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Concerned Veterans for America

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Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) says it is a group of "veterans from every branch of uniformed services and every conflict from World War II to the Global War on Terrors" whose "mission is to advocate for policies that will preserve the freedom and prosperity."[1] CVA is "one of the most muscular arms of the conservative Koch network."[2] CVA is "the Kochs' veterans astroturf organization"[3] It lists the same office address as Americans for Prosperity[4] and The Libre Initiative on its website.[5][1][6] CVA warns against straying from "free markets" and is "working to return to the tradition of limited, effective government."[1]

As of April 2019, CVA states "reforming and fixing the VA" is a "top priority" of the organizations. CVA's "solution" is to "give veterans a choice" which is often read as privatization. Many fear this "would be costly and siphon resources from the VA system."[2] Additionally, CVA states "that our growing national debt is the greatest long-term national security threat facing our country," and that Social Security and Medicare are "unsustainable."[7]

Concerned Veterans for America submits its IRS filings under the name Vets for Economic Freedom Trust.[8]

When it was founded in 2011 with the help of $2 million from Koch network donors."[2] In the beginning, CVA tried to create the image of itself as "a full-service veterans advocacy group." But, it broke from that mold to support Koch-back policies outside of the typical realm of veterans affairs.[2] Between 2011 and 2016 CVA spent over $52 million on campaigns and policy work. It "was funded almost entirely by TC4" -- a now-defunct Koch-connect "shadow money mailboxes”[9] -- in 2012.[6] The Freedom Partners provided $44,580,000 in funding from 2012-2016.

Ties to the Trump Administration

CVA Has a 'Seat at the Table'

In a post on its website, CVA touted that it has a "seat at the table with the Trump administration."[10] In particular, CVA reports that Trump is receptive to CVA's push to privatize the Veterans health care, "The Trump administration has been open to the idea of 'VA Choice,' allowing veterans to access private care in their communities."

Former CVA Employees in Trump Administration

As of April 2019:[11]

  • Darin Selnick (former Senior Advisor), Veterans Affairs
  • William Joseph Turenne (former Director), Department of Energy
  • James B. Wilkinson Jr. (former Regional Director), Department of Transportation
  • Richard A. Youngblood (former Ohio State Director), Department of Housing and Urban Development

CVA Action

Concerned Veterans for America Action (CVA Action) is a project of the Americans for Prosperity Action (AFP Action) super-PAC. Its logo and name are trademarked by AFP Action.[12] In 2018, CVA action was a part of "Team Koch" increasing its game via a "Veterans Astroturf Operation in 2018." CVA Action supported Republicans and opposed Democrats in the midterm.[3]

In 2018:

  • CVA Action launched an ad campaign against U.S. Senator Jon Tester (MT-D). Republican challenger Matt Rosendale ultimately lost to Tester.[3]
  • CVA Action also announced a "six-figure" direct ad mail campaign to support U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) in his campaign for governor of Florida. DeSantis, who supported CVA's efforts to begin privatizing the VA while in Congress, won the race against Democrat Andrew Gillum.[3]
  • CVA Action paid for a direct mailer campaign for Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC) and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA).[3]

2015-2016 Election Cycle

According to Politico's Austin Wright, CVA was preparing for the 2016 elections by "pushing for a more muscular U.S. foreign policy and [was] seeking to give veterans the option of government-subsidized private health care — a priority that aligns with the Koch agenda."[13]

CVA Releases TV Ad Backing Rep. Joe Heck for Senate in Nevada

Leading the Charge

In its first political TV ad of 2016, CVA went after the seat of the soon-to-be retired Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.[14] The TV spot features military veterans speaking in support of Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV), who is challenging Catherine Cortez Masto for the opening.[14] According to The New York Times, CVA had made a "$700,000 broadcast and digital buy."[14]

