Leftist Lobbying Groups Receive over $6 Million in Taxpayer Funds

An employee at a money changer counts USD 100 bills in Manila on October 25, 2012. AFP PHO

A bombshell investigation found that at least $6.6 million in taxpayer dollars went to leftist organizations in San Diego that engage in lobbying, issue advocacy, and other political activities.

Taxpayer funds went to at least ten different leftist organizations in San Diego county that are engaged in political activities, the report from The Transparency Foundation (TF) found. These organizations received a mix of local, state, and federal funding. 

The report noted, “It is completely inappropriate (and possibly illegal) for taxpayer funds to be used to fund organizations that exist to advance any political ideology.” It went on to say, “It would be even worse for funding to be used for political activities and lobbying as our investigation uncovered in San Diego County.”

The Transparency Foundation

But perhaps more shockingly, TF said that their investigation “found a correlation between Left-wing politicians gaining control of a governing board and the subsequent flow of money back to the Left-wing groups in the form of contracts, grants, and other in-kind financial resources.” 

The report notes that several of these leftist organizations promoted specific candidates for office. “Once in office, Left-wing politicians have engaged in a pattern of behavior of actively directing taxpayer financial resources to these same Left-wing groups that supported them during elections,” the report reads.

But the report also claims that throughout the investigation process, “several local government agencies repeatedly violated the California Public Records Act (CPRA) by steadfastly refusing to release public records.”

One such example in the report reads:

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher personally directed that hundreds of thousands of dollars be awarded to the Left-wing groups we were reviewing, his office refused — even after repeated letters from legal counsel representing the Transparency Foundation — to release any emails or other communications with these groups. 

The Transparency Foundation conducted its investigation by determining three different criteria. First, TF set out to find out if organizations engaged in lobbying or other political activities had received taxpayer funding and, if so, where that funding had come from.

Next, TF examined “any correlation established between changes in political control of a government entity and subsequent shifts in taxpayer funding being provided to political groups.”

Finally, they also looked into “Whether organizations receiving taxpayer funds that engage in lobbying had properly registered as lobbyists.”

Alliance San Diego

One of the ten organizations that TF investigated was Alliance San Diego (ASD), legally referred to as Equality Alliance of San Diego. The organization received $699,726 in taxpayer funding from 2020 to 2021. At least $175,000 of that sum came from local funding.

ASD says that its mission “is to build collective power so we can create an inclusive democracy.” The organization, which runs a get-out-the-vote program, also “lobbies and advocates for tax increases, expansion of government welfare and rights for illegal immigrants, and union mandates,” TF explains. 

The report from TF notes that while ASD is not registered as a lobbyist organization in San Diego City or County, the group discloses lobbying on its Internal Revenue Service 990 Form. ASD has engaged in grassroots lobbying, which the TF report notes “involves explicitly asking the public to urge elected officials to take a government action.”

ASD attempted to influence the drawing of political district lines in the City of San Diego in December 2021. The organization instructed the public to “Tell the SD County Redistricting Commission it must prioritize equitable representation for BIPOC communities,” the TF report notes. 

The organization also promoted specific legislation. ASD promoted a petition to “Pass PrOTECT” legislation in order to “limit bias in police practices.” The organization also encourages those who visit its website to donate, saying, “help us reach more voters” and “fight for a more progressive San Diego.” ASD boasted in an October 2021 news release that it “engaged over 1 million voters during the 2021 Recall Election.”

TF adds that “The San Diego City Municipal code makes it a misdemeanor for failure to file as a lobbyist when an organization meets the requirement to file.”

Center on Policy Initiatives 

But ASD is just one of the ten leftist organizations in the area that received taxpayer funding while engaging in political advocacy. The innocuously named Center for Policy Initiatives (CPI) is described by TF as “a union-backed policy group that lobbies and advocates for tax increases, expansion of government welfare, and union mandates.”

CPI is registered as a lobbying organization with the city and the county and discloses lobbying on its IRS 990 form. It has received $348,593 in taxpayer funding. Over $200,000 of the funding came from the federal government, while the remainder came from local sources.

