A longtime gay-rights activist who has raised more than $150 million for liberal causes is a member of the secretive Democracy Alliance, according to documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
Patricia Evert has been a staple in Democratic circles since the 1980s, when she raised $55 million for HIV and AIDS nonprofits by organizing "high profile, glamorous, celebrity studded productions." Her reputation for raising seven-figure sums led her to Colorado, where the Democracy Alliance found its earliest success.
Evert joined the Gill Foundation as a vice president at the height of its political influence in 2005. The foundation had focused primarily on gay-rights activism and AIDS awareness since its founding in 1994, but beginning in 2004 progressive groups such as Gill began organizing under the umbrella of Colorado Democracy Alliance with the help of insurance magnate Peter Lewis. They pooled together their collective millions to overwhelm Republicans at the state and local level and eventually helped deliver liberal victories in the governor’s mansion and U.S. Senate.
Campaign finance expert Bradley Smith said Colorado provided the model for what donor-driven giving could accomplish.
"What you saw in Colorado is a group of donors coming together and saying, ‘The party is broken; we’d be better off managing our own money,’ and it worked," Smith told the Free Beacon. "That’s the model for the shadow political party because there’s no law against people coordinating with other people like there is for political parties coordinating with outside groups."
The Democracy Alliance operates in the same way, directing its members’ $200,000 annual dues to Democratic Super PACs and nonprofits with close ties to the Obama administration, such as Priorities USA, the Center for American Progress, and Media Matters.
Evert’s role in the Alliance is unclear. Because the group does not directly handle the millions that come in from dues, it does not have to disclose its members or recipients. Neither Evert nor the Alliance returned comment for the story.
The Democracy Alliance strategy was born out of the left’s diverse collection of interest groups, according to conservative electoral politics expert Jay Cost.
"There is nothing linking together a gay group and a labor union … so what the Alliance does is bring these two well-funded groups together and direct them to the same cause," Cost said.
Evert was in charge of raising money for the Gill Foundation, which donated more than $10 million per year to liberal causes during her tenure. Many of these donations went to groups that the Democracy Alliance supported.
From 2007 to 2009, Gill gave $125,000 in grants to the Center for American Progress, an advocacy group run by former lobbyist and Clinton chief of staff John Podesta. Between 2006 and 2009, it gave nearly $1.2 million to Media Matters.
Evert left the foundation in 2011 to return to her work as a consultant. She maintained her relationship with one of Gill’s most powerful allies, the Tides Foundation. From 1999 to 2009, Gill contributed $2.2 million to the group, which serves as a clearinghouse for Democratic interests.
"Funders give them money and then Tides has final discretion over where that money goes," said Jacob Laksin, coauthor of The New Leviathan. "This allows their donors to cover their tracks, since Tides gives to radical anti-war and environmental groups."
The Tides Foundation is now Evert’s largest client, giving her access to its $175 million war chest. However, its influence pales in comparison to the Alliance, which donated at least $100 million to Democratic causes between 2005 and 2008, according to the Capital Research Center. The Alliance has gained even more influence in the past few years, expanding considerably since Obama took office: 150 members attended its latest convention, double the 80 members it initially attracted.