American Bridge 21st Century is the progressive movement's largest super PAC, and it has a staff of Democratic superstars to prove it.
Chief among them are Bradley Beychok, the group's cofounder, and James Carville, the "Ragin' Cajun" Clinton operative and talking head who serves as an adviser. The pair has won praise for advancing progressive causes. They also run ABI Associates, a consulting firm that's raking in cash from clients that are likely to raise eyebrows among their Democratic colleagues.
Clients like Greenfield Louisiana LLC, which stands accused of "environmental racism" for a proposed building project that would destroy historical slave sites in Louisiana. And the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, a trade group whose members include the companies behind the Keystone XL Pipeline, a perennial target for progressive attacks.
Beychok launched ABI Associates in 2021 with former Joe Biden aide Ankit Desai. Carville serves as an adviser to the group, as does President Biden's top pollster, John Anzalone. The group works to "reduce negative press" for clients, including those against whom the principals spend their days drumming up negative press.
It's a lucrative gig for the American Bridge cohort, but one that could tarnish the super PAC’s image as the premier force in "Democratic and progressive politics." Formed in 2011, American Bridge attacks Republicans over perceptions of racism or anti-environment policy positions through ads and opposition research.
Greenfield Louisiana has faced similar allegations from civil rights and conservation groups over a 238-acre grain terminal it wants to build on the banks of the Mississippi River, in the majority-black township of Wallace, La. According to lobbying records, Greenfield Louisiana LLC. recently hired ABI Associates to lobby on behalf of the terminal after critics objected to its proposed location and impact construction would have on residents.
The National Urban League, led by former New Orleans mayor Marc Morial (D.), in November called on the Environmental Protection Agency to open a civil rights probe of the terminal, asserting that the potential damage to the environment in the historic African-American community "violates the civil rights and environmental laws of the nation." An organization called the Descendants Project has sued to stop the project, saying that it "threatens the health and safety" of the majority black community.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation says it opposes the grain terminal because of its proximity to "a former burial plot for enslaved people." The Army Corps of Engineers reprimanded Greenfield Louisiana last month for falsely claiming that its grain terminal will have "no adverse effects" on black heritage sites in the area.
The American Bridge principals' advocacy for Greenfield may not sit well with some of American Bridge's biggest donors. The billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who has given $4.5 million to American Bridge through his Democracy PAC, funds numerous civil rights groups and has decried "environmental racism."
It is unclear yet what services ABI Associates has provided Greenfield Louisiana, or who at the firm will work on the account. Desai, who was a legislative aide to Biden in the 2000s, is listed as ABI's chief lobbyist for Greenfield.
In addition to traditional lobbying, ABI Associates says it helps its clients by identifying "impactful narratives" to tell a "compelling story to policymakers, organizations, and media." The company relies on Anzalone, the Biden pollster, to "find angles that sway thought-leaders to join you and lend their support," its website says.
ABI Associates' deep political connections in Louisiana and Washington, D.C., are likely to help its new client.
Carville, a Louisiana native, has maintained high-level Democratic ties since his days working for Bill Clinton. Beychok was a campaign aide to former Rep. Charlie Melançon (D., La.) and former campaign director for the Louisiana Democratic Party. Desai was a Senate legislative aide to Biden in the 2000s and has advised several energy companies.
Beychok has forged ties to the Democratic Party's top donors at American Bridge and worked closely in the 2020 cycle with Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, who once served as chairwoman of the American Bridge 21st Century Foundation. Granholm is also a designated observer of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, which oversees the federal designation of historical sites.
Beychok, Desai, and Anzalone all maintain access to the White House. In September, Beychok and Desai met with Ryan Berni, a deputy to Mitch Landrieu, the former New Orleans mayor who serves as Biden’s infrastructure czar, according to White House visitor logs. Anzalone visited the White House at least 10 times last year, the logs show.
ABI Associates recently signed on with another client in the crosshairs of the progressive movement, according to lobbying records. The Interstate Natural Gas Association of America hired ABI amid an industry-wide push to persuade liberal voters to embrace natural gas as a climate-friendly fuel. According to the Washington Post, a group of natural gas companies has turned to Anzalone, the Biden pollster, to provide polling data about natural gas to the White House.
The American Bridge associates' work for the natural gas group conflicts with their criticism of Republicans who support the natural gas industry. The group has criticized Republicans who support the Keystone XL pipeline, claiming carbon emissions from the project would contribute to climate change and would contaminate fresh water in eight states. TC Energy, the company behind the Keystone pipeline, is a member of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America.
Desai operates another lobbying firm, AND Partners. Desai registered last week as a lobbyist for TikTok as the company fights against legislation to ban its popular social media app over ties to China. It is unclear if Beychok and ABI Associates are helping TikTok as well, but the American Bridge cofounder did tout the company earlier this month.
"Right now TikTok can be a valuable weapon, especially since Republicans have run away from it for political reasons," Beychok told the Wall Street Journal. "You wouldn’t want a tool like that to be taken off the shelf."
ABI Associates and American Bridge did not respond to requests for comment.