Non-profit

Unite America Institute

Website:

www.uniteamericainstitute.org

Location:

DENVER, CO

Tax ID:

27-3001286

Budget (2017):

Revenue: $410,000
Expenses: $160,526
Assets: $252,143

Type:

Center-Left Electoral “Reform” Group

Formerly:

Centrist Project Institute

Unite America Institute (UAI) is a center-left, Colorado-based, advocacy organization that supports structural changes in the election system it claims will reduce voter partisanship and benefit ostensibly “centrist” and independent candidates for public office. [1]

Unite America Institute is closely-affiliated with Unite America, a political organization that supports moderate-left candidates for elective office. [2] Unite America’s PAC is a “hybrid political action committee”[3] that allows it to operate as both as a Super PAC that makes unlimited, independent expenditures to help candidate campaigns and also makes direct contributions to candidate campaigns. [4]

Unite America Institute’s four-member board has, as individuals, supported Democratic Party candidates and organizations over Republicans and Independents by a wide margin. Between 2008 and 2019, the four board members donated to 29 different Democratic Party candidates for federal office, nine Republican Party candidates, and six Independent candidates. In addition, the members of the board have contributed to 31 Democratic Party organizations or Democratic-aligned PACs, two PACs not affiliated with either major political party, and zero Republican Party organizations or PACs. [5]

Unite America Institute’s closely-affiliated PAC, Unite America, has an eleven-member board whose members have also overwhelmingly supported Democratic Party candidates. Members on the PAC’s board contributed to 45 different Democratic Party candidates for federal offices, seven Independent candidates, and six Republican Party candidates between 2003 and 2019. [6] Unite America’s PAC also has a 12-member board of advisors which consists of six members who have supported Democratic Party candidates, five who have supported Republican candidates, and one with no FEC-reportable donations to federal candidates as of 2019. [7]

History

The Unite America Institute was founded in 2013[8] as “The Centrist Project” by economics professor Charles Wheelan[9] after his unsuccessful 2009 campaign for a Democratic Party nomination to the U.S. Congress from Illinois. [10] In 2017, an existing-but-inactive Kansas-based nonprofit called the Common Sense Coalition Education Fund[11] was converted to the Centrist Project Institute with Wheelan as its new chair. [12] By August of 2018, the organization had changed its name to Unite America Institute. [13]

The original strategy of Unite America Institute was to support the affiliated Unite America’s political operations to elect independent candidates to public office. The Unite America Institute would provide polling, research, citizen outreach, and education for the purpose of building a political movement beneficial to electing candidates not affiliated with the Republican or Democratic parties. [14] [15] The stated goal was for a small number of Independent elected officials to become “swing votes” in state legislatures that are closely divided between Democratic and Republican members. [16] [17]

In 2018, Unite America PAC became involved in supporting independent candidate campaigns for state legislatures in Colorado, Washington, Maine, Oregon, New Mexico, and Alaska. [18] After the 2018 elections, Unite America Institute concluded that its strategy has largely failed. [19] Of the 431 independent candidates that appeared on ballots in 2018, only 14 were elected and only one won a three-way race. [20]

Unite America conducted research into the reasons for the general failure of the strategy of electing Independent candidates in the 2018 election cycle. [21] That research led to a new strategy for Unite America and the affiliated Institute that focuses on advancing “democracy reforms” such as ranked choice voting, automating voter registration, changing state laws that determine the boundaries of political districts, and allowing any voter to participate in primary elections or replacing party primaries with nonpartisan primaries. [22] [23]

People

The Unite America Institute has a four-member board with two of those members also on the board of the affiliated political and PAC organization, Unite America. Unite America Institute and Unite America also share the same executive director. [24] [25]

Kathryn Murdoch

Kathryn Murdoch is a center-left political activist and donor to liberal causes who is on the boards of both the Unite America Institute and the closely affiliated political/hybrid PAC, Unite America. Murdoch is the largest donor to Unite America, having donated over $3.8 million in 2019. [26]  It is unknown how much Murdoch may have contributed to Unite America Institute, as 501(c)(3) organizations are not required to disclose their donors, but Murdoch has stated her support for raising $100 million to support Unite America’s 2020 objectives. [27]

