Political Party/527

VoteVets.org PAC

Website:

www.votevets.org/

Tax ID:

71-0993645

Formation:

January 24, 2006

Founders:

Jon Soltz, Jeremy Broussard

Executive Director:

Jon Soltz

VoteVets PAC was founded in 2006 with the goal of electing to Congress Afghanistan or Iraq war veterans who were critical of the execution of the war in Iraq.[1] VoteVets PAC has given nearly $1 million to Democratic candidates for Congress, spends millions on independent expenditures for Democrats, supports state and local military candidates for office, and funds the VoteVets.org website. The VoteVets organization also includes a sister non-profit lobbying group, the VoteVets Action Fund.

Though technically non-partisan, VoteVets has been described as “closely aligned with Congressional Democrats”[2] and “liberal.”[3] The group has been criticized for not being a true veterans’ organization, but rather an environmental organization and shill for the Democratic Party, that for uses the “veterans” name as a “convenient and transparently misleading branding.”[4]

Though VoteVets claims to support veterans, most of the PAC’s money goes toward non-veteran Democrats. In 2016, the group only spent $2.5 million of their $9 million total expenditures in support of a veteran, with at least $1.7 million being spent against a Republican candidate who had served as a Brigadier General in the Army Reserve. [5] According to critics within the anti-war movement, “VoteVets.org looks less like a veterans’ lobby than a full-fledged water-carrier for Democratic interests on Capitol Hill.”[6]

Organizational Overview

Founded by military veterans John Soltz and Jeremy Broussard, “VoteVets claims to be the ‘largest progressive group of veterans in America.’”[7]

The group originally filed with the Federal Election Commission on January 24, 2006 under the name Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Political Action Committee, Inc.,[8] on June 15, 2006 the group changes its name to VoteVets.[9]

VoteVets “operates both a PAC and a social welfare arm known as VoteVets Action Fund.” Specifically, the VoteVets PAC claims to have “delivered more than $1 million to candidates both in direct donations and in bundled contributions since its founding in 2006.”[10]

In describing VoteVets, former U.S. Senator Max Cleland (D-Georgia) said, “They learned real fast and went to war on the ground, and became extremely effective.”[11]

VoteVets.org

VoteVets PAC also pays for and maintains the VoteVets.org website.[12]

This website functions as the communications center for both VoteVets PAC and VoteVets Action Fund, publishing press releases and advertisements generated by both entities. Among the notable VoteVets  mentions republished on VoteVets.org are:

  • VoteVets.org Senior Advisor, “Trump’s immigration ban weakens the fight against terrorism”[13]
  • VoteVets.org, “Vets blast ‘fraud’ Trump over claim he raised $6 million: ‘His mouth writes checks no one can cash.”[14]
  • VoteVets.org article, “I was an American sniper, and Chris Kyle’s war was not my war.”[15]
  • VoteVets.org press release, “Veterans Stand with Muscians on Call to Close Guantanamo.”[16]
  • VoteVets.org press release, “New $11 Million Campaign to Ensure Action on Comprehensive Energy & Climate Policy This Summer.”[17]

Emerging Leaders Program

Though the group is “best known for [its] involvement in federal races [… it] actively encourages and supports candidates for state and local offices” through its emerging leaders program. VoteVets PAC also funds campaign contribution solicitations for its emerging leaders. [18]

VoteVets Action Fund

VoteVets also operates in tandem with a sister 501(c)(4) non-profit known as VoteVets Action Fund, which “primarily focuses on nonpartisan education and advocacy on behalf of (sic) veterans and their families.” The Action Fund claims to have raised and spent “over $30 million… since inception” of that, the group claims to have spent “$22 million” on “over 51 TV commercials and radio spots in 32 states advocating the support of our friends” aka “advocating re-election for allies and urging defeat of those who do not support troops and veterans.” Additionally, Vote Vets Action Fund claims to have “over 500,000 supporters in all 50 states, including troops, veterans, military families, and their supporters, made over 5 million voter contacts since 2006, and spent over $2 million in direct mail, phone calls, and voter canvasses.”[19]

Democratic Alignment

Although formally a nonpartisan organization, VoteVets has been described as “more partisan,”[20] “closely aligned with Congressional Democrats,”[21] and “liberal”[22] in news stories.

