Political Party/527

PACRONYM

Website:

www.PACRONYM.org

Location:

Washington, DC

Tax ID:

C0-0646877

Formation:

2017

President/CEO:

Tara McGowan

Treasurer:

Steven Mele

PACRONYM is a political action committee (PAC) affiliated with the left-of-center political advocacy organization ACRONYM. PACRONYM was formed to oppose Republican candidates through digital advertising campaigns. Its initial ad campaigns were focused on state legislative races for the 2018 elections. [1]

PACRONYM was particularly focused on opposing President Donald Trump’s campaign for re-election. It targeted several swing states with digital advertisements about the 2020 presidential election: Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. PACRONYM purchases advertisements on the prominent social media and digital streaming platforms Google, Facebook, Hulu, Instagram, Pandora, and YouTube. [2]

Activities

Most funding for the 2018 election cycle was devoted to campaigns in state legislatures.

PACRONYM raises small-dollar contributions through ActBlue, a PAC which collates small donations for Democrats and liberals at a large scale. ActBlue then makes donations to PACRONYM. [3]

On November 4, 2019, PACRONYM launched an advertising campaign with a reported target expenditure of $75 million to oppose President Donald Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign, called “Four is Enough.” The campaign was advised by David Plouffe, who was campaign manager for then-Senator Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. The campaign is focused on creating ads across social media platforms and targeting battleground states with them for the 2020 presidential election. Targeted states include Arizona, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. Part of the campaign included calls for President Trump’s impeachment. [4] [5] [6] [7]

On November 5, 2019, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly endorsed PACRONYM’s $75 million campaign launched the day before. [8]

PACRONYM’s campaign was launched five days after Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced Twitter would no longer allow political ads on its platform. As a result, many PACRONYM ads created for Twitter were not allowed to run. [9] [10]

On January 30, 2020, PACRONYM ran an ad claiming that President Donald Trump was impeached for “withholding military aid to Ukraine for his own gain” and that Trump was guilty of abuse of power. The ad included the office phone numbers for nine U.S. senators, although there was no explicit call to action. [11]

On March 17, 2020, PACRONYM announced that it would be spending $5 million ($2.5 million by the end of April, the rest by the end of July) on digital advertisements attacking President Donald Trump for his response to the coronavirus pandemic. “This is a public health issue and a national security issue, but it’s also a public policy issue and thus a political one,” PACRONYM president Tara McGowan said. [12] The adverts were set up to run on multiple platforms, including Facebook and Google, and targeted five swing states: Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. [13]

Controversies and Criticism

Hiding Political Agenda Behind “Fake News Sites”

The nonprofit watchdog OpenSecrets (published by the Center for Responsive Politics) reported in May 2020 on Arabella’s involvement in numerous “fake news sites,” pouring millions of untraceable dollars into advertisements and other digital content “masquerading as news coverage to influence the 2020 election.” [14]

OpenSecrets identified five Facebook pages (Colorado Chronicle, Daily CO, Nevada News Now, Silver State Sentinel, Verified Virginia) that “gave the impression of multiple free-standing local news outlets,” but are in fact “merely fictitious names used by the Sixteen Thirty Fund,” Arabella’s 501(c)(4) lobbying nonprofit. [15] These pages published Facebook political advertisements that favored Democrats and left-wing causes during the 2020 election. After the report was published a number of these pages were deleted.

States Newsroom, which runs another network of left-wing “fake news” websites, was originally created as “Newsroom Network,” a project of the Arabella-run 501(c)(3) Hopewell Fund. In June 2019, States Newsroom was spun off as an independent nonprofit with its own 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, but a number of its local affiliates are used by the Hopewell Fund as its own legal aliases. [16]

While States Newsroom does not disclose its donors (and is not required to by the IRS), [17]

IRS application records obtained by OpenSecrets show the States Newsroom was offered a $1 million donation from the Wyss Foundation, a private foundation primarily funded by Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss, who made his fortune as CEO of a controversial medical device manufacturer called Synthes.

A financial statement in the IRS records obtained by OpenSecrets shows that the States Newsroom plans to bring in more than $27 million in contributions before the end of 2021.

