Marsha Rosenbaum: Up in Smoke

Drug legalization advocate occupies prime spot in secretive Democracy Alliance

Marsha Rosenbaum / Drug Policy Alliance
September 7, 2012

A high-ranking member of the drug legalization movement has teamed up with an exclusive group of liberal donors to help elect Democrats.

Marsha Rosenbaum, director emerita of the Drug Policy Alliance in San Francisco, also belongs to the Democracy Alliance, an elite cadre of wealthy liberals that directs $200,000 in annual donations to a select group of causes, including Democratic Super PACs and liberal nonprofits, such as the Center for American Progress and Media Matters for America.

While most members are business or financial gurus, elections expert Jay Cost said interest groups are also well represented in its ranks.

"The Democratic Party has all sorts of diverse interests that come together in Washington to vie for control of the party," he said. "It makes sense that these same groups would want to have an inside play for liberalism’s biggest fundraisers."

The Drug Policy Alliance has focused its attention on policies that are picking up supporters in the mainstream, such as the call to legalize medical marijuana. But its leadership is a "who’s who" of radical leftism. Hedge fund billionaire George Soros—a founding member of the Democracy Alliance—sits on the board of directors, as does Jodie Evans, a leading member of the radical anti-war group, CODEPINK.

Rosenbaum did not return requests for comment.

Rosenbaum’s ideological commitments are clear. She says the war on drugs has "done more harm than good," and blames conservatives for all "bad" drug policy decisions, but she has also become increasingly critical of President Barack Obama.

For example, Rosenbaum blasted the president for "abdicating drug policy to the DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration]," and for stepping up raids of medical marijuana operations in California.

That has not stopped her from toeing the Democracy Alliance company line, however.

Rosenbaum’s political giving corresponds with the Alliance’s increased focus on campaign spending. Although it was established to provide seed money to small liberal organizations, members voted to lift its embargo on Democratic Super PACs after a personal plea from Vice President Joe Biden in 2011. Many members, including co-founding billionaire Peter Lewis, left the group in protest. Rosenbaum, however, doubled down on the White House.

She has contributed nearly $420,000 to liberal candidates and causes over her lifetime—and Obama has collected more than ten percent of her generous haul. In 2012, Rosenbaum quintupled her support for the White House, giving nearly $36,000 to Obama compared with $7,300 in 2008.

"They are aware that their guy is in trouble, so they’ve shifted from the long game of investing in shadow political parties to the short game of keeping Obama in power," said elections expert John Samples.

The Democracy Alliance did not return emails for comment.