VoteVets.org has worked as part of a coalition with multiple other liberal groups including “the Service Employees International Union, MoveOn.org Political ActionCenter for American Progress Action Fund, USAction, …,” under the umbrella of Americans Against Escalation in Iraq.[23] (Though billed as a VoteVets.org project, advertisements run as part of this coalition were done under the banner of VoteVets Action Fund[24])

In its more than ten years of existence, VoteVets has only “supported one Republican congressional candidate, Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina, a leading critic of U.S. wars who faced a GOP primary challenge.”[25]

Partisan Criticisms

Other veteran groups have voiced criticism over the partisan nature of VoteVets political efforts, “some vets associated with the ‘old guard’ worry politics will swallow the best interests of veterans.”[26]  VoteVets has also faced criticisms for commissioning Democratic polling firms to create one-sided polls that attempt to cast veterans as a homogenous voting bloc in favor of their liberal policies.[27]

Joe Violante, national legislative director of Disabled American Veterans said, “Most mainstream veterans groups are required to be nonpartisan, and it concerns me that we do have groups on both extremes that are very partisan in their approach and very calculating in what they want to accomplish… On the liberal side, the progressive group VoteVets.org has set out to spend some $7 million to help Democrats in the midterms, according to its organizers.”[28]

Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, has also, “expressed deep misgivings about the veteran label being used to advance partisan agendas.” Rieckhoff, in reference to VoteVets said he “was concerned that political veterans groups were being confused, especially in the news media, with nonpartisan veteran service organizations that put their advocacy for veterans above any political agenda.”[29]

In 2018, announced that “for the first time” VoteVets was “working with” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) to coordinate recruiting and financial efforts.[30]

Funding from Democratic Committees

Critics have challenged, “VoteVets’ claims of bipartisanship poorly disguise strong Democratic Party leanings.”[31]

VoteVets PAC has received $14.3 million since its inception in 2006.[32] Of those receipts, only about $2.4 million (16.6%) have come from individual contributions.

The lion’s share of contributions to VoteVets PAC were received in 2016, when the group took in over $11.6 million worth of contributions, almost all of which was marked as “other receipts.”[33]

2016 Receipts Total (Cycles 06-18) % Total
Total individual contributions $380,028.93 $2,369,096 16.57%
Party committee contributions $0.00 $5,178 0.04%
Other committee contributions $70,000.00 $423,500 2.96%
Other Receipts (line 17) $11,220,938.00 $11,272,059 78.82%
Misc. $21,949.96 $231,471 1.62%
Total Receipts $11,692,916.89 $14,301,306

In total, VoteVets has received more than $20k each from 18 Democratic Party-aligned organizations, PACS, and labor unions; together, these large dollar contributions comprise about $11.6 million (81%) of VoteVets PAC’s total receipts between 2006 and so far in 2017. [34]

Standing out among these large dollar contributions is over $10 million in contributions from four Democratic-aligned sources, Senate Majority PAC, Priorities USA, Majority Forward, and For Our Future. Together, these contributions represent more than 71% of VoteVet PAC’s total receipts. [35]

Contributor Amount $ % Total Receipts
Senate Majority PAC $3,514,854 24.58%
Priorities USA Action $3,064,797 21.43%
Majority Forward $3,059,000 21.39%
For Our Future $946,836 6.62%
American Federation Of State County & Municipal Employees $410,000 2.87%
United Association Political Education Committee $165,000 1.15%
Actblue $63,191 0.44%
Sussman, Donald $50,000 0.35%
Waterfront Strategies $49,097 0.34%
IA Vets For Congress $44,769 0.31%
Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association Political Action League $35,000 0.24%
Communications Workers Of America-Cope Political C $30,000 0.21%
American Federation Of Govt. Empl. PAC $27,500 0.19%
United Mine Workers Of America – Coal Miners PAC $27,500 0.19%
Searchlight Leadership Fund $25,000 0.17%
Machinists Non Partisan Pol League Of The Int’l Assn Of Machinists & Aerospace Workers $22,000 0.15%
Furman, Gail $21,000 0.15%
SEIU C.O.P.E. $20,000 0.14%
Total From These Contribution Sources: $11,575,544 80.94%
Total Overall Receipts: $14,301,306

