People United for Privacy

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People United for Privacy (PUP) was launched as a project of the State Policy Network (SPN) in 2016 to protect non-profit donors from public scrutiny and to support efforts at the state and federal level to prevent disclosure of donors to governments. The website for the project, unitedforprivacy.com, is set up like other front groups. The sponsors of the project and the organization behind the site, SPN, are not disclosed.

In July 2018, Alan Dye, parter with Webster, Chamberlain & Bean, LLP, registered People United for Privacy as a 501(c)4 and People United for Privacy Foundation (PUPF) as a 501(c)3.[1] The registered address is the same as Dye's law firm. Dye has been a lawyer for the American Legislative Exchange Council and has spoken at SPN meetings.[2][3]

People United for Privacy and People United for Privacy Foundation state on their respective 2018 IRS filings obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy that they "delegated management duties to State Policy Network (SPN), An unrelated organization, during the year ended December 31, 2018."[4][5] However, Tony Woodlief continues to work for SPN and PUP started as a project of SPN.

News and Controversies

People United for Privacy and People United for Privacy Foundation Funded by Dark Money Groups

An analysis of 2018 IRS 990 filings for DonorsTrust and the Wellspring Committee, both dark money groups, shows that PUP and PUPF are completely funded by the two non-profits. DonorsTrust, the preferred piggy bank of the Koch political network, provided the full budget of $100,000 for PUPF and Wellspring Committee provided the full budget of $500,000 for PUP.[6][7] Wellspring Committee shut down operations in December 2018, but before that was a major source of funding for the dark money judicial activist group Judicial Crisis Network.

2016 PUP Video Spreads Misinformation on Wisconsin John Doe Trial

True Story: Wisconsin John Doe Victims

PUP created a video featuring Cindy Archer, a top aide of former Governor Scott Walker, and right-wing operative Eric O'Keefe, that portrays the two as victims. However, Archer was caught up in an investigation of a sordid bid-rigging scheme detailed by the Center for Media and Democracy. Cindy Archer's claims of abuse were later disproved by a recording of the search of her home, which demonstrates that investigators read her the search warrant, Mirandized her and treated her cordially.[8]

O'Keefe has repeatedly tried to spin the John Doe trials as politically motivated, but it was overseen by former federal prosecutor Francis Schmitz, who was once considered for a position as U.S. attorney by George W. Bush and who voted for Republican Governor Scott Walker,[9] and involved Republican and Democratic prosecutors in several Wisconsin counties.[10]

2016 PUP Video Featured in Fight Over Dark Money Ballot Measure in South Dakota

Transparency is for Government, Privacy is for People

PUP created a video in 2016 for a campaign to defeat South Dakota Initiated Measure 22 (IM-22).[11] IM-22 was proposed to crack down on dark money and phony industry front groups by barring candidate coordination with outside groups and regulating independent expenditures. It cracked down on sham “issue ads,” which are really the functional equivalent of express advocacy, by requiring them to be reported electronically within 48 hours, requiring donor disclosure and requiring the top five donors to be disclosed on air. The initiative also provided a small dollar public financing mechanism, sets rules for lobbyists and gifts and creates an ethics commission to investigate violations of ethics and campaign finance rules.[11]

PUP's video was featured on an "educational" website, Measure22.org, created and maintained by SPN member the Foundation for Government Accountability.[11]

Ties to the State Policy Network

PUP and PUPF are both managed by the State Policy Network. SPN's Executive Vice President Tony Woodlief is President of both PUP and PUPF. SPN is a web of right-wing “think tanks” and tax-exempt organizations in 50 states, Washington, D.C., Canada, and the United Kingdom. As of January 2020, SPN's membership totals 163. Today's SPN is the tip of the spear of far-right, nationally funded policy agenda in the states that undergirds extremists in the Republican Party. SPN Executive Director Tracie Sharp told the Wall Street Journal in 2017 that the revenue of the combined groups was some $80 million, but a 2019 analysis of SPN's main members IRS filings by the Center for Media and Democracy shows that the combined revenue is over $120 million.[12] Although SPN's member organizations claim to be nonpartisan and independent, the Center for Media and Democracy's in-depth investigation, "EXPOSED: The State Policy Network -- The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government," reveals that SPN and its member think tanks are major drivers of the right-wing, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)-backed corporate agenda in state houses nationwide, with deep ties to the Koch brothers and the national right-wing network of funders.[13]

In response to CMD's report, SPN Executive Director Tracie Sharp told national and statehouse reporters that SPN affiliates are "fiercely independent." Later the same week, however, The New Yorker's Jane Mayer caught Sharp in a contradiction. In her article, "Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?," the Pulitzer-nominated reporter revealed that, in a recent meeting behind closed doors with the heads of SPN affiliates around the country, Sharp "compared the organization’s model to that of the giant global chain IKEA." She reportedly said that SPN "would provide 'the raw materials,' along with the 'services' needed to assemble the products. Rather than acting like passive customers who buy finished products, she wanted each state group to show the enterprise and creativity needed to assemble the parts in their home states. 'Pick what you need,' she said, 'and customize it for what works best for you.'" Not only that, but Sharp "also acknowledged privately to the members that the organization's often anonymous donors frequently shape the agenda. 'The grants are driven by donor intent,' she told the gathered think-tank heads. She added that, often, 'the donors have a very specific idea of what they want to happen.'"[14]

A set of coordinated fundraising proposals obtained and released by The Guardian in early December 2013 confirm many of these SPN members' intent to change state laws and policies, referring to "advancing model legislation" and "candidate briefings." These activities "arguably cross the line into lobbying," The Guardian notes.[15]

Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council

Under Attack: Donors Right to Privacy

ALEC shares PUP videos with its members such as, "Under Attack: Donors Right to Privacy," which attempts to suggest that donors are in danger by government transparency efforts.[16] ALEC's CEO Lisa Nelson is featured in the video claiming "harassment, intimidation, and exposure" of its donors. Nelson also states in the video that, "we've had death threats."

