The Center for Election Innovation and Research (CEIR) gave $12 million in September 2020 to a Michigan nonprofit, which then funneled the money to two Democrat consulting firms for the purpose of “nonpartisan voter education efforts.”
The Michigan Star first reported on the tax form filed in May 2021 by the Michigan nonprofit, the Michigan Center for Election Law and Administration (MCELA), which revealed the MCELA directed 99 percent of the $12 million it received from CEIR to two Democrat-aligned consulting companies.
The outlet’s analysis found the MCELA was relatively inactive aside from its use of the grant — the nonprofit reported on its Form 990 that it received no money in 2019, received the $12 million grant in 2020, and spent $11.8 million in 2020 on the two companies.
The two companies listed on the tax form were Waterfront Strategies, which received $9.7 million, and Alper Strategies, which received $2 million.
Waterfront Strategies, according to Open Secrets, is a leading Democrat consulting firm and an arm of GMMB, the largest Democrat consulting firm in the country. GMMB clients have included Presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden. Waterfront Strategies’ top client in the 2020 election cycle was Democrats’ Senate Majority PAC, followed by a slate of other Democrat-aligned PACs.
The second company, Alper Strategies, was founded by Jill Alper, who touts her past employment with the Democratic National Committee and experience strategizing for top Democrats such as Bill and Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, and John Kerry.
The MCELA’s tax form stated its “mission or most significant activities” in 2020 were “to support the nonpartisan administration of elections” and put forth “nonpartisan voter education efforts,” which means the Democrat consulting companies Waterfront Strategies and Alper Strategies were using the grant money for those purported missions and activities.
The CEIR stated the $11.8 million was used specifically for messaging about election information, which it targeted to Michigan voters:
In addition to a statewide messaging campaign, Michigan sent out targeted mailings to engage voters. Active registered voters received information about ways to vote, elections deadlines and how to request a mail ballot, and those who had not yet returned their mail ballot received instructions on how to do so. Grant funds also helped communicate changes in election laws to voters.
According to Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, the state’s low rate of ballot rejection this year was directly attributable to CEIR’s voter education grant.
Benson, a Democrat, founded the MCELA in 2008 and was listed year after year as president of the organization until 2020. Benson, who lost her first secretary of state race in 2010, ran again and won in 2018 and assumed her role in 2019. Though she was no longer listed as president of the MCELA as of 2020, Benson has been featured as the profile picture for the organization on Facebook since last October.
The person listed as president of MCELA on the 2020 tax form, Jen McKernan, has a history of donating to Democrats, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D). Michigan Public Radio spoke with McKernan who indicated to the outlet that the $12 million MCELA received from CEIR would be used to “air ads on television and radio across the state.”
“The campaign will also send direct mail and text messages to people who have never voted before, or who have not voted in a long time,” Michigan Public Radio stated. “McKernan says people who are being deluged with those kinds of text messages can get rid of them by simply voting.”
The outlet added, “[McKernan] says once you vote, all those groups urging you to get to the polls will be informed by elections officials that you’ve done it, and the messages will cease.”
As the Michigan Star observed, understanding if the voter education efforts were truly nonpartisan requires understanding where text messages, mailers, and other ads were being directed. Phone lists for text messaging, for instance, could have been provided by Waterfront Strategies or Alper Strategies.
Furthermore, if the two Democrat firms targeted Democrat voters, the firms could have been notified once the Democrat voters had cast their ballots, giving the firms a rough idea of how many Democrat votes they had piled up ahead of polls closing. The information would have served as invaluable in the battleground state, where Biden defeated former President Donald Trump by less than three percent.
As Breitbart News reported in December, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla, donated $419.5 million to two nonprofit groups during the 2020 election cycle, $350 million to the Center for Tech and Civic Life and $69.5 million to CEIR.
The $12 million CEIR granted to the Michigan nonprofit came directly from the Zuckerbergs’ $69.5 million donation.
Write to Ashley Oliver at firstname.lastname@example.org.