PAC Expenses

In total VoteVets PAC has spent approximately $13.9 million since 2006. Of that money, nearly $10 million (71%) has gone to pay for independent expenditures for or against candidates, $800k (6%) has been contributed to other committees, and nearly $3 million (21%) has been spent on various federal and non-federal operating expenses. [36]

Year Contrib. To Other Committees % Of Total Ind. Expend. % Of Total Operating Exp. % Of Total Total Disbursements
2006 $50,454 4% $841,899 69% $317,043 26% $1,221,406
2008 $180,541 43% $0 0% $237,037 56% $424,403
2010 $70,000 33% $0 0% $135,540 65% $209,645
2012 $72,600 42% $0 0% $100,216 58% $172,816
2014 $130,000 53% $0 0% $93,805 38% $246,015
2016 $194,500 2% $9,081,561 79% $2,041,332 18% $11,447,692
2018 $110,000 52% $0 0% $55,709 26% $211,224
Total $808,095 6% $9,923,460 71% $2,980,681 21% $13,933,200

Campaign Contributions

VoteVets has given contributions to 98 different candidates and committees totaling roughly $788,000. The following are the top twenty recipients of VoteVets contributions. [37]

Recipient Committee Aggregate Amount of Contributions $
Tulsi For Hawaii $32,500
Sestak For Congress $29,655
Patrick Murphy For Congress $26,886
Tim Walz For Us Congress $26,000
Gallego For Arizona $25,000
Ted Lieu For Congress $25,000
Boccieri For Congress $23,251
Moulton For Congress $22,500
Carney For Congress $20,000
Duckworth For Congress $20,000
Mark Takai For Congress $20,000
Salud Carbajal For Congress $20,000
Powers For Congress $15,790
Anthony Brown For Congress $15,000
Enyart For Congress $15,000
Jimmy Panetta For Congress $15,000
Massa For Congress $14,000
Peters For Congress $14,000
Perimeter Pac $12,500
Mowrer For Iowa $11,000

Independent Expenditures

VoteVets PAC has only paid for Independent expenditures during 2 election cycles, 2006 and 2016. In total the group has paid for $9.9 million worth of these expenditures, with almost $8.4 million going toward negative attack ads opposed to Republicans. [38]

Election Cycle Amount Support $ # Support Amount Oppose $ # Oppose
2016 $1,544,477 5 $7,537,084 6
2006 $2,456 2 $839,267 10
Total $1,546,933 7 $8,376,351 16

In 2016, VoteVets PAC spent over $7.5 million on independent expenditures opposed to Republican candidates and over $1.5 million in support of Democratic candidates.

Of the five Democratic candidates to receive support from VoteVets PAC’s independent expenditures, only one was a military veteran (Jason Kander, D-Missouri): the other four candidates were not military veterans. In total the group spent $2.5 million supporting Kander or opposing his opponent, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-Missouri). Conversely, VoteVets PAC spent $1.7 million opposing Nevada Republican Joe Heck, who served as a Brigadier General in the Army Reserve.[39]

In the 2016 election VoteVets PAC spent over $1 million in combined funds supporting Democrat Hillary Clinton and opposing Republican Donald Trump for President.

