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January 16, 2014

Koch Network Backed Mysterious Group Pushing to Shift Allocation of PA Electoral Votes

By Carrie Levine

Read more about CREW's research in the Philadelphia Inquirer: Ethics group says politics fueled GOP's quest to change voting rules

Pennsylvania

In 2011, a new Pennsylvania nonprofit, All Votes Matter, began spending tens of thousands of dollars lobbying in favor of changing how Pennsylvania’s electoral votes are awarded to presidential candidates.  Instead of awarding all 20 electoral votes to the winner of the state’s popular vote, the group wanted to allocate one vote to the winner of each of the state’s 18 congressional districts, with the remaining two electoral votes going to the winner of the popular vote. 

The plan was widely viewed as giving Republicans an opportunity to pick up some electoral votes in Pennsylvania, which was considered a battleground state.  The proposal won support from several prominent Pennsylvania Republicans, including Gov. Tom Corbett and state House and Senate leaders, but others in the party opposed it, including the head of the state Republican party and members of the congressional delegation, and the change was never made.

All Votes Matter was headed by William Sloane, a former chief counsel for Pennsylvania’s House Democrats, but most of the support for the proposal came from Republicans and the group hired a prominent Republican firm to lobby state legislators during the period leading up to the 2012 elections.

The source of the money behind All Votes Matter, which was organized under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code, was a mystery.  The group refused to reveal its donors’ identities.  

A new analysis of nonprofit tax filings by CREW, however, shows much of the money came from a network of conservative nonprofit organizations linked to billionaire businessmen Charles and David Koch.  These groups contributed at least $280,000 in 2011 and 2012, more than half the total amount All Votes Matter reported raising over the same two-year period.  None of the groups are based in Pennsylvania and all refuse to reveal the identities of their own donors, making it impossible to determine the source of the money behind All Votes Matter.

In 2011, All Votes Matter received:

  • $20,000 from Arizona-based Americans for Responsible Leadership;
  • $40,000 from Washington, D.C.-based American Commitment;
  • $40,000 from Iowa-based American Future Fund;
  • $40,000 from Arizona-based Free Enterprise America;
  • $60,000 from the Center to Protect Patient Rights (CPPR), an Arizona nonprofit and key player in the Koch-linked network that distributed millions of dollars to other political active nonprofits.

In 2012, CPPR reported giving All Votes Matter another $80,000 grant, the only contribution the group reported receiving that year.

Dark money groups have funneled millions of dollars into controlling state governments, efforts that have paid dividends at the federal level by letting them, among other things, control congressional redistricting, a strategy the New York Times highlighted on Sunday.  The conservative nonprofits’ support for the push to change the way electoral votes are awarded in Pennsylvania fits in with that scheme, and suggests these groups are also trying to alter the way in which presidents are elected.  Americans will have to remain vigilant to ensure partisans do not coopt every aspect of our electoral process.     

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