The “Vast Left-wing Conspiracy”
George Soros’s Democracy Alliance remains a potent force in the 2014 elections
This special issue of Foundation Watch updates our previous profiles of the Democracy Alliance published in December 2006, January 2008, and December 2008.
Read the PDF here.
Summary: The political landscape in America is much different than it was in 2005 when the nine-year-old Democracy Alliance was founded. The secretive club for radical millionaires and billionaires who want to turn America into Greece was founded soon after John Kerry’s unexpected defeat in the 2004 presidential election. The outlook for the Left was bleak at that time but no longer. The Left has regained its footing and is on the march, determined to dismantle the First Amendment and reorder society through Obamacare, a wealth redistribution scheme disguised as health care policy. The Democracy Alliance, once determined to remain separate from the Democratic Party, is more partisan than it has ever been as its seeks to expand left-wing political infrastructure across the country.
The Democracy Alliance—a secretive, pro-Democratic Party funding powerhouse—is embracing more union bosses as members, amid growing fears in left-wing circles that Republicans are poised to take over the U.S. Senate in the November elections. This trend adds to organized labor’s already considerable clout within this elite fundraising empire, which claims to have funneled more than $500 million into liberal and pro-Democratic organizations. The invitation-only Alliance, co-founded by far-left billionaire philanthropist George Soros, calls itself a “first-of-its-kind partnership of change-makers who are committed to a stronger democracy and a more progressive America.”
It claims to be the “center of gravity” for left-wing funding and, “over the past nine years,” has “aligned leaders in the progressive movement and political infrastructure” in order to secure “victories at the ballot box and in policy fights. “
The Democracy Alliance funds many key institutions on the Left. One of them is Catalist LLC, formerly known as Data Warehouse. This for-profit company was created by Clinton aide Harold Ickes and Democratic operative Laura Quinn to help leftist groups get out the Democratic vote. It describes its mission as providing “progressive organizations with the data and services needed to better identify, understand, and communicate with the people they need to persuade and mobilize.” The chairman of Catalist is Democracy Alliance member Albert J. Dwoskin, a Virginia-based real estate developer. (For a complete profile of Catalist, see Organization Trends, November 2012.)
The Democracy Alliance has also funded staples of the left-wing activist community including People for the American Way, EMILY’s List, ACORN, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Progressive States Network, Center for Community Change, Sierra Club, U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Education Fund, and the (now defunct) Secretary of State Project, which helped elect left-wing candidates to be the chief electoral official in at least nine states (these little-noticed officials become critical when vote fraud occurs).
The Alliance and its ultra-wealthy supporters drone on endlessly, wringing their hands about the importance of getting money out of politics as they pump millions of dollars into politics. As the Washington Free Beacon reports, Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig told prospective donors to his Mayday PAC this year that attacking the First Amendment’s corporate political speech protections would be easier if those on the other side were gagged by new laws. “We have no protection for network neutrality because of the enormous influence of cable companies’ money in the political system,” he said. “If NN is your issue, then this is why you should see that politics is your issue too.” Lessig is also an advisor to the Fund for the Republic, a campaign finance reform organization that uses soothing, bipartisan language and reaches out to those on the political Right. The Fund acknowledges receiving financial support from Democracy Alliance members.
Another important recipient of Alliance funding is the American Constitution Society (ACS), a left-wing legal nonprofit. At a recent Alliance meeting, reports Alana Goodman of the Washington Free Beacon, ACS “boasted about meeting its ‘performance goals,’ which included helping” change the Senate rules to eliminate the filibuster on judicial nominations. This has led directly to the Obama administration packing the D.C. Court of Appeals with left-wing judges who may prevent future Obamacare challenges from reaching the Supreme Court. ACS not only advocated on this issue, it told Alliance members it drafted materials used by Senate Democrats to make the rule change and supplied three of the judges used to pack the D.C. court.
The Democracy Alliance keeps the list of its members, or as it prefers to call them, “partners,” confidential, but the names of new members were revealed earlier this year when Soros’s son Jonathan left behind a partial membership list after the Alliance’s spring meeting in a Chicago hotel. Snapped up by the Washington Free Beacon, the list included several high-ranking labor movement officials. The 100-plus millionaire and billionaire members of the Democracy Alliance range from bankers and high-tech entrepreneurs to Hollywood VIPs and heirs and heiresses.