False and Controversial Rhetoric

VoteVets has been known to release advertisements that are factually false or misleading. One of the most notable examples of this was a 2006 ad claiming, which “falsely [accused] Republicans of voting against body armor for troops.” According to Brooks Jackson, director of the generally left-leaning FactCheck project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, the ad “was one of the most blatantly false ads of the fall season.”[40]

VoteVets executive director “[made] no apologies for the ad,” which was run against four U.S. Senators.[41] (These specific ads were paid for by “VoteVets” PAC[42] and not “VoteVets Action Fund,” which has a different disclaimer.[43])

In reference to another VoteVets ad, “the American Legion’s national legislative director, said so many votes come up on issues of relevance to veterans, and so many of them are part of multi-issue legislation or within procedural votes, that it can be wrong to pick out individual votes as indicators of an incumbent’s true leanings.”[44]

People

Jon Soltz is the Co-Founder and Chairman of VoteVets.org, in 2004 Soltz served as Pennsylvania state co-coordinator for the group Veterans for Kerry.[45] Soltz served three tours in Iraq, most recently in 2011.[46]

As of November 2016, VoteVets.org’s Board of Advisors included[47]:

  • Jon Soltz, Chairman
  • Douglas J. Band
  • General Wesley K. Clark (Ret.)
  • Major General Paul D. Eaton (Ret.)
  • Will Fischer
  • Jason Flom
  • William E. Little
  • Connie Pillich
  • Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson (Ret.)
  • Steven Wozencraft

 

