This Little-Known Foundation Is Pushing “The Big Lie” and Voter Suppression Laws

The Center for Media and Democracy has learned that the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, a major donor to rightwing groups promoting the Big Lie regarding the 2020 presidential election, is also pushing voter suppression in states across the country.

The headquarters are located in Maryland. Diana Davis Spencer Foundation (“the Foundation”)Its namesake, Shelby Cullom Davis’ daughter, is its leader. She made a fortune in investments and was once the chair of the right-leaning Heritage Foundation. The Foundation reported net assets of $1.5 billion on its website. 2020 IRS filingCMD.

In analyzing the Foundation’s latest IRS filings between 2018 and 2020, CMD found that it gave $3.7 million to 13 voter suppression groups. Many of the grants are designated for “election integrity” — rightwing code words for restricting voting rights.

In addition, the Foundation’s IRS filings for those three years detail $24 million in contributions to DonorsTrustThe preferred donor conduit of Koch’s political network is. DonorsTrust pumped over $137 million into rightwing groups in 2020 alone — including millions to the same voter suppression groups funded by the Foundation — according to a CMD analysis of its last IRS filing.

Below are the voter suppression groups that the Foundation supported between 2018-2020, in descending order of funding awarded:

Lawyers Democracy Fund — $625,000

Over the three-year period (2018–20), the Lawyers Democracy Fund (LDF) received a total of $625,000 in Foundation grants for its “election integrity project.” LDF’s IRS filings show that the Foundation’s $200,000 grants in both 2018 2019It was responsible for all its revenue during those years.

The Foundation’s 2019 IRS filing states that the $200,000 is for “educational initiatives, policy research activities and public interest litigation efforts with respect to the vital issues of electoral system integrity throughout the United States.” Its 2020 grant of $225,000 is similarly worded.

LDF President Harvey Tettlebaum was the former president of the Republican National Lawyers Association (2003–06) and LDF Secretary Elliot Berke currently serves as Georgia’s special assistant attorney general and on the Board of Advisors of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

LDF advocates for strict voter ID laws and opposes all mail-in ballots and mandatory voter registration — policies that make it more difficult for people to exercise their right to vote.

Much of LDF’s public-facing work is in the courts. It was active in January. overturn Pennsylvania’s no-excuse absentee voting law in Commonwealth Court and filed an amicus briefRep. Rodney Davis (R.Ill.), in the Supreme Court case Berger v. North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, arguing in favor of giving the state legislature the power to intervene to defend the constitutionality of North Carolina’s voter ID law.

LDF, along with two other grant recipients, American Legislative Exchange Councils (ALEC), as well as the Honest Elections Project also filed briefs in the case. arguedMarch 21, 2017. The groups are trying to get the Supreme Court to embrace the “independent state legislature doctrine,” a fringe theory that resurfaced during attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, by arguing that only state legislatures can control federal elections — without any limitations from state courts or constitutions.

Davis, the U.S. House Administration Committee ranking member, leads Republicans in their Faith in Elections Projectto counter the efforts of Democrats to secure elections and expand access.

American Civil Rights Union — $550,000

The American Civil Rights Union(ACRU), rebranded as The American Constitutional Rights UnionIn 2019, ACRU received $550,000 in grants by the Foundation to support its voter suppression efforts. ACRU had $810,000 of revenue at its last fiscal year IRS filing and is led by Lori Roman, ALEC’s former executive director.

ACRU received grants of $125,000 in 2018 and $150,000 in 2019 for “election integrity” and $300,000 in 2020 for a project to “protect elderly and military votes” and “voter educational initiatives.” The longtime voter suppression group launched its Protect Elderly Votes Project in April 2020 “to protect seniors from those who may wish to defraud them of their vote.”

ACRU’s Project “applauded” the Racine Sheriff in Wisconsin for identifying what he claimed were eight cases of voter fraud at a nursing home in the area. The sheriff recommended criminal charges against five election commissions, but prosecutors prevailed. have not actedA lack of evidence.

Two national leaders of misinformation about widespread voter fraud serve on ACRU’s policy boardKen Blackwell, chairman and CEO of the MAGA Voter Suppression Center, and Hans von Spakovsky, manager of the Heritage Foundation’s Election Law Reform Initiative.

Judicial Education Project / The 85 Fund — $450,000

The Foundation granted the Judicial Education Project — now rebranded as The 85 Fund — $450,000 in 2020 for “election integrity initiatives in various states.” The large grant likely went to the fund’s Honest Elections Project (HEP).

HEP was formed in February 2020 by a group that suppresses dark money voters. Leonard Leo‘s network. Known as Trump’s “judge whisperer,” Leo worked behind the scenes during the Trump administration to organize a rightwing takeover of the U.S. Supreme Court.