New Alliance members this year from the labor movement include Noel Beasley, who is president of Workers United, a textile union affiliated with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and Keith Mestrich, president of the union-owned Amalgamated Bank. (For more on both groups, see Labor Watch, June 2013.)
Other new members from organized labor include Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. Weingarten has publicly defended AFT’s support of the Alliance, tweeting this summer that the Alliance pools money “to fight for progressive causes … Spending it to ensure reg[ular] folks had access to democracy…and a fairer economy.” CWA senior director George Kohl and Michelle Ringuette, who is Weingarten’s assistant, also joined the Alliance.
Other individuals previously reported as members of the Alliance who have ties to organized labor include former SEIU executive Anna Burger and National Education Association executive director John C. Stocks.
The surging influence of the labor movement within the Democracy Alliance mirrors the renewed popularity of its favored policies in the Obama White House. President Obama’s policies are closely aligned with those advocated by the labor movement, whose activists did so much to help Obama’s election in 2008 and re-election in 2012. For example, the president has embarked on a public relations offensive this year in an effort to pressure Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. He has also taken executive action aimed at ensuring federal contractors use the $10.10 minimum. Labor unions benefit from such increases because many collective bargaining agreements require pay raises for higher-paid members whenever the minimum wage rises. The labor movement also backs Obama’s push to redistribute more taxpayer money as a way to reduce economic inequality.
The Washington Free Beacon’s discovery also yielded names of other new Democracy Alliance members from outside the labor movement. Business people who became members include Adam Abram (insurance and real estate), Rick Segal (financial services), and Paul Boskind (behavioral health). Amy Goldman Fowler (real estate) and Henry van Ameringen (manufacturing) are now Alliance members. New School professor Philip Munger, son of Berkshire Hathaway vice chairman Charles Munger, also became a member.
Sources within the Democracy Alliance told the Washington Post earlier this year that 11 new members were welcomed into the group in recent months. San Francisco hedge fund magnate Tom Steyer and Houston trial lawyers Steve and Amber Mostyn became members in recent years, they said. (Steyer is profiled in the August 2014 Foundation Watch.)
The Democracy Alliance is a macrocosm of the modern Left, a collection of venture capitalists, hedge fund managers, successful business people, and trust fund recipients. In a nutshell, they fund left-wing groups that want to, in the words of Barack Obama, “fundamentally transform the United States of America.” Leftist blogger Markos Moulitsas called it “a vast, Vast Left Wing Conspiracy to rival” the conservative movement.
The Alliance has been around for almost a decade now. It was born out of the frustration of wealthy left-wingers who gave generously to liberal candidates and 527 political committees in the 2004 election cycle, but were bitterly disappointed when John Kerry failed to beat George W. Bush for the presidency. George Soros, Progressive Insurance chairman Peter B. Lewis, and S&L tycoons Herb and Marion Sandler were angry and discouraged after contributing to the Media Fund, which spent $57 million on TV ads attacking President Bush in swing states, and to America Coming Together, a labor-backed 527 group that spent $78 million on get-out-the-vote efforts in 2004.
Seduced by the siren song of pollsters and members of the mainstream media who promised them that John Kerry would trounce the incumbent president, Election Day 2004 left them shell-shocked. “The U.S. didn’t enter World War II until Japan bombed Pearl Harbor,” political consultant Erica Payne told them. “We just had our Pearl Harbor.”
So in April 2005, 70 millionaires and billionaires met in Phoenix, Arizona, for a secret long-term strategy session in which the Democracy Alliance was born. Three-quarters of the attendees agreed that the Alliance should not “retain close ties to the Democratic Party,” and 84 percent thought the conservative movement was “a fundamental threat to the American way of life.”
Former Clinton administration official Rob Stein told the gathering they needed to reflect on how conservatives had spent four decades investing in ideas and institutions with staying power. Stein showed his PowerPoint presentation on condition they keep it confidential. Called “The Conservative Message Machine’s Money Matrix,” the presentation showed graphs and charts of an intricate network of organizations, funders, and activists that compose what Stein said was the conservative movement. “This is perhaps the most potent, independent, institutionalized apparatus ever assembled in a democracy to promote one belief system,” he warned them.
