Under tight security in the depths of the W Hotel in Washington, DC a top-secret meeting took place last fall. The invite-only, closed-press confab brought together rich donors, dedicated activists, political operatives, and some of the biggest names in the current political scene.
The donors were pitched on two “dark money” groups, who hide behind supposedly ambiguous language in the tax code to shield their donors and use anonymous cash to attack their political enemies under the guise of “social welfare.”
But don’t expect a front page Washington Post expose on how the meeting further exacerbated the already insurmountable problem of the corrosive effects of big (and often “dark”) money on American politics.
The Washington meeting consisted of rich liberals, the activists were pushing campaign finance reform, and speakers included House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
The two “sister organizations” receiving pledges toward their stated goal of $40 million were Fund for the Republic, 501(c)(3) organization and Action for the Republic, a 501(c)(4) organization. The groups’ tax status enables them to shield their donors (although a representative said the groups will voluntarily disclose donations received after this past January).
The mission of these organizations is to pour money into all types of political advocacy: grassroots, lobbying, litigation, and electioneering all with the singular purpose of reducing the effect of money in politics.
If the thought of strengthening American democracy by raising gobs of heretofore-dark money from the rich in clandestine meetings seems a little strange, the participants agree—at least somewhat.
Jonathan Soros, scion of famed liberal funder George Soros, and participant at the meeting previously acknowledged the “irony” of the meeting’s mission. And noted campaign finance crusader Larry Lessig blessed the venture while recognizing the disconnect, “If big donors give big money to support removing the power of big donors to affect politics in the future, that’s not self-serving. That’s trying to change the democracy in a good way.” Got it?
But the bigger irony maybe who originally created and backed the two nonprofits. Democracy Alliance is an exclusive group of big money liberal donors who come together biannually with activists and Democrat politicians to decide which causes deserve their support. Described by Mother Jones as the “liberal answer to the Koch donor network,” the group has doled out over half a billion dollars since its inception in 2005.
Democracy Alliance membership is not a guilty pleasure for the 99%. It requires a minimum $200,000 yearly contribution along with an annual $30,000 membership fee; marquee ‘Alliance’ participants include the elder Soros and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes. Membership is top secret but also seems to include Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, and Ben Cohen of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. The group’s clandestine meetings receive little press attention but attract pitches from numerous liberal causes including Organizing for Action, President Obama’s campaign-turned-social welfare organization.
Needless to say, the group has had little issue over the past near-decade using its wealth to influence their preferred political and policy choices; its funders are also heavily involved in Super PACs.
No word yet on whether the ‘Alliance’ would disband if their campaign finance push is successful.
By Paul Jossey