HEP has posted ads opposing mail in balloting and advocating for purging voter rolls. It is also developing model voter suppression policiesALEC and organized at most two multi-day voter suppression summits prior to its founding Annual Meeting, along with last year’s States and Nation Policy Summit.

CMD obtained memos that HEP distributed to ALEC members at the summit, loaded with rightwing spin on Congress’s Freedom to Vote Act, state election laws, pollingHEP Action claims that West Virginians oppose the Freedom to Vote Act, ending the Senate filibuster.

Blackwell and HEP’s Executive Director Jason Snead, a former senior policy analyst for the Heritage FoundationHe was also responsible for the creation of the Heritage Election Fraud Database (with Spakovsky) speakersAt the first summit to suppress voter turnout.

American Legislative Exchange Council — $440,000

The Foundation granted ALEC a total of $550,000 in 2020, with $440,000 of that designated exclusively for “accurate and verifiable voter rolls: an American public awareness campaign.” ALEC’s revenue for 2020Just under $8 million.

CMD has repeatedly exposed ALEC’s falsified claims that it does not work in voting issues during the past year. CMD published and obtained a September 2021 report. videoCEO Lisa Nelson listed the states in which ALEC was involved in voting issues and stated that it would outsource model policy development.

“We don’t have model policy,” Nelson told the Council of National Policy audience. “We will be developing that at the Honest Elections Project [seminar] — through them.” ALEC held voter suppression summits with HEP at both of its national conferences in 2021.

In April 2021 The New York Times published details of a $24-million Heritage Action for America voter suppression plan (obtained by Documented) that described its efforts to work closely with ALEC to move legislation in “crucial states.”

Rand Paul (R-Ky.), is also available. saidAt the time, he had spoken to state legislators through ALEC regarding passing state bills that restricted voting rights and imposed greater legislative control over elections. CMD Research foundMore than 100 Republican politicians in six battleground states were either co-sponsors or lead sponsors of these bills.

A broad coalition of more 300 civil rights and democracy reform groups. called for ALEC’s corporate members to leave the organization in June 2021 because of its voter suppression efforts, ALEC’s response was swift and righteous.

“ALEC doesn’t have ‘template legislation’ on voting because ALEC doesn’t work on voting issues,” its CEO Lisa Nelson wrote in a Real Clear Politics opinion piece. “The allegation is a literal fabrication.”

Furthermore, letter obtained and published by CMD, Nelson told ALEC members that “the assertions included in the coalition letter are categorically false…. ALEC does not create or promote policy models on election reform/security.”

The Foundation grant to ALEC — specifically earmarked for voting work — provides the latest evidence that ALEC is lying to both the public and its corporate members.

Public Interest Legal Foundation — $300,000

The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) received a total of $300,000 in 2019 and 2020 for “public interest litigation activities in connection with preserving the constitutional framework of the American elections project” and “election integrity.”

PILF is led by J. Christian Adams, who has moved the group to focus on the threat of “voter fraud,” despite lack of evidence that this is a widespread problem. PILF filed numerous lawsuits in the US with the aim of purging voter rolls from the states. Its revenue climbed to $3.8million. 2020.

Its Board Chair Cleta MitchellSenior legal fellow at The Conservative Partnership InstituteShe is the chair of the Election Integrity Network at, She participated in the infamous call in which Trump told Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn Biden’s victory in the state.

Blackwell, Spakovsky, John Eastman, and insurrectionist John Eastman also serve on the PILF board.

Texas Public Policy Foundation — $300,000

The Foundation distributed grants totaling $300,000.00 to the Foundation in 2019 and 2020. Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) for “election integrity.”

With revenues of $17.7 million2020TPPF launchedAn Election Integrity Project was established in March 2020 to spread the myth of widespread voter corruption and help Texas Republicans put the right spin onto the voter suppression laws passed there in 2021.

TPPF also spread misinformation regarding the For the People Act which is federal voter protection legislation that has stalled in Congress.

Thomas More Society — $250,000

The Thomas More Society (TMS) received $250,000 in 2020 for its “election integrity initiatives.” The rightwing litigation outfit’s 2019 2020 IRS filings show its revenues almost doubled in that one year — from $9.6 million to $17.4 million.

TMS’s Amistad Project has played a key role in challengingThe results of the 2020 presidential election along with rightwing allies from the swing states of Arizona and Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

TMS supports the election subversion strategy, which gives state legislatures (such in Michigan) the ability of certifying electors.

TMS was also available earlier in the month released a reportIt claimed that it found evidence of voter fraud during its review of the 2020 Wisconsin election. The organization shared an apartment with Michael Gableman, a former Wisconsin Supreme Court Judge. Robin Vos (R), hired Gableman to conduct an election review.

