Deception & Misdirection

The Groups and Persons Mentioned in Time’s “Shadow Campaign” Article


UPDATED March 2, 2021: expanded entries for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Molly Ball, and Vanita Gupta. 

On February 4, 2021, Time published “The Secret History of the Shadow Campaign That Saved the 2020 Election.” This report described what the author herself called a “conspiracy,” a “well-funded cabal of powerful people, ranging across industries and ideologies, working together behind the scenes to influence perceptions, change rules and laws, steer media coverage and control the flow of information.” The article’s author, best known for her flattering biography of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), claimed that the “conspiracy” she described was made up of Left and Right, Democrat and Republican.

To test that claim, CRC staff drafted a memo listing the 24 groups and 23 persons mentioned in the article, along with some additional information. The entries are organized by group and then person, roughly in the order of appearance. Each entry includes, if available:

  • A link to the group or person’s InfluenceWatch entry, which usually has additional information,
  • A paraphrase of the Time article’s description of the group or person, and
  • Bullet points that highlight facts of interest about the group or person.

Groups

U.S. Chamber of Commerce
“Locked in an eternal struggle for power and resources” with labor. Found a need after racial tensions over the summer to change the way elections are handled.

  • One observer, Dan McLaughlin, wrote: “Ball hints vaguely that the Chamber of Commerce may have been concerned about this [left-wing street violence], but did her sources there say so and she left that out, or did they not mention it at all?  The fact that Ball credits her sources with the ability to restrain left-leaning protesters when their side was ahead leaves some serious questions about what their role would have been if the votes had favored Trump. As with a lot of left-leaning commentary on the election, Ball never even gives an instant’s discussion to the idea that it was ever possible that Trump could legitimately have won the election, that he or anyone else ever expected him to or planned for that eventuality.”
  • In 2016, Molly Ball (who wrote Time’s “conspiracy” article on the 2020 election) wrote a gleeful report on how the Chamber and other establishment groups launched primary assaults on conservative Republican officials: “How Farmers and Big Business Took Out a Tea Party Congressman.”
  • 2020 cycle political giving here

AFL-CIO
America’s largest union federation. Used the latest tactics and data to help favored candidates win. “Locked in an eternal struggle for power and resources” with management. Funneled hundreds of millions to Democratic campaigns.

  • Donor/ties to Analyst Institute, Catalist, The Fight Back Table, Democracy Defense Coalition, National Association of Evangelicals, and National African American Clergy Network
  • One of the Left’s most important pillars, both in terms of contributions to politicians and nonprofits and in organizing the entire Left via convening power, carrots/sticks of money and boots on the ground
  • Its longtime political director Michael Podhorzer (see his personal entry) is the central figure in the Time article, organizing the coalition

Voter Protection Program

  • Part of Project Vote, which closed in 2017 although its website is still active to teach turnout techniques to the Left
  • Project Vote was part of the corrupt ACORN empire and hired Barack Obama soon after he left Harvard Law
  • Despite Project Vote’s connection to convicted vote-fraudsters at ACORN, Project Vote addressed that issue in a lengthy report, The Politics of Voter Fraud, which insisted “the claim that voter fraud threatens the integrity of American elections is itself a fraud.”
  • Voter Protection Program is a front for Progressive State Leaders Committee, a left-wing c4. See VPP’s self-description here: “a nonpartisan initiative of the Progressive State Leaders Committee (PSLC) to ensure safe, fair, and secure elections. The VPP advances strategies and recommendations to protect the vote and make sure every vote is counted, with a specific focus on the unique tools available to state attorneys general, governors, secretaries of state, and law enforcement officials. The Voter Protection Program includes experienced litigators who have worked in state and federal government in both Republican and Democratic administrations, national experts on voting rights and election protection, communications professionals with expertise advising state officials, and a bipartisan Advisory Board of former governors, attorneys general, and leaders in local, state, and federal law enforcement”