Koch Industries has been one of Rep. Heck's top contributors throughout his career,[15] and Heck voted with Koch-held positions nearly 90 percent of the time in 2015 according to a "scorecard" compiled by the Kochs' Americans for Prosperity.[16] In 2014, Americans for Prosperity also ran a $200,000 advertisement in support of Heck.[17]

CEO Pete Hagseth Resigns

On January 20, 2016 the Military Times reported CVA's CEO since July 2012, Pete Hagseth, "quietly resigned" in the weeks leading up to first primaries in the 2016 election cycle.[18] Other CVA officials, as well as Hagseth, say the split was a mutual decision and Jae Pak, then CVA's Chief Operating Officer, would take over the role of president.[18]

Web Ad Aimed at Hillary Clinton on Department of Veterans Affairs

Tell Congress: Don't Stand With Hillary, Support VA Reform!

On November 6, 2015, a 30-second internet ad funded by CVA attacked Hillary Clinton for comments she made about the current state of the Department of Veterans Affairs. In the first Koch-backed attempt to target Clinton's 2016 run for presidency, the CVA spent upwards of $100,000 on the commercial to promote VA reform, which was shown on the internet to users in Florida and South Carolina.[19] The ad uses quotes about poor conditions in VA hospitals, from various media outlets, to contradict Clinton's comments that "it's not been widespread as it has been made out to be." In the end, the ad asserts "our veterans deserve better" and pleads for viewers to support the "VA Accountability Act."[20]

2015 Ads Opposing Senate Democrats

In 2015 Concerned Veterans for America began an ad series with a six-figure budget that aimed at hindering the re-election campaigns of Democratic Senators.[21] The first installment in a series of online and mail ads aired in October 2015, "targeting Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, the most vulnerable Senate Democrat up for reelection next year, as well as three Democrats up for reelection in 2018: Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota", according to Politico.[21] The ad was available on YouTube at the time of Politico's initial report, but has since been removed.

"Community Organizing"

Koch network organizations, including CVA, Americans for Prosperity, the Libre Initiative, and Generation Opportunity, were expanding their "grass-roots" organizing for the 2015-2016 election cycle, according to a report by NPR in October 2015.[22] CVA CEO Peter Hegseth spoke at an August 2015 conference for Koch-funded organizations as part of a session called "Community Organization -- Life Past November," describing the CVA's recent tactics advocating for legislation that would make it easier to fire employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"At the community-organizing session, Hegseth said he put the basic message — less government and regulation, more unfettered free enterprise — and framed it in military terms.
"'It's fighting for the freedom and prosperity here at home that we fought for overseas or in uniform,' he said. 'It's when you raise your right hand to defend the Constitution. There's no reason why when you come home that service should stop.'"[22]

Hegseth explained how CVA volunteers discuss the legislation with military families, as well as "pick up an iPad and knock on some doors and make some phone calls and remind veterans to vote."[22]

2014 Midterm Elections

Web Ad Targets Alan Grayson (D-FL) on Healthcare

Government Health Care Equals Disaster

On December 16, 2013, CVA released an ad titled "Government Health Care Equals Disaster" to run online for two weeks in Florida's 9th district, represented by Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson.[23] Conflating the VA healthcare system with the Affordable Care Act (sometimes colloquially called "Obamacare"), the ad highlights long wait times at VA hospitals, then shows a Vietnam veteran saying "Don't expect to be taken care of by Obamacare." The ad ends with the statement: "Tell Congressman Grayson to listen to our vets, government healthcare doesn't work."[24]

Ties to the Koch Brothers

The Koch network was one of the biggest political operations in 2012 and worked largely outside the campaign finance system, raising at least $407 million. Source: Robert Maguire with the Center for Responsive Politics.

CVA is one of the organizations identified by The Washington Post and the Center for Responsive Politics as part of "a coalition of allied conservative groups active in the 2012 elections that together raised at least $407 million, backed by a donor network organized by the industrialists Charles and David Koch."[6] From 2011-2012, CVA received almost $2 million from the TC4 Trust and an additional $32,000 from the Center to Protect Patient Rights; both groups played key roles in the Koch funding network for the 2012 election cycle. From 2012-2014, CVA and related entities received more than $20 million from Freedom Partners, which Politico has described as "the Koch brothers' secret bank."[25] See below for funding information.