Kathryn Murdoch is the daughter-in-law of Fox News co-founder and conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch. She is co-founder and president of the Quadrivium Foundation and is married to James Murdoch, the former chairman of 21st Century Fox. Kathryn Murdoch has described herself as a “radical centrist”[28] motivated substantially by her concern for the environment. [29]

Despite Kathryn Murdoch’s declared centrism and membership on the board of Unite America, with its stated goal of promoting independent/centrist candidates for office, she has been a substantial donor to the Democratic Party and its candidates. Between 2016 and 2019, Kathryn Murdoch donated to 26 different state Democratic Party organizations. [30] During that same period, Murdoch also contributed to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, to the Democratic National Committee, and to multiple Democratic Party congressional candidates. She contributed to one Republican candidate in 2019. Murdoch contributed to the Republican Women for Progress PAC in 2018, which only supported Democratic Party candidates that year. [31]

Murdoch supported former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s (D) presidential campaign in 2019, but stated in January, 2020 that she was excited to support whichever Democratic Party presidential candidate emerged to oppose President Donald Trump. [32]

Charles Wheelan

Economic professor Charles Wheelan is a board member of Unite America Institute. Wheelan is also on the board of Unite America, which he founded as The Centrist Project in 2013. [33]

Wheelan has authored several books promoting political centrism. In 2009, Wheelan unsuccessfully sought the Democratic Party nomination to Illinois’ 5th congressional district. [34] [35]

Between 2003 and 2019, Wheelan contributed to ten different Democratic Party candidates for federal offices, including Barack Obama’s US Senate campaign in 2003 and Joe Biden’s presidential campaign in 2019. During that same period, Wheelan contributed to four different independent candidates for federal offices and to zero Republican Party candidates. [36]

Randy Peeler

Randy Peeler is a member of Unite America Institute’s board. Peeler is an investment advisor and former Treasury Department employee under President Bill Clinton. [37] [38] Between 2014 and 2019, Peeler contributed to 12 different Democratic Party candidates for federal offices, one Republican candidate, one Independent, and one PAC that supports Democratic Party candidates. [39]

Greg Sherrill

Greg Sherrill is a member of Unite America Institute’s board. Sherrill is a longtime manufacturing company executive. [40] Between 2011 and 2019, Sherrill donated to six different Republican Party candidates for federal offices, one Democratic Party candidate, and one Independent. [41]

Nick Troiano

Nick Troiano is the executive director of the Unite America Institute and also the executive director of Unite America. [42] [43] Troiano was an unsuccessful candidate for congress in 2014 when he ran as an independent candidate in Pennsylvania’s 10th district. [44]

In 2012, Troiano donated to an unsuccessful effort to recruit former US Comptroller General David Walker to run as an independent candidate for president.  Troiano also donated to one independent candidate for federal office in 2015. [45] [46] In 2019, Troiano contributed to Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s unsuccessful campaign. [47]

Funding

As of March, 2020, the most recent publicly-available financial information for the Unite America Institute is from 2017. Total revenue was $410,000 and expenses were $160,576, with $104,259 of the expense total paid to a Colorado-based political consulting company named Polestar. [48] [49] Polestar was also hired by UAI’s political affiliate, Unite America, to manage a slate of independent candidates for Colorado state legislative districts in 2018. [50]

