Democracy Alliance Descends on Atlanta to Plot ‘Course for Progressive Power’

An inside look at the full agenda of the left's biggest dark money donor club

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ATLANTA — Prominent Democrats such as Terry McAuliffe and DNC chair Tom Perez attended the latest Democracy Alliance meeting this week in Atlanta, where party officials and liberal groups met behind closed doors with the millionaires and billionaires they rely on to fund the effort to regain "progressive power."

There was no visible media presence at the group's secretive four-day conference at the luxurious InterContinental Buckhead Atlanta, which was described by the group as "an upscale urban retreat" in the "city's most prestigious neighborhood."

The conference again featured only off-the-record events closed to members of the media. There was, however, a strong security presence at the hotel, where attendees were instructed to be careful with all conference materials and to dispose of conference documents only in specially identified secure recycling bins.

As an extra precaution, and a departure from the group's November conference in California, attendees were given an abridged "Agenda at a Glance" sheet to carry around in their nametags as an alternative to carrying around the full conference agenda.

The Washington Free Beacon obtained both the abridged and the full agenda.

The main agenda for the conference, "Charting the Course for Progressive Power," shows that some of the big names such as Democracy Alliance founder George Soros, whose attendance at the last meeting was revealed by the Free Beacon, stayed away from the Atlanta meeting, though Soros groups such as the Open Society Foundation were present. Top party operative David Brock was also not seen at this week's meeting, though groups he leads such as Media Matters and American Bridge were present to brief attendees.

  2018 Democracy Alliance Spring Conference Agenda by Washington Free Beacon on Scribd

The message from Democracy Alliance leadership was that the movement has to avoid getting "too confident" and should "double down" on spending ahead of the 2018 midterms.

"Despite the possibilities on the horizon, we can't get too confident," wrote Democracy Alliance president Gara LaMarche and chairman John Stocks in a welcome letter. "We need to double down on our commitments to break through the noise in November."

The Democracy Alliance operates by recommending liberal organizations to wealthy alliance partners, who are each obligated to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year on supporting the approved groups such as the ACLU, the Women's March, Priorities USA, Media Matters for America, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and Indivisible.

According to the alliance's participation guidelines, the group "strives to create a safe place for progressive funders and movement leaders to meet and discuss issues of common interest and develop relationships through dialogue and networking."

The conferences serve as an opportunity to recruit new partners, for existing partners to discuss how to best allocate their money, and for groups to strategize how to best work together "to build a more progressive future."

DNC chairman Tom Perez, who headlined two events at the conference, appeared with members of his senior leadership team at an afternoon panel Tuesday to discuss what was underway at the cash-strapped DNC. Later that day, Perez appeared at an evening networking dessert reception with members of the alliance.

A pamphlet titled, "A New DNC," was prepared for the party organization's presentation to donors.

Other panels included discussions on "engaging donors of color" where new research and plans were presented for a "collaborative working group to engage high net worth donors of color." The findings presented to those in attendance included donor interviews, network case studies, and a report titled, "The Apparitional Donor: Understanding and Engaging High Net Worth Donors of Color."

A number of current and prospective state attorneys general who are "advancing a progressive agenda by leveraging the power of politics, policy, and litigation" also took part in the secretive conference.

Mark Herring, the attorney general of Virginia; Karl Racine, the attorney general of the District of Columbia; Josh Shapiro, the attorney general of Pennsylvania; Josh Stein, the attorney general of North Carolina; and January Contreras, who is running for attorney general of Arizona, were all in attendance.

Liberal billionaire Tom Steyer also updated attendees on his "Need to Impeach" campaign.

Much of the work, however, was done outside of meeting rooms and during networking sessions, which were prioritized at this year's conference.

Most of the networking took place at the InterContinental's Bourbon Bar, where, for example, Wendi Wallace, Planned Parenthood's political outreach director, filled in longtime Democracy Alliance partner Billy Wimsatt on her group's revamped data operation. Wallace told Wimsatt she would introduce him to Deirdre Schifeling, Planned Parenthood's executive director, who could provide more detail on how the group's canvassers were rating voter enthusiasm to create more impactful voter files.

Elsewhere at the Bourbon Bar was former Hillary Clinton aide Brian Fallon, who was at the conference to introduce donors to a new group he is launching, telling a table of other guests his plans to "crash" a Monday night dinner hosted by Terry McAuliffe on winning 2018 gubernatorial races.

Also sitting at the bar were two women with a Washington Free Beacon report on overheard comments made by teachers' union president Randi Weingarten about strike plans in Puerto Rico, with one of the women commenting, "I need a drink."

Upstairs at the InterContinental's 21st floor club lounge environmental lawyer Jay Halfon briefed a Colorado anti-fracking activist on how to most effectively combat the oil and gas industry efforts to drill in Boulder.

The agenda includes participation guidelines telling attendees they're "entitled to the expectation that their conference experience and their identity should remain confidential." It asks everyone to "refrain from leaving sensitive materials in public spaces" and to "respect the privacy of others in attendance."

The alliance, which had to set new sexual behavior standards at its fall donor conference in California, again had to remind participants to not "subject others to unwanted sexual advances, coercion or bullying of a sexual nature" or explicitly or implicitly promise rewards in exchange for sexual favors at the gathering.

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