About ALEC
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's ALECexposed.org, and check out breaking news on our PRWatch.org site.

Funding

People United for Privacy and the People United for Privacy Foundation are not required to disclose their donors. IRS filings for 2018 obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy show that one person gave $500,000 to People United for Privacy and that one person gave $100,000 to People United for Privacy Foundation.[4][5]

An analysis of 2018 IRS 990 filings for DonorsTrust and the Wellspring Committee, both dark money groups, shows that PUP and PUPF are completely funded by the two non-profits. DonorsTrust, the preferred piggy bank of the Koch political network, provided the full budget of $100,000 for PUPF and Wellspring Committee provided the full budget of $500,000 for PUP.[17][18] Wellspring Committee shut down operations in December 2018, but before that was a major source of funding for the dark money judicial activist group Judicial Crisis Network.

Core Financials

People United for Privacy
2018[4]

  • Total Revenue: $500,000
  • Total Expenses: $269,025
  • Net Assets: $230,975

2017[19]

  • Total Revenue: $50,000 or less
  • Total Expenses: Not disclosed
  • Net Assets: Not disclosed

People United for Privacy Foundation
2018[5]

  • Total Revenue: $100,000
  • Total Expenses: $30
  • Net Assets: $99,970

Personnel

Staff

People United for Privacy[4] As of December 2019:

People United for Privacy Foundation[5] As of December 2019:

Board of Directors

People United for Privacy As of December 2019:

  • Tony Woodlief, President (Executive Vice President of the State Policy Network)
  • Starlee Coleman, Treasurer (CEO of Texas Charter Schools Association)
  • Jess Yescalis, Secretary (President of Yescalis Campaign Strategies)
  • Steve Voeller, Director (Counsel with Summit Consulting Group)

People United for Privacy Foundation As of December 2019 is unavailable.

Contact Information

People United for Privacy
c/o Alan Dye
1747 Pennsylvania Ave Nw Ste 1000
Washington, DC 20006-4636

P.O. Box 236
Oak Ridge, NC 27310
Phone: 336-265-7416
Website: http://unitedforprivacy.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/UnitedforPrivacy/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/UniteForPrivacy
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmaYrE5NxTrGZuB6sXUDwlQ

People United for Privacy Foundation
P.O. Box 236
Oak Ridge, NC 27310
Phone: 336-265-7416
Website: http://unitedforprivacy.com/

Articles and Resources

IRS Form 990 Filings

People United for Privacy

2018

2017

People United for Privacy Foundation 2018

References

  1. TaxExemptWorld, Nonprofit and 501c organizations Washington DC, organizational website, 2019.
  2. Lisa Graves and Brendan Fischer, Don’t Believe the Spin from ALEC, PR Watch, December 3, 2013.
  3. State Policy Network, SPN News March/April 2014, State Policy Network, 2014.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 People United for Privacy, 2018 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, November 12, 2019.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 People United for Privacy Foundation, 2018 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, November 12, 2019.
  6. David Armiak, DonorsTrust Pumped $142 Million into Right-Wing Causes in 2018, ExposedbyCMD, December 23, 2019.
  7. Wellsping Committee, Wellspring Committee 2018 990, organizational filing, November 1, 2019.
  8. Brendan Fischer, Scott Walker Aide's Claim of Prosecutorial Abuse Refuted by New Audio, PRWatch.org, August 4, 2015.
  9. Mary Spicuzza, John Doe targets sue Wisconsin election officials in Waukesha County," Wisconsin State Journal, May 30, 2014. Accessed June 16, 2014.
  10. Brendan Fischer and Mary Bottari, "GOP Prosecutor Defends Scott Walker Criminal Probe, Says 'Let's Get the Truth Out'," Center for Media and Democracy, PR Watch, May 1, 2015.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 David Armiak and Mary Bottari, Kochs Battle Dark Money Disclosure in South Dakota, ExposedbyCMD, October 31, 2016.
  12. David Armiak, https://www.exposedbycmd.org/2019/11/13/revenue-state-policy-network-state-affiliates-tops-120-million/ Revenue for State Policy Network and State Affiliates Tops $120 Million], ExposedbyCMD, November 13, 2019.
  13. Rebekah Wilce, Center for Media and Democracy, EXPOSED: The State Policy Network -- The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
  14. Jane Mayer, Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?, The New Yorker, November 15, 2013.
  15. Ed Pilkington and Suzanne Goldenberg, State conservative groups plan US-wide assault on education, health and tax, The Guardian, December 5, 2013.
  16. ALEC, VIDEO: Under Attack: Donors Right to Privacy, ALEC, December 15, 2017.
  17. David Armiak, DonorsTrust Pumped $142 Million into Right-Wing Causes in 2018, ExposedbyCMD, December 23, 2019.
  18. Wellsping Committee, Wellspring Committee 2018 990, organizational filing, November 1, 2019.
  19. People United for Privacy, 2017 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, 2018.