Stein argued that the Left could not compete electorally because it was hopelessly outgunned by the right’s think tanks, legal advocacy organizations, and leadership schools. (Stein failed to mention that the Left enjoys control of almost all universities, large foundations, and mainstream media outlets.)
In the age of the so-called imperial presidency, capturing the White House is all-important, Stein later told a panel discussion at the Democratic National Convention in 2008. “The reason it is so important to control government is because government is the source of enormous power. One president in this country, when he or she takes office … appoints 5,000 people to run a bureaucracy, non-military non-postal service of 2 million people, who hire 10 million outside outsource contractors—a workforce of 12 million people—that spends 3 trillion dollars a year. That number is larger than the gross domestic product of all but four countries on the face of the earth.”
In 2005, Stein felt Democrats had grown complacent, accustomed to thinking of themselves as the natural majority party. The party had become a top-down organization run by professional politicians untroubled by donors’ concerns. He was convinced the party had to be turned upside-down: Donors should fund an ideological movement that would dictate policies to politicians. Activists with new money and new energy should demand more say in party affairs. As Eli Pariser of the group MoveOn said just after the 2004 election: “Now it’s our party: we bought it, we own it, and we’re going to take it back.”
Democratic donors aggravated by the GOP’s electoral success latched on to Stein’s vision. “The new breed of rich and frustrated leftists” saw themselves as oppressed both by “a Republican conspiracy” and “by their own party and its insipid Washington establishment,” wrote journalist Matt Bai. “This, more than anything else, was what drew them to Rob Stein’s presentation.”
Stein’s presentation won converts, and the Democracy Alliance was born. It was an odd name for a loose collection of super-rich donors committed to building organizations that would propel America to the left and thus shift ever more power from We the People to We the Federal Government.
This Election Cycle
The Democracy Alliance plans to execute a $200 million fundraising campaign this election cycle, in order to benefit key groups that are working for a permanent left-wing Democrat majority. Among the groups benefiting from the Alliance’s largesse are the John Podesta-founded Center for American Progress, Media Matters for America, America Votes, and Organizing for Action.
It is worth noting that Organizing for Action (formerly known as Organizing for America), the 501(c)(4) nonprofit group into which the last Obama campaign transformed itself, is intricately enmeshed in the Democracy Alliance network. According to the Washington Free Beacon, OfA acknowledged receiving at least $1.87 million from Alliance members. Alliance members help to run OfA. Four DA “partners” serve on the group’s board and an additional five are on its advisory board. (For more on OfA, see Organization Trends, May 2010.)
Ironically, much of the money being spent by groups that enjoy support from the wealthy donors of the Democracy Alliance is being spent on the effort to vilify right-leaning billionaire donors Charles and David Koch, as a way to distract from President Obama’s failed policies and scare the left-wing base. Members of the Alliance are “obsessed with” the Kochs’ funding network, according to Politico’s Ken Vogel.
“Conservatives, particularly the Koch Brothers, are playing for keeps with an even more pronounced financial advantages [sic] than in recent election cycles,” according to a 62-page briefing book that Democracy Alliance donors received before the annual spring meeting of the group at Chicago’s luxurious Ritz-Carlton hotel.
“The briefing book reveals a sort of DA-funded extra-party political machine,” Vogel writes, “that includes sophisticated voter databases and plans to mobilize pivotal Democratic voting blocs, air ads boosting Democratic candidates, while also—perhaps ironically—working to reduce the influence of money in politics.”
As Vogel reports, the Democracy Alliance has embraced a series of projects its leadership believes will advance the leftist cause. According to internal documents from the Chicago meeting, the Alliance recommended that annual funding of the so-called “conservative misinformation” watchdog Media Matters for America should increase from last year’s $2.4 million to $3 million, in order to back the group’s “Metis” software for “tracking conservative smears.”
