Capstones

Graduation Date

Fall 12-15-2017

First Advisor

Fred Kaufman

Subject Concentration

Investigative

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Abstract

In the year since Donald Trump’s election, grassroots canvassing groups have generated millions of dollars for nonprofits like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. These groups’ growing profile correlates with a post-election spike in liberal giving, and the rise of face-to-face fundraising in the US. But despite their progressive affiliations, several groups have come under fire for abusive labor practices and a lack of financial transparency. This piece looks at two of the biggest players in the canvassing industry, the Fund for the Public Interest and Grassroots Campaigns. Both groups are headed by the same person - a man named Doug Phelps - who also presides over a national nonprofit network that includes dozens of organizations. This soup-to-nuts investigation traces a sprawling financial operation that starts with individual donors, and ends with Democratic PACs and super PACs. It finds that both groups are guilty of exploitative labor practices that date back decades, and feature close ties to a Democratic dark-money machine embedded in Doug Phelps’ nonprofit network.

PHOTO_Tung_Elizabeth_2.png (59 kB)
Pie chart showing the breakdown of donations to a super PAC. Created by Liz Tung using datawrapper.

AUDIO_Tung_Elizabeth.mp3 (16764 kB)
Audio piece on labor issues in the canvassing industry by Liz Tung.

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