Judith Avery: The Left-Wing Billionaire’s Club

Sticker heiress donates directly and indirectly to Democrats, liberal outside groups

Judith Avery (Image: Stanford University)
August 14, 2012

Editor’s Note: Details of the WFB’s Democracy Alliance exposé can be found here.

A leading voice in the world of liberal foundations has a side project funding the left-wing billionaire’s club known as the Democracy Alliance, according to documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Judith Avery, who serves as chair of the $24 million Durfee Fund and president of the $38 million Baytree Fund, is also a member of the secretive network of Democratic millionaires and billionaires.

Avery’s father, R. Stanton Avery, invented stickers and turned the product into a multi-billion dollar industry. He founded the Durfee Foundation, named for his wife Dorothy Durfee Avery, in 1960, to pursue the type of progress he witnessed during the early days of China's communist revolution. Avery inherited her father's ideology, along with his considerable wealth. She has donated more than $245,000 to Democratic candidates since 2008, including donations of $30,000 to two liberal super PACs and $25,000 to George Soros' secretive Secretary of State Project in 2008.

The Democracy Alliance offers certain advantages to donors like Avery, who are looking to move beyond the traditional avenues of supporting liberal causes. While foundations generally support policy-oriented programs within liberal groups, the Alliance allows Avery to steer her money toward political ends such as the re-election of Barack Obama.

The group directs its members to donate to Democratic super PACs and major groups tied to the Democratic Party. The Alliance pumped more than $100 million into liberal groups between 2005 and 2008, according to the Capitol Research Center.

"It’s focused more on spending on groups that are specifically aimed at advancing the Democratic Party," said Jacob Laksin, author of the best selling New Leviathan: How the Left-Wing Money-Machine Shapes American Politics and Threatens America's Future. "The policy concerns are there, but for most of these donors they want to see a return on their investment and there’s no better barometer than elections."

The Baytree Fund paid $500,000 to the Judy Avery Fund in 2009 and 2010, which is roughly equal to the Alliance’s annual contribution requirements. The Avery Fund received the payments tax free through a charitable fund established by Fidelity Charitable Trust.

Neither Avery nor representatives from either fund returned calls for comment.

Avery is already engaged in putting money in the pockets of Democratic activists as a leading voice in liberal foundations.

The foundations depend on Wall Street investments to maintain their operations, including JP Morgan and an array of private equity firms. The profits from such investments have been used to funnel money into leftwing pet causes.

In 2010, the foundations headed by Avery donated $25,000 to Planned Parenthood, $75,000 to the Tides Foundation, $90,000 to Media Matters, and $80,000 to the Rockefeller Foundation.

Under her leadership, the Baytree Fund also pumped $230,000 into the Center for American Progress between 2005 and 2008, as well as $145,000 into Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a former Alliance-sponsored organization that files ethics charges against Republican lawmakers. They pledged further contributions in the future, including a $150,000 grant to Media Matters.

"Rather than going through the traditional foundation giving, you have a group that allows rich donors to cover their tracks," Laksin said. "They can fund these groups without disclosing their identity as a member—it’s a perfect example of strategic spending."

The Democracy Alliance did not return numerous requests for comment.