Obama Appointee Manages Soros-Backed Election Fund

Fund focuses on ‘voters of color’ and ‘improving odds of electing candidates of choice’

Karen Narasaki / AP
• September 1, 2016 5:00 am


An Obama administration appointee manages a fund that liberal billionaire George Soros uses to bankroll election-related activities like increasing the number of "voters of color" and "improving odds" of electing preferred candidates, actions that are discussed in recently released hacked documents.

Karen Narasaki, a commissioner of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, manages the Soros-backed Shelby Response Fund. The fund’s objective is "protecting voting rights in states formerly covered under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act."

A document uncovered by the group DC Leaks reveals the plans of Soros’s Open Society Foundations that are geared primarily toward minority voters.

"The focus of the portfolio, going forward, will be on voters of color—reducing barriers and fighting suppressive measures which impede access to the polls, increasing ease of registration and access to early voting, and improving odds of electing candidates of choice," the document states. "We will also fund affirmative election reform measures that have been shown to better benefit people of color (i.e. same-day registration and early voting.)"

The document then describes funding of Census-related activities such as a "redesign of racial categories" as part of the group’s 2020 strategy.

"Advocates have about a year and a half to influence appropriations for the Census Bureau, the redesign of racial categories on the 2020 Census instrument and policy regarding how to count persons who are incarcerated," the group wrote. "Census topics must be presented to Congress in April 2017 with final questions by April 2018."

This goal would be achieved by putting money behind groups like the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), the Leadership Conference, Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), and Demos, a public policy organization.

Grants would also be awarded to media groups to generate stories and "educate" journalists.

New America Media, a coalition of ethnic media outlets, was named as one such organization. New America Media partners with journalism schools across the United States.

"New America Media has been quite effective with the small grant it received from the Shelby Response Fund in generating voting stories in the ethnic media," it says. "Funding an ethic media project in advance of the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act will be an opportunity to educate journalists, connect advocates with ethnic media outlets, and cover current issues as well as history. There is also a great need for communications trainings for advocates and perhaps the establishment of a hub."

The Open Society Foundations wrote of its plan to challenge voter identification laws through litigation.

"The Shelby convening report has identified an ‘exploding’ need for litigation funding," the document states, later adding, "2015 and 2016 will be critical years for the continuation of cases and the bringing of new cases under Section 2 and possible state voting rights acts that are passed—especially since a voter ID case is headed to the Supreme Court will be argued and decided 2015-2016."

The Shelby Response Fund has received millions in contributions from just seven foundations, according to a separate document released by DC Leaks. The Open Society Foundations has been its biggest donor.

A spokesperson for the Open Society Foundations issued a statement about the hacked documents.

"A number of Open Society Foundations internal documents, including strategies, work plans, and funding requests, have been published after being removed from an online community that served as a resource for our staff, board members, and partners," the spokesperson said. "In some cases, the materials reflect big-picture strategies over several years from within the Open Society Foundations network, which supports human rights, democratic practice, and the rule of law in more than 100 countries around the world. This attack is a symptom of an aggressive assault on civil society and human rights activists that is taking place globally."

"The Open Society Foundations support efforts to encourage wider participation in U.S. elections, and opposes measures used to try to suppress voter participation," the spokesperson said.

A top priority of Soros’s foundation is enlarging the U.S. electorate by at least 10 million voters by 2018, the Washington Free Beacon previously reported.

Soros has thrown millions behind legal challenges against voter identification laws in numerous states. These lawsuits are argued by Hillary Clinton’s top campaign lawyer, Marc Elias, who is acting independently of the campaign in his capacity as an attorney at the D.C-based law firm Perkins Coie.