Democracy Alliance


Following George W. Bush’s reelection in 2004, big-wig billionaires and millionaires of the Democratic Party met and mapped out a plan to regain the momentum in national politics and alter the course of public policy in their favor. The product of that meeting was the Democracy Alliance (or Alliance, DA), which served as the premier financial clearinghouse for liberal policy groups. However, during the 2012 presidential election cycle, the Alliance changed its focus from influencing policy to influencing politicians.

George Soros and other wealthy liberals were unhappy with the mid–2000s conservative tilt in national politics, particularly the partisan control of Congress and the White House by Republicans. (Soros is the eccentric billionaire well-known for funding left-wing organizations). Within months of the 2004 election, these influential individuals organized a meeting in Washington D.C. to formulate a plan. Erica Payne, a New York political consultant and among those who helped set up the high-profile, post-election meeting, summed up the negative sentiment of the wealthy liberals upon not having political control: “We just had our Pearl Harbor.”

Launched in 2005, Democracy Alliance was the left’s response to the popular and well-organized conservative movement around the country. The idea was born at the original meeting where Rob Stein (a political operative and former Chief of Staff for President Bill Clinton’s transition team) presented a PowerPoint presentation titled “The Conservative Message Machine Money Matrix,” which exhaustively described the successful conservative movement. Soros, especially, was unhappy with America, having claimed that totalitarian, communist China has “a better-functioning government than the United States.”

The presentation’s organizers emphasized the necessity for secrecy and confidentiality—a mantra of today’s Democracy Alliance. Soros, Stein, and other early members wanted to avoid the national spotlight and control politics from behind the curtain. Soros sought to better coordinate and organize his funding and the funding of other like-minded, wealthy progressives to reach a common goal: reclaim political power for the Democrats and steer public policy to meet their own agenda, allowing the Alliance to serve as a “shadow party” to the Democratic Party.

Effectively, the Alliance utilizes the deep pockets of its billionaire members to, as Capital Research Center describes, “…dictate policies to politicians.” Through donations to liberal “Super-PACs,” the group is able to steer public policy to conform to its radical agenda, leaving the electorate and general public in the dark.

How the Alliance Works

Membership to Democracy Alliance is exclusive and by invitation-only, reinforcing the group’s commitment to secrecy. Members, who are dubbed “partners,” meet twice a year and are required to pay an initial $25,000 fee and $30,000 in annual dues. In addition, partners must give at least $200,000 each year to Alliance-endorsed groups. It’s at the private, lavish summits that the partners hear presentations from selected left-wing groups pitching their cause to Alliance members who then decide if and how much to donate to them.

Not only does the Alliance include billionaire individuals, but some labor unions also serve as “institutional investors,” including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrialized Organizations (AFL-CIO). These highly partisan backers pay $50,000 in annual dues, and must give at least $1 million to Alliance-endorsed efforts.

According to The Washington Post, the Alliance effectively serves as an “accreditation agency” for progressive organizations, partnering “favored organizations” with big-money donors. The livelihood of the groups not endorsed by the Alliance can be grim—the financial stability of the left-wing groups is determined and controlled by the leaders of the Alliance. Therefore, if an organization does not conform to the increasingly progressive agenda of Democracy Alliance partners, then the group faces an uphill battle to obtain sufficient funding.

Black Eyes

Upon its inception, Democracy Alliance focused on creating a policy-driven organization that could counter the conservative movement. However, in 2011, the Alliance decided to change its direction. Following a visit and solicitation for help by Democratic Vice President Joe Biden at the Alliance’s February 2011 meeting, Democracy Alliance abandoned its initial exclusion of political campaign funding, and began inviting liberal Super-PACs to its summits. This marked a clear shift from a focus on policy, to a clear priority of controlling national politics. During the Alliance’s transitional phase, POLITICO reported that “The group is shifting away from its original mission of funding liberal think-tanks and policy projects…”

Among the highly influential political action committees that began attending Alliance conferences was Priorities USA, the Super-PAC dedicated to President Obama’s reelection. Between 2011 and 2012, Priorities USA spent more than $66 million on Republican attack ads to boost Obama’s campaign. Rob McKay, Alliance partner and heir to the Taco Bell fortune, kept the relationship between the Alliance and President Obama close by also serving as a Board Member of Priorities USA.