TF claims that “our investigation reveals a pattern of CPI formulating policy proposals that are then supported by Left-wing politicians in office.” A screenshot from CPI’s website, which is included in the TF investigation, notes that the organization promotes and advocates “local policy change to advance economic justice in the workplace and in the community.”

TF notes that CPI’s lobbying efforts are extensive. The report reads, “It has convened and serves as the principal staffing support for several coalition of left-wing groups.” 

The organization has also tried to influence redistricting measures, with TF’s report reading, “CPI even engaged in grassroots lobbying to influence the drawing of a map for the County Board of Supervisors.” The report goes on to read, “This activity raises the question: are politicians channeling taxpayer funds to CPI so they can influence the drawing of districts in their favor.”

It adds, “Unfortunately, County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher refuses to release his office’s email correspondence on the grants he has provided to CPI.”

Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans

Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans (PANA) describes itself as a “research, public policy, and community organizing hub dedicated to advancing the full economic, social, & civic inclusion of refugees.” The organization received at least $95,525 in taxpayer funding from 2020 to 2021.

PANA describes itself as “a research, public policy, and community organizing hub dedicated to advancing the full economic, social, & civic inclusion of refugees.” Their website notes that they ran a get-out-the-vote operation, saying that in 2020, “we had direct conversations with over 47,000 African, Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian community members regarding the Census and General Elections.”

“We hired and trained 51 youth that engaged in our phone bank campaigns throughout the year,” PANA’s website also says. 

TF’s report also says that “PANA also claims to fight for ‘tenant rights’ — but their main proposals focused on forcing landlords to enter into risky rental agreements with illegal immigrants.”

Environmental Health Coalition

The Environmental Health Coalition (EHC) is another organization that engages in lobbying and has received taxpayer funding. In fact, the organization has garnered a whopping $1,034,890 in taxpayer dollars, the majority of which came from the federal government. EHC is registered as a lobbyist organization with the city, but not with the county.  

EHC writes on their website that “Due to racist policies that prioritized profits over the health and wellness of people of color, our communities are burdened with more pollution than 80-97% of California.” EHC adds, “This is known as environmental racism.” 

TF points out that, in May 2022, EHC bragged it collected over 2000 signatures for a measure that would raise sales taxes in San Diego. “A review of the campaign finance disclosures for this ballot measure failed to reflect EHC’s in-kind financial contribution of the value of these signatures as required under state law,” TF’s report notes. 

TF notes that EHC also ran a “United to Vote Campaign” in which members of the organization canvassed voters and promoted a ballot measure, as well as specific candidates.

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher declared April 26th, 2022, as Environmental Health Coalition Day and distributed a taxpayer-funded video on Twitter. 

Mid-City Community Advocacy Network

Mid-City Community Advocacy Network (MCCAN) received $50,000 in taxpayer funding, according to the TF report, all of which came from local sources. MCCAN runs a get-out-the-vote campaign in a part of San Diego called City Heights. 

TF notes the significance of this area, saying, “For about 20 years, City Heights has been identified by left-wing activists as having the greatest number of unregistered or inactive left-leaning voters.”

Youth Will

Another leftist organization that is engaged in lobbying is Youth Will (YW), which has received $171,967 in taxpayer funding, with $62,500 coming from local sources and just under $110,000 coming from the federal government. It is not registered as a lobbying organization with the city or the county.

YW’s case is somewhat more complicated, with TF saying that the organization is a “well camouflaged front organization for Rise Urban Leadership San Diego,” which offers diversity, inclusion, and equity (DIE) training. For this reason, TF notes that “isolating the finances of Youth Will” is a difficult task. 

The report also claims that San Diego County funneled money to Rise San Diego under the name of Youth Will. The county also allegedly provided Rise San Diego with funds to “work with Youth Will” despite them being “exactly the same legal entity.” 

Youth Will has encouraged the public to vote in favor of a specific measure. The group also boasted that it has engaged in activities that TF says have “resulted in changes in government policies,” such as the creation of a “menstrual equity” initiative.  

San Diego Pride

Meanwhile, San Diego Pride (SDP) received a whopping $2,403,563 in taxpayer funding. The vast majority of the money came from the federal government, while the remainder came from local sources. 

