SEIU is intimately tied to mainline Democratic politics. During the 2016 election alone, it spent nearly $17 million on political advertisements advocating for Clinton and against Trump and millions more boosting liberal Senate and House candidates, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
BlackPAC was “incubated” by SEIU, Shropshire said. The union continues to play a significant role in the amount of funding that BlackPAC receives. Black Americans do retain relatively strong ties to organized labor: In 2017, black workers, at 12.6 percent, had a higher rate of union membership than white, Hispanic or Asian workers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Shropshire said SEIU has an extensive track record of supporting liberal organizations and black civic engagement. Because of this, she said, SEIU helped bring together its state and local partners to talk about how black voters could be involved in the political process. Shropshire helped to conceive and facilitate these conversations, and BlackPAC was born.
Shropshire' strong relationship with SEIU can be traced back to 2014 when the union paid her $150,000 for “support for political advocacy.” In 2016, SEIU paid Shropshire $100,000 for “political activities” and $21,634 for her consulting.
SEIU, which didn’t respond to requests for comment, isn’t the only major BlackPAC funder with close ties to the national Democratic Party.
Liberal super PACs Senate Majority PAC (which supports Democratic U.S. Senate candidates), Priorities USA Action (the main super PAC that backed Clinton in 2016) and Women Vote! (a project of EMILY’s List, which backs Democratic women who support abortion rights), are among BlackPAC’s other top bankrollers.
A commonality among these BlackPAC backers is that they’re largely funded by wealthy, white donors.
Senate Majority PAC has, for its part, given BlackPAC $566,240 — money that comes from the fortunes of hedge funder Donald Sussman, billionaire businessman George Soros and Soros’ son, Alexander Soros, among others, according to FEC records.
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Senate Majority PAC, spokesman Chris Hayden said, partnered with BlackPAC in Alabama’s U.S. Senate race and spent $2 million on a voter turnout operation in partnership with BlackPAC.
“We thought it was a real opportunity to effect change in a special election,” Hayden said.
Majority Forward — a 501(c)(4) “social welfare” nonprofit organization that doesn’t disclose its donors — has given $614,000 to BlackPAC since the PAC started up, according to FEC filings. Marc Elias, former general counsel for Clinton’s presidential campaign and general counsel for the Democratic National Committee, counts Senate Majority PAC and Majority Forward among his list of clients.
Priorities USA Action’s top funders include Soros, Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and venture capitalist Jay Robert Pritzker. The super PAC, which is run by longtime Democratic Party operative Patrick McHugh, has also received millions of dollars from the Service Employees International Union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and other trade unions and their connected political committees.
Priorities USA Action didn’t respond to requests for comment about its relationship with BlackPAC.
EMILY’s List is a PAC whose central mission is helping Democratic women who support abortion rights win office. Women Vote! paid $200,000 directly to a digital ad vendor so that BlackPAC could independently create its own ads. Women Vote! spent $5.5 million in support of Hillary Clinton that year.
BlackPAC can also count the Sixteen Thirty Fund, another 501(c)(4) “social welfare” nonprofit group, among its allies with Clinton ties.
Last year, the group, which is headed by former Clinton administration adviser and Arabella Advisors founder Eric Kessler, gave BlackPAC $225,463.
Arabella Advisors is a firm that advises foundations, philanthropists and investors on causes, such as climate change and civic engagement.
Kessler and Sixteen Thirty Fund officials didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Another 501(c)(4) nonprofit supporting BlackPAC is The Advocacy Fund, which gave BlackPAC $275,000 last year. The Advocacy Fund helps liberal donors and activists “to run high impact legislative and political campaigns by providing a legal and fiscal home,” according to its website.
While BlackPAC is primarily funded by other super PACs and “dark money” nonprofits, Shropshire, BlackPAC’s founder, says she believes “our policies should not be controlled by who has the most amount of money.”
The money that BlackPAC does receive, said Shropshire, is about those who understand expanding black political engagement and supporting BlackPAC’s agenda.