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The Left-Wing Megadonors Pushing for Ranked Choice Voting

Scott Walter’s Testimony Before the Georgia Senate Ethics Committee

Written Testimony
To Georgia Senate Ethics Committee
Sen. Max Burns, Chairman

Scott Walter
President, Capital Research Center

January 22, 2024

Chairman Burns, Vice Chairman Williams, and distinguished members of the Committee, thank you for the honor of testifying. I’m Scott Walter, president of the Capital Research Center, a think tank that specializes in identifying special interests and the money flows they use to push state and federal policies.

We track the special interests that aim to influence how Americans vote, including efforts to introduce ranked-choice voting, or RCV.[1] Though this scheme was first used in America a century ago, it was largely forgotten until tens of millions of dollars began to be put behind it in the last several years.

Like many special interests, the donors pouring money into this election scheme frame it as a “nonpartisan” idea. But the cash behind RCV demonstrates that is not true. Left-wing Democrats are its largest boosters.

You may or may not decide RCV is desirable. As an out-of-stater, I won’t presume to tell you what’s best for Georgia. But please don’t fall for false claims that centrists or nonpartisans are the main backers of RCV, or that lots of conservative donors support it.

Left-wing megadonors who’ve put cash behind RCV include Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced cryptocurrency tycoon who was the second largest Democratic Party donor in the 2022 cycle, behind only George Soros.[2] Second, Katherine Gehl, former head of Gehl Foods, is almost certainly the largest single donor to RCV campaigns. She was a bundler for Obama,[3] though she now donates to some Republicans she needs to pass RCV laws. But it’s almost impossible to find her giving to Republicans before 2018.[4] She also supports the group Democracy Found, among others.

Ebay billionaire Pierre Omidyar is another major donor to RCV. He’s a megadonor to numerous left-wing causes and probably the largest donor in America to so-called NeverTrump efforts.[5] On election issues, he not only supports RCV but also such dubious policies as expanding vote by mail.

The two most prominent, well-funded groups pushing RCV are FairVote and Unite America, both supported by left-wing megadonors. FairVote has received support not only from George Soros but also from his son Jonathan.[6] Omidyar also supports FairVote, as do the Tides Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund—two left-wing philanthropies currently under fire for funding left-wing activists linked to violent anti-Semitic protests and even Palestinian terrorist groups.[7]

FairVote also receives major support from Laura and John Arnold. Some RCV boosters point to the Arnolds’ ties to Texas oil and gas interests, implying the Arnolds are conservative or Republican donors, but as our InfluenceWatch reports, their giving in recent years is “center-left.”[8]

Unite America is the other major group supporting RCV. It tries to camouflage its leftward tilt toward Democrats by having an advisory board with a roughly bipartisan split, but members of its governing board overwhelmingly donate to Democrats.[9] Its largest donor is Kathryn Murdoch, whom RCV supporters sometimes imply is not a left-leaning Democrat because she married into the family of Fox News’ owner Rupert Murdoch. In fact, she is a left-wing Democrat who worked for the Clinton Climate Initiative and donated heavily to the Hillary Victory Fund.[10]

In short, though occasionally a Republican donor like Ken Griffin or Michael Porter has supported RCV, it’s overwhelmingly a crusade funded by left-wing Democrats. I suspect they support it because by ending partisan primaries, it would gravely weaken both political parties,[11] which in turn would strengthen the billionaires’ political power, because both parties would lack the power to oppose billionaires’ whims.

Thank you.


[1] See Fred Lucas, “The Money and Groups Pushing Ranked-Choice Voting,” Capital Research Center, March 1, 2022, https://capitalresearch.org/article/ranked-choice-voting-part-1/.

[2] See Ben Kamisar and Alexandra Marquez, “Crypto Billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried’s Downfall Could Deprive Democrats of Key Donor,” NBC News, November 15, 2022,  https://www.nbcnews.com/meet-the-press/meetthepressblog/sam-bankman-frieds-downfall-deprives-dems-key-donor-rcna57091.

[3] See Andrew Prokop, “The Plan to Save America by Killing the Partisan Primary,” Vox, November 7, 2022, https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/23412858/nevada-question-3-final-five-voting-katherine-gehl.

[4] See OpenSecrets, “Donor Lookup,” s.v. “Katherine Gehl,” https://www.opensecrets.org/donor-lookup/results?name=Katherine+Gehl&order=desc&page=1&sort=D. The lone exception I can find is $500 to Republican Jack Ryan in 2003.

[5] For Omidyar personally, see InfluenceWatch, “Pierre Omidyar,” https://www.influencewatch.org/person/pierre-omidyar/. For his network of politically active nonprofits, see InfluenceWatch, “Omidyar Nexus,” https://www.influencewatch.org/non-profit/omidyar-nexus/.

[6] See InfluenceWatch, “FairVote,” https://www.influencewatch.org/non-profit/fairvote/.

[7] See Gabe Kaminsky, “Hamas-Friendly Protest Groups Bankrolled by Democratic Dark Money Juggernaut Tides,” December 1, 2023, https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/hamas-protests-bankrolled-democratic-dark-money-tides-israel; NGO Monitor, “Tides Network,” September 4, 2023, https://www.ngo-monitor.org/funder/tides-network/; Jon Levine, “Rockefeller Brothers Fund Funding Pro-Palestinian Groups, at Least One Israel Calls ‘Terrorist’ Org,” New York Post, December 2, 2023, https://nypost.com/2023/12/02/metro/rockefeller-brothers-fund-funding-palestinian-terror-groups/; NGO Monitor, “Rockefeller Brothers Fund,” July 17, 2023, https://www.ngo-monitor.org/funder/rockefeller_brothers_fund/; and InfluenceWatch, “Rockefeller Brothers Fund,” https://www.influencewatch.org/non-profit/rockefeller-brothers-fund/#anti-israel-activities.

[8] See InfluenceWatch, “Arnold Ventures,” https://www.influencewatch.org/for-profit/arnold-ventures/.

[9] See InfluenceWatch, “Unite America,” https://www.influencewatch.org/political-party/unite-america/.

[10] See InfluenceWatch, “Kathryn Murdoch,” https://www.influencewatch.org/person/kathryn-murdoch/.

[11] That RCV would profoundly weaken political parties is admitted in this left-leaning defense of RCV: Prokop, “The Plan to Save America by Killing the Partisan Primary.”

Scott Walter

Scott Walter is president of Capital Research Center. He served in the George W. Bush Administration as Special Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy and was vice president at…
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