Eagle Forum Educational and Legal Defense Fund — $200,000

In 2020, $200,000 was donated by the Foundation to the Foundation. Eagle Forum Educational and Legal Defense Fund (EFELDF) for an “election integrity project.” EFELDF’s 2020 IRS filing is not publicly available but it brought in $1.3 million in funds in 2019.

EFELDF’s activities around elections and voting appear to center on filing amicus briefs Such as The one in support U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly Kelly v. Commonwealth of PennsylvaniaThe plaintiff,, asked the U.S. Supreme Court not to allow Pennsylvania to certify its 2020 election results. Pennsylvania’s legislature allowed for absentee voting without any excuse..

Virginia Institute for Public Policy — $160,000

The Virginia Institute for Public Policy (VIPP) received $60,000 in 2019 for “election integrity programs” and $100,000 in 2020 for “the Tuesday Morning Group coalition impact and election integrity program.”

The organization’s latest publicly available IRS filing (2019) details the smallest total revenue — $141,501 — among all of the Foundation’s grant recipients.

On its website, Virginia Institute claims its Tuesday Morning Group “has over 1,000 participants representing more than 260 organizations.” It’s unclear whether the Virginia Institute-led Virginia Fair Elections Coalition is an offshoot of this group or the same one but with a different name.

Virginia Institute published The Virginia Model on “election integrity” earlier this month, detailing an approach that Lynn Taylor, president of VIPP and chair of Virginia Fair Elections, credits with helping the GOP realize massive gains in the 2021 elections.

In listing the “experts” it consulted with, the Virginia Fair Elections Coalition cites J. Christian Adams from PILF, Cleta Mitchell from Conservative Partnership Institute, Hans von Spakovsky from the Heritage Foundation, Ken Cuccinelli from Election Transparency Initiative, and Chris Marston, general counsel for the Republican Party of Virginia. The Thomas More Society’s Amistad Project is also listed as a “partner.”

As a guest on Mitchell’s Who’s CountingPodcast host Taylor and Taylor recently highlighted the effectiveness of the Virginia model in achieving voter suppression goals.

Abby Spencer Moffat, the Foundation’s CEO, sits on VIPP’s board of directors.

Judicial Watch — $150,000

The Foundation gave Judicial Watch $150,000 in 2020 for “election integrity initiatives.” Tom Fitton leads the group, which reported $110 million(2020) in revenue, and has, like PILF concentrated its voter suppression efforts in purging voter rolls within the states.

The same year it received the grant, Judicial Watch published a “study” making dubious claims “that 353 U.S. counties had 1.8 million more registered voters than eligible voting-age citizens.”

The Brennan Center addresses the study but not directly. calls large-scale purges “risky because of the sheer numbers of records involved,” and cautions against using “third-party information” to remove voters because it does “not come directly from a voter” and “will inev­it­ably include errors.”

Judicial Watch is also available litigatedTo purge state voter records filed amicus briefs supporting voting rights restrictions.

Americans of Faith — $100,000

The Foundation gave Americans of Faith (AOF) $100,000 in 2020 for an “election integrity project.” AOF has no web presence beyond a Facebook page that hasn’t been active since May 2020.

Its most recent publicly available version IRS filing (2019) shows that it brought in $1.1 million for the mission of “voter education.”

Ralph Reed, founder of the dark money group and president of AOF, is the leader of AOF Faith & Freedom CoalitionA GOP operative. Faith & Freedom is a Christian right electioneering outfit that works to turn out Republican voters.

FreedomWorks Foundation — $100,000

FreedomWorks Foundation received $100,000 in 2020 “to be allocated exclusively toward the election integrity program.” Despite bringing in $8.3 millionFreedomWorks Foundation had no web presence in its revenue for the year.

FreedomWorks, a larger rightwing organization, was the one that launched the initiative. National Election Protection InitiativeIn March 2021. Led by Mitchell, it has focused on opposing federal voting rights bills, backing voter suppression legislation, and building state “election integrity” infrastructure in the swing states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

In 2020, the year its Foundation received the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation grant, FreedomWorks held “Election Protection” trainings for activists to counter “mail-in ballot fraud.”

Ballotpedia — $50,000

The Foundation granted Ballotpedia $50,000 in 2019 for “general support and the Election Integrity Content Project.” Officially registered with the IRS as the Lucy Burns Institute, Ballotpedia brings in over $8 millionIn revenueIt is run by rightwing operatives Leslie Graves.

The group publishes pages on “election integrity” and “voter suppression” that may be part of the Foundation-funded content project.