Leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, many different organizations and Hollywood celebrities pleaded for U.S. citizens to get out and vote. Voter registration groups pounded the pavement and urged Americans to participate in the civic sacrament—regardless of partisanship. However, a number of groups failed to live up to their professed bipartisanship.
Vote Forward PAC was created in 2017 by Scott J. Forman, a Harvard graduate and employee of OneRoom Solutions, a technology company. Forman has been a frequent contributor to Democratic Party campaigns. Some of the most notable candidates he supported are U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL), Louisiana Public Service Commission member Foster Campbell (D), Democratic candidate for Michigan’s 11th Congressional District Suneel Gupta, and 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Scott J. Forman stated on twitter, “I started @votefwd [Vote Forward] in 2017 to channel my own concern and anger about our politics into action.”
The main purpose of Vote Forward was to win a majority for the Democratic Party in the U.S. House of Representatives. Vote Forward, through its online platform, allowed individuals to sign up to send “please vote” letters on behalf of Democratic candidates to registered voters in key swing districts. Vote Forward’s mailing lists for these swing districts came from state election boards. This is publicly available information that is released in the interest of transparency.
The PAC also used a list of 78 districts from Swing Left, a Democratic PAC that raised $10 million for 2018 Democratic candidates. It also used pollster Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight to inform the PACs model for targeting swing districts. Vote Forward also utilized ActBlue, a fundraising platform for left-wing organizations and Democratic Party-aligned PACs, to raise funds for the PAC’s activities.
Vote Forward attempted to seem bipartisan in its “please vote” letters by stating, “I’m not asking you to vote for particular candidates, only to be a voter, so our elected representatives are accountable to all of us.” The letter tried to convey a message of urgency, that it merely wanted individuals to use their right as U.S. citizens to get out and vote on election day; toward the bottom of the letter (in small font) it admitted the main purpose of the PAC was “to increase voter turnout, especially among Democrats.” Vote Forward wouldn’t tell voters which candidate to vote for, but it would tell voters which political party they should elect.
Scott J. Forman, CEO and founder of Vote Forward, made it very clear what his intentions were concerning his voter turnout PAC:
On Twitter, Forman referenced an article by Benjamin Wittes and Jon Rauch which “heed[ed]” individuals to vote against the Republican party and instead vote for Democratic candidates in upcoming elections. Forman also implored voters that the most important thing that anyone could do was “to place Congress in the hands of Democrats.” Forman attempted to bring these ideas to fruition through Vote Forward.
Vote Forward targeted specific swing districts, including Florida’s 26th Congressional District, Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District, and Michigan’s 8th Congressional District, for Democratic candidates and gave descriptions of the candidates running in those districts. However, the descriptions were hardly balanced. Vote Forward provided positive portrayals of Democratic candidates running for the U.S. House of Representatives and less-than-favorable descriptions of Republican candidates. This tactic hardly embodies bipartisan efforts; it’s an attempt to steer voters in a specific direction.