Wolf, Boockvar Directed Private Grants to Democrat-Leaning Counties

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E-mails from the Office of the Pennsylvania Governor and the Pennsylvania Department of State show that former Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar and an official in Gov. Tom Wolf’s office knew about private 2020 election grants and invited Democratic-leaning counties to apply, appearing to aid the selective process at a time when other counties were unaware.

No email shows any official in either office providing similar information or assistance to any of the commonwealth’s Republican-leaning counties.

In July and August of 2020, the Chicago-based Center for Tech and Civic Life worked with a network of organizations to provide election-funding grants to certain Pennsylvania counties. Based on all available evidence, the opportunity was not widely promulgated and all of the initial counties invited to apply voted Democratic in the 2016 presidential election.

It wasn’t until after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Pricilla Chan, announced a $250 million donation to CTCL on Sept. 1 that an invitation to all counties was sent—a month and a half after counties like Philadelphia, Allegheny, and Delaware had been invited.

READ MORE: Democratic-leaning counties selectively invited to apply for election grants, emails show

Knowledge of this selective process in the weeks prior to Zuckerberg’s donation was not limited to CTCL, its partners, and the counties they invited, however. Emails show that then-Sec. of State Boockvar and an official in the governor’s office acted to push grants to Democratic-tilting counties.

On August 15, Boockvar emailed Bucks County Commissioner Diane Ellis-Marseglia (D) saying, “Commissioner Marseglia, by this email I am connecting you with Jessica Walls-Lavelle. Jessica, I told Commissioner Marseglia that there may be some Election administration nonprofit grant funds available, and Bucks county is interested.”

Ellis-Marseglia showed initial excitement about the grant, but Bucks County ultimately refused the opportunity. A county spokesperson said that the county declined “because we were unable to determine the grant’s funding source.”

Although Republicans won down-ballot races in Bucks in 2020—Republican Brian Fitzpatrick won re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives—the county has voted Democratic in seven consecutive presidential elections.

Bucks County appears to be the only county that was invited to apply for CTCL grants prior to Sept. 1 that turned down the offer.

Requests for comment to Boockvar were not returned, or emails to reach her were unsuccessful.

The Department of State defended the grants, and the process.

“After the 2020 primary election, we worked with every county to assess their needs for added equipment and staffing for the November election,” said Ellen Lyon, deputy communications director with the DOS.

“The Department of State was able to provide federal subgrants to the counties for that purpose, and the counties also were strongly encouraged to apply for grants made available through the Center for Tech and Civic Life,” Lyon added. “Every county had the opportunity to apply for a grant from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, and every county that did apply received a grant.”

An analysis of the grants shows that even when the raw dollar amounts were averaged out on a per-registered-voter basis, “blue” counties were funded at a rate far above their “red” counterparts.

Boockvar later resigned amid a scandal in which her office failed to follow all of the procedural steps necessary to place a statewide question on the 2021 primary ballot.

Jessica Walls-Lavelle, who was copied on Boockvar’s email, was then a staffer in the governor’s office who acted as a liaison to the DOS.

Emails show she was instrumental in facilitating election grant applications for Delaware, Chester, and Montgomery Counties, among others, in the summer of 2020—counties that were later heralded by news organizations like NPR as the lynchpin to Biden’s eventual win in Pennsylvania.

Emails show she was instrumental in facilitating election grant applications for… counties that were late heralded… as the lynchpin to Biden’s eventual win in Pennsylvania.

“The Center for Tech in Civic, or CTCL, is providing a grant opportunity for counties to apply for funding to assist with election implementation,” Walls-Lavelle said in another email to Josh Maxwell, the vice-chair of the Chester County Board of Commissioners. “If you are interested in applying, please complete this questionnaire and return it to me by Wednesday if possible. I will make sure it gets to CTCL and then I believe the next step would be setting up a call with them to discuss everything in more detail.”

In her outreach to these counties, Walls-Lavelle appears to have worked in concert with several left-wing political organizations and consultancy groups that aimed to win the election for President Biden.

Two people often included in emails with Walls-Lavelle were Kevin Mack, a partner at the Washington-based consulting group Deliver Strategies, and Gwen Camp, the former political director for Obama for America and former Senator Bob Casey staffer.

As Broad + Liberty previously reported, Mack boasts in his company bio that he “served as Lead Strategist for The Voter Project in Pennsylvania which was instrumental in signing up over 3.2 million people to vote by mail and leading the soft-side effort to win the swing state in 2020.”

In emails that include Walls-Lavelle, Camp admits to working for the same group, likely as a contractor.

“Jessica Walls-Lavelle and I are working with counties in PA to help with any election administration needs. I’m with the Voter Project, which was originally stood up to help execute the new Act 77 law (but that was about a dozen crises ago!) and Jessica is with the Governor’s Office,” Camp said in an email to an official with the Lackawanna County government.

The Voter Project is a venture of the Keystone Research Center, a think tank funded by public-sector unions. A search of the federal database of union spending shows that the AFSCME, SEIU, PSEA and other unions have donated more than a million dollars to the Keystone Research Center over the last decade.

Notably, an IRS form shows that prior to working for the Wolf administration, Walls-Lavelle was the treasurer for a 501(c)(4) organization called Project Keystone, which provides polling and research services primarily to Democrats and is funded by several Democratic campaign committees and public-sector unions. According to the 2019 IRS filing—the most recent filing available—Project Keystone has a board member who is a partner at Deliver Strategies.

The screenshot below from the Pennsylvania campaign finance reporting website shows donations that various PACs made to Project Keystone in just the 2020 campaign cycle.

Source: PA campaign finance filing website

“Most people don’t appreciate how massive and sophisticated the Left’s network of voter registration and get-out-the-vote groups really is, and this is a perfect example of how it works,” said Hayden Ludwig, an analyst for the right-leaning Capital Research Center in D.C. that tracks money in politics.

‘Most people don’t appreciate how massive and sophisticated the Left’s network of voter registration and get-out-the-vote groups really is, and this is a perfect example of how it works.’

“These nonprofits hide behind their IRS-imposed ‘nonpartisan’ status to stay tax-exempt, but they’re all funded by a basket of wealthy liberal foundations, unions, and mega-donors to provide GOTV infrastructure for the Democratic Party in every election cycle.”

“In 2020 we saw this network turn its powerful resources on pushing vote-by-mail in battleground states like Pennsylvania on a scale that voters weren’t prepared for under the guise of COVID-19 ‘safety.’ Combined with CTCL-funded drop boxes in places like Philadelphia and there was a perfect storm of election problems that, so far, the Left has been totally unwilling and uninterested in discussing.”

The Pennsylvania Voter Alliance along with eight Republican members of the state House brought a federal lawsuit against the CTCL and Boockvar in October 2020, arguing that they were harmed by the grants because “they are targeted to counties and cities with progressive voter patterns.”

“The government favoring a demographic group in elections is just as injurious to voters as the government disfavoring a demographic group,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit further mentioned that the CTCL was free to spend whatever sum it liked on direct get-out-the-vote measures, but argued that “Pennyslyvania’s counties and cities are preempted from entering into a public-private partnership” with the CTCL to administer the election.

U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania Judge Matthew W. Brann dismissed the lawsuit about a week before the Nov. 2, 2020 election.

The following did not respond to a request for comment: Jessica Walls-Lavelle, Gwen Camp, Deliver Strategies/Kevin Mack, the Keystone Research Center, and Governor Wolf’s office.

Todd Shepherd is Broad + Liberty’s chief investigative reporter. Send him tips at tshepherd at broadandliberty.com, or use his encrypted email at shepherdreports at protonmail.com.