Just minutes after Donald Trump was sworn in as president in January 2017, Free Speech for People (PFS), working with RootsAction, another obscure left-wing activist group, launched the website ImpeachDonaldTrumpNow.org.
The Trump impeachment website remains live today, but PFS has moved on from years of seeking to drive the embattled Trump from the Oval Office to now trying to remove four of his strongest congressional supporters from their respective November 2022 ballots.
Although officially a nonpartisan educational nonprofit, PFS’s most notable activities since being organized in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision have all been directed at Trump and other Republicans.
Most recently, PFS made headlines with litigation it filed against four House Republicans and one Arizona Republican state representative seeking to have state courts remove the officials’ names from the November ballot.
An Arizona Superior Court judge rejected PFS’s request to remove U.S. Reps. Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar, both Arizona congressmen, and Arizona state Rep. Mark Finchem from the November ballot.The PFS lawsuit stated that the lawmakers’ alleged efforts in support of the January 2021 breach of the U.S. Capitol amounted to participation in an insurrection seeking to bring down the federal government.
Biggs and Gosar are seeking reelection to the U.S. House, while Finchem seeks to be elected as Arizona’s secretary of state.
Judges in North Carolina and Georgia are hearing similar suits brought by PFS-backed plaintiffs seeking the ouster of Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) from the November ballots in their states.
An analysis by The Epoch Times and the Capital Research Center (CRC) of available public records for PFS reveals a top leadership with deep ties throughout far-left precincts of liberal and progressive nonprofit political activism and funding from numerous well-known and some not-so-familiar liberal foundations.
A total of 91 grants to PFS from left-wing foundations with a value in excess of $7.3 million were found by CRC using the Foundation Search database.
Among the grants received between 2012 and 2019 were these: two grants (totaling $750,000) from the Schumann Media Center in New York; nine grants ($485,000) from the National Philanthropic Trust of Jenkintown, Pennsylvania; four grants ($375,000) from the Gaia Fund of San Francisco; five grants ($365,000) from the Madrona Foundation in Seattle; six grants ($255,000) from the Clements Foundation in Wilmington, Delaware.
Other notable grants during the period included four totaling $249,148 from the Tides Foundation in San Francisco; three grants ($205,000) from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund in New York; two grants ($60,000) from the Rockefeller Family Fund; and four grants ($54,670) from the Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund in Boston.
The funding from the Tides Foundation is notable because, in the 1970s, the San Francisco nonprofit pioneered the dark money fund that first provided a way for liberal donors to send large sums to support favored and oftentimes extremely controversial causes but without their names being publicly linked to the recipients.
The contribution is instead officially credited to Tides.
Such “donor-advised” funds are now common across the ideological and political spectrum.
The PFS 2020 IRS 990 tax return indicated that President John Bonifaz received nearly $217,000 in compensation that year, while legal director Ronald Fein was paid more than $159,000 for the period.
The depth of PFS links throughout the vast network of far-left liberal and progressive political activist nonprofits is seen in this analysis by InfluenceWatch, a CRC publication that specializes in reporting on such connections:
“Free Speech For People is led by a team with strong ties to the political left. John Bonifaz, founder of Free Speech for People, is the founder and former executive director of the National Voting Rights Institute (NVRI), a left-of-center electoral advocacy group.
“PFS chairman Ben Clements also sits as a board member for Stop Handgun Violence and works on the advisory committee of the Boston chapter of the American Constitution Society.
“Steve Cobble, [former] senior political adviser for Free Speech for People, [was] an assistant fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, a left-wing think tank.
“Cobble is also a co-founder of Progressive Democrats of America, an organization that aims to support the Democratic Party and advocate for an agenda focused on fighting climate change and expanding public healthcare.”
Other PFS officials have similarly left-wing backgrounds. Alexandra Flores-Quilty, who is PFS’s campaign director, was previously executive director of We the People, an activist group that organizes mass protest marches against Trump.
Kristen Eastlick, CRC vice president, told The Epoch Times that “while this organization [PFS] was founded in the wake of the Citizens United decision, the group’s agenda has expanded beyond generic campaign finance activism into partisan hackery—from their effort to launch ImpeachDonaldTrump.org as soon as he took the oath of office to their efforts to remove individuals from appearing on ballots.”
“Free Speech for People might be the name, but if political speech is the bedrock form of free speech, then eliminating the people’s election options is an assault on that freedom,” she said.