Protect Democracy Project
Nonpartisan rule-of-law advocacy group

Catalist
Flagship progressive data company

  • A for-profit data warehouse created to combine voter data throughout the Left. According to one witness, AFL-CIO coerced unions, party groups, other left-wing groups to provide that data on pain of loss of AFL-CIO money and assistance.
  • As a for-profit, hides all internal workings
  • Closely aligned with Soros co-founded donor group Democracy Alliance. One PowerPoint slide at a D.A. meeting showed how a for-profit data firm could jump over the legal wall separating nonprofits and political campaigns
  • Podhorzer of AFL-CIO helped launch
  • Founded in 2006 by Clinton operatives Harold Ickes and Laura Quinn. Big clients include EMILY’s List, Rock the Vote, Sierra Club
  • An FEC complaint alleging Catalist violated rules governing (1) collusion between organizations and (2) rules against below-market sales of political services was filed in 2015, though no action was taken.

The Fight Back Table
Coalition of “resistance” organizations

  • Member of Democracy Defense Coalition (see entry below)
  • Launched after 2016 election, long before election “fears” for 2020, in order “to get a constellation of lefty organizations to work more closely together,” according to a highly favorable report in the Daily Beast (September 8, 2020).
  • The same Daily Beast report says a top leader of Fight Back Table is Deirdre Schifeling, former longtime head of Planned Parenthood’s c4 election fund and now founder and campaign director of Democracy for All 2021 Action, a project of the 1630 Fund, a “dark money” behemoth in the Arabella Advisors empire. Schifeling’s role is criticized in this Free Beacon
  • Daily Beast also reports the “coalition” is made up of 50-plus organizations, “includes labor groups, like SEIU and the American Federation of Teachers, social justice entities like Color of Change, and progressive movement outfits like Indivisible and MoveOn. It is also collaborating with mission ally Protect the Results, a group of 80-plus left-of-center and some NeverTrump entities that are also planning mass mobilization in more than 1,000 locations across the country.”
  • Daily Beast: “Inside the coalition, there is dispute over whether Biden should even concede if he wins the popular vote but loses the Electoral College, à la Clinton in 2016 and Gore in 2000.” [emphasis added]
  • Daily Beast: Fight Back Table’s “post-election planning” group was named the “Democracy Defense Nerve Center.” It “began charting out what it would take to stand up a multi-state communications arm to fight disinformation, a training program for nonviolent civil disobedience, and the underpinnings of what one official described as ‘mass public unrest.’ … Some of the hurdles were straightforward: how you ‘occupy shit, hold space, and shut things down, not just on Election Day but for weeks,’ explained one source familiar with the Democracy Defense Nerve Center” [emphasis added]
  • Daily Beast: For “the progressive leaders” of the Democracy Defense Nerve Center, “the larger game plan is to apply pressure through mass mobilization.”

Democracy Defense Coalition
Collection of liberal activist groups who planned for a potentially contested election

  • It’s unclear, but this likely refers to the “Democracy Defense Nerve Center” described in the last bullet of the Fight Back Table entry immediately above this one.

Planned Parenthood

  • A “nonpartisan” c3 (Planned Parenthood Federation of America; it has a c4 and other arms)
  • Funders include Buffett Foundation, Soros’s Open Society Foundations, Bloomberg Foundation, Hewlett Foundation
  • Its own donations go to groups like Netroots Nation and Tides Center

Greenpeace

Indivisible
Resistance group

  • A c4; has a c3, Indivisible Civics
  • Was incubated by Tides pass-through empire before spinning off as independent group
  • Intended to be left-wing version of Tea Party, organizing mass protests across the country
  • Officially supports Green New Deal
  • Kenneth Vogel, NYT reporter, attributed growth in Indivisible to funding from prominent liberals including “the tech entrepreneur Reid Hoffman, as well as foundations or coalitions tied to Democracy Alliance donors, including San Francisco mortgage billionaire Herbert Sandler, the New York real estate heiress Patricia Bauman and the oil heiress Leah Hunt-Hendrix.”
  • Sarah Dohl, Indivisible’s chief communications officer, has said, “It’s not a secret that we would like to move the Democratic Party further to the left.”
  • Member of left-wing coalitions America Votes, Census Counts 2020
  • Funders include Tides Foundation

MoveOn
Resistance group

  • MoveOn Political Action, which jointly operates MoveOn.org with its associated 501(c)(4) organization MoveOn Civic Action, describes itself as “the largest independent, progressive, digitally-connected organizing group in the United States.”
  • MoveOn Political Action gathers donations from its members, from entertainment events, and from outside donors like George Soros, which it uses to support left-wing causes and candidates.
  • MoveOn supports almost exclusively the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, most notably U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
  • Originally founded as one entity, MoveOn eventually split into two associated organizations for tax reasons: MoveOn Civic Action, the group’s 501(c)(4), and MoveOn Political Action, the group’s candidate-supporting political action committee (PAC).
  • Funders include government-worker unions like AFSCME and AFT, Dustin Moskovitz and Cari Tuna (Facebook), Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate Action, Working Families Party.

Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Directed COVID relief money to election officials; worked to increase voting rules/regulations and enforcement

National Vote at Home Institute
Nonpartisan

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
Chipped in $300 million

  • Supports National Vote at Home Institute
  • This is an LLC that donates Mark Zuckerberg’s funds to leftist groups but does not file IRS Form 990 because it isn’t a nonprofit

Voter Participation Center
“In August and September, it sent ballot applications to 15 million people in key states, 4.6 million of whom returned them. In mailings and digital ads, the group urged people not to wait for Election Day. ‘All the work we have done for 17 years was built for this moment of bringing democracy to people’s doorsteps,’ says Tom Lopach, the center’s CEO.”

  • Led by Page Gardner, who worked on Bill Clinton presidential campaign
  • Sister groups Gardner also leads are Center for Voter Information and Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund (a c4)
  • Voter Participation Action Center’s old name was Women’s Voices Women Vote—under both names it was a “nonpartisan” c3, but Sasha Issenberg in The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns wrote: “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.” (p. 305).
  • When Gardner was helping Hillary against Obama in presidential primaries, this group was accused of suppressing black votes (see the NPR story here)
  • John Podesta was on its board
  • Has ties to Voter Registration Project, Arabella Advisors’ Hopewell Fund, Majority Forward, NEO Philanthropy (“dark money” pass-through group), Tides Foundation

Issue One
Rallied Republicans for election reform

  • Member of National Council on Election Integrity
  • A group recommended to funders by Democracy Alliance
  • “Dark money” critic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is big booster of Issue One, even though it has passed money to League of Conservation Voters (famous as a “dark money heavyweight” itself, as the left-leaning Center for Public Integrity put it) and Proteus (itself a “dark money” pass-through group that sends money to other groups)
  • Funders include Jonathan Soros, Hewlett Foundation

National Council on Election Integrity
Convened Republicans and Democratic and ran ads to create election reform

  • Left-wing group Issue One (see immediately prior entry) sponsors this project

Voting Rights Lab
Sent state-specific memes about the election

  • Partner of left-wing voting network Unite America, which advocates for fundamental changes to the country’s electoral process, such as changing America’s congressional redistricting process, adopting ranked choice voting, requiring open primary elections, and expanding vote-by-mail. 3
  • Ties to NARAL Pro-Choice America
  • Leaders include former leaders at Planned Parenthood and Everytown for Gun Safety (Bloomberg’s top gun-control group)

IntoAction
Created state-specific memes and graphics, spread by email, text, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, urging that every vote be counted; viewed over 1 million times

Movement for Black Lives
Part of Podherzer’s network

  • Member of Democracy Defense Coalition
  • Now a fiscally sponsored project of the Common Counsel Foundation, but previously was fiscally sponsored project of far-left Alliance for Global Justice (e.g., AfGJ website republished a fawning interview with North Korean tour guides that originally appeared in Workers World, the organ of the Marxist-Leninist party of the same name)
  • The second-most important BLM group after Cullors-Garza-Tometi’s BLM Global Network Foundation
  • Umbrella group for BLM groups
    • The Movement for Black Lives endorsed a radical extremist platform in 2016 described as “an extraordinary grab bag of anti-American and fundamentally Marxist demands.” The group’s 2020 platform, called “Vision for Black Lives,” shows continued policy extremism with calls for “a radical and sustainable redistribution of wealth,” extensive “reparations” policies, legalization of prostitution and all drugs, government-run health care including “full reproductive services” presumed to include government-funded abortions, the release of radical-left extremists currently wanted or incarcerated, and an end to school reform efforts including Teach for America.
  • Left-leaning philanthropy news website InsidePhilanthropy wrote: “for years, many foundations have considered it to be too radical,” though since last summer its contributions have risen steeply.
  • Ford Foundation was an early backer.

