Foundation Watch

Blueing Kansas

How Activist Groups Use Their Networks To Turn Out The Vote For Democrats In Traditionally Red States.

You don’t have to look far to find the left’s multi-million-dollar activist machine in action. Now they are turning their sights on Kansas, a red state they hope to flip blue—and there is no shortage of get out the vote money for the job.

At the scheme’s center is the Kansas Health Foundation, a “social justice” advocacy group masquerading as a local issues charity. In reality, it is one of the left’s channels for voter registration money flowing into the Sunflower State.

In 2017, a year after the state went 57.2 percent for President Donald Trump, the foundation launched its Integrated Voter Engagement (IVE) Initiative with funding for get out the vote groups “to increase civic engagement among populations who…do not currently participate in the democratic process.”

Critically, the foundation incorporated a voter registration and turnout model borrowed from another leftist organization: the Funders Committee for Civic Participation, a front for NEO Philanthropy and a coalition of nearly 100 liberal foundations and grantmakers, including the Kansas Health Foundation.

As we’ve documented, the Funders Committee brags that its Integrated Voter Engagement model is one of “the most effective ways to increase voter turnout” and helped turn Colorado from a red to a purple state in the early 2000s.

It works by shuffling money from committee members—such as the Kansas Health Foundation—to “democracy groups” advancing “structural reforms” which “hold electeds accountable [sic]” and obtain “long-term power” for the left’s preferred “communities.” An older rendition of the theory was even starker: “register voters,” “get out the vote,” “defend + expand voting rights,” and ultimately “achieve policy impact.”

A Kansas Health Foundation report praises the model because it

A Kansas Health Foundation report praises the model because it “is not limited to election cycles, but rather is a continuous, ongoing effort that increases the number of voters and ultimately leads to policy changes [emphasis added]. Organizations that utilize [the model] successfully integrate voter engagement with their ongoing work on nonpartisan issues and organizing and advocacy efforts.”

In Kansas, that means targeting “health equity issue areas”—a lefty term loosely defined as access to “quality schools and housing,” “good jobs and healthy food,” and the “safety of our neighborhoods”—but in reality refers to targeting likely Democratic voters, many of whom are not on the voter rolls.

The left believes that mass voter registration campaigns increase election turnout and that high turnout leads to Democratic victories. The trick is getting millions of disengaged eligible voters on the voter rolls in key states, a feat requiring an army of activists and an ocean of money. The left has both. The top 24 leftist voter registration nonprofits spent an estimated $434 million in 2020 alone, much of which came from foundations of “progressive” mega donors sharing the last name “foundation.”

Between July and August 2021, the Kansas Health Foundation pumped $2.9 million into its voter engagement campaign. Recipients were required to report on which “populations” with “health disparities” they planned to engage and how they would incorporate “advocacy and/or grassroots organizing to affect [sic] change on health equity.”

The foundation’s list of requirements for grants smacks of partisanship: This includes, “Describe the geographic scope of the organization’s IVE efforts, including data components such as numbers of eligible voters, registered voters, voting age population, and pertinent area Census demographics.” As well as, “Describe the populations that will be engaged by the applicant organization, the level of current civic engagement, and the voting disparities experienced by these populations.”

So who received these funds?

At the top of the list is the Kansas Appleseed Center, which uses nutrition and public health as cover to push voter turnout campaigns and election “reforms.” The group demands expanded use of absentee ballots and drop boxes to collect them, and it rails against allegations of election fraud. Notably, it also lists Integrated Voter Engagement on its homepage.

The Kansas Rural Center similarly nestles Integrated Voter Engagement among its agricultural priorities, an area in which the group has been active since 2018. In September 2021, the center announced its four-year statewide Integrated Voter Engagement initiative to “mobilize Kansans to encourage greater civic participation,” ostensibly on farm issues.

Notably, the center is founded on a belief that America’s farms are built “upon the enslavement and forced migration of people,” a “lasting legacy of systemic racism,” “globalization,” “colonialism,” and “destructive . . . capitalism.”

Another foundation grant recipient is the Climate and Energy Project, a global warming activist group that promotes transitioning Kansas’s electric grid to solar power. The project is closely allied with numerous anti-oil and anti-natural gas groups, including the far-left Natural Resources Defense CouncilEarthjustice (a Sierra Club spin-off), Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project, and the Arabella “pop-up” group Rewiring America, which wants to wage total war on America’s energy sector.

Also among the Kansas Health Foundation’s recipients is the Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity, a Kansas City group that boasts about registering and getting out the vote among “hundreds of voters in lower income census tracks” and “engag[ing] voters on health, public education and voter suppression issues.” The Metro Organization also supports higher minimum wage laws, opposes right-to-work legislation, and aims to turn Kansas into a sanctuary state for illegal aliens.

Further up the money stream, we’ve traced grants to the Kansas Health Foundation from the Tides Foundation, Greater Manhattan Community Foundation, and two Kansas-based community foundations. All these organizations pass grants from donors to other nonprofits, washing away the donors’ names in the process—a practice some have called “charitable money laundering.”

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The left excels at operating in the shadows, employing sophisticated talking points and mobilization strategies to deceive voters into believing these causes are grassroots. The truth is that it’s the same tired, cynical politics Americans are sick to death of.


This article first appeared in the American Conservative on February 21, 2023.

Hayden Ludwig

Hayden Ludwig is the Director of Policy Research at Restoration of America. He was formerly Senior Investigative Researcher at Capital Research Center. Ludwig is a native of Orange County, California,…
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