The Alliance also supports training for “acts of civil disobedience” by groups such as the New Organizing Institute, and funding for the Progressive Leaders Network, which has been described as the left-wing counterpart to the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC, whose 2,000-plus membership includes state legislators and corporations, produces model legislation for state legislatures to consider. It suffered mightily in past years as a result of false accusations of racism made by the Van Jones-founded group Color of Change (see Organization Trends, December 2013). Now the Left, despite objecting in principle to such meetings of legislators with outside groups, has decided to fund its own group of legislators and “progressive” groups. David Weigel, a liberal journalist with Slate, says the Progressive Leaders Network has “huge” ambitions. The group itself boasts its members number “more than 13,000 school board members, city councilors, county officials, state legislators, and statewide officeholders.”
The Alliance boasts that its support of Harold Ickes’s progressive voter contact outfit, Catalist, helped bring Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) in as a supporter of the (failed) Manchin-Toomey gun control bill, by applying voter pressure to the freshman senator.
The Alliance aspires to play a “lead national role in the fight against voter suppression in the lead up to the 2014 election” by supporting the Brennan Center at New York University. The Center generates an unending stream of propaganda promoting the lie that voter fraud is a figment of conservatives’ imagination (see Organization Trends, April 2014).
All told, the Alliance’s briefing book urges members to focus their funding on 20 left-wing groups, which it sees as the core of the Left, while it also lists another 150 or so groups that are worthy of support, often nominated by Alliance donors.
But not all the limousine leftists of the Democracy Alliance are happy campers, according to the internal documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. The group’s president, veteran activist Gara LaMarche, believes the Alliance hasn’t been aggressive enough in steering the ship of state to port. He reportedly told the Chicago meeting that Alliance members need to spend “the hundreds of millions of dollars that will be necessary to make a serious effort” to elect Democratic candidates and push more leftist policies.
LaMarche acknowledged separately that some former members “had the perception we were not sufficiently independent of the Democratic Party or the White House, or failed to take a long enough view of infrastructure and power-building beyond the next election cycle.”
For example, Facebook co-founder and New Republic publisher Chris Hughes joined the Democracy Alliance last year, but his husband Sean Eldridge, a Democratic congressional candidate in New York, did not. Internal documents say the two have “indicated that they are unlikely to renew their membership in 2014” but “have indicated that they would like to return to the DA at a later date.”
Two other Alliance members quit outright. Art dealer Ronald Feldman and manufacturing executive Donald Budinger left the group earlier this year. “Three other partners—former investment banker and U.S. ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy, tech entrepreneur Tim Gill, and Steve Cohen, whose professional associations are not clear—are at risk of ceasing their involvement with the DA,” wrote Lachlan Markay of the Washington Free Beacon. To offset the losses, the group aspires to bring 16 new members into the fold by the end of 2014.
According to LaMarche, some Alliance members feel there “is a sense … that we have become a bit stalled. … We haven’t grown enough as a partnership to keep pace with the challenges before us.”
The George Soros Angle
By giving to far-left philanthropies that wish to abolish the border, Democracy Alliance members fund the free-for-all immigration policies that laid the foundation for the ongoing upheaval in the southern states. Democracy Alliance bigwig George Soros himself has also given more than $100 million to groups that support “immigrant rights,” immigration amnesty, and open borders since 1997. The goal is to flood America with reliably Democratic future voters who will support Soros’s extreme policy agenda.
Soros makes little effort to conceal his contempt for this nation. He openly favors the collapse of the greenback and the decline of America in general. “The main obstacle to a stable and just world order is the United States,” he has said. Soros praises Red China effusively and has said the totalitarian nation—which cuts babies in unauthorized pregnancies from the wombs of their mothers, tortures and kills religious dissenters such as Falun Gong members, and runs over eminent domain resisters with steam-rollers—has “a better-functioning government than the United States.”
It is only logical that Hillary Clinton, who presided over the Benghazi saga and cover-up as secretary of state, would be Soros’s choice for the White House in 2016. Clinton is a devotée of community organizing guru Saul Alinsky, just like President Obama. Unlike Obama, Clinton, who is two decades Obama’s senior, knew Alinsky personally. As Alana Goodman suggests, the two adored each other, exchanging correspondence for years. Clinton described Alinsky as “a man of exceptional charm.” At the request of the Clinton White House, Wellesley College sealed Mrs. Clinton’s 1968 thesis on Alinsky. The late author Barbara Olson said Mrs. Clinton requested that the thesis be hidden away because it showed “the extent to which she internalized and assimilated the beliefs and methods of Saul Alinsky.” Clinton attacker turned Clinton booster David Brock called her “Alinsky’s daughter” in his 1996 book, The Seduction of Hillary Rodham.