Working Families Party
Created a force of “election defenders”

Protect the Results Coalition
Created a map listing 400 planned post-election demonstrations

  • The map was considered threatening by many conservative groups
  • Members include Indivisible, Stand Up America, Women’s March, Sierra Club, Color of Change, Democrats.com, and Democratic Socialists of America
  • According to a highly favorable report in the Daily Beast (September 8, 2020), Protect the Results was part of the Fight Back Table (see entry above, which notes members’ willingness to “apply pressure through mass mobilization”).
  • The same Daily Beast report says Protect the Results is run by Sean Eldridge, a “former congressional candidate and Democratic activist.” Eldridge is the “husband” of Facebook millionaire Chris Hughes, and founder and president of Stand Up America, a progressive advocacy community designed to support the impeachment of President Donald Trump

Detroit Will Breathe
Racial activists; countered conservative election protestors

Fems for Dems
Suburban women; countered election protestors

Persons

Molly Ball
Article’s author

  • Biographer of Nancy Pelosi; see Amazon
  • Her biography of Pelosi received an extremely unfavorable review in the Wall Street Journal. Excerpts include:
    • “one of the most cloyingly adulatory paeans to a living politician I’ve ever read”
    • “you-go-girl boosterism”
    • “The prose is bad but the sentiment is worse. If I ever write anything so mindlessly celebratory about any elected official, living or dead, liberal or conservative, I hope the editor of these pages will have the decency to fire me and suggest a career in advertising or political consultancy.”
    • “In Ms. Ball’s world, Mrs. Pelosi is never wrong. Her motives are always wholesome, her judgment always sound.”
    • “When Mrs. Pelosi recaptured the speakership last year, Ms. Ball observes in another typical passage, she faced a nation that might well be on its way to ‘dictatorship’: ‘Would [President Trump] next declare martial law, dismiss Congress, cancel the next elections and begin rounding up dissenters? . . . Now she was the primary obstacle standing between Trump and total domination—standing, perhaps, between democracy and its greatest enemy.’”
  • In 2016, Ball wrote a gleeful report on how the Chamber of Commerce and other establishment groups launched primary assaults on conservative Republican officials: “How Farmers and Big Business Took Out a Tea Party Congressman.”
  • Yale graduate
  • Twitter account
  • Time articles
  • Atlantic articles

Norm Eisen
Prominent lawyer; former Obama administration official; recruited Republicans and Democrats to board of Voter Protection Program

  • See above entry on Voter Protection Program (project of Project Vote)
  • Counsel to House Democrats for 2020 Trump Impeachment
  • Co-founder/board chair of left-wing CREW
  • Harvard Law grad; fellow student and friend there of Barack Obama
  • Active in Obama’s campaign before joining Transition team before being named Special Counsel for Ethics and Government Reform in the White House.
  • Later Obama named him ambassador to Czech Republic
  • Senior fellow, Brookings

Zach Wamp
Former U.S. Representative (R-TN); “Trump supporter”

  • As of 2018 “currently serves on board with Issue One,” which is a left-wing campaign finance group (see entry above, which includes fact that the group is a Democracy Alliance-recommended group)
  • His son, Weston Wamp, is on the payroll of Issue One, which says, “Weston is in many ways a child of the political reform movement. The first political issue he remembers taking an interest in was the influx of dark money into campaigns in the late 1990s as a 10 year old because his father, former Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN) was one of leading Republicans to push back against the ever-growing influence of money in politics.”
  • The past five years of Lexis-Nexis newspaper database do not provide any clear evidence Zach Wamp supported Donald Trump
  • Zach Wamp’s OpenSecrets donor record shows no contributions to Trump or Trump-related groups, though it does show donations to Marco Rubio. Weston Wamp’s record shows one donation each to three Republican congressional candidates, one donation to WinRed, and 12 donations to left-wing pass-through ActBlue.

