Meeting the Continued Threats to Democracy Head On
At Sixteen Thirty Fund, we confront the biggest social challenges in our country through fiscal sponsorship, advocacy, and electoral action. This week, Sixteen Thirty Fund filed its 2021 tax return, prompting us to reflect on what our projects have accomplished to fight back against an extremist right-wing agenda, while simultaneously processing this week’s election results and other recent events that carry significant implications for our organization’s future work.
Think back, for a moment, to 2021. Our nation was grappling with monumental challenges. We were just beginning to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, and health care access was at the forefront of our minds; the economy desperately needed rebuilding; climate change continued to threaten our communities; and election deniers had stormed the US Capitol and briefly overrun its protectors.
Last year, Sixteen Thirty Fund and our fiscally sponsored projects received $189 million in contributions and took these challenges head on, distributing $107 million in grants to partner organizations. We provided critical administrative, legal, and HR support that enabled public-interest efforts and their leaders to focus on working to improve the lives of all Americans.
Together with our projects and grantees, we advocated for bold legislative action. We supported Build Back Better and fought to make the case that economic relief legislation must also combat climate change and improve access to and affordability of health care. This effort stretched into 2022 and culminated in several elements of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).
Through a grant to the League of Conservation Voters, we helped fund the development of several climate provisions in the IRA, the largest investment in clean energy in United States history. Experts expect this legislation will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 40 percent and save the average household $1,800 a year in energy costs.
We also successfully advocated for historic health care reforms backed by Sixteen Thirty Fund’s Health Care for America Now. Our support helped extend the Affordable Care Act’s premium tax credits for over 13 million people and made historic improvements to Medicare that will lower prescription drug prices and increase access to medicines for seniors and people with disabilities.
Our work advocating for better public policies also included supporting work to expand voting access across the country. We were proud to support America Votes’ efforts to expand access in states like Nevada, Michigan, and Wisconsin, where the America Votes coalition’s advocacy work led to the first implementation of Sunday voting in Milwaukee in 2022’s spring election.
While our work includes donations to elect candidates who support the causes we care about, elections are not the Sixteen Thirty Fund’s primary purpose. In 2021, just 13 percent of our total grantmaking went to electoral activity.
The majority of our support goes elsewhere, and we recognize a crucial truth: even as we need people in office who support causes and policies that help everyday Americans, we also need groups on the outside advocating directly for the causes and policies themselves.
We also recognize that the far right is capable of advancing its radical agenda even in the face of broad-based opposition, like when the Supreme Court overturned a constitutional right to reproductive health care last summer despite overwhelming popular support for abortion rights.
In the wake of the Dobbs decision, Sixteen Thirty Fund took immediate action and provided critical support for groups like Kansans for Constitutional Freedom and Michigan’s Reproductive Freedom for All, initiatives that are leading the fight to protect abortion access and reproductive freedom across the country. Our fiscal sponsorship model allowed for the rapid deployment of resources to these groups to combat extreme measures.
As we look ahead to 2023, there are two clear challenges our organization and partners must confront. First, while voters rejected election-denying candidates in large part on Tuesday, the threats they pose to our democracy at every level remain.
Second, as progressives, we need to be clear-eyed about a coordinated, well-funded effort to undermine democracy and take away people’s rights. For example, far-right activist Leonard Leo is now sitting on a multi-billion dollar plan that Senator Mitch McConnell says will “transform society.” The New York Times reports that Mr. Leo’s “philosophy” is that “religious values” play a larger role in shaping society, which for him means restricting civil rights, siding with corporate polluters, and electing more election deniers who threaten our democracy.
Sixteen Thirty Fund and our projects are well positioned to face these radical threats head on and use the tools available to us to protect democracy, abortion rights, civil rights, and our climate. As I have noted before (here and here), we support and will continue to advocate for a rewrite of the rules to provide more transparency and disclosure in our elections. In the meantime, we will continue to operate within the guidelines of the law, level the playing field for progressives, and do everything we can to meet the continued threats to democracy head on.
Should you want to read more about our work in 2021, our 990 is available here.