Soros came out as an early supporter of Clinton’s prospective presidential candidacy last year. And because Soros’s wealthy leftist friends in the Democracy Alliance often follow his lead, a tsunami of early money may be poised to boost the Clinton campaign. “George Soros is delighted to join more than one million Americans in supporting Ready for Hillary,” Soros’s political director Michael Vachon said, referring to a pro-Clinton political action committee. “His support for Ready for Hillary is an extension of his long held belief in the power of grassroots organizing.” (Soros also donated to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.)
A currency speculator convicted of insider-trading in France in 2005, Soros is a practiced hand-wringer who frequently tells gullible reporters he is getting out of electoral politics altogether. This is his mantra between elections even though he never actually follows through on the threat.
In 2012 Soros gave $1 million to Priorities USA Action, the super PAC whose infamous TV ad blamed the tragic cancer death of an ex-steelworker’s wife on Mitt Romney. Soros said he was “appalled by the Romney campaign, which is openly soliciting the money of the rich to starve the state of the money it needs to provide social services.”
Soros is now spreading his wealth around to help a slew of Democrats in future elections. Soros has influence over Obama administration policy. He has visited the Obama White House at least 10 times.
Board of Directors
Earlier this year the Democracy Alliance replaced much of its leadership, giving those connected to the labor movement greater power. Its new chairman of the board is John C. Stocks, executive director of the National Education Association. His NEA bio states that the signature of his career has been “an unmatched drive for social justice and positive change in education.” He also served as a Democratic member of the Idaho state senate and was honored in 2007 by the Saul Alinsky-inspired Midwest Academy, which trains community organizers. Stocks succeeded Taco Bell heir Rob McKay as Alliance chairman.
Its vice chairman is Patricia Bauman, a well-connected Democratic Party operative who is president of her family philanthropy, the Bauman Foundation. Bauman co-chairs the Brennan Center for Justice and Catalist LLC. She is a vice chairman of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The group’s treasurer is Paul Egerman. According to his online biography, he is
“a retired software entrepreneur who previously founded two successful health information technology companies: eScription, a company that provides dictation and transcription management and automatic speech recognition for the healthcare industry and IDX Systems Corporation, a worldwide supplier of administrative and financial solutions for healthcare organizations.” Egerman was finance chairman for the campaign of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and is a member of the J Street Advisory Council and the board of directors for the New Israel Fund.
The board secretary is Weston Milliken, “a management consultant specializing in human and organizational development, philanthropy, and quality improvement,” his online biography states. The Los Angeles resident is a son of Roger Milliken (died 2010), a billionaire textile magnate who supported conservative causes and helped turn his home state of South Carolina Republican.
James D. Gollin is a board member. He finances green groups and human rights groups in the U.S. and Mexico. He is chairman of New Mexico’s progressive donor collaborative and president of the board of Rainforest Action Network.
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) president Mary Kay Henry is a member of the board. She was previously vice chairman of the board.
Rob Stein, whose PowerPoint presentation helped launch the group, is a board member. Stein called the disgraced and now-disbanded Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), which received a grant from the Alliance in 2006, “a grassroots, tough-minded, liberal-left organization” and “a very responsible organization.”
Cynthia Ryan is a board member. She used to run the Boston-based Schooner Foundation and is a current or former trustee of Women for Women International, the Ploughshares Fund, and the National Association of Health Education Centers. Ryan is also a member of the Peace & Security Funders Group, International Human Rights Funders Group, National Network of Grantmakers, Women Waging Peace, and Grantmakers Without Borders.
Investor David desJardins is a board member. With his wife, Nancy Blachman, he founded the Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival, a program of math education and enrichment for middle and high school students. A mathematician and software engineer, David was among the first 20 employees to work at Google.
Board member Chris Findlater, in the oil refining business, chairs the Alliance’s Florida spin-off that is building political infrastructure in that state. His online bio notes that he is a member of the Alliance’s Committee on States, Colorado Democracy Alliance, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and Project New America. He was a member of the Carpenters Union and the AFL-CIO.