An investigation into CVA by ProPublica revealed that one of CVA's trustees is Wayne Gable,[8] a former managing director of federal affairs at Koch Industries, president of the Charles G. Koch Foundation, and a board member of Freedom Partners. Gable has also been involved with the Koch network groups Citizens for a Sound Economy and Americans for Prosperity.

Koch Wiki

The Koch brothers -- David and Charles -- are the right-wing billionaire co-owners of Koch Industries. As two of the richest people in the world, they are key funders of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on the Kochs include: Koch Brothers, Koch Industries, Americans for Prosperity, American Encore, and Freedom Partners.

The $400 million Koch network.
The $400 million Koch network uses a maze of nonprofit groups and LLCs to conceal donations and campaign activity
Source: Robert Maguire with the Center for Responsive Politics. Matea Gold and Cristina Rivero/The Washington Post.

Activities

VA Accountability Project

CVA runs a project called VA Accountability, which advocates for the VA Management Accountability Act of 2014. Introduced in the House by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), the bill would give the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) secretary greater power to demote or fire high-ranking federal employees at the VA. The Civil Service Act normally protects such employees from being easily fired. The House passed the bill by a wide margin on May 21, 2014.[26] Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced a Senate version but no vote had been taken as of the beginning of June 2014.[27]

CVA's former president Pete Hegseth has connected his support for the VA reform to his opposition to single-payer healthcare, telling the Republican Seniors of Minnesota, "The Department of Veterans Affairs is probably the best preview anywhere of what government-run, top-down, single-payer health care looks like [...] No choice, no transparency of cost, lots of bureaucracy.”[28]

The VA Accountability project is intended to encourage "participants to call members of Congress to co-sponsor the VA Accountability and Management Act or to join a “strike team” to help put even more pressure on Congress to take action."[29]

"Freedom Summer Tour" 2014

In April 2014, CVA announced it would undertake a 10-city bus tour, which would include performances by the band Madison Rising and speakers "bringing a message of service and freedom; as well as ways for fellow veterans—and all Americans—to continue fighting for freedom and the American Dream."[30]

Positions

CVA's website describes as its main issues "runaway government spending," free market and pro-business policies, and the federal budget deficit and debt, which it describes as "the biggest threat to U.S. national security."[31]

According to its website, CVA planned to focus on the following legislation in 2014:

  • "VA Reform" through the Dept. of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act of 2014 (S. 2013/H.R. 4031)
  • "DoD Reform" through the Audit the Pentagon Act of 2013 (S. 1510/H.R. 3184)
  • "Spending Reform" through federal and state-level balanced budget amendments
  • "Military Voting Reform" through the Safeguarding Elections for our Nation’s Troops through Reforms and Improvements (SENTRI) Act of 2013 (S. 1728/H.R. 3576)

Funding

As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, CVA is not required to disclose its donors. However, CVA appears to have received the vast majority of its revenues from Koch network funding vehicles, structured to keep donors secret and the public in the dark.

Many Koch funding vehicles are set up as nonprofit trusts rather than not-for-profit corporations, "an unusual step that reduces their public reporting requirements," says ProPublica. “My guess is that we’re looking at various forms of disguise — to disguise control, to disguise the flow of funds from one entity to another,” said Gregory Colvin, a tax lawyer and campaign-finance specialist in San Francisco who reviewed all the documents for ProPublica.”[8]

The majority of CVA's budget appears to be funded by the Kochs' Freedom Partners.