And in 2018 the Hopewell Fund gave $1.72 million to News for Democracy, which OpenSecrets points out “was at the crux of a network of seemingly independent Facebook pages disguised as news outlets that started spending on digital ads in 2018,” with backing from the Sixteen Thirty Fund and Investing in US, an investment vehicle funded by LinkedIn founder and liberal billionaire Reid Hoffman. [18]

Also among these “dark money” groups was ACRONYM, which raised $9.4 million from “secret donors” through April 2019, including $250,000 from Arabella’s 501(c)(3) New Venture Fund. ACRONYM is affiliated with a super PAC, PACRONYM, which spent close to $18 million aiding Democrats and hurting Republicans through independent expenditures in the 2020 election. [19] ACRONYM also owns and operates Courier Newsroom, which in turn manages a network of left-wing websites that present themselves as local news outlets while spreading “hyperlocal partisan propaganda,” according to the centrist watchdog Newsguard. [20] Courier Newsroom spent at least $20,000 in digital advertising campaigns on Facebook between March 2019 and May 2020; its total spending in Facebook ads as of June 2021 is nearly $1.4 million. [21] [22]

Leadership

Tara McGowan

For more information, see Tara McGowan.

Tara McGowan is the head of PACRONYM and its associated 501(c)(4) arm ACRONYM. McGowan is a prominent Democratic digital operative who worked as digital producer for then-President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign and as press secretary for Senator Jack Reed (D-RI). McGowan has also been employed as the digital director of NextGen Climate Action [23] and as the digital director of Priorities USA Action. [24]

McGowan also founded Lockwood Strategy Lab, a left-wing political campaign consultancy that is wholly owned by ACRONYM. Lockwood Strategy’s largest client is PACRONYM and describes PACRONYM as an “affiliated political organization.” [25] [26] [27]

McGowan called Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale “bloviating” and “mediocre” in response to Parscale’s comments about McGowan’s earlier statements on ACRONYM’s political strategy. [28]

David Plouffe

David Plouffe managed Obama’s 2008 campaign and operated as an adviser during the second term of the Obama administration. In between, Plouffe took paid speaking gigs, including a $50,000 event in Azerbaijan that was sponsored by figures linked to the state’s authoritarian regime, which Plouffe tried to keep off the record. After the speech, Plouffe met Azerbajani President Ilham Aliyev, and parliament speaker Oktay Asadov. Once his transaction was made public, Plouffe donated the money to the National Democratic Institute, a foreign relations and pro-democracy organization that is formally nonpartisan but historically associated with the Democratic Party. [29] [30] [31]

In February 2017, Plouffe was fined $90,000 by the Chicago Board of Ethics. Plouffe was found to have illegally lobbied former Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) while working for Uber as its senior vice president of policy and strategy. [32]

Funding

Former senior advisor to then-President Barack Obama David Pfeiffer has called on liberal donors to make contributions to PACRONYM. [33] ACRONYM has passed money to PACRONYM in the past, such as a $300,000 grant in 2018. [34]

A number of prominent liberal donors have provided substantial contributions to PACRONYM.

  • On December 27, 2019, PACRONYM received a $1.5 million donation from billionaire investor Seth Klarman. [35]
  • On November 21, 2019, Donald Sussman donated $1 million to PACRONYM. [36]
  • Film director Steven Spielberg donated $500,000 on December 6, 2019. [37]
  • Hollywood producer Jeffrey Katzenberg donated $100,000 on December 26, 2019. [38]
  • Software executive Kenneth Duda donated $1 million on December 4, 2019. [39]
  • British-American venture capitalist Michael Mortiz donated $1 million on November 15, 2019. [40]
  • Financier George Soros donated $2,600,000 to PACRONYM between 2017 and 2019. [41]
  • Media figure Fred Eychaner donated $1,500,000 to PACRONYM between 2017 and 2019. [42]
  • ACRONYM board member and Dollar Shave Club founder Michael Dubin donated $50,000. [43]

