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Meet the Far-Left Carpetbagger Running Citizens not Politicians

Democrats' dark-money puppeteers bankroll effort to gerrymander Ohio
By Garth Kant
March 22, 2024
On The Record

When President Biden says something typically preposterous like "the border is secure" or "inflation is under control," you know what that means -- just the opposite is true.

So, when Democrats say they are trying to stop gerrymandering in Ohio, you know exactly what that means, too.

Abetted by the usual progressive suspects (ACLU, Common Cause, League of Women Voters, etc.), Democrats are currently trying to gather enough signatures to qualify a proposed constitutional amendment, dubbed “Citizens Not Politicians,” for the November ballot.

The proposal is actually a Trojan Horse plan to “fix” our redistricting laws for drawing Congressional and Statehouse maps by replacing an amendment voters overwhelmingly approved in 2015 with an exceedingly complex, harebrained, and radical scheme. 

Supporters claim it is a bipartisan solution that has bipartisan support. 

Bipartisan?  Really? 

Then why is the campaign run by a far-left Democratic political operative who specializes in opposition research?

Meet the Democrat’s dark money man behind the Citizens Not Politicians campaign – Sean Soendker Nicholson.  

Bipartisan?  You decide.  Nicholson’s bio:

     • Vice President at Kennedy Communications, a Democratic communications and research shop in Washington “specializing in campaign persuasion mail” for progressive, issue-based campaigns targeting “the most persuadable voters.”

     • Executive Director at Fired Up! Missouri, “a digital marketing agency and political consulting firm for campaigns, businesses, and progressive causes,” targeting “mean-spirited, self-righteous, close-minded, divisive, irresponsible, loud-mouthed, fear-mongering politicians.” (Gee...I wonder who they could mean...?)

     • Executive Director and Founder of Progress Missouri, a “liberal and progressive advocacy group,” and “a marketing department for progressive ideas – a campaign that never stops.” 

     • Campaign Director for Clean Missouri election campaigns in 2018 and 2020, a “transpartisan coalition of organizations and grassroots leaders” to “persuade and mobilize the voters” to fall for a far-left redistricting scheme.

     • A Principal at GPS Impact, helping “Democrats, progressive organizations and initiatives, and elected officials win in red states, including Kansas, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Louisiana and Ohio” using “communicators, influencers, problem solvers, storytellers.”

     • Campaign Director for Citizens Not Politicians, “a collection of voting-rights groups that’s yet to share many details of their campaign plans.”

The carpet bagging consultant is now targeting Ohio after failing to flimflam Missourians into turning their red state blue, using a nearly identical scam:  pushing a state constitutional amendment that claims to put redistricting map-making power into the hands of citizens.

Radical progressives are using the same tactic around the country: falsely claiming Republicans are gerrymandering and promoting a “bipartisan” fix that would actually favor real gerrymandering by Democrats.

Nicholson is trying to sell Ohio the same “bipartisan” snake oil he suckered Missouri into buying in 2018. His plan worked but only temporarily. 

Voters in the “Show Me State” had immediate buyer’s remorse. They realized they’d been sold a bill of goods to fix a problem that didn’t exist, thanks to an astroturf campaign financed by tons of outside money. 

Missouri voters rejected Nicholson’s scheme the first chance they got – the very next election in 2020.

Nicholson had run an extremely effective campaign in 2018. “Missouri Amendment 1, Lobbying, Campaign Finance, and Redistricting Initiative” passed with an impressive 62 percent of the vote.

Republicans responded with an amendment on the 2020 ballot that basically reversed the redistricting portion of Missouri Amendment 1, while preserving the genuine reforms. 

Nicholson ran the campaign against that amendment but came up short, losing 51% to 49%.

How did he do it?  How did he come so close to pulling it off?

False advertising and dark money. The same plan he has for Ohio.

Nicholson pitched the Missouri amendment as campaign finance reform and a tightening of lobbying laws. With some redistricting changes tacked on.

”From the beginning, Clean Missouri has used the guise of ethics reform and sleek marketing to distract Missourians from their real aim: radically redistricting Missouri to solely benefit liberal Democrats,” said state GOP party spokesman Chris Nuelle in 2018.

“The way Amendment 1 is being sold to the public could have deceived many Missouri voters into supporting what appears on the surface to be an effort to improve state government,” added Missouri Chamber of Commerce President Dan Mehan. 

“But Missourians need to understand that this is essentially an out-of-state coup attempt. The writers of Amendment 1 drafted their amendment in a way that clearly violated the Missouri Constitution.”

The support for the out-of-state coup attempt came from out-of-state dark money.