References

  1. “VoteVets ‘527’ Political Organization.” Campaign Money. June 22, 2017.  Accessed August 3, 2017. https://www.campaignmoney.com/political/527/votevets.asp.
  2. Hulse, Carl. “Congressional Memo; Limbaugh Latest Target in War of Condemnation.” The New York Times. October 3, 2007. Accessed August 3, 2017. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E02E4D91E30F930A35753C1A9619C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all.
  3. Weisman, Jonathan and Shear, Michael. “Liberal Advocacy Groups Take aim at McCain.” Washington Post. February 26, 2008. Accessed August 3, 2017. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/25/AR2008022502483.html.
  4. Greenfield, Daniel. “VoteVets Isn’t a Veterans Group, It’s an Environmentalist Front Group.” Frontpage Magazine. June 13, 2017. Accessed August 3, 2017. http://www.frontpagemag.com/point/266984/votevets-isnt-veterans-group-its-environmentalist-daniel-greenfield.
  5. FEC data. “VoteVets: Independent Expenditures.” FEC. 2006-2017. Accessed August 3, 2017. https://www.fec.gov/data/committee/C00418897/.
  6. Vlahos, Kelly B. “VoteVetes.org Crosses the Line.” AntiWar.com Blog. April 10,2010. Accessed August 3, 2017. http://original.antiwar.com/vlahos/2010/04/19/votevets-org-crosses-the-line/.
  7. Greenfield, Daniel. “VoteVets Isn’t a Veterans Group, It’s an Environmentalist Front Group.” Frontpage Magazine. June 13, 2017. Accessed August 3, 2017. http://www.frontpagemag.com/point/266984/votevets-isnt-veterans-group-its-environmentalist-daniel-greenfield.
  8.  FEC data. “VoteVets: Contributions.” FEC. 2006. Accessed August 3, 2017. https://www.fec.gov/data/committee/C00418897/. http://docquery.fec.gov/pdf/384/26038953384/26038953384.pdf
  9.  FEC data. “VoteVets: Contributions.” FEC. 2006. Accessed August 3, 2017. https://www.fec.gov/data/committee/C00418897/. http://docquery.fec.gov/pdf/305/26960361305/26960361305.pdf
  10. Carney, Eliza Newlin. “Who really Speaks for Veterans? Rules of the Game.” Roll Call. September 30, 2014. Accessed August 3, 2017. http://www.rollcall.com/news/home/who-really-speaks-for-veterans.
  11. Heller, John. “Veterans group’s attack ads targeted incumbents.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. November 20, 2006. Accessed August 3, 2017. http://www.post-gazette.com/news/politics-federal/2006/11/20/Veterans-group-s-attack-ads-targeted-GOP-incumbents/stories/200611200166.
  12. Rosen, Ben. “Trump’s Battle with the Khans: Wil it cost him veterans’ votes?” The Christian Science Monitor. Augist 1, 2016. Accessed August 3, 2017. https://m.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2016/0801/Trump-s-battle-with-the-Khans-Will-it-cost-him-veterans-votes.
  13. Kauffmann, Peter. “VoteVets Senior Advisor Editorial, Trump’s immigration ban weakens the fight against terrorism.” NY Daily News. Feb. 1, 2017. Accessed August 1, 2017. http://www.votevets.org/press/trumps-immigration-ban-weakens-the-fight-against-terrorism.
  14. Marcus, Bethania. “Vets blast ‘fraud’ Trump over claim he raised $6 million: ‘His mouth writes checks no one can cash.” Raw Story. Jun. 8, 2016. Accessed August 1, 2017. http://www.votevets.org/press/vets-blast-fraud-trump-over-claim-he-raised-6-million-his-mouth-writes-checks-no-one-can-cash.
  15. Reppenhagen, Garett. “I was an American sniper, and Chris Kyle’s war was not my war.” VoteVets.org. Feb. 21, 2015. Accessed Aug. 1, 2017. http://www.votevets.org/press/i-was-an-american-sniper-and-chris-kyles-war-was-not-my-war
  16. Press Release. “Veterans Stand with Muscians on Call to Close Guantanamo.” VoteVets.org. Oct. 23, 2009. Accessed Aug. 1, 2017. http://www.votevets.org/press/veterans-stand-with-muscians-on-call-to-close-guantanamo-release.
  17. Press Release. “New $11 Million Campaign to Ensure Action on Comprehensive Energy & Climate Policy This Summer.” VoteVets.org. June 24, 2010. Accessed Aug. 1, 2017. http://www.votevets.org/press/new-11-million-campaign-to-ensure-action-on-comprehensive-energy-climate-policy-this-summer.
  18. Podesta, John. “Pdesta Email: ‘Two big wins! Thank you!’” Wikileaks. August 6, 2008. Accessed August 3, 2017. https://wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/emailid/52946.
  19. VoteVets: “About.” VoteVets.org. Undated. Accessed August 3, 2017. http://www.votevets.org/about.
  20. Weisman, Jonathan. “Senate Passes $165 Billion Measure to Pay for Wars.” Washington Post. May 23, 2008. Accessed August 3, 2017. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2008/05/23/ST2008052300064.html.
  21. Hulse, Carl. “Congressional Memo; Limbaugh Latest Target in War of Condemnation.” The New York Times. October 3, 2007. Accessed August 3, 2017. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E02E4D91E30F930A35753C1A9619C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all.
  22. Weisman, Jonathan and Shear, Michael. “Liberal Advocacy Groups Take aim at McCain.” Washington Post. February 26, 2008. Accessed August 3, 2017. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/25/AR2008022502483.html.