Here are CVA's known funders:

Core Financials

2016[33]

  • Total Revenue: $3,522,135
  • Total Expenses: $3,522,135
  • Net Assets: $0

2015[33]

  • Total Revenue: $15,935,321
  • Total Expenses: $16,372,550
  • Net Assets: $-37,523

2014[34]

  • Total Revenue: $14,174,523
  • Total Expenses: $13,997,969
  • Net Assets: $399,706

2013[35]

  • Total Revenue: $15,703,141
  • Total Expenses: $16,131,623
  • Net Assets: $223,152

2012[36]

  • Total Revenue: $3,796,235
  • Total Expenses: $3,926,591
  • Net Assets: $651,634

2011[37]

  • Total Revenue: $1,969,994
  • Total Expenses: $1,188,004
  • Net Assets: $781,990

Personnel

Board of Trustees

According to 2016 tax filings, the Vets for Economic Freedom Trust (doing business as Concerned Veterans for America) lists the following people as its trustees:[33]

  • Randy Lair
  • Josh Fisher

Leadership

According to 2016 tax filings, the Vets for Economic Freedom Trust (doing business as Concerned Veterans for America) lists the following people as its "Officers, Directors, Trustees, Key Employees, and Highest Compensated Employees":[33]

  • Jae Pak, President and COO (no longer employed at CVA as of April 2019)
  • Mark Lucas, President and Executive Director
  • Joseph Gecan, Vice President for Strategy (no longer employed at CVA as of April 2019)
  • Dan Caldwell, Vice President for Political Action
  • Nathan Anderson, National Field Director
  • Fred Ford, General Counsel
  • Kimberley Palmese, Programs Director,
  • Peter Gaytan, Communications Director
  • Peter Hegseth, Former CEO

National Staff

CVA last posted their national staff list to its site in April of 2018. The page is blank as of April 2019. However, individual profiles for staff members remain accessible: [38][39]

  • Dan Caldwell, Senior Advisor, formerly Executive Director[40]ref name=andersoned>
  • Nathan Anderson, Executive Director, formerly Deputy Executive Director[41][42]
  • Shannon Hough, Special Projects Manager[43]

Field Staff

As of April 2019:[44]

  • Jordon Daniel, Colorado Coalitions Director
  • Josh Stanwitz, Arizona Coalitions Director
  • Rick Disney, Florida Senior Field Director
  • Steve Burkhalter, Ohio Field Director
  • Russ Duerstine, Texas Senior Field Director
  • Adam Miller, Senior Ohio Field Director
  • Ben Rangel, Texas Field Director
  • Tim Tyler, Georgia Field Director
  • Diego A. Echeverri, Florida Field Director

Former field staff (listed in April 2018, but not April 2019)

  • John Byrnes, North Carolina Coalitions Director
  • Tom Greer, New Mexico Field Director

Former Staff

  • Jae Pak, President and Chief Operating Officer
  • Joe Gecan, Executive Vice President of Strategy Development
  • Tal Coley, Director of Legislative Outreach & Research
  • Cody McGregor, National Outreach Director
  • Commander Eric Berryman, US Naval Reserve (ret.)
  • Captain Frank Brayton Harris, US Navy (ret.)
  • Major General Robert Hollinsworth, US Marine Corps (ret.)
  • General P. X. Kelley, US Marine Corps (ret.)
  • Sergeant Major "Gene Overstreet, US Marine Corps (ret.)
  • Vice Admiral Robert J. Spane, US Navy (ret.)
  • Former Captain Wade Zirkle, US Marine Corps (ret.)
  • Pete Hegseth, Former CEO of CVA and former executive director for Vets for Freedom.[45]
  • Wayne Gable, Trustee[36]
  • Langhorne C. Sias, Director of Operations[36]
  • Kathryn Pomeroy, Director of Communications[34]
  • Kathleen Volandt, North Carolina State Director[46]
  • Emily Laird, media contact.[30] Laird appears also to have served as a Media Manager for Public Notice.[47]
  • Nathan Martin, Regional Director, Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio & Texas; Army National Guard from 2001-2005
  • Jeb Wilkinson, Regional Director, Arizona, Colorado, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania & Nevada; U.S. Navy from 1985-1990, active 1991 Navy reserves
  • Jason Quick, Regional Director, New Mexico, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, South Carolina & Louisiana; U.S. Army from 2004-2011
  • Kurt Lofquist, Virginia State Director; U.S. Marine Corps from 2001-2009
  • Flora Schmidt, Iowa State Director
  • Daniel Brennan, South Carolina State Director
  • Matt Dobson, Arizona State Director; US Army
  • Paul Passaro, North Carolina State Director; U.S. Army from 1970-1992, Lieutenant Colonel
  • Roger Wilkins, New Hampshire State Director
  • Leo Garcia, Nevada State Director; U.S. Air Force from 1986-1994
  • Tina Kingston, Louisiana State Director; U.S. Army National Guard from 1983-2012, Lieutenant Colonel
  • Frank Crocker, Colorado State Director; U.S. Marine Corps 2011-2015
  • Eve Allen, Pennsylvania State Director
  • Paul Carlson, Minnesota State Director

