A voting rights nonprofit affiliated with a Democratic super political action committee is behind the recent mystery public record requests that blanketed clerk’s offices around Michigan. Priorities USA Foundation contracted a third party to send hundreds of public records requests to clerks throughout the state asking for copies of ballots and accompanying materials from the November 2016 election, the group confirmed Tuesday. The nonpartisan foundation is a separate but affiliated entity with Priorities USA Action, a self-defined “progressive” super PAC that spent $6.4 million supporting Democrat Hillary Clinton and $126 million opposing Republican Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Among the super PAC’s biggest donors in 2015-16 were George Soros, the liberal chairman of the Open Society Foundations; New York hedge fund manager James Simons; and Newsweb Corp. CEO Fred Eychaner of Chicago, according to Federal Election Commission filings.
The Priorities USA Foundation was founded in 2017 and doesn’t have any Internal Revenue Service returns that would indicate its funding sources. Nonprofits are not required to disclose donors.
The ballot requests were sent as part of a research project aiming “to determine whether any discrepancies exist in the ballot process across various states and precincts that might disproportionately affect certain communities, particularly communities of color and young people,” the foundation said in a statement.
The response came four days after Michigan Director of Elections Sally Williams said the public records requests sent en masse throughout Michigan had “unnerved” local clerks busy recovering from record turnouts in the August primary and preparing for the November general election.
The requests were signed by a woman referred to as “Emily” with no last name. Clerks were told to direct questions and Freedom of Information Act responses to a Gmail account or an Astoria, New York, post office box from the “United Impact Group.”