Board member Nick Hanauer is a high-tech venture capitalist and chairman of Pacific Coast Feather Co. and vice chairman of Marchex Inc. He co-founded the League of Education Voters in 2000.
Board member Farhad Ebrahimi is the founder of the Chorus Foundation, which “works for a just transition to a regenerative economy in the United States,” according to his bio. The foundation “supports communities on the front lines of the old, extractive economy to build new bases of political, economic, and cultural power for systemic change.”
Board member Yolanda “Cookie” Parker founded KMS Software Co. She is also a member of the board of People for the American Way, which is infamous for inventing the practice of “borking” Republican nominees to the Supreme Court from Judge Robert Bork forward. Parker was a member of the 2008 and 2012 Obama campaigns’ national finance committees. She was a National Co-Chair for Technology for Obama, and now works with Organizing for Action.
George Soros protégé Gara LaMarche is president of the Democracy Alliance. He was previously senior fellow at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and before that was president and CEO of the Bermuda-based Atlantic Philanthropies. While at Atlantic, he played a large role in forcing Obamacare on the American people. He led “the foundation’s efforts to embrace a social justice framework for grantmaking, and spearheaded the largest-ever grant made by a foundation for an advocacy campaign—over $25 million to press for comprehensive health care reform in the U.S.” He’s referring especially to his grant to Health Care for America Now (HCAN), an umbrella group of left-wing activist organizations including unions, Planned Parenthood, and (until its demise) ACORN, that was critical to passing Obamacare. LaMarche recently bragged that Harvard professor and left-wing activist Theda Skocpol has credited the philanthropic support HCAN received for saving Obamacare when, she says, “many Democrats were ready to drop the whole thing, after Scott Brown’s [Senate] election in Massachusetts.” (For more on HCAN, see “How Liberal Activists Passed Obamacare,” Foundation Watch, August 2010.)
Before working at Atlantic Philanthropies, LaMarche was vice president and director of U.S. Programs for Soros’s Open Society Foundations, “launching the organization’s pivotal work on challenges to social justice and democracy in the United States,” his bio states. He had long White House meetings with senior Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett in the run-up to Obamacare’s passage, and Jarrett and David Axelrod, another senior aide, have spoken at Alliance meetings.
More recently, he has embraced Alinskyite in-your-face activism. LaMarche concludes a recent article with the hope that open-borders activists will “make noise and cause trouble,” and quotes with approval immigration activist Frank Sharry, who urges his colleagues to learn from the confrontational tactics of LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender) activists. “It’s time,” he says, “to go all LGBT on their ass.”
A serious internal schism came to light in 2012 that ultimately threatens the Democracy Alliance’s future. The conflict has created two factions. On one side are Alliance members who believe in the original mission of the donors’ collaborative, which was to foster a permanent political infrastructure of nonprofits, think tanks, media outlets, leadership schools, and activist groups. The idea was to focus on long-term institution-building and idea-generating, rather than just help Democrats win elections every cycle.
But after the Tea Party-driven 2010 mid-term elections saw Republicans resurgent, Vice President Joe Biden reportedly persuaded the Alliance to include straight political donations as part of its strategy. Soros doppelganger Peter B. Lewis, who helped to found the group with Soros, later concluded the Democracy Alliance had become far too partisan. In a crushing blow to the club-for-billionaire-radicals, the Progressive Insurance magnate, who had spent $25 million in 2004 in a failed attempt to defeat President Bush, reportedly resigned from the Democracy Alliance in disgust in 2012.
“Peter’s focus since 2004 has been on scaling up the progressive infrastructure, as opposed to election[s] or political candidates,” a source told the Politico newspaper. Although Lewis donated $200,000 in 2011 to a super PAC approved by the Democracy Alliance, a source close to him told Politico that he probably would not give any more cash to super PACs and was not happy with the Democracy Alliance’s newfound focus on them. (Lewis died at age 80 on Nov. 23, 2013.)
Trial lawyer Guy Saperstein said he quit the Democracy Alliance because he believed the group’s mission had shifted. “All of us were political donors going in, and the DA was sold to us as an effort to build infrastructure that was different from campaign politics. But that promise has been something that they’ve moved away from,” he said. Saperstein said he donated more than $1 million through the Democracy Alliance. Saperstein, who regards Obama as “a failure from a progressive point of view,” said the group was now “more devoted to short-term election tactics than it ever had been.”