References

  1. Unite America Institute. Uniteamericainstitute.org. “About”. Accessed March 18, 2020. https://www.uniteamericainstitute.org/about ^
  2. Unite America Institute, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2017. Accessed March 18, 2020. https://apps.irs.gov/pub/epostcard/cor/273001286_201712_990_2018121916027209.pdf ^
  3. Center for Responsive Politics. Opensecrets.org. “Influence & Lobbying”. “PACs”. “Unite America”. Accessed March 18, 2020.  https://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/lookup2.php?strID=C00677773&cycle=2018 ^
  4. Center for Responsive Politics. Opensecrets.org. “Resources”. “Learn”. “Glossary”. “Carey Committee”. Accessed March 18, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/resources/learn/glossary.php#Carey+Committee ^
  5. Center for Responsive Politics. Opensecrets.org. “Politicians & Elections”. “Donor Lookup”. “Charles Wheelan”, “Kathryn Murdoch”, “Randy Peeler”, “Gregg Sherrill”.. Accessed March 15, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/donor-lookup ^
  6. Center for Responsive Politics. Opensecrets.org. “Politicians & Elections”. “Donor Lookup”. “Charles Wheelan”, “Kathryn Murdoch”, “Shawn Riegsecker”, Jeff Binder”, “Katherine Gehl”, “Linda Killian”, “Marc Merrill”, “Greg Orman”, “Lisa Rice”, “Neal Simon”, “Ron Shaich”. Accessed March 15, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/donor-lookup ^
  7. Center for Responsive Politics. Opensecrets.org. “Politicians & Elections”. “Donor Lookup”. “Carlos Curbelo”, “Jason Altmire”, “Daniella Ballou-Aares”, “Tom Curren”, “Lee Drutman”, “Sarah Longwell”, “David Milner”, “Renaldo Pearson”, “Allyson Schmeiser”, “Michael Steele”, “Rob Stein”, “Betsy Wright Hawkings”. Accessed March 18, 2020.  https://www.opensecrets.org/donor-lookup ^
  8. Mundahl, Erin. “Unite America, the Political Party That’s Not a Party, Announces Slate of Five Candidates”. Inside Sources. February 27, 2018. Accessed March 18, 2020. https://www.insidesources.com/unite-america-the-party-thats-not-a-party-announces-slate-of-five-candidates/ ^
  9. Ballotpedia.org. “Unite America”. Accessed March 18, 2020. https://ballotpedia.org/Unite_America ^
  10. Nakedeconomics.com. “Bio”.  Accessed March 18, 2020. http://www.nakedeconomics.com/bio/ ^
  11. ProPublica. Propublica.org. “Graphics & Data”. “News Apps”. “Nonprofit Explorer”. “Search for a Nonprofit”. “Unite America Institute, Inc.” “2016 990”.. Accessed March 18, 2020. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/display_990/273001286/12_2017_prefixes_27-30%2F273001286_201612_990EZ_2017122715057838 ^
  12. ProPublica. Propublica.org. “Graphics & Data”. “News Apps”. “Nonprofit Explorer”. “Search for a Nonprofit”. “Unite America Institute, Inc.” “2017 990”.. Accessed March 18, 2020. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/display_990/273001286/12_2018_prefixes_27-30%2F273001286_201712_990_2018121916027209 ^
  13. Villeneuve, Marina. “Independents uneasy about taking cash, even from indie group”. Associated Press. August 9, 2018. Accessed March 18, 2020. https://apnews.com/7ce5cf60eb7a42c980b3b216dd9fc7e3/Independents-uneasy-about-taking-cash,-even-from-indie-group ^
  14. Unite America Institute. Uniteamericainstitute.org. “Research”. “Reimagining governance in an age of polarization”. Accessed March 18, 2020. https://www.uniteamericainstitute.org/reimagininggovernance ^
  15. Stewart, Kyle. “Centrist Project Charts Path for Electing Independents”. Roll Call. July 12, 2017. Accessed March 18, 2020. https://www.rollcall.com/2017/07/12/centrist-project-charts-path-for-electing-independents/ ^
  16. Mundahl, Erin. “Unite America Wins First Primary, Ann Diamond to Appear on Washington Ballot This Fall”. Inside Sources. August 17, 2018. Accessed March 18, 2020. https://www.insidesources.com/unite-america-wins-first-primary-ann-diamond-to-appear-on-washington-ballot-this-fall/ ^
