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created a Committee on States which aimsto put a state-level Democracy Alliance inall 50 states. Its greatest success to date isColorado, where a DA chapter helped turnthat state Democrat blue. The Alliance alsofunds the Secretary of State Project, whichaims to put Democrats in control of the elec-tions apparatus in “key” states.
Following the Money
How much grant-making to liberal groupshas the Democracy Alliance facilitated?It’s not easy to say. First, the Alliance isextremely secretive. Second, it doesn’tgenerally handle grant monies directly, butacts as a clearinghouse matching causes towilling donors. Unless evidence surfacesthat money was funneled through the Alli-ance, who’s to say an individual DA member didn’t make a grant to a group on his or her own initiative?Last month a reporter told
that a Democracy Alliance spokespersontold him the DA has brokered a total of only$105 million in grants to date. This is only$5 million more than we reported 11 monthsago. Democracy Alliance founder Rob Steintold a Democratic Party national convention panel discussion in August that the Alliance“over the last 30 months has put about $110million into 30 groups.”Since the Alliance had been in existence for 43 months –not 30 months— when Steinmade the statement, neither amount tellsthe whole story.In an August 15 Huf
ngton Post columnAlliance member Simon Rosenberg noted that the total dollar value of DA-approved grants was signi
cantly higher. Rosenberg,the founder of the 501(c)(4) New Democrat Network (now called simply NDN), wrotethat the Alliance has already “channeled hundreds of millions of dollars into progres-sive organizations.”In November 2007, Alliance membersGeorge Soros, Rob McKay, Anna Burger,and the Center for American Progress’s JohnPodesta helped form the Fund for America,a 527 group. Roll Call predicted (Nov. 12,2007) that the new entity could pump “per-haps $100 million or more into media buysand voter outreach in the run-up to the 2008elections.” But Alliance donors pulled back after the Fund fell short of its goal and wasdisbanded by June 2008, a victim of thelengthy Obama-Clinton primary
ght and Obama campaign signals that it did not wantits supporters giving to any outside 527 groupnot under its control. (New York Times “TheCaucus” blog, June 26)Before it disbanded the 527 funded a number of left-of-center political organizations. Theyinclude the Campaign to Defend America($1.4 million), America Votes, VoteVets.org, Americans United for Change, ACORN,Center for American Progress Action Fund,Women’s Voices, Women Vote Action Fund,and Progress Now Action and some of its af-
liates. The Fund’s address was identical tothe Service Employees International Union’sWashington headquarters, and it reimbursed SEIU for staff and of
ce expenses. The fund took in $3.5 million from Soros, $2.5 millionfrom SEIU, $2.5 million from Hollywood producer Steve Bing, and $1 million fromhedge fund executive
Donald Sussman.The Alliance created an internal bureaucracyto deal with grants. Last summer, the DA posted a “Letter of Interest” form on itswebsite inviting grant applications from progressive nonpro
ts for the 2009/2010giving cycle. The form, since scrubbed from the site, showed that the Alliance hasa special interest in sustaining certain kindsof organizations. This list usefully describeswhat DA funders consider the priorities for the 21st century left:
*Building power and capacity inkey constituencies
: engagement and issue advocacy work with key con-stituencies, primarily Latinos and young people, as well as AfricanAmericans and unmarried women.
* New media and technol-ogy
: content generators, aggrega-tors and distributors that disseminateand amplify progressive messages.
* Law and legal systems
: working to ad-vance and protect progressive values and policies at all levels of the legal system.
* Early stage idea generators
: focus-ing on progressive idea generationand development at the early and middle stages of the idea cycle in-cluding journals, academic networks, books, and non-traditional think tanks.
* Content generation
: focusing ontraditional and new media vehiclesthat are capable of developing and ef-fectively promoting progressive ideas.
* Civic engagement coordination
:achieving greater ef
ciency and effec-tiveness in mobilization and participationwork through collaboration and coordi-nation and creating economies of scale.
* Civic engagement tools
: increas-ing capacity and availability of dataservices, including online organizingservices for civic engagement groups.
* Election reform
: focusing on struc-tural reforms of our democratic processthat will increase voter participationamong progressive constituencies.
* Youth leadership development
: building on the youth development part of the leadership pipeline thatincludes looking for organizations tar-geting young people that work at scale.
* Mid-career nonpro
: building on the mid-career development part of the leadership pipe-line that includes looking for organiza-tions working at scale.Clearly, donor support is needed for writing books, starting think tanks, winning electionsand changing laws. But what’s striking aboutthis list is the philanthropic left’s emphasison young people, new media, and onlineorganizing.
What is the Democracy Alliance?
During a panel discussion at the Democratic National Convention in Denver in August,