The Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund (WVWVAF) is a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization which was founded in 2003 by prominent left-wing political strategist Page Gardner. Claiming to be a “nonpartisan” organization, the WVWVAF aims to advocate for the left-of-center “Rising American Electorate,” particularly unmarried women, and increase their participation in the political process.
The WVWVAF, while claiming to be nonpartisan and to be dedicated simply to increasing the political participation of these groups, nevertheless assumes the alignment of this demographic with its own causes, asserting that if these people can simply be educated rightly and made to come in and vote, they will “express their progressive values at the polls.” The WVWVAF claims to simply provide information, not political takes or influence, but it seeks what it calls “non-political ways to talk about the issues and policies that affect unmarried women and the Rising American Electorate—issues like equal pay for women, the minimum wage, paid leave, health care, government reform, women’s reproductive rights, LGBT equality, and voting rights”—liberal politics in all but name.
After working for 20 years on major liberal campaigns as a political strategist and communications specialist, WVWVAF founder Page Gardner was among the first to focus on the “marriage gap,” treating the groups of married and unmarried women as separate political demographics. Realizing that the number of unmarried women was both steadily growing and far less politically active than its married counterpart, Gardner in 2003 founded the Voter Participation Center, a nonprofit dedicated to registering as unmarried women and other members of what liberals call the “Rising American Electorate”—liberal leaning and growing demographic groups—to vote as possible.
In 2005, Gardner expanded her efforts by opening the Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund, which expanded its efforts beyond voter registration to larger advocacy and research efforts.
Currently, the WVWVAF divides its efforts into three areas: raising awareness of its focus demographic among politicians, advocating for policies among that demographic itself, and researching the interests and motivations of that demographic.
The organization seeks to make politicians aware of the growing numbers and political power of unmarried women, thereby putting pressure on these politicians to promote the “progressive ideals” that it identifies with this demographic, attempting to convince them that a failure to do so “could mean the difference between victory or defeat in the next election.”
Its policy advocacy within the demographic of unmarried women aims at informing these citizens about issues relevant to their lives and the ways they should vote in their own best interest, to, as their website explains, “provide unmarried women with information about the issues and values they care about.”
The organization does make significant financial contributions to campaigns and advocacy efforts, indicating that its “non-partisan” character is nominal for tax purposes. Of its $120,234 total contribution to the 2016 federal elections, for example, $41,968 supported Democratic candidates, and $78,266 was employed against Republican candidates. In contrast, $0 supported Republican candidates, and $0 was spent against Democratic candidates.
WVWVAF receives most of its funding from organizational contributors, including liberal foundations and groups. The fund does not clearly disclose its donors, however public donations disclosed in a 2008 report include the Boston Foundation, which gave $230,000 in 2007; JEHT Foundation, which gave $250,000 in 2006; Bauman Family Foundation, which gave $100,000 in 2006; and Barbara Lee Family Foundation, which gave $100,000 in 2005.
Besides president Page Gardner, leadership for WVWVAF includes Joe Goode the group’s executive director. Goode worked on Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign.
Michael Lux is president of political consulting company Progressive Strategies and grassroots activism organization American Family Voices. He also served President Bill Clinton as special assistant for public liaison, and worked as an aide to then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.).
Mimi Mager is a board member and served as member of Clinton-Gore transition team.
William McNary is a board member and president of USAction.
Chris Desser is co-founder of WVWVAF and a board member.
John Podesta is a board member. Podesta is also the former CEO and president of Center for American Progress, former Counselor to President Barack Obama, and the former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton.
Maggie Rheinstein is the organization’s treasurer and a board member.
Avis Jones-De Weeber is a board member.
Controversy and Ties to the Clinton Foundation
In 2008, the WVWVAF was identified as the source of a mass of allegedly illegal automated calls which were received on the day of the Democratic Presidential primaries in North Carolina, and seemed to target African American women, suggesting that they register to vote and informing them that a packet with more information would be sent out to them in several days. The calls arrived past the deadline to register to vote in the primary leading to accusations of “voter suppression,” as critics claimed the calls were sent out to confuse voters in African-American communities who had already registered to vote which would damage Barack Obama’s standing against rival Hillary Clinton, as these communities were major supporters of then-Sen. Obama. The calls were traced back the WVWVAF, an organization made up largely of Clinton supporters headed by Gardner, a prominent Clinton ally. WVWVAF denied the allegations.
The organization has many ties to the Clinton family. Gardner, in addition to being a longtime supporter of Hillary Clinton, worked on Bill Clinton’s campaign in 1992. Bill Clinton’s former chief-of-staff and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign chairman John Podesta serves on WVWVAF’s board, and Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager Maggie Williams also formerly held a leadership position in the organization.
The organization’s financial integrity has also been called into question on multiple occasions. In 2006, the organization paid $800,000, 16 percent of its annual budget, to Gardner’s husband Ron Rosenblith’s company, Integral Resources Inc. for phone services, raising accusations of a conflict of interest. In addition to this, the organization paid large sums to the companies of five other of its leaders, totaling several million dollars. It also received criticism when, after telling the FEC that it spent $250,000 on ads supporting a Democratic Senator, it reported to the IRS that it did not spend any money on politics.