Advisory Board

As of July 2016 (No longer list on website as of April 2018):[48]

  • Darin Selnick, Executive Director of CVA’s Fixing Veterans Health Care Taskforce and Senior Veterans Affairs Advisor for Concerned Veterans for America
  • Karen Vaughn, Senior Military Families Advisor
  • Jason Beardsley, Special Operations Advisor for Concerned Veterans for America
  • Jason Redman, Military Advisor

Related Organizations

According to Concerned Veterans for America's tax filings, which are under the name "Vets for Economic Freedom Trust," CVA has the following related organizations:[36]

  • TOHE, LLC (EIN 45-3763542), a disregarded entity of CVA
  • Concerned Veterans for America (EIN 46-3508366), a related 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization

Contact Information

Concerned Veterans for America
1310 N. Courthouse Rd., Suite 700
Arlington, VA 22201
Phone: (703) 224-3200
Email: press@cv4a.org
Website: http://cv4a.org
Twitter:https://twitter.com/ConcernedVets
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ConcernedVetsforAmerica

Resources

IRS Form 990 Filings

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 CVA our missions organizational website, accessed April 24, 2019
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Michelle Ye Hee Lee Lisa Rein and David Weigel How a Koch-backed veterans group gained influence in Trump’s Washington Washington Post April 7, 2018
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 David Armiak Team Koch Steps Up Game with Veterans Astroturf Operation in 2018 Midterms Prwatch Nov. 2, 2018
  4. AFP contact organizational website, accessed April 24, 2019
  5. Libre Initiative about organizational website, accessed April 24, 2019
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Matea Gold The players in the Koch-backed $400 million political donor network," Washington Post, January 5, 2014. Accessed June 18, 2014.
  7. CVA Issue Priorities organizational website, accessed April 24, 2019
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Kim Barker and Theodoric Meyer, "Who Controls the Kochs’ Political Network? ASMI, SLAH and TOHE," ProPublica, March 17, 2014. Accessed June 18, 2014.
  9. Robert Maguire and Viveca Novak Exclusive: Largest Dark Money Donor Groups Share Funds, Hide Links Open Secrets, Sept. 10, 2014
  10. Katy Abram, ICYMI: CVA HAS A SEAT AT THE TABLE WITH THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION, Concerned Veterans for America", April 10, 2018.
  11. Propublica, Concerned Veterans for America, Trump Town, April 2018.
  12. CVA Action home organizational site, accessed April 25, 2019
  13. Austin Wright, "Well-funded vets groups prepare for 2016 battle," Politico, June 25, 2015.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Nick Corasaniti, Koch-Linked Group Releases Ad Backing G.O.P. Candidate for Harry Reid’s Seat, New York Times, March 1, 2016.
  15. Center for Responsive Politics, Joe Heck Top Contributors, Open Secrets, 2016.
  16. Americans for Prosperity, "Scorecard: Joe Heck," organization website, accessed March 2016. Archived by the Center for Media and Democracy.
  17. Zachary Peters, "[https://www.prwatch.org/news/2016/03/13056/koch-concerned-veterans-america-joe-heck Koch-Funded Concerned Veterans for America Goes to Bat for Joe Heck," Center for Media and Democracy, PR Watch, March 3, 2016.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Leo Shane III, "Conservative-backed veterans group restructures after leader quits," Military Times, January 20, 2016.