Mike Podhorzer
Political director of AFL-CIO, led progressive strategy to beat Trump

Ian Bassin
Co-founder of Protect Democracy, a “nonpartisan” advocacy group

  • Protect Democracy Project and United to Protect Democracy list dozens of advisers to the organizations. Notable advisers include Jerry Taylor, president of the nominally libertarian think tank Niskanen Center, failed 2016 presidential candidate and Stand Up Republic co-founder Evan McMullin, failed 2016 vice presidential candidate and Stand Up Republic co-founder Mindy Finn, and Defending Democracy Together directors Mona Charen and Linda Chavez

Amber McReynolds
Former Denver election official and head of “nonpartisan” National Vote at Home Institute (see its entry above)

Tom Lapach
CEO of Voter Participation Center (VPC)

  • See Voter Participation Center entry above on VPC’s failure to follow nonprofit law
  • Former executive director of Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee

Hannah Fried
Member of the organization All Voting is Local

Wendy Weiser
Voting-rights “expert” at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU

  • Brennan Center is a top left-wing pressure group opposing all policies that protect election integrity (e.g., voter ID requirements) and favoring all policies that endanger election integrity
  • Former senior attorney of NOW (National Organization for Women)

Laura Quinn
Progressive activist and co-founder of Catalist. Former deputy chief of staff to Al Gore

  • See entry above on Catalist

Vanita Gupta
“In November 2019, Mark Zuckerberg invited nine civil rights leaders to dinner at his home, where they warned him about the danger of the election-related falsehoods that were already spreading unchecked. ‘It took pushing, urging, conversations, brainstorming, all of that to get to a place where we ended up with more rigorous rules and enforcement,’ says Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, who attended the dinner and also met with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and others. (Gupta has been nominated for Associate Attorney General by President Biden.) ‘It was a struggle, but we got to the point where they understood the problem. Was it enough? Probably not. Was it later than we wanted? Yes. But it was really important, given the level of official disinformation, that they had those rules in place and were tagging things and taking them down.’”

Dick Gephardt
Former Democratic House Minority Leader.

  • House Majority Leader (1989–1995)
  • Lobbyist for Gephardt Government Affairs

Maurice Mitchell
National Director of the Working Families Party

  • Former activist for Citizen Action of NY, Long Island Progressive Coalition
  • See entry for Working Families Party above

Anat Shenker-Osorio
Close friend of Podhorzer’s, helped poll-test group’s messaging

Nelini Stamp
National organizing director for Working Families Party

  • Working Families Party activist since 2008
  • See Working Families Party entry above

Neil Bradley
Executive vice president and chief policy officer at Chamber of Commerce

Thomas Donohue
Chamber of Commerce CEO

Richard Trumka
AFL-CIO President

  • Implicated in the money-laundering and kickback scandals that enveloped previous AFL-CIO president Carey and led to his expulsion from office. Trumka allegedly funneled $150,000 in union funds to Citizen Action, a progressive organizing group, which then shuffled $100,000 of the money on to Carey’s campaign consultants. Under questioning from federal investigators, Trumka took the Fifth.
  • Under pre-1997 AFL-CIO rules, union officers who took the Fifth Amendment were obligated to resign their posts. However, Sweeney had the rules changed so that Trumka could remain in office despite taking the Fifth Amendment in the Carey investigations. Amid the fallout from the Carey affair, Trumka reduced his public profile substantially.

Angela Peoples
Director for the Democracy Defense Coalition

  • See Democracy Defense Coalition entry above

Art Reyes III
Leader of We The People Michigan

  • Twitter account
  • LinkedIn entry
  • Former director of left-wing Center for Popular Democracy’s Training & Leadership Development Initiatives. CPD is a “nonpartisan” c3 heavily involved in voter turnout. Its co-executive director Ana Maria Archila famously assaulted Jeff Flake (R-AZ) in an elevator during the Kavanaugh hearings

Jeff Timmer
Former Michigan GOP executive director, and Never Trump activist.

  • Senior Advisor to the Lincoln Project, notorious for its leaders’ use of funds to hire their own companies and for the sexual harassment scandal surrounding one of those leaders and his colleagues’ alleged cover-up

Richard Primus
University of Michigan law professor

Aaron Van Langevelde
GOP attorney who voted to certify Biden’s win in Michigan