The Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation has earmarked $600,000 for the American Legislative Exchange Council’s controversial voter management campaign software and other activities this year, bringing the total contributed for distribution of the software to ALEC’s legislative members to at least $1.7 million since 2017.
The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) filed an IRS whistleblower complaint against ALEC in July, charging that the voter software program, owned by Republican operatives and directly linked to the Republican National Committee’s voter file, amounted to more than $6 million in illegal political expenditures during the 2020 election cycle. As a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, ALEC is not allowed to engage in any activity designed to influence elections.
CMD, Common Cause, and Alliance for a Better Utah are also pursuing campaign finance complaints against ALEC and its legislative leaders in 15 states for their brazen scheme to help ALEC’s overwhelmingly Republican members win reelection.
In all, Bradley has given ALEC $5.4 million between 2011 and 2021 according to IRS filings and grants disclosed online, with its donor advised fund, Bradley Impact Fund, chipping in another $10,500 in 2019.
Prior to 2016, Bradley gave ALEC less than $100,000 per year in grants. The increase in funding followed a 2013 unrestricted transfer of $203 million to Bradley that enabled it to strategically weaponize its grantmaking to strengthen and build right-wing infrastructure to influence state policy making and elections.
The Bradley Foundation, which had assets of $934.4 million as of its latest available 2019 IRS filing, is one of the largest funders of the Right, providing millions in grants to groups working to suppress the vote, bust unions, and spread climate misinformation, and to right-wing media outlets.
Dubbed “ALEC CARE,” the software, provided for free to ALEC legislative members and valued by ALEC at $3,000 per legislator, is owned and operated by VoterGravity, a Republican voter data company conceived and run by Ned Ryun.
Ryun, is the founder and president of a right-wing candidate training operation, American Majority, and its voter mobilization affiliate, American Majority Action, which are closely allied with the Tea Party. American Majority Action’s latest available IRS filing shows that it owns 84% of Voter Gravity, and both list a post office box in Purcellville, Virginia as their address.
Between 2010 and 2019, Bradley gave American Majority $2.6 million, with Bradley Impact Fund providing another $142,000, according to tax filings reviewed by CMD.
ALEC Uses CARE to Recruit Legislative Members
ALEC CARE is used as an important recruitment tool in convincing state lawmakers to join ALEC, emails obtained by CMD detail.
A recruitment letter from January, written by ALEC and circulated to ALEC state chairs to distribute to colleagues, touts ALEC CARE as one of two “tech tools to make you more effective.”
In another email, ALEC’s manager of member engagement Will Davies outlines what new members will receive upon joining for $100 a year. Information on ALEC CARE will be provided in a “new member packet” and within four weeks, new members will receive a “breakdown of ALEC Member Benefits (CARE and CONNECT).” CARE is described as a “CRM that allows legislators to communicate effectively with their constituents. This software would cost $3,000 if bought by a member, but is a member benefit.”
CMD State Complaints Get Hearing Dates
The state complaints against ALEC and its legislative leaders asks oversight agencies to investigate the ALEC CARE scheme, use their subpoena powers to determine the full list of ALEC state legislators receiving the voter software, and determine whether the software was used by legislative staff on state time or in state offices.
The state complaints can be viewed here as they are filed.
On August 4, Connecticut’s State Elections Enforcement Commission voted to authorize investigation of the complaint.
Minnesota’s Campaign Finance Board has found that the complaint states a valid violation and will hold a hearing on Oct. 6 to determine if a formal investigation is warranted.
Maine’s Ethics Commission will take up the complaint at its Sept. 29 meeting, and the oversight commissions in Ohio and Wisconsin will consider the complaints on Oct. 7.
Other states have asked ALEC or its leaders to provide a response, but have not yet set hearing dates.
Stayed tuned to ExposedbyCMD.org for updates on the complaints as investigations proceed.