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Biden Education Department Doubles Down On Taxpayer-Funded GOTV Using College Students

A student voter registration drive in Texas.
Image CreditKVUE / Youtube

‘The Department of Education’s response raises doubts about their commitment to nonpartisan use of taxpayer money, as it explicitly plans to use these funds for voter registration.’

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The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) has finally responded to congressional concerns about the agency’s “clarification” that allows Federal Work-Study (FWS) funds to pay college students for voter registration initiatives, according to a letter obtained by The Federalist. 

In the response, a lackey for President Joe Biden’s Education Secretary Miguel Cardona bureaucratically told the chairs of two House committees that the Education Department is going to do what it wants — congressional authority and the Constitution be damned.

The FWS “civic engagement” scheme is part of the broader Bidenbucks push, using the resources of the federal government for a massive get-out-the-vote effort assisted by “approved” leftist activist groups to target traditional Democrat constituencies.

‘Appearance of Impropriety’

On March 12, U.S. Reps. Bryan Steil, R-Wis., and Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., sent Cardona a letter asking his agency to retract its Feb. 26 Dear Colleague Letter providing “updated guidance” to conveniently allow Federal Work-Study funds to be used to pay students to do “civic engagement work” for government employers such as voter registration, GOTV, and working at the polls. The lawmakers’ request, also signed by the committees’ vice chairs, sought “all internal memos, reports, and information that discuss the Department’s decision to issue the 2024 DCL [Dear Colleague Letter],” among other documents. Steil and Foxx also wanted to know just how the agency will ensure FWS funds aren’t used for political activity. 

“In addition to this action appearing to be partisan and political, your new interpretation raises serious legal questions, and we urge the Administration to retract its recent memorandum,” the congressional letter stated. 

“When taxpayer dollars are solely responsible for students engaging in these activities in the face of the Administration’s ongoing reelection campaign, the appearance of impropriety should have been more than enough for the Department not to move forward with the DCL,” the lawmakers added. 

‘New and Concerning Heights’

Vice President Kamala Harris in late February held a press conference to lay out Democrats’ “four-part strategy” to “protect the freedom to vote.” The strategy ramps up Biden’s Executive Order 14019, which deputizes federal agencies to expand voter registration and turnout — using “approved” third-party organizations to help get the GOTV job done. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, for instance, will “email information on how to register to vote to everyone who enrolls” under the Affordable Care Act. The Social Security Administration’s approximately 1,200 offices nationwide will display signs from vote.gov, the U.S. voter information site. And college students, a reliable Democrat voting bloc, will help register voters and serve as “nonpartisan poll workers.” 

“As we know this is important for a number of reasons. One, to engage our young leaders in this process and activate them in terms of their ability to strengthen our communities. But also this is the work that we need to do knowing that so many poll workers have left this work for a variety of reasons,” Harris said. 

[READ NEXT: Feds Will Pay Students Your Tax Dollars To Help Reelect Biden, In Latest ‘Bidenbucks’ Scheme]

But such volunteers are typically drawn from the partisan world. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, “48 states mandate a specific political party makeup of poll workers. … In many states, poll workers must be nominated by the local chapter of their political party to serve in affiliation with that party.”

The Biden administration’s extraordinary — and constitutionally suspect — use of executive powers to expand the federal government’s role in elections raises a host of election integrity and separation of powers questions. 

“Taken alone, the activities newly permitted by the DCL may seem beneficial, but when they are funded with taxpayer money, the risk of government tipping the scales in favor of a candidate, position, or party reaches new and concerning heights,” the congressional committee letter states. 

‘Civic Participation’

Nasser H. Paydar, assistant secretary of DOE’s Office of Postsecondary Education, says there’s nothing to worry about, folks. He’s “pleased to respond and clarify certain points from the Department’s recent Dear Colleague Letter.” Chief among them, Paydar asserts, is that the funds can’t be used for work with a “particular interest or group.” 

The agency’s 2022 letter stated that students could receive FWS pay for nonpartisan voter registration activities “if a student is employed directly by a postsecondary institution” but not if a student is employed “by a Federal, State, or local public agency.” The recent Dear Colleague Letter “clarified” that FWS funds actually can be used for student employment by a federal, state, local, or tribal government entity for “civic engagement work.” Such work includes “broad-based get-out-the-vote activities, voter registration, providing voter assistance at a polling place or through a voter hotline, or serving as a poll worker — if the student is employed by a government entity that performs this work, which is already funded with taxpayer dollars,” Paydar informs Steil in his response letter.

He stresses again and again that the work must be in the “public interest” and it can’t be partisan. The February Dear Colleague Letter — which Paydar also wrote — says the Higher Education Act “specifically provides that funds may be used to compensate students employed in projects that ‘increase civic participation.'”

“Given that this work is permissible only when it is within the scope of work of a government or tribal agency and only when it is not associated with a faction in an election for public or party office, it is not permissible for FWS funds to be used to ‘tip the scale in favor of a candidate, position, or party,’ as suggested in your letter,” Paydar dismissively tells Steil and Foxx.

But remember what civic participation is to the far-left Biden administration. It’s getting leftist groups that are “nonpartisan” in name only to participate in the “civic engagement” projects. 

Nonpartisan Players? 

Harris signaled where the initiative is heading the same day she announced the federalized voter registration campaign. 

“Our democracy could not function without nonpartisan poll workers like Vasu and Rob whom I met in Georgia. President Biden and I thank you and we support you,” she posted on X on Feb. 27, along with a photo of her with Vasu Abhiraman. 

As the social media platform’s “Community Notes” pointed out, Abhiraman is “a staffer at the left-wing Alliance for Justice and formerly of ACLU Georgia.” The alliance, as activist tracker InfluenceWatch reports, is a left-of-center group “best known for the Judicial Selection Project, which seeks to promote left-wing and Democratic-appointed judges while defeating conservative and Republican-appointed judges. The project has helped to turn the process of nominating judges into a highly partisan process.” Left-wing billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Foundations is a funder of the group, according to InfuenceWatch. 

While the Alliance for Justice and the ACLU “may operate under the tax code as ‘nonpartisan’ groups, they are certainly not neutral,” Steil and Foxx noted in their letter to Cardona. “Americans are well aware that both groups have very strong, left-leaning ties. As such, voters cannot trust that this new program will not run afoul of federal law or be used by partisan students to help their political party win an election.”

Steil and Foxx asserted that it appears the Education Department is treading on the “public interest” provisions with its new guidance. Congress has provided definitions for what “get-out-the-vote” and “voter registration activity” mean, and the terms are associated “with political activity,” the lawmakers noted. The Dear Colleague letter, however, leaves its definitions of allowable activities under the FWS program “open to interpretation.” 

“For Americans to have confidence in our elections, it is crucial that Federal Work-Study funds are not diverted toward voter initiative drives, including get-out-the-vote efforts,” Steil told The Federalist. “Yet, the Department of Education’s response raises doubts about their commitment to nonpartisan use of taxpayer money, as it explicitly plans to use these funds for voter registration.”


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