Woke billionaire George Soros spent a quarter of a million dollars pushing Missouri Amendment 1 in 2018. But he covered his tracks to try to hide the origin of the funds. That’s what makes it dark money.

Here’s how he did it.

The Open Society Policy Center (the lobbying arm of the Soros influence-peddling network) sent $300,000 to the MOVE Ballot Fund, which the Kansas City Star described as a St. Louis based political action committee.

Three days later, the MOVE Ballot Fund donated $250,000 to Nicholson’s Clean Missouri campaign.

And that’s how the far-reaching strings of the radical left’s dark money puppeteer moves funds from the penthouse to the ground floor.

According to the Kansas City Star, MOVE had raised only $100 before the Soros donation. It’s good to have friends in high places, if you’re a Democrat.

When the newspaper confronted Nicholson over his dark money sugar daddy, he responded disingenuously by doubling down on his hypocrisy, claiming the amendment had “support from across the political spectrum because everyone can see what’s been going on in Jefferson City. We’re all ready to restore integrity, transparency and accountability in our state government.”

Transparency. Integrity. Accountability.


By letting George Soros hijack your state’s democracy.

It got worse in 2020.

Nicholson put even more dark money into the attack against the state’s 2020 amendment to reverse 2018’s Missouri Amendment 1. 

Clean Missouri raised a whopping $7.1 million to defend its redistricting scam in 2020. According to the Missouri Independent, “The largest receipts include $1.5 million from the National Education Association, $1.5 million from liberal not-for-profit Action Now Initiative, (and) $1.15 million from the North Fund, a liberal not-for-profit.”

The North Fund is more than a “liberal not-for-profit.”

The North Fund is “particularly close to the Arabella-run 501(c)(4) group Sixteen Thirty Fund.”

In previous editions, On The Record exposed the far-left sources of the dark money behind both the Arabella Advisors and the Sixteen Thirty Fund.   

Woke billionaires Soros and Bill Gates, the Ford Foundation, and other far-left donors have dumped at least $6.5 billion into the Arabella umbrella group since 2006.  

Arabella, in turn, manages five radical leftist nonprofit organizations serving as its far-reaching tentacles, one of which is The North Fund.

The Sixteen Thirty Fund is another.

As On The Record previously documented, Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss has donated well more than $200 million to the Sixteen Thirty Fund, which spent more than $400M supporting leftist candidates and causes in the 2020 election.

The Sixteen Thirty Fund spent $12 million dollars supporting leftist causes in ballot campaigns in Ohio in 2023.

The Sixteen Thirty Fund donated $550,000 to Citizens Not Politicians just last year.  

Another leftist dark money group, Article IV, donated the same amount.

Citizens Not Politicians raised more than $3 million last year, most of it from radical leftist groups. The ACLU, the Ohio Progressive Collaborative, the Ohio Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers each gave $500,000.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer said the money streaming into the Citizens Not Politicians campaign “suggests that the campaign has serious backing as it works to qualify for the November 2024 ballot.” 

The presence of the Sixteen Thirty Fund among those “serious” backers means it is not just dark money attacking Ohio’s Constitution – it is also foreign dark money.

That’s why Ohio GOP Senators Theresea Gavarone and Rob McColley introduced Senate Bill 215 last month – to get foreign money out of our state’s politics. 

As Gavarone wrote in On The Record last month, “The majority of Americans agree. Nearly 80% of voters favor a ban on foreign individuals and entities funding ballot initiatives, and this support is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.”

Half of Nicholson’s strategy for Ohio appears to be right on course – the dark money is pouring into Citizens Not Politicians. The GOP can’t do much about that this year. But it can debunk the other half of his scheme: false advertising.

The Democrats’ big lie in Ohio is that Republicans hold such big majorities in elected offices because of gerrymandering. The state media has bought that hook, line, and sinker.

One problem. It’s not just false. It’s provably false.

Democrats can’t even win a majority on their own turf. 

Democrats currently have an advantage in 15 Ohio Senate Districts. However, Republicans won 8 of those districts.

What good will it do the Democrats to get more blue-leaning districts if they can’t even win the majority of districts where they are already favored?

If you can't even win most of the districts where you are favored, then gerrymandering is not your problem. You problem is obviously your policies, your candidates, or both.

GOP senate candidates won in three districts that actually favored Democrats just last November

Democrats did not win in any Republican-leaning districts. 

Republicans won 12 of the 16 toss-up districts in the House race. 

Furthermore, Republicans swept all the statewide elections for office. 

The governor was reelected by more than 25 points. That’s a mega-landslide. 

The reason for all of this is obvious. 

Ohio isn’t gerrymandered. 

Ohio is simply a solid red state. The election results proved Democrats are extremely vulnerable even in Democrat-leaning districts. What they are selling just isn’t that popular.

