Moms for Liberty Networks

Erin Gallagher
9 min readJul 1, 2023

Trying — and failing to map the M4L state chapter networks.

I tried to map the Moms for Liberty (M4L) state networks in advance of their 2023 national summit in Philadelphia, PA this weekend. This project turned out to be harder than I predicted. Depending on what source you use to count their chapters, M4L has between 133 to 285 state chapters in 35 to 45 states. I tried to find evidence to corroborate M4L’s self-reported membership numbers but was not successful.

Here are some previously reported chapter & membership numbers:

In October 2021, during the organization’s first year of existence, Washington Post reported:

“In 10 months, Moms for Liberty has grown to 135 chapters in 35 states, with 56,000 members and supporters, according to the organization’s founders.”

According to a June 29, 2023 article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Moms for Liberty organization currently claims that they have 285 chapters in 45 states.

M4L chapters are organized by county. There are just over 3,000 state counties in the US, so if we believe the self-reported number of chapters, 285 represents less than 10% of all counties in the United States. But should we believe their self-reported data?

Following are several methods I tried to calculate exactly how many state chapters & members exist for Moms for Liberty. (TLDR: I don’t know)

Private Facebook Groups

The totals chapters/states reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer are roughly the same number of M4L Facebook groups that are linked to their main Facebook page: 285 Facebook groups in 44 states.

Screenshot of some of the M4L Facebook groups — Source: Facebook

The M4L Facebook groups are all private, so the profiles of group members are hidden but the total number of group members, and profiles of group admins & mods are visible. As of mid-June 2023 there were 101,927 members in 285 Facebook groups.

There is overlapping membership in the Facebook groups because of group admins and mods. The main Moms for Liberty Facebook page, Co-Founder, Tina Chwazik Descovich and/or Chapter Coordinator, Pat Blackburn are admins in all of the Facebook groups. Member profiles in private Facebook groups are not public so I can’t confirm if M4L Facebook group members are in multiple M4L Facebook groups.

But for example, on the the Facebook group for Ventura County, CA, I can see it has 3 members, 2 of whom are admins: the Moms for Liberty Facebook page and Pat Blackburn. Maybe the 3rd member is a mom from Ventura County, CA? It’s impossible to know without joining the group.

Source: Facebook

I can also see that the Ventura County, CA group is inactive: no posts today or in the past month and no new members in the last week. Not all of the 285 groups are active.

Source: Facebook

In some of the Facebook groups, the only members are the same M4L group admins: the Moms for Liberty Facebook page, Tina Chwazik Descovich and/or Pat Blackburn.

Source: Facebook

One Facebook group called “Moms for Liberty — New Chapter Support” also only has 2 members: the Moms for Liberty Facebook page and Pat Blackburn who are also the admins of that group.

So there are 285 M4L Facebook groups that claim to represent M4L chapters in 44 states, but not all of the Facebook groups are active or have members besides the main M4L admins which makes counting the M4L Facebook groups an inaccurate number to gauge total number of M4L chapters. 101,927 Facebook group members is also not an accurate number to use as a proxy for actual membership in the organization.

Email addresses

Those Facebook groups are linked on the “Chapters Coming Soon” page of the M4L website. This page also includes a list of links to email 281 chapters in 43 states.

Source: M4L website

If you mouse over each county listing, it will display an email address for that chapter. Most of them are gmail addresses with a handful of yahoo and protonmail email addresses. Many of the email addresses are formulaic and may have been created by the same person but some are not.

I didn’t attempt to email all 281 addresses to see if they bounced back or if an actual person in each county replied. Besides there is no way to prove anyone who might reply is in the location they claim. So counting email addresses does not seem like an accurate way to count how many M4L chapters exist and there are no membership numbers anywhere on the website.

990-N IRS Forms

There are 134 M4L organizations in 35 states that have filed tax exemption forms with the IRS: 13o are M4L county chapters (~5% of US counties) 2 are state chapters (MOMS FOR LIBERTY — Austin, TX and Moms for Liberty — Indianola, IA) and 2 are not location specific (Moms for Liberty Foundation and MOMS FOR LIBERTY INC). 990-N forms are publicly available on the IRS website.

Source: IRS

Counting which organizations filed forms with the IRS seems like the most reliable method to establish a baseline number of actual M4L chapters.

OK so to recap, here’s how many M4L chapters might exist in the US based on various sources of publicly available data:

Facebook groups — 285 chapters in 44 states
Email addresses — 281 chapters in 43 states
990-N forms — 134 chapters in 35 states

From these 3 datasets I can safely assume 2 things: there are no M4L chapters in Idaho, West Virginia, Vermont or Maine and there are many M4L chapters in Florida and Pennsylvania.

Looking at their own chapter map, it appears there are no chapters in Nevada or Utah either but perhaps their website is not updated. 🤷🏻‍♀️

M4L state strongholds: Florida & Pennsylvania

Moms for Liberty originated in Florida and have received huge support from FL governor Ron DeSantis, so no surprise there are many M4L chapters in Florida. Since the M4L 2023 national summit is happening in Philadelphia and since I live in Pennsylvania, I figured I’d zoom in on PA and see how many chapters are active in my own state.

