A driving force behind the left’s outreach to young voters is also a member of a shady big-money political operation.
Billy Upski Wimsatt, a graffiti artist turned best-selling writer, is a member of the invitation-only Democracy Alliance. The foul-mouthed vandal has converted his literary fortune into political clout, forming several groups to aid Barack Obama’s election efforts.
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Wimsatt and former Obama official and 9-11 Truther Van Jones founded Rebuild the Dream, a populist liberal group that aims to raise taxes and increase regulation. The message meets Wimsatt’s over-arching political goals. Along with his voter outreach efforts, Wimsatt also supports Occupy Wall Street.
The Alliance requires members to push $200,000 into the coffers of liberal nonprofits and as well as the war chests of Democratic super PACs, including Obama’s Priorities USA. These secretive contributions carry no accountability.
The Alliance did not return emails for comment.
"What we’re really seeing is a bunch of wealthy people banding together to give major support to Democratic causes without having their names attached to it," said campaign finance expert John Samples. "By giving through a group like Democracy Alliance you are shielding yourself from the public light."
The Alliance does not disclose its members or the recipients of their cash. Wimsatt has never publicly acknowledged his role in the group, despite the large cash requirements to attend its secretive conferences.
Wimsatt has been a public face of radical liberalism in pop culture. He has more than 100,000 copies of his books in print, including his breakout hit, Bomb the Suburbs: Graffiti, Race, Freight-Hopping and the Search for Hip Hop's Moral Center, which chronicled his opposition to American institutions and his life as a graffiti artist. Since the book’s publication, he has put his politics into action, raising more than $8 million for leftwing causes.
"There is a rise in political entrepreneurism, people like Karl Rove on the right and [Media Matters founder] David Brock on the left," elections expert Brad Smith said. "Money’s not going to parties anymore, it’s ending up in the hands of influential fundraisers that have a track record of making a difference in elections."
Wimsatt has concentrated his most recent efforts on swaying young voters. He heads up The League of Young Voters, also known as The League of Pissed Off Voters, a group which drafts local "progressive" voter guides to steer college students and young professionals to the Democratic camp.
The success of Bomb the Suburbs established him as a hot commodity in the literary community. He blogs for Huffington Post and has contributed liberal editorials to the Chicago Tribune, the Nation, and Vibe magazine.
He does not shy away from his advocacy, nor attempt to hide his agenda. He wears his heart on his sleeve, confessing to YouTube that he is "so fucking mad that we have to change this country so it stops destroying people."
The one thing Wimsatt won’t talk about, however, is the Democracy Alliance, which bars members from talking about its activities publicly.
He did not return calls for comment.