Gerrymandering played no role. The evidence is clear and indisputable. That doesn’t stop the most hardcore of the reality-deniers in the Ohio media from continuing to howl the maps were gerrymandered.  

But the numbers and the facts speak louder than their fake news.

So, when Nicholson blithely claims, “Ohio is one of the 10 worst gerrymandered states in the country,” you know that is false.  

But the lie about gerrymandering in Ohio is only one half of the Citizens Not Politicians false advertising strategy. The other half is the “fix” they are proposing – which is also a lie.

Ohio doesn’t have a gerrymandering issue but Democrats have an electability issue. Democrats were just fine with Ohio’s redistricting system when it was adopted in 2015. But that was before the election of President Trump, when the state turned solid red.

Democrats had enthusiastically endorsed the constitutional amendment creating Ohio’s current redistricting system. So did voters, as it passed with a whopping 70 percent of the vote.

As Senate President Matt Huffman explained in last week’s President’s Podcast, “Republicans and Democrats got together in 2015 and drafted an amendment that addressed all of (the previous problems.) And then we campaigned together. (Democrat Senator) Vern Sykes and I were the campaign co-chairs.”

But that bipartisanship fell prey to politics in just a few short years. Democrats needed a scapegoat to explain their deep unpopularity in Ohio.  

Former Attorney General Eric Holder has an easy answer – if Democrats can’t win, it must be gerrymandering.

Ohio lawmakers had fulfilled their constitutional duty by drawing new congressional district maps in 2021 when Holder’s National Democratic Redistricting Committee filed suit.

The ultra-partisan group claimed the boundaries were gerrymandered and the maps were unconstitutional. They didn’t have any evidence to back that up.

Former Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor sided with the radical left’s objections to both congressional and state legislative maps, based on criteria that doesn’t appear in the Constitution as approved by the voters.

She ignored what the text of the law plainly said.

O’Connor, in effect, declared her opinion above the law.

A federal district court panel and the U.S. Supreme Court both disagreed.

That compelled Holder to drop his lawsuits. It also motived Democrats on the Ohio Redistricting Commission to drop the charade and approve the current maps.

By a bipartisan and unanimous vote of 7-0 last fall, the Ohio Redistricting Commission approved new maps for the General Assembly that:

     • Produced compact districts following the requirements under the law.

     • Kept all the big cities within one district (with the exception of Columbus, which surpassed the population limit.)

     • Ended the sprawling, oddly shaped districts like the “Snake on the Lake.”

“This map has the fewest divided communities of any map in the history of the state of Ohio,” said Huffman.

So, when Nicholson brazenly asserted, “Ohio's maps right now are bitterly unconstitutional and have been ruled such,” he was either flat out lying or woefully ignorant.

The current maps are perfectly constitutional.

In fact, as Huffman explained, it was O’Connor who, “had a whole series of orders which would ultimately prove to be unconstitutional.”

End of story, right?

Not quite. 

Like the perp in a horror flick, the former Supreme Court chief is back. Seemingly bent on revenge, the nominally Republican O’Connor is a driving force behind the Citizens Not Politicians campaign.

The radical left’s Nicolson and O’Connor have teamed up to claim their plan would be bipartisan because redistricting would be performed by a “citizen’s commission.”

Who appoints citizen commissions? 

Turns out, it’s retired judges.  

Well, isn’t that an astonishing coincidence? 

The gullible former chief justice is pushing a plan that would put her pals in charge of redistricting.

What could go wrong?

“The strategy really is to create pinwheel districts that start in inner cities and go out to suburbs,” Huffman explained. “The people who are going to be elected in those districts are not going to be African-Americans. You'll have far-left progressive folks elected, and they're also going to eliminate moderate Republican legislators.”

Why would Democrats sabotage their constituents desires to elect African-Americans?

Because, Huffman noted, “The intent of this is to elect far-left progressives to the Ohio legislature.”

“The hypocrisy of this is extraordinary,” he concluded.

(To hear more of President Huffman’s candid comments on the real motive and strategy behind Citizens Not Politicians, click here.)

Elected officials must respond to the will of the people. “Citizen’s commissions” have no such obligation.

By taking the redistricting system out of the hands of the people’s elected representatives and giving it to a citizen’s commission, it will be “so completely removed from the vote of the people it’s really just a star chamber,” said Huffman.

“They have one thing in mind and that's a far-left progressive vote.”

In other words, the plan to install a citizen’s commission to replace your elected representative is not a plan to end gerrymandering.

Just the opposite.

It’s the Democrat’s plan to gerrymander by any means necessary.

Garth Kant is Senior Press Secretary of the Ohio Senate Majority Caucus and the editor of On The Record.