Biography.” IMDb. Accessed April 04, 2018. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0570912/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm. ^
  43. “CounterPAC Team.” CounterPAC – Mutual Assured Democracy. Accessed April 04, 2018. http://www.counterpac.org/people/team/. ^
  44. Center for Responsive Politics. “John Johnson.” Opensecrets.org. Accessed April 11, 2018. https://www.opensecrets.org/donor-lookup/results?name=john+johnson&cycle=&state=&zip=&employ=buzzfeed&cand= ^
  45. Tau, Byron, and Kenneth P. Vogel. “How to Waste $10 Million.” POLITICO. November 06, 2014. Accessed April 11, 2018. https://www.politico.com/story/2014/11/2014-elections-mayday-pac-larry-lessig-112617. ^
  46. Center for Responsive Politics. “Jon DeVaan.” Opensecrets.org. Accessed April 11, 2018. https://www.opensecrets.org/donor-lookup/results?name=jon+devaan&order=desc&sort=D ^
  47. Center for Responsive Politics. “Matt Cutts.” Opensecrets.org. Accessed April 11, 2018. https://www.opensecrets.org/donor-lookup/results?cand=&cycle=&employ=google&name=matt+cutts&order=desc&sort=D&state=&zip= ^
  48. Blumenthal, Paul. “Hillary Clinton Endorsed By Campaign Finance Reformers.” HuffPost. September 23, 2016. Accessed April 11, 2018. https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/hillary-clinton-campaign-finance_us_57e45147e4b0e28b2b532700 ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Josh Silver
    Co-Founder and Director
  2. J. J. Abrams
    Member, Creative Council
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: January 1, 2014

  • 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
    2016 Dec Form 990 $3,262,016 $3,473,299 $728,164 $254,709 N $3,261,868 $0 $0 $0
    2015 Dec Form 990 $1,871,589 $1,725,187 $696,643 $11,905 N $1,871,406 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $1,446,499 $1,219,405 $547,386 $9,050 N $1,445,989 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $694,387 $622,988 $323,242 $12,000 N $691,730 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $1,426,145 $1,290,485 $303,083 $63,240 N $1,426,141 $0 $4 $121,660 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Represent.Us

    PO BOX 60008
    FLORENCE, MA 01062-0008