On the other side of the divide are those Democracy Alliance members who want the group to more closely align itself with groups close to the Obama White House, such as Media Matters for America and the Center for American Progress, in order to help Democrats in the approaching election.
Right now this faction appears to have the upper hand. The Democracy Alliance officially dumped several of the more ideologically oriented groups as recommended grantees. Among the groups dropped are documentary filmmaker Brave New Foundation and the Campaign for America’s Future, which has repeatedly attacked Democrats for taking insufficiently left-wing stances.
For the time being, the Democracy Alliance appears to have papered over the tensions that rile the group from time to time. After all, there’s an election to win.
The Democracy Alliance has around 100 donor-members, both individuals and organizations. However, it has not made available an official list. Here are some known Democracy Alliance members:
Naomi Aberly, philanthropist
Adam Abram, insurance and real estate
Karen Ackerman, political director for the AFL-CIO
AFL-CIO, an institutional member
American Federation of Teachers, an institutional member
Judith Avery, investor
Anne Avis, philanthropist
Fred Baron (died 2008), trial lawyer
Anne Bartley, heiress, step-daughter of Winthrop Rockefeller
Patricia Bauman, real estate investor and Bauman Foundation head
Noel Beasley, president of Workers United
Joshua Bekenstein, managing director of Bain Capital
Daniel Berger, lawyer and writer
Lisa Blue, trial lawyer and widow of Fred Baron
Paul Boskind, behavioral health
Robert Bowditch, founded MB Management
Ann S. Bowers, widow of Intel co-founder Robert Noyce
Rutt Bridges, founded Advance Geophysical
Edgar Bronfman Jr., CEO of Warner Music Group
Joanie Bronfman, a Tides Foundation director
William Budinger, founded Rodel Inc. (quit the DA)
Mark Buell and Susie Tompkins Buell, businessman; wife co-founded clothier Esprit
Anna Burger, was secretary-treasurer of SEIU
Julie Burton, consultant
Peter Buttenweiser, heir
Marcy Carsey, co-owner of independent studio Carsey-Werner
Bob Clement, former congressman from Tennessee
Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America
John Cogan, retired head of Pioneer Investments
Noel Congdon, retired developer
Tom Congdon, retired energy executive
Lewis B. Cullman, financier
Quinn Delaney, philanthropist
David DesJardins, former software developer for Google
Robert H. Dugger, managing director of Tudor Investment Corp.
Albert J. Dwoskin, real estate developer
Robert Dyson, CEO of Dyson-Kissner-Moran Corp.
Farhad Ebrahimi, founder of the Chorus Foundation
Stefan Edlis, retired plastics executive
Paul Egerman, software entrepreneur
Diane Feeney, former chairman of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy
Ronald Feldman, art dealer (quit the DA)
Lee and Amy Fikes, oil company president; wife is homemaker
Christopher Findlater, CEO of Cheyenne Exploration Co.
Richard and Shari Foos, entertainment entrepreneur; wife is therapist
Amy Goldman Fowler, author and artist, real estate heiress
David A. Friedman, philanthropist (and self-described centrist)
Gail Furman, psychologist
Chris Gabrieli, software entrepreneur
Tim Gill, co-founder Quark software
Davidi Gilo, high-tech entrepreneur
Rob Glaser, heads RealNetworks
Steven M. Gluckstern, founded specialty reinsurance firm
James D. and Suzanne Gollin, fund manager; wife is philanthropist
Colin Greer, president of New World Foundation
Chad Griffin, managing partner of Griffin Schake
Louise Gund, philanthropist
Richard and Lois Gunther, philanthropists
John Haas, former chairman of chemical engineering company
Nick Hanauer, CEO of Pacific Coast Feather Co.
Paul Harstad, founded Harstad Strategic Research
Jonathan Heller and Connie Cagampang Heller, philanthropists
Mary Kay Henry, president, Service Employees International Union
Lawrence and Suzanne Hess, philanthropists
Arnold Hiatt, former CEO of Stride Rite
Rampa Hormel, president of Global Environment Project Institute
Joseph Hornig, real estate developer
Joan Huffer, executive at Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Chris Hughes, Facebook co-founder, former head MyBarackObama.com
Blair Hull, financier
Megan Hull, consultant
Rachel Pritzker Hunter, Hyatt heiress
John Hunting, office furniture heir
Robert Johnson, was partner at Impact Artist Management
Wayne Jordan, real estate developer
Joel Kanter, president of Windy City Inc.