The group did not disclose lobbying on their IRS 990 form and is not registered for lobbying with either the city or the county. San Diego Pride did however engage in grassroots lobbying. 

SDP, which was originally created to fund the annual pride parade, has become a “far-left political advocacy, lobbying, and voter engagement organization,” TF’s report reads. The organization has explicitly advocated for specific ballot measures and runs a “Vote with Pride” campaign to encourage voter turnout among its supporters. 

TF contends that the organization’s “policy and political advocacy is so extensive that it presumably goes beyond their founding purpose approved by the Internal Revenue Service.” 

The organization also explains that “advocacy team members may be called upon to call their elected … policymakers.” 

LGBT Community Center

Like San Diego Pride, the LGBT Community Center was originally started for a different purpose and “began decades ago as a social networking and social service provider.” But just like San Diego Pride, the organization now engages in political activity. 

The group, which has received $1,297,743 in taxpayer funding, discloses its lobbying on its IRS 990 form and is registered as a lobbying group with the city, but not with the county. The LGBT Community Center says that it “builds community power” by encouraging voting. 

“Our voice is in our vote and with each election, we have another opportunity to flex our collective LGBTQ power,” the organization remarks. The LGBT Community Center lobbies for a number of different policies, including the propagation of pro-LGBT curriculums and programs in public schools, as well as “proposals to weaken law enforcement,” and “support for government-subsidized housing projects,” TF’s report explains. 

San Diego Organizing Project 

Meanwhile, the San Diego Organizing Project (SDOP) engaged in extensive grassroots lobbying despite not being registered as a lobbyist organization with the county and not disclosing lobbying on their IRS 990 form. 

SDOP, which received $178,111 in taxpayer funding, advocates for government-subsidized housing, criminal justice reform, and for the interests of illegal immigrants. 

SDOP even boasted on their website that “One of our proudest accomplishments” was when “San Diego County agreed to allocate $60 million for direct services to San Diego County residents, and invited SDOP … to help direct how these funds will be used.”

The organization has also run get-out-the-vote campaigns. Their website states, “We mobilize low-frequency voters in San Diego’s low-income communities and communities of color by phone banking and canvassing our neighborhoods.”

“Through this work, we activate voters who stay engaged in transforming our community for years to come,” their website adds. 

Climate Action Campaign

The Climate Action Campaign, which has received $321,921 in taxpayer funding, advocates for a “San Diego Green New Deal.” The Climate Action Campaign is registered as a lobbying organization with both the city and the county and discloses lobbying on their IRS 990 Form. 

Their website reads, “We are dedicated to achieving a zero carbon future in a way that dismantles systemic racism and promotes economic justice.” The group lobbies in favor of a mileage tax on all drivers, as well as a policy that would force homeowners to retrofit homes to remove natural gas appliances. 

How the Organizations Work Together

Among the major findings from the Transparency Foundation’s investigation is that several of these organizations appear to have overlapping agendas and activities. Engage San Diego (ESD) is a leftist umbrella organization that focuses on “voter engagement.” 

Among ESD’s member organizations are Alliance San Diego, Center on Policy Initiatives, Environmental Health Coalition, Mid-City CAN, San Diego Organizing Project, and the Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans. 

Similar umbrella networks like the Community Budget Alliance and the Invest in San Diego Families Coalition also include several of the ten organizations on which the TF report focused.

ESD’s goal is expressly political. The organization intends to “increase voter participation in historically and systemically excluded communities,” which it calls the “New American Majority Electorate of low-income families, youth, women, and LGBT, African-American, Latinx, AAPI, immigrant and refugee communities.” 

Several of the ten organizations that TF’s report focused on run get-out-the-vote operations that focus on the demographics that ESD seeks to mobilize. 

The Transparency Foundation offers several recommendations in their report that they believe would foster transparency. TF suggests, for example, that elected officials and government agencies should “adopt a policy to prohibit taxpayer funding for any non-profit organization that engages in lobbying, issue advocacy, or political activity.”

TF also believes that the San Diego County Grand Jury should investigate the use of taxpayer funds by organizations that engage in political activities like issue advocacy and lobbying. 

Spencer Lindquist is a reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerLndqst and reach out at slindquist@breitbart.com


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