Planned Parenthood Action Fund

The Planned Parenthood 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 Planned Parenthood Action Fund raised

$179 million

between July 2009 and June 2017.

Issue One identified


donors to this dark money group.

These donors collectively accounted for


of its funding.

Issue One found 16 donors that gave at least $100,000 since July 2009:

Planned Parenthood Federation of America: $29 million

Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation: $26 million

Priorities USA: $2.3 million

Open Society Policy Center: $1.5 million

American Bridge 21st Century: $500,000

Berger Action Fund: $500,000

America Votes: $480,000

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME): $450,000

Atlantic Advocacy Fund: $400,000

NextGen Climate Action Committee: $320,000

America Votes Action Fund: $300,000

Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors: $300,000

NEO Philanthropy: $290,000

Tides Foundation: $270,000

The Advocacy Fund: $170,000

NEO Philanthropy Action Fund (formerly Public Interest Projects Action Fund): $100,000

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 Planned Parenthood Action Fund self-reported to the IRS that

of its total spending was related to political campaign activities

It also told the FEC that


of its political spending was negative

About the Planned Parenthood Action Fund

Planned Parenthood Action Fund LogoThe Planned Parenthood Action Fund was formed in August 1989 as the advocacy arm of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded in 1916 by sex educator, nurse and activist Margaret Sanger, who popularized the term “birth control.”

Today the Planned Parenthood Federation of America works with local affiliates that operate more than 600 health centers across the United States offering reproductive health services, including cancer screenings, contraception and abortion. The organization says that one in five American women have chosen Planned Parenthood for health care services at least once in their lives.

For its part, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, which operates as a 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organization, aims to help elect politicians who support reproductive rights and to thwart anti-abortion politicians. This means it typically spends money in elections to aid Democratic candidates. It also works to educate the public and register voters. The group says it is backed by more than 10 million “activists, donors and other supporters.”

In April, Cecile Richards, who had served as the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund since 2006, stepped down from these roles. As of today, her replacement has not yet been announced.

In addition to its 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) arms, Planned Parenthood also has a traditional political action committee that makes donations to candidates and a super PAC that makes independent expenditures to aid its preferred candidates.