PACRONYM also received two donations totaling $2 million from the National Democratic Redistricting Committee in 2018, led by former Obama administration U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. [44]

On July 16, 2020, the Sixteen Thirty Fund donated $2 million to PACRONYM. [45]

Contributions

In 2018, PACRONYM donated $810,000 to High Ground, which in turn spent $700,000 supporting six Democratic candidates running in Wisconsin state legislative races in 2018. [46]

PACRONYM donated $345,000 Progress NC Action, a left-wing PAC that funds Democratic candidates. [47]

PACRONYM paid affiliated vendor Lockwood Strategy Lab $1,000,000 to run ads for Democratic candidates in Pennsylvania. [48]

References

  1. Kotch, Alex. “Who’s Behind Dems’ New $75 Million Ad Campaign?” Sludge. November 6, 2019. Accessed January 28, 2020. https://readsludge.com/2019/11/06/whos-behind-dems-new-75-million-ad-campaign/ ^
  2. Glazer, Emily. “Progressive PAC Launches $75 Million Digital Advertising Push.” The Wall Street Journal. November 4, 2019. Accessed January 29 2020. https://www.wsj.com/livecoverage/campaign-wire-election-2020/card/1573230333 ^
  3. Fischer, Sara. “Democrats launch $75 million digital campaign to take on Trump.” Axios. November 4, 2019. Accessed February 1, 2020. https://www.axios.com/democrats-digital-campaign-donald-trump-acronym-45c6165d-0dcc-45b6-a9de-8651d50a888a.html ^
  4. Culliford, Elizabeth. “Democratic Groups Launch $75 Million Digital Ad Effort to Fight Donald Trump.” Reuters. November 4, 2019. Accessed January 25, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-advertising/democratic-groups-launch-75-million-digital-ad-effort-to-fight-trump-idUSKBN1XE200. ^
  5. Kotch, Alex. “Who’s Behind Dems’ New $75 Million Ad Campaign?” Sludge. November 6, 2019. Accessed January 28, 2020. https://readsludge.com/2019/11/06/whos-behind-dems-new-75-million-ad-campaign/ ^
  6. Pacronym. Twitter Post. January 7, 2020, 10:07 P.M. Accessed February 1, 2020. https://twitter.com/PACRONYM/status/1214745350260580353 ^
  7. Pacronym. Twitter Post. December 27, 2019, 5:49 P.M. Accessed February 1, 2020. https://twitter.com/PACRONYM/status/1210694118810308610 ^
  8. Clinton, Hillary. Twitter Post. November 5, 2019, 10:46 A.M. Accessed February 1, 2020. https://twitter.com/HillaryClinton/status/1191743631427801096 ^
  9. Dorsey, Jack. Twitter Post. October 30, 2019, 4:05 P.M. Accessed February 1, 2020. https://twitter.com/jack/status/1189634360472829952 ^
  10. Corasaniti, Nick. “The Twitter Ads That Weren’t.” The New York Times. November 19, 2019. Accessed January 30, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/19/us/politics/twitter-banned-political-ads.html ^
  11. Pacronym. Twitter Post. January 30, 2020, 8:10 A.M. Accessed February 1, 2020. https://twitter.com/PACRONYM/status/1222869571356348417 ^
  12. Stanley-Becker, Isaac. “Democratic Groups to Spend Millions Hitting Trump over Coronavirus Response.” The Washington Post. WP Company, March 17, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/democratic-groups-to-spend-millions-hitting-trump-over-coronavirus-response/2020/03/17/5f9fadba-686c-11ea-9923-57073adce27c_story.html. ^
  13. Stanley-Becker, Isaac. “Democratic Groups to Spend Millions Hitting Trump over Coronavirus Response.” The Washington Post. WP Company, March 17, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/democratic-groups-to-spend-millions-hitting-trump-over-coronavirus-response/2020/03/17/5f9fadba-686c-11ea-9923-57073adce27c_story.html. ^