  17. Prince, Erich J. “Interview with Charles Wheelan: Let’s Get More Independents in American Politics”. Merion West. May 28, 2018. Accessed March 18, 2020. https://merionwest.com/2018/05/28/interview-with-charles-wheelan-lets-get-more-independents-in-american-politics/ ^
  18. Mundahl, Erin. “Unite America, the Political Party That’s Not a Party, Announces Slate of Five Candidates”. Inside Sources. February 27, 2018.  Accessed March 18, 2020. https://www.insidesources.com/unite-america-the-party-thats-not-a-party-announces-slate-of-five-candidates/ ^
  19. Fisher, Tyler. “Independent Candidates & The 2018 Elections: What We Learned”. Unite America.  Accessed March 18, 2020. https://docsend.com/view/tdpge9n ^
  20. Gutman, David. “‘We were wrong’: Washington PAC supporting independents sees no future for centrist third party”. The Seattle Times. May 28, 2019.  Accessed March 18, 2020. https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/we-were-wrong-washington-pac-supporting-independents-sees-no-future-for-centrist-third-party/ ^
  21. Fisher, Tyler. “Independent Candidates & The 2018 Elections: What We Learned”. Unite America. Accessed March 18, 2020. https://www.uniteamerica.org/news-article/independent-candidates-the-2018-elections-what-we-learned ^
  22. Unite America Institute. Uniteamericainstitute.org. “Research”. “State of Democracy”. Accessed March 18, 2020. https://www.uniteamericainstitute.org/state-of-democracy ^
  23. Greenblatt, Alan. “Voting Problems Open the Door to Election Alternatives”. Governing. February 5, 2020. Accessed March 18, 2020. https://www.governing.com/now/Voting-Problems-Open-Door-to-Election-Alternatives.html ^
  24. Unite America Institute. Uniteamericainstitute.org. “About”. Accessed March 18, 2020. https://www.uniteamericainstitute.org/about ^
  25. Unite America. Uniteamerica.org. “About”. “Our Team”. “Staff”. Accessed March 18, 2020. https://www.uniteamerica.org/team ^
  26. Center for Responsive Government. Opensecrets.org. “Influence & Lobbying”. “PACs”. “Unite America”. “Contributors”. Accessed March 18, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/pacgave2.php?cmte=C00677773&cycle=2020 ^
  27. Schwartz, John. “Kathryn Murdoch Steps Out of the Family Shadow to Fight Climate Change”. New York Times. September 27, 2019. Accessed March 16, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/26/climate/kathryn-murdoch-climate-change-voting.html ^
  28. Schwartz, John. “Kathryn Murdoch Steps Out of the Family Shadow to Fight Climate Change”. New York Times. September 27, 2019.  Accessed March 18, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/26/climate/kathryn-murdoch-climate-change-voting.html ^
  29. Stanton, Zack. “Kathryn Murdoch: ‘We’re really excited to back whoever the nominee is’”. Politico. January 29, 2020. Accessed March 18, 2020. https://www.politico.com/news/2020/01/29/kathryn-murdoch-2020-fox-news-family-107600 ^
  30. Center for Responsive Politics. Opensecrets.org. “Campaigns & Elections”. “Donor Lookup”. “Kathryn Murdoch”. Accessed March 18, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/donor-lookup/results?name=Kathryn+Murdoch&page=1 ^
  31. Center for Responsive Politics. Opensecrets.org. “Campaigns & Elections”. “Donor Lookup”. “Kathryn Murdoch”. Accessed March 18, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/donor-lookup/results?name=Kathryn+Murdoch&page=1 ^
  32. Stanton, Zack. “Kathryn Murdoch: ‘We’re really excited to back whoever the nominee is’”. Politico. January 29, 2020. Accessed March 18, 2020. https://www.politico.com/news/2020/01/29/kathryn-murdoch-2020-fox-news-family-107600 ^
  33. Unite America. Uniteamerica.org. “About”. “Our Team”. “Board”. Accessed March 18, 2020. https://www.uniteamerica.org/team ^
