VoteVets Action Fund


The VoteVets Action Fund is one of the top 15 dark money groups examined by Issue One’s new “Dark Money Illuminated” report that has been spending millions of dollars in our elections since Citizens United without publicly disclosing their donors. Dark money groups frequently operate as attack dogs during campaigns, criticizing candidates from the shadows. Dark money groups also often push the envelope in terms of how much political spending they can engage in without running afoul of rules that prohibit them from existing primarily to influence elections. By masquerading as a trade association or “social welfare” nonprofit, dark money groups avoid the mandatory donor disclosure rules that would come with registering as a political committee whose primary purpose is to influence elections.

Here’s what Issue One’s year-long “Dark Money Illuminated” investigation revealed:


The VoteVets Action Fund raised

$46 million

between July 2009 and June 2017.


Issue One identified

42

donors to this dark money group.


These donors collectively accounted for

33%

of its funding.


Issue One found 12 donors that gave at least $500,000 since July 2009:

Alliance for Climate Protection: $2.6 million

Fuels America: $1.4 million

Partnership Project Action Fund: $1.4 million

American Federation of Government Employees: $1.2 million

United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry: $920,000

America Votes: $860,000

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME): $780,000

Patriot Majority USA (formerly American Alliance for Economic Development): $750,000

Sierra Club: $670,000

International Union of Operating Engineers: $650,000

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Action Fund: $500,000

United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America: $500,000

Note: These numbers have been rounded to two significant figures. Click here to see more details about these contributions — and all identified donors to this group — in Issue One’s exclusive database of dark money donors, and click here to learn more about how these contributors were identified. 


Source: Issue One analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics and Federal Election Commission.



The VoteVets Action Fund self-reported to the IRS that29 percentof its total spending was related to political campaign activities


It also told the FEC that

58%

of its political spending was negative

About the VoteVets Action Fund

The VoteVets Action Fund, which often spends money in elections to aid Democratic candidates, has described itself as the “largest progressive organization of veterans in the United States.” It claims more than 500,000 supporters across the country.

The group was founded in August 2006 as a 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organization by Jon Soltz and Jeremy Broussard, both Iraq War veterans who had grown disillusioned with President George W. Bush’s handling of the war. Broussard was only briefly involved with the group, while Soltz continues to serve as the group’s chairman. The group’s initial board of advisors included retired four-star Army General Wesley Clark, the former Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO, among other Democrats with strong national security credentials.

According to documents that the VoteVets Action Fund has filed with the Internal Revenue Service, its spending on “direct or indirect political campaign activities” typically spikes in election years — exceeding 48 percent, for instance, amid the 2010 election and exceeding 52 percent amid the 2012 election.

According to a memo authored by an attorney for the VoteVets Action Fund, the group’s policy is to collect contributions from “individuals, corporations and labor unions.” An Issue One review of documents filed by unions with the Labor Department indicates that labor unions accounted for about $1 of every $8 the VoteVets Action Fund raised between July 2009 and June 2017.

The VoteVets Action Fund is affiliated with a political action committee known as VoteVets, which operates as a hybrid super PAC. This status means the PAC can donate to political candidates from one bank account funded by limited contributions and can also make independent expenditures to aid candidates from a separate bank account funded by unlimited contributions.