  14. Anna Massoglia. “‘Dark money’ networks hide political agendas behind fake news sites.” Center for Responsive Politics (OpenSecrets). May 22, 2020. Accessed June 14, 2021. https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2020/05/dark-money-networks-fake-news-sites/ ^
  15. Anna Massoglia. “Sixteen Thirty Fund Incorporation Records.” Center for Responsive Politics. Accessed June 14, 2021. https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6555491-Sixteen-Thirty-Fund-Incorporation-Records.html ^
  16. Anna Massoglia. “Hopewell Fund Fictitious Names.” Center for Responsive Politics. Accessed June 14, 2021. https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6827522-Hopewell-Fund-Fictious-Names.html ^
  17. Anna Massoglia. “‘Dark money’ networks hide political agendas behind fake news sites.” Center for Responsive Politics (OpenSecrets). May 22, 2020. Accessed June 14, 2021. https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2020/05/dark-money-networks-fake-news-sites/ ^
  18. Anna Massoglia. “‘Dark money’ networks hide political agendas behind fake news sites.” Center for Responsive Politics (OpenSecrets). May 22, 2020. Accessed June 14, 2021. https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2020/05/dark-money-networks-fake-news-sites/ ^
  19. PACRONYM: Disbursements, 2019-2020. Federal Election Commission. Accessed June 14, 2021. https://www.fec.gov/data/committee/C00646877/?cycle=2020 ^
  20. Gabby Deutch. “A website wanted to restore trust in the media. It’s actually a political operation.” Washington Post. Feb. 6, 2020. Accessed June 14, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/06/is-it-local-journalism-or-just-local-propaganda/ ^
  21. Cardinal & Pine: Total spending. Facebook Ad Library. Accessed June 14, 2021. https://www.facebook.com/ads/library/?active_status=all&ad_type=political_and_issue_ads&country=US&view_all_page_id=106487520883333&sort_data[direction]=desc&sort_data[mode]=relevancy_monthly_grouped&search_type=page&media_type=all ^
  22. Anna Massoglia. “‘Dark money’ networks hide political agendas behind fake news sites.” Center for Responsive Politics (OpenSecrets). May 22, 2020. Accessed June 14, 2021. https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2020/05/dark-money-networks-fake-news-sites/ ^
  23. Kotch, Alex. “Who’s Behind Dems’ New $75 Million Ad Campaign?” Sludge. November 6, 2019. Accessed January 28, 2020. https://readsludge.com/2019/11/06/whos-behind-dems-new-75-million-ad-campaign/ ^
  24. Kotch, Alex. “Who’s Behind Dems’ New $75 Million Ad Campaign?” Sludge. November 6, 2019. Accessed January 28, 2020. https://readsludge.com/2019/11/06/whos-behind-dems-new-75-million-ad-campaign/ ^
  25. “Tara McGowan.” LinkedIn 2020, Accessed September 10, 2020. https://www.linkedin.com/in/taramcgowan. ^
  26. Kotch, Alex. “Who’s Behind Dems’ New $75 Million Ad Campaign?” Sludge. November 6, 2019. Accessed January 28, 2020. https://readsludge.com/2019/11/06/whos-behind-dems-new-75-million-ad-campaign/ ^
  27. Markay, Lachlan. “How a Dem Dark-Money Group is Invading the News.” The Daily Beast. November 22, 2019. Accessed January 30, 2020. https://www.thedailybeast.com/how-a-dem-dark-money-group-is-invading-the-news ^
  28. Twitter. Tara McGowan, @taraemcg · 8:39 PM · Nov. 6, 2019. Accessed January 28, 2020. https://twitter.com/taraemcg/status/1192255293406638080. ^
  29. Vogel, Kenneth P. “Plouffe speech in Azerbaijan draws fire.” Politico. February 12, 2009. Accessed February 1, 2020. https://www.politico.com/story/2009/02/plouffe-speech-in-azerbaijan-draws-fire-018818 ^
