Compelling and factually sourced testimony in Pennsylvania from investigative reporter Todd Shepherd on April 5 in front of the Pennsylvania State Government Affairs Committee seems to have provided the state legislature with the evidence needed to pass two important election integrity bills, one concerning allegedly “politically biased” private grants to fund election administration and the other to prevent drop boxes from being used in future elections in the state. Shepherd reports for Broad + Liberty and has won numerous awards for his journalism. His full presentation is captured below:
Shepherd Investigation: Web of Activists Influenced the PA Election
Shepherd’s investigation reveals that the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) grants and the Center for Secure and Modern Elections (CSME) played a significant role in the state’s elections at the county level. While he refrained from declaring that the election was “somehow stolen from Donald Trump,” he made it crystal clear that the Get Out The Vote (GOTV) effort in the election did not serve all Pennsylvania counties and/or voters equally, a violation of equal protection clause. Instead, the GOTV efforts seem to have consistently served “select county election offices,” a pattern of behavior that has now been proven in multiple states. His reporting was informed by “on-the-record responses from elected officials…about a dozen right-to-know law requests” and emails.
Shepherd’s opening statement summarizes the scheme well.
“’Get out the vote’” efforts are as old as American elections and are a natural part of our political DNA,” said Shepherd.
“However, what we’re examining today is if these election grants were really running a GOTV effort by coordinating with select county election offices, running GOTV efforts by using private money given to some election offices but not all — and that’s a completely different animal.”
“The grants awarded were heavily biased towards Democratic-voting counties; that agents of the Governor’s office and Secretary of State’s office appeared to have had a hand in creating that imbalance; that paid political consultants with partisan interests became involved, raising considerable ethical questions; and that some government actors involved with these grants knew about some of the political bias involved, but did not care, or — in one instance I will show you — told the public something very different than what they were saying behind closed doors.”
“But another player, the Center for Secure and Modern Elections, plays a significant role.”
With PowerPoint slides, Shepherd’s 26-minute presentation demonstrates what is now becoming widely known in many states, not just Pennsylvania. In the case of Pennsylvania, as per Shepherd, left-leaning organizations “coordinated with local election officials and Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf’s office to lobby five blue counties to apply for these private grants,” as was also reported by The Federalist journalist Margot Cleveland.
Shepherd says he found “a tremendous amount of circumstantial evidence” to indicate that grants went overwhelmingly to blue counties. Not only that, CTCL and CSME relied on “other actors—such as paid political consultants and nonprofits” to do their dirty work. He discusses numerous organizations, consultants, and strategists who worked “to help win this swing state,” quoting Kevin Mack, Lead Strategist for The Voter Project.
Shepherd’s in-depth presentation discusses the broad web of actors and politically biased organizations, which were in some cases funded by unions in the state and, he explains, “had the net effect of decreasing transparency [and] accountability.” For example, the screencap below shows one of several slides indicating union donations to the Keystone Research Center, a “left-of-center thinktank” that The Voter Project sponsored and funded.
CSME, said Shepherd, used consultant Marc Solomon to “target select counties.” Shepherd explains:
“Solomon is a “principal” with Civitas Public Affairs in New York City, and generally speaking, his clients are less partisan than Deliver Strategies, but I think it’s very fair to still characterize his work as left-of-center.”
“But Solomon and his firm also represent the Center for Secure and Modern Elections, and in emails I obtained, Mr. Solomon identifies himself as working on behalf of CSME.”
“What’s important to know about CSME is that it is not a 501-c-3, but rather it is a fiscally sponsored project of the New Venture Fund. And on the screen you see a job posting by the CSME in which it identifies itself as a project of the New Venture Fund.”
“This is important because the New Venture Fund is managed by Arabella Advisors.”
“These groups — the “’parent’” group Arabella, New Venture Fund — are part of what the Atlantic Magazine identified as “’The Massive Progressive Dark-Money Group You’ve Never Heard Of…’”
“Why is the CSME more involved in the grant management process than CTCL? The public was sold grants by the CTCL, NOT work by the CSME.”
Although brief in length, Shepherd’s presentation is densely packed with evidence of multiple activist actors from the private sector and the government who coordinated on multiple fronts with blue counties to deliver votes, frankly, his presentation is a must-watch, and this brief summary fails to do it justice.