After the group’s 2011 structural change, some middle-of-the-road organizations and other groups lost their Alliance accreditation. According to the Huffington Post in February 2012:

“The groups dropped by the Democracy Alliance tend to be those that work outside the [Democratic] party’s structure. Groups with closer ties to the party, such as the Center for American Progress and Media Matters, retained their status with the Democracy Alliance as favored organizations.”

Democracy Alliance positioned itself less as a policy- and issue-focused organization, and prioritized its need to influence partisan politics and elected officials. This was evident with Peter Lewis’ departure in 2012. One of the founding billionaires of the Alliance, Lewis felt as though the group’s new focus on influencing political candidates was too partisan and “a step away from their original mission,” according to a Huffington Post source. Alliance member Guy Saperstein, a trial lawyer, also left the group, saying “…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.” Saperstein confirmed that the Alliance is now “more devoted to short term election tactics than it ever had been.

Known Recipients of Democracy Alliance Contributions
Discover the Networks and Capital Resource Center have compiled lists of known grant recipients of Democracy Alliance. Among the notable groups:

Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now (ACORN): Now-defunct, it was composed of radical activists implicated in election fraud investigations. Alliance co-founder Rob Stein called the organization “tough-minded” and “a very responsible organization.

Center for American Progress (CAP): It its first round, CAP received $5 million from the Alliance. CAP is also directly funded by George Soros, and seeks to move national politics further to the left.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW): With its mislabeled “nonpartisan watchdog” group mission, CREW became an accredited Alliance organization, which jump-started it to success.

Media Matters for America: Within the first three years of Alliance donations, Media Matters for America received at least $7 million to advance its partisan efforts, and serves as a “war room” to promote President Obama’s policies.

Sierra Club: A highly influential environmental organization, Sierra Club is an anti-growth, anti-technology group that places its utopian environmentalist vision before the well-being of humans.

Former and Current “Partners” of Democracy Alliance

While a comprehensive list of the roughly 150 members is unknown due to the Alliance’s pledge to secrecy, below is a secret list of Alliance partners obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, as well as various other watchdog groups.

  • Rutt Bridges
  • Joe Zimlich
  • Pat Stryker
  • Al Yates
  • Rob Stein
  • Kelly Craighead
  • Rob McKay
  • John Stocks
  • Suzanne Gollin
  • James Gollin
  • Ellen Susman
  • Mary Kay Henry
  • Nick Hanauer
  • Steven Phillips
  • John Johnson
  • Ted Trimpa
  • Michael Vachon
  • Paul Harstad
  • Marsha Rosenbaum
  • William Soskin
  • John Schwartz
  • Joel Kanter
  • Josh Kanter
  • Bill Benter
  • Art Lipson
  • Billy Wimsatt
  • Dick Gunther
  • Joan Huffer
  • Patricia Evert
  • Ronald Feldman
  • Thomas Hormel
  • Rampa Hormel
  • Karen Ackerman
  • Mario Morino
  • Chistopher Findlater
  • Lisa Blue
  • Michael Recanati
  • Judith Avery
  • Tim Gill
  • Doug Phelps
  • Jared Polis
  • Michael Kieschnick
  • Daniel Berger
  • Arnold Hiatt
  • Guy Saperstein
  • Peter Lewis
  • Andy Stern
  • Anna Burger
  • Phillippe Villers
  • Rachel Pritzker
  • Ira Statfeld
  • Jonathon Soros
  • George Soros
  • Robert Johnson
  • Gara LaMarche
  • Tom Steyer
  • Jeffrey Katzen