There are 26 M4L Facebook groups representing counties in Pennsylvania and one “Pennsylvania” group called “Pennsylvania — Moms for Liberty — Chapter Chairs whose description says “This group is for Moms for Liberty Chapter Chairs and Vice Chairs in the state of Pennsylvania.”

I manually collected data for the admins and mods of the 27 “Pennsylvania” M4L Facebook groups and ran them through Gephi. Below is the network graph for 27 Pennsylvania M4L Facebook groups connected by group admins & mods. Labels are scaled by out-degree.

Network graph of 27 Pennsylvania county M4L Facebook groups connected by group admins & mods

The same network graph scaled by in-degree reveals the central nodes. The core admins for the nationwide M4L network on Facebook are admins in all of the Pennsylvania groups: the national Moms for Liberty Facebook page, Tina Chwazik Descovich and Pat Blackburn.

Network graph of 27 Pennsylvania county M4L Facebook groups connected by group admins & mods

The M4L groups are set up in a similar manner as the Mastriano Facebook groups that were created before the 2020 US elections. This method creates a highly centralized network where a handful of core members of an organization can control all of the groups in the network and therefore control all of the messaging that gets broadcasted in those groups.

Same as the Mastriano network, it’s unclear if this activity goes against Facebook’s community standards. What Facebook defines as coordinated inauthentic behavior (CIB) is somewhat nebulous and as Shannon McGregor wrote recently in Wired, “the line between ‘coordinated behavior’ and campaign activity, as defined by the platforms, is blurred.”

Pennsylvania tax exempt M4L Facebook groups

13 of the PA county Facebook groups have filed for tax exempt status with the IRS and 990-N forms are publicly available online for free. I sorted out only the Facebook groups with 990-N forms available online and ran them through Gephi. Labels below are scaled by out-degree, so Facebook groups with multiple admins and mods have larger labels.

Network graph of 13 Pennsylvania county M4L Facebook groups with 990 forms, connected by group admins & mods

Once again the central nodes are the same admins: The national Moms for Liberty Facebook page, Tina Chwazik Descovich and Pat Blackburn.

Network graph of 13 Pennsylvania county M4L Facebook groups with 990 forms, connected by group admins & mods

Here are the Pennsylvania Facebook groups with 990-N forms, listed in order of group membership from when I recorded the group memberships in mid-June; total 6,680 members with overlapping group membership.

990-N forms list a “principal officer” and their address (I have blocked out all addresses in this blog).

According to a quick google search: “The principal officer is an officer of the organization who, regardless of title, has ultimate responsibility for implementing the decisions of the organization’s governing body or for supervising the management, administration, or operation of the organization.”

Comparing the information filed on 2021 and/or 2022 990-N forms with Facebook group admins and mods, I can see, for example, that Bryan McCloskey, a mod for the largest PA Facebook group (Chester County — 1,332 members) is also the principal officer for the Chester County, PA M4L chapter.

Bryan McCloskey, aka “Bry the Retirement Guy” on YouTube and Facebook, is a retirement advisor based in Downingtown, PA which is located in Chester County, PA.

Rachel Wilson Snyder is an admin in the Lancaster County M4L Facebook group and the principal officer for the Lancaster County, PA M4L chapter. Her Facebook profile does not list any location information. The address listed on the 990-N forms for Lancaster County M4L is a UPS store in Lititz, PA — which is in Lancaster County — but probably not her home address. I blocked it out anyway but again, all of this information is publicly available on the IRS website.

I checked the principal officers on all 13 Pennsylvania chapters that have 990-N forms on file with the IRS. Some of the names listed in IRS files are admins in PA Facebook groups and seem to live in the counties associated with the groups they admin. Some are not. I didn’t check 990-N forms for any other states but those are also publicly available online.

Summary

There are real people running M4L Facebook groups, and some of them appear to live in the counties they claim to represent. But Facebook group members do not equal organization members.

Facebook group members ≠ organization members

In fact given how hard it has been to nail down confirmed numbers of chapters or members, I believe the chapter and membership numbers that Moms for Liberty self-reports are exaggerated.

In August 2021, the Florida Phoenix reported:

“At the top, they are political strategists, risk managers and communications professionals — high-powered women with connections to top state and national Republicans, according to LinkedIn profiles and local media reports.” — Florida Phoenix

On July 9, 2022, just before M4L’s 2022 national summit, the Tampa Bay Times called Moms for Liberty “transparently Astroturf” and I agree with that assessment.

On July 28, 2022, Media Matters detailed “how right-wing media heavily elevated the group from its infancy”

“Moms for Liberty received 501(c)(4) nonprofit status on January 1, 2021, and by January 27, co-founder Tina Descovich had already appeared on The Rush Limbaugh Show. Moms for Liberty nationally launched on February 8 with only five chapters. By the end of February, the group had been spotlighted by Breitbart and had received a “shout out” on Tucker Carlson Tonight.” — Media Matters

There may be one or two local M4L representatives in possibly ~5% to ~10% of US counties, depending on what data you count. The opacity of its membership numbers and chapter structure and links between its leaders and high profile Republican politicians do not seem like characteristics of a “grassroots” organization.

Gephi graphs in this blog were created using OpenOrd combined with Force Atlas 2 layout algorithms.

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Erin Gallagher

Social media researcher, multimedia artist, former research assistant with the Technology and Social Change Project