Non-profit

Women’s Voices Women Vote (WVWV)

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Formation:

2003

Type:

Voter Registration Group

President:

Page Gardner

Succeeded By:

Voter Participation Center (VPC)

WVWV is now called the Voter Participation Center

Women’s Voices Women Vote (WVWV) was a left-of-center voter registration nonprofit founded in 2003 by prominent left-wing political strategist Page Gardner to advocate for the left-of-center “Rising American Electorate,” particularly unmarried women, and increase their participation in the political process. WVWV has since rebranded and is now the Voter Participation Center (VPC), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund (WVWVAF) is WVWV’s 501(c)(4) advocacy arm, also founded by Gardner. While WVWVAF has its own website, the group was renamed the Center for Voter Information (CVI) in 2011, which remains the “sister” group to the Voter Participation Center.

Controversies and Criticism

Accusations of Voter Suppression

Also see Women’s Voices Women Vote and the Voter Participation Center (Nonprofits)

In 2008, WVWVAF’s 501(c)(3) “sister” group, Women’s Voices Women Vote (WVWV), now the Voter Participation Center (VPC), was identified by NPR 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 to WVWV, an organization made up largely of Clinton supporters headed by Gardner, a prominent Clinton ally. [1] WVWV denied the allegations.

Illegal Partisanship

In his 2012 book The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns, left-leaning journalist Sasha Issenberg identifies WVWV (now the Voter Participation Center) as pretending to engage in nonpartisan voter registration and mobilization activities that were, in fact, partisan and intended to aid Democrats win elections: “Even though the group was officially nonpartisan, for tax purposes, there was no secret that the goal of all its efforts was to generate new votes for Democrats.” [2]

The IRS strictly prohibits 501(c)(3) nonprofits from “directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.” Violation of this rule “may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.”

Voter registration and education activities “do not constitute prohibited political campaign activity” so long as they are “conducted in a non-partisan manner.” According to the IRS, “voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention.” [3]

Ties to the Clinton Foundation

WVWV has many ties to the Clinton family. Gardner, in addition to being a longtime supporter of Hillary Clinton, worked on Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in 1992. Bill Clinton’s former chief-of-staff and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign chairman, John Podesta, was a founding member of WVWV’s board, and Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign manager, Maggie Williams, also formerly held a leadership position in the organization. [4] [5]

WVWV’s financial integrity has 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. [6] In addition to this, the organization paid large sums to the companies of five other of its leaders, totaling several million dollars.[7]

Covering Up Spending on Elections

In 2012, WVWVAF was criticized 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. [8]

References

  1. “Group with Clinton Ties Behind Dubious Robocalls.” NPR. 2008. Accessed June 19, 2017.  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=90114863 ^
  2. Sasha Issenberg. The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns2012. P. 305. ^
  3. “The Restriction of Political Campaign Intervention by Section 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Organizations.” Internal Revenue Service. Updated September 23, 2020. Accessed February 8, 2021. https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/charitable-organizations/the-restriction-of-political-campaign-intervention-by-section-501c3-tax-exempt-organizations#:~:text=Under%20the%20Internal%20Revenue%20Code,candidate%20for%20elective%20public%20office. ^
  4. “Group with Clinton Ties Behind Dubious Robocalls.” NPR. 2008. Accessed June 19, 2017.   http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=90114863 ^
  5. Press Release. “JW Exposes Voter Participation Center Scandal.” Judicial Watch. July 27, 2012. Accessed February 8, 2021. https://www.judicialwatch.org/corruption-chronicles/jw-exposes-voter-participation-center-scandal/ ^
  6. “Nonprofit’s Contracts Called into Question.” NPR. 2008. Accessed June 20, 2017.  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=90114863 ^
  7. “Nonprofit’s Contracts Called into Question.” NPR. 2008. Accessed June 20, 2017.  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=90114863 ^
  8. “How Nonprofits Spend Millions of Elections and Call it Public Welfare.” ProPublica. 2012. Accessed June 20, 2017. https://www.propublica.org/article/how-nonprofits-spend-millions-on-elections-and-call-it-public-welfare ^
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