Highlights include his discussion of activists pushing to traffic ballots using dropboxes, with assistance from “Jennifer Walls-Lavelle, who worked in Gov. Tom Wolf’s office,” who was treasurer for Project Keystone, per its 2018 IRS 990 form.” Cleveland reported, “All five counties lobbied by the left-wing activists broke heavily for Joe Biden.” Equal protection laws were broken, and mass mail-in voting made the election “ripe for corruption and fraud.”
As an example of issues with the equal protection clause, in Delaware County alone, a county that garnered great interest from Marc Solomon in terms of grant money, Democrats who had taken a “roughly 18-thousand voter registration advantage in 2016…turned it into a 47-thousand voter registration advantage in 2020” in part because of the injection of drop boxes. Cleveland reports that the County “had ten times the number of drop boxes planned over the even larger Montgomery County.”
And, stunningly, Solomon, “who doesn’t even work for the grant-giving entity (CTCL),” proposed he write the press release begging for grant money. Solomon “works for an Arabella-managed dark money agency, the CSME, and he’s proposing to draft the whole press release on behalf of Delaware County and the Center for Tech and Civic Life,” declares Shepherd. Even worse, Shepherd explains, is Solomon’s wording. Solomon states in an email to Delaware County councilwoman Reuther that “he and the county ought to work together to ‘frame the award smartly around Covid, etc.’”
New Election Integrity Bills Delivered
Shepherd’s testimony was what Pennsylvania Senate Republicans needed to pass the two important election integrity bills. Senator Mastriano, in an April 13 press release, states:
“Mark Zuckerberg and his liberal front groups claimed their grants were awarded equally for the “safe administration of elections” during COVID. But most of those funds went to things like drop boxes and satellite offices, not PPE. When adjusted for population, Democrat counties received more grant money from Zuckerberg to influence voter turnout than Republican counties received in the 2020 election. There are no public records showing the amounts that all counties requested and any conditions that Zuckerberg’s groups placed on the grants. It’s also important to note that the use of private funds for elections was never approved by the General Assembly.”
“When it comes to drop boxes, there is now documented evidence that ballot harvesting occurred at drop box locations in Philadelphia, Montgomery, Lehigh, Luzerne, and Lackawanna counties. Like private funds, drop boxes were never approved by the General Assembly in the first place. They were unconstitutionally created by the State Supreme Court.”
SB1200 bans drop boxes and clarifies that ballots may “only be dropped off to an employee at a county board of elections office. Collecting and dropping off ballots on behalf of others is illegal in Pennsylvania. This violation, known as ballot harvesting, was proven to be prevalent in the 2020 and 2021 general elections.”
With respect to the prevention of private grant funding, Rep Eric Nelson was the primary sponsor on the House side with House Bill 2044. Senate Bill 982 was sponsored by Sen. Lisa Baker on the Senate side. It passed on a bipartisan basis with a 37 to 12 vote.
By a bipartisan vote of 37 to 12, the Senate passed legislation which would ban outside groups from paying for the administration of elections in Pennsylvania: https://t.co/W5OtzhkDEb
— Senator David Argall (@SenatorArgall) April 14, 2022
“We cannot claim to have free and fair elections when we know a large number of ballots are being cast illegally with the financial backing of partisan interests. Lawmakers have a responsibility to uphold the Constitution and ensure fair and equal representation for our citizens. Although we still have work to do to reach this goal, these bills bring us closer to making this mission a reality.
People who are falsely claiming these bills somehow infringe on the rights of Pennsylvanians are dead wrong. Preventing the use of unsecured drop boxes – which the Legislature never authorized in the first place – does not diminish opportunities for Pennsylvanians to participate in our elections whatsoever.
The testimony and evidence we have gathered during our election investigation played a key role in the passage of this legislation, including earning bipartisan support for the elimination of private funding for our elections. These measures clearly validate the careful and thoughtful approach we have taken to restoring election integrity. This is what meaningful action on election integrity should look like — real results, not grandstanding and empty rhetoric.
Nothing is more important than upholding our election system, so I hope these bills will earn bipartisan support. However, if Governor Wolf threatens a veto of either of these bills, rest assured that I will do everything in my power under the U.S. Constitution and the Pennsylvania Constitution to provide this necessary level of security in our election process.”
Notably, Republican Sen. Mastriano has also introduced a “comprehensive package of election integrity bills this session. This package includes bills that would eliminate mass mail-in voting (SB 884), mandate voter ID for all forms of voting (SB 735), and expand and empower poll watchers (SB 573).”