  30. Leibovich, Mark. “From Knife Seller to the President’s Hard Edge.” The New York Times. February 20, 2012. Accessed February 1, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/20/us/politics/plouffe-obama-aide-lends-firm-hand-to-campaign.html?pagewanted=all ^
  31. Falcone, Michael. “Plouffe to Donate Speech Fees to Nonprofit Group.” The New York Times. February 10, 2009. Accessed February 1, 2020. https://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/10/plouffe-to-donate-speech-fees-to-nonprofit-group/ ^
  32. “David Plouffe.” LinkedIn, 2020. Accessed February 1, 2020. https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-plouffe-00662396/ ^
  33. Pacronym. Twitter. @PACRONYM. December 27, 2019, 5:49 P.M. Accessed February 1, 2020. https://twitter.com/PACRONYM/status/1210694118810308610 ^
  34. Kotch, Alex. “Who’s Behind Dems’ New $75 Million Ad Campaign?” Sludge. November 6, 2019. Accessed January 28, 2020. https://readsludge.com/2019/11/06/whos-behind-dems-new-75-million-ad-campaign/ ^
  35. “Itemized Receipts.” Federal Election Commission. January 30, 2020. Accessed January 30, 2020. https://docquery.fec.gov/cgi-bin/forms/C00646877/1372110/sa/11AI ^
  36. “Itemized Receipts.” Federal Election Commission. January 30, 2020. Accessed January 30, 2020. https://docquery.fec.gov/cgi-bin/forms/C00646877/1372110/sa/11AI ^
  37. “Itemized Receipts.” Federal Election Commission. January 30, 2020. Accessed January 30, 2020. https://docquery.fec.gov/cgi-bin/forms/C00646877/1372110/sa/11AI ^
  38. “Itemized Receipts.” Federal Election Commission. January 30, 2020. Accessed February 7, 2020. https://docquery.fec.gov/cgi-bin/forms/C00646877/1372110/sa/11AI ^
  39. “Itemized Receipts.” Federal Election Commission. January 30, 2020. Accessed January 30, 2020. https://docquery.fec.gov/cgi-bin/forms/C00646877/1372110/sa/11AI ^
  40. “Itemized Receipts.” Federal Election Commission. January 30, 2020. Accessed January 30, 2020. https://docquery.fec.gov/cgi-bin/forms/C00646877/1372110/sa/11AI ^
  41. Kotch, Alex. “Who’s Behind Dems’ New $75 Million Ad Campaign?” Sludge. November 6, 2019. Accessed January 28, 2020. https://readsludge.com/2019/11/06/whos-behind-dems-new-75-million-ad-campaign/ ^
  42. Kotch, Alex. “Who’s Behind Dems’ New $75 Million Ad Campaign?” Sludge. November 6, 2019. Accessed January 28, 2020. https://readsludge.com/2019/11/06/whos-behind-dems-new-75-million-ad-campaign/ ^
  43. Kotch, Alex. “Who’s Behind Dems’ New $75 Million Ad Campaign?” Sludge. November 6, 2019. Accessed January 28, 2020. https://readsludge.com/2019/11/06/whos-behind-dems-new-75-million-ad-campaign/ ^
  44. Kotch, Alex. “Who’s Behind Dems’ New $75 Million Ad Campaign?” Sludge. November 6, 2019. Accessed January 28, 2020. https://readsludge.com/2019/11/06/whos-behind-dems-new-75-million-ad-campaign/ ^
  45. Report of Receipts and Disbursements (FEC Form 3X). PACRONYM. 2020. Schedule A, Item B. ^
  46. “Influence Peddler of the Month – High Ground Political Fund.” Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. February 1, 2019. Accessed January 30, 2020. https://www.wisdc.org/news/press-releases/126-press-release-2019/6291-influence-peddler-of-the-month-high-ground-political-fund ^
  47. Jarvis, Craig & Raynor, David. “Help from friends, PACs and Hollywood fuels first-time candidates in NC.” The News & Observer. November 3, 2018. Accessed January 29, 2020. https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article220681525.html ^
  48. Kotch, Alex. “Who’s Behind Dems’ New $75 Million Ad Campaign?” Sludge. November 6, 2019. Accessed January 28, 2020. https://readsludge.com/2019/11/06/whos-behind-dems-new-75-million-ad-campaign/ ^
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PACRONYM


Washington, DC