  23. “Noiraqescalation.org: About Us.” NoIraqEscalation.org. Archived, Oct. 13, 2007. Accessed Aug. 1, 2017. https://web.archive.org/web/20071013041557/http:/www.noiraqescalation.org/about.
  24. “VoteVets launches anti-escalation ad.” ThinkProgress.org Blog. Jan. 29, 2007. Accessed Aug. 1, 2017.  https://thinkprogress.org/votevets-launches-anti-escalation-ad-5dabd63e5a3e/.
  25. http://www.politico.com/story/2015/06/partisan-veterans-koch-steyer-2016-elections-119396
  26. Carney, Eliza Newlin. “Who really Speaks for Veterans? Rules of the Game.” Roll Call. September 30, 2014. Accessed August 3, 2017. http://www.rollcall.com/news/home/who-really-speaks-for-veterans.
  27. Vlahos, Kelly B. “VoteVetes.org Crosses the Line.” AntiWar.com Blog. April 10,2010. Accessed August 3, 2017. http://original.antiwar.com/vlahos/2010/04/19/votevets-org-crosses-the-line/.
  28. Carney, Eliza Newlin. “Who really Speaks for Veterans? Rules of the Game.” Roll Call. September 30, 2014. Accessed August 3, 2017. http://www.rollcall.com/news/home/who-really-speaks-for-veterans.
  29. Wright, Austin. “Well-funded vets groups prepare for 2016 battle.” Politico. June 25, 2016. Accessed August 1, 2017.  http://www.politico.com/story/2015/06/partisan-veterans-koch-steyer-2016-elections-119396.
  30. Epstein, Reid J. “The Wall Street Journal, 5/21/17, Democrats Enlist Veterans Ahead of 2018 House Elections.” The Wall Street Journal. May 22, 2017. Accessed August 3, 2017. https://www.chrissyhoulahanforcongress.com/news/2017/5/22/the-wall-street-journal-52117-democrats-enlist-veterans-ahead-of-2018-house-elections.
  31. Heller, John. “Veterans group’s attack ads targeted incumbents.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. November 20, 2006. Accessed August 3, 2017. http://www.post-gazette.com/news/politics-federal/2006/11/20/Veterans-group-s-attack-ads-targeted-GOP-incumbents/stories/200611200166.
  32. FEC data. “VoteVets: Contributions.” FEC. 2017. Accessed August 3, 2017. https://www.fec.gov/data/committee/C00418897/?tab=raising&cycle=2018.
  33. FEC data. “VoteVets: Contributions.” FEC. 2006-2017. Accessed August 3, 2017. https://www.fec.gov/data/committee/C00418897/.
  34. FEC data. “VoteVets: Contributions.” FEC. 2006-2017. Accessed August 3, 2017. https://www.fec.gov/data/committee/C00418897/.
  35. FEC data. “VoteVets: Contributions.” FEC. 2006-2017. Accessed August 3, 2017. https://www.fec.gov/data/committee/C00418897/.
  36. FEC data. “VoteVets: Expenditures.” FEC. 2006-2017. Accessed August 3, 2017. https://www.fec.gov/data/committee/C00418897/.
  37. FEC data. “VoteVets: Expenditures.” FEC. 2006-2017. Accessed August 3, 2017. https://www.fec.gov/data/committee/C00418897/.
  38. FEC data. “VoteVets: Independent Expenditures.” FEC. 2006-2017. Accessed August 3, 2017. https://www.fec.gov/data/committee/C00418897/.
  39. FEC data. “VoteVets: Independent Expenditures.” FEC. 2006-2017. Accessed August 3, 2017. https://www.fec.gov/data/committee/C00418897/.
  40. Heller, John. “Veterans group’s attack ads targeted incumbents.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. November 20, 2006. Accessed August 3, 2017. http://www.post-gazette.com/news/politics-federal/2006/11/20/Veterans-group-s-attack-ads-targeted-GOP-incumbents/stories/200611200166.
  41. Heller, John. “Veterans group’s attack ads targeted incumbents.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. November 20, 2006. Accessed August 3, 2017. http://www.post-gazette.com/news/politics-federal/2006/11/20/Veterans-group-s-attack-ads-targeted-GOP-incumbents/stories/200611200166.
  42. VoteVets. “Body Armor.” Youtube. September 12, 2006. Accessed August 3, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8zQA1gYwpk.
  43. VoteVets. “Body Armor.” Youtube. September 12, 2006. Accessed August 3, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8zQA1gYwpk.
  44. Heller, John. “Veterans group’s attack ads targeted incumbents.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. November 20, 2006. Accessed August 3, 2017. http://www.post-gazette.com/news/politics-federal/2006/11/20/Veterans-group-s-attack-ads-targeted-GOP-incumbents/stories/200611200166.
  45. Warner, Margaret. “Iraq War Veterans Take Sides in the Presidential Campaign.” PBS. September 16, 2004. Accessed August 3, 2017. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics-july-dec04-veterans_9-16/
  46. VoteVets: About.” VoteVets.org. Archived October 6, 2016. Accessed August 3, 2017. https://web.archive.org/web/20161006033300/http://www.votevets.org:80/about.
  47. VoteVets: About.” VoteVets.org. Archived October 6, 2016. Accessed August 3, 2017. https://web.archive.org/web/20161006033300/http://www.votevets.org:80/about.

Associated Organizations

  1. VoteVets Action Fund (Non-profit)
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