Heeten Kalan, senior program officer at New World Foundation
Michael Kieschnick, founded Working Assets and Secretary of State Project
George Kohl, senior director of Communications Workers of America
Livingston Kosberg, CEO of U.S. Physical Therapy Inc.
Ira Lechner, lawyer, chairman of Council for a Livable World
Barbara Lee, philanthropist (not the congresswoman)
Daniel Leeds, president of Fulcrum Investments LLC
Gara LaMarche, was CEO of Atlantic Philanthropies, vice president of Open Society Institute
Norman Lear, television producer, founded People for the American Way
Daniel Lewis, member of Progressive Casualty Insurance Co. board, brother of Peter
Jonathan Lewis, consultant, son of Peter
Peter B. Lewis, founded Progressive Casualty Insurance Co. (quit the DA, died 2013)
Lawrence Linden, banker at Goldman Sachs
Arthur Lipson, investor
John and Rhonda Luongo, venture capitalist; wife is interior designer
Rodger McFarlane (died 2010), senior adviser to Tim Gill’s foundation
Rob McKay, Taco Bell heir
Larry McNeil, executive director of SEIU’s Institute for Change
Keith Mestrich, president of Amalgamated Bank
Benjamin Miller, president of Western Development Corp.
Herb Miller, real estate developer
Weston Milliken, management consultant
Mario Morino, philanthropist
Steve and Amber Mostyn, trial lawyers
Philip Munger, academic and son of Berkshire Hathaway vice chairman Charles Munger
Philip Murphy, former Goldman Sachs executive, former national finance chairman for DNC
Sanford Newman, founder of ACORN’s Project Vote affiliate
Yolanda “Cookie” Parker, founder of KMS Software Co.
Alan Patricof, co-founder of private equity firm Apax Partners
Anne Peretz, therapist
Leslie Peterson, former Wyoming Democratic Party chairman
Steven Phillips, attorney and political organizer, son-in-law of Herb and Marion Sandler
Drummond and Liza Pike, founded Tides Foundation; wife is philanthropist
Linda Pritzker, Hyatt heiress, psychotherapist
Jared Polis, congressman from Colorado
Andy and Deborah Rappaport, husband is venture capitalist; wife is philanthropist
Rob Reiner, actor-director
Michelle Ringuette, assistant to AFT president Randi Weingarten
William J. Roberts, executive at Atlantic Philanthropies
Charles Rodgers, president of New Community Fund
Simon Rosenberg, founded New Democrat Network
Paul Rudd, owner of Adaptive Analytics LLC (not the Hollywood actor)
Cynthia Ryan, activist and philanthropist
Deborah Sagner, philanthropist, social worker
Herb and Marion Sandler, co-founded Golden West Financial Corp. (Mrs. Sandler died in 2012)
Guy Saperstein, trial lawyer (quit the DA)
Rick Segal, financial services
SEIU, an institutional member
Stephen M. Silberstein, philanthropist
Bren Simon, real estate developer
Ryan Smith, unknown
George Soros, currency speculator
Jonathan Soros, son of George
William Soskin, lawyer
Marc Stanley, lawyer
Rob Stein, founded Democracy Alliance, was Clinton-era chief of staff at Department of Commerce
Tom Steyer, hedge fund manager, environmentalist
John Stocks, executive director at National Education Association
Patricia Stryker, heiress
Stephen and Ellen Susman, lawyer; wife is journalist
Donald and Emily Sussman, financier; wife is philanthropist
Ted Trimpa, lawyer and former tobacco lobbyist
Cristina Uribe, political strategist
Michael Vachon, spokesman and political director for George Soros
Henry van Ameringen, manufacturing
Philippe and Kate Villers, founder of Computervision; wife is activist
Randi Weingarten, president of American Federation of Teachers
Dirk Wiggins, former outreach director for the Florida Democratic Party
Albert C. Yates, former president of Colorado State University
(sources: author research, media sources such as Washington Free Beacon and Politico)