  34. Unite America Institute. Uniteamericainstitute.org. “About”. Accessed March 18, 2020.  https://www.uniteamericainstitute.org/about ^
  35. Seelye, Katharine Q. “In Chicago House Race, a Free-for-All”. New York Times. February 25, 2009. Accessed March 18, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/26/us/26illinois.html ^
  36. Center for Responsive Politics. Opensecrets.org. “Campaigns & Elections”. “Donor Lookup”. “Charles Wheelan”.  Accessed March 18, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/donor-lookup/results?name=Charles+Wheelan ^
  37. Cunniff, John. “Did Administration Withhold Tax Data?” Associated Press. December 21, 1993. Accessed March 18, 2020. https://apnews.com/ce088cd63ba57ed337f4ec01f42067cd ^
  38. Unite America Institute. Uniteamericainstitute.org. “About”. Accessed March 18, 2020.  https://www.uniteamericainstitute.org/about ^
  39. Center for Responsive Politics. Opensecrets.org. “Campaigns & Elections”. “Donor Lookup”. “Randy Peeler”. Accessed March 18, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/donor-lookup/results?name=RANDY+PEELER ^
  40. Unite America Institute. Uniteamericainstitute.org. “About”. Accessed March 18, 2020. https://www.uniteamericainstitute.org/about ^
  41. Center for Responsive Politics. Opensecrets.org. “Campaigns & Elections”. “Donor Lookup”. “Gregg Sherrill”. Accessed March 18, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/donor-lookup/results?name=GREGG+SHERRILL ^
  42. Unite America Institute. Uniteamericainstitute.org. “About”. Accessed March 18, 2020.  https://www.uniteamericainstitute.org/about ^
  43. Unite America. Uniteamerica.org. “About” “Our Team”. “Staff”. Accessed March 18, 2020. https://www.uniteamerica.org/team ^
  44. Unite America. Uniteamerica.org. “About” “Our Team”. “Staff”. “Nick Troiano”. Accessed March 18, 2020. https://www.uniteamerica.org/teamAccessed March 18, 2020. https://www.uniteamerica.org/team-members/nick-troiano ^
  45. Center for Responsive Politics. Opensecrets.org. “Campaigns & Elections”. “Donor Lookup”. “Nichola Troiano”.  Accessed March 18, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/donor-lookup/results?name=Nicholas+Troiano ^
  46. Weigel, David. “The Inevitable Future Presidency of David Walker”. Slate. April 23, 2012. Accessed March 18, 2020. https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2012/04/the-inevitable-future-presidency-of-david-walker.html ^
  47. Center for Responsive Politics. Opensecrets.org. “Campaigns & Elections”. “Donor Lookup”. “Nick Troiano”.  Accessed March 18, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/donor-lookup/results?name=Nick+Troiano ^
  48. Unite America Institute, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2017. Accessed March 18, 2020. https://apps.irs.gov/pub/epostcard/cor/273001286_201712_990_2018121916027209.pdf ^
  49. Polestarpolitics.us. Accessed March 18, 2020. https://www.polestarpolitics.us/ ^
  50. LinkedIn. Linkedin.com. “Jobs”. “Statewide Field Manager at Polestar Politics”. Accessed March 18, 2020. https://www.linkedin.com/jobs/view/statewide-field-manager-at-polestar-politics-574687251 ^

Associated Organizations

  1. Unite America (Political Party/527)
  See an error? Let us know!

Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: April 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
    2017 Dec Form 990 $410,000 $160,526 $252,143 $1,237 N $410,000 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2015 Dec Form 990EZ $0 $38,004 $103 $2,435 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $947,995 $80,015 $35,672 $0 N $947,995 $0 $0 $60,200 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Unite America Institute

    6000 E EVANS AVE STE 1-121
    DENVER, CO 80222-5412