  19. Julie Bykowicz, "Clinton targeted in ad from group tied to Koch brothers," Associated Press, November 6, 2015.
  20. Concerned Veterans for America, Don't Stand With Hillary, Support VA Reform!, YouTube video. Nov 6, 2015.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Theodoric Meyer, "Concerned Veterans for America launches ads targeting Senate Democrats", Politico, October 20, 2015.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 Peter Overby, "Koch Political Network Expanding 'Grass-Roots' Organizing", National Public Radio, October 12, 2015.
  23. Concerned Veterans for America, "New Online Ad Targets Florida’s Ninth Congressional District," organization press release, December 16, 2013. Accessed June 24, 2014.
  24. Concerned Veterans for America, Government Health Care Equals Disaster, YouTube video. Accessed June 24, 2014.
  25. Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei, The Koch Brothers' Secret Bank, Politico, September 11, 2013.
  26. Ed O'Keefe, "What is the VA Accountability Act?," Washington Post, May 21, 2014. Accessed June 18, 2014.
  27. 113th Congress, S.2013 - Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act of 2014, draft legislation, February 11, 2014. Accessed June 18, 2014.
  28. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named new_finance_chair
  29. Wesley Brown, "Concerned Veterans for America starts Veterans Affairs accountability project," Augusta Chronicle, February 24, 2014. Accessed June 18, 2014.
  30. 30.0 30.1 Concerned Veterans for America, "Concerned Veterans for America and Madison Rising Announce Defend Freedom Summer Tour 2014", organizational press release, April 21, 2014. Accessed June 18, 2014.
  31. Concerned Veterans for America, Issues, organizational website, accessed June 18, 2014.
  32. Al Shaw, Theodoric Meyer, and Kim Barker, "How Dark Money Flows Through the Koch Network," ProPublica, February 14, 2014. Accessed June 18, 2014.
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 33.3 Vets for Economics Freedom Trust, 2016 IRS 990, organizational tax filing, August 15, 2018.
  34. 34.0 34.1 Vets for Economics Freedom Trust, 2014 IRS 990, organizational tax filing, August 15, 2016.
  35. Vets for Economics Freedom Trust, 2013 IRS 990, organizational tax filing, August 15, 2015.
  36. 36.0 36.1 36.2 36.3 Vets for Economics Freedom Trust, 2012 IRS 990, organizational tax filing, August 13, 2014.
  37. Vets for Economics Freedom Trust, 2011 IRS 990, organizational tax filing, August 30, 2013. Accessed June 18, 2014.
  38. Concerned Veterans for America, National Staff, organizational website, accessed April 2018.
  39. CVA 404 error page (showing that CVA no longer lists staff) organizational site, accessed April 25, 2019
  40. CVA Dan Caldwell Profile organization site, accessed April 25, 2019
  41. CVA Nathan Anderson Profile Organizational website, accessed April 25, 2019
  42. CVA CVA NAMES NATE ANDERSON AS NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR press release, April 29, 2019
  43. CVA Shannon Hough Profile organizational website, accessed April 25, 2019
  44. Concerned Veterans for America, Field Staff, organizational website, accessed April 2019
  45. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named staff
  46. Concerned Veterans for America, "Concerned Veterans for America Names Kathleen Volandt as North Carolina State Director," organizational press release, June 9, 2014. Accessed June 18, 2014.
  47. LinkedIn, Emily Laird, personal profile, accessed June 17, 2014.
  48. Concerned Veterans for America, Advisory Board, organizational website, accessed July 6, 2016.