Politically-active ‘dark money’ groups among sponsors funding 2019 Women’s March

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Pictured are attendees of the 2018 Women’s March in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Entering its third year, the Women’s March has become a prominent national organization and notable cultural and political movement. For its 2019 protest march, the organization has several links to dark money groups among its financial supporters.

One of the three top sponsors of the 2019 March is the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the “dark money” political nonprofit arm of Planned Parenthood. The fund does not disclose its donors and spent more than $1.4 million to aid Democratic candidates — with the exception of spending to oppose anti-abortion Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) in his primary — in the 2018 cycle. The group’s largest expenditure was almost $577,000 on the unsuccessful special election campaign of Jon Ossoff.

Dark money connections pop up again with several of the organizations listed as partners of the Women’s March. New American Leaders, described as “a movement for inclusive democracy by preparing first and second generation Americans to use their power and potential in elected office’ on its website, is affiliated with the 501c New American Leaders Action Fund. The outside spending group spent $124,998 to support six Democratic House candidates in 2018.

The Center for Popular Democracy Action, another non disclosing group listed as a Women’s March partner, spent $326,091 in the 2018 midterms. The group spent the largest amount of their 2018 cash, $209,626, in support of former Sen. Bill Nelson’ s (D-Fla.) failed re-election. Another nonprofit affiliated with the group, Living United for Change in Arizona, spent $101,819 in support of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).

Additionally, 350.org, an organization focused on building a “grassroots climate movement,” is one of the March partners. Affiliated with the organization is the 350.org Action Fund which keeps its donors a secret. The fund spent more than $98,000 to oppose President Donald Trump in the 2016 cycle. Since then there has been no additional data reported.

The other two sponsors for this year’s march are the ACLU and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). While the AFT isn’t dark money, both organizations are still big players in campaign finance, with AFT ranking 16 out of 18,724 organizations in donations in the 2018 cycle. In total, the AFT donated more than $20 million in the most recent cycle with almost $7.8 million going to AFT Solidarity, the organization’s 527 group. Another nearly $7.9 million went to various outside groups.

Of the numerous other organizations that serve as partners for the March, many operate PACs of some kind which do disclose their donors, including Carey groups which are hybrid PACs/super PACs. Groups like Ultraviolet, Mainers for Accountable Leadership, Pride Fund to End Gun Violence and others are listed as partners and also contribute to political campaigns, unsurprisingly primarily to Democrats and Democratic causes.

Since its inception, the Women’s March raised more than $2.5 million, primarily from fundraising events, in their first year of existence, according to a 2017 990 form. The group’s co-presidents each made more than $70,000 in the first year.

Recent controversy over some of the March’s co-chairs connections to Louis Farrakhan and allegations of anti-Semitism have led some sponsors to drop support. The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Democratic National Committee have removed their names from the March’s website and are no longer partners or sponsors.

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