Progressive Group Previously Linked to Democracy Alliance Relaunches to Elect Democrats in the South

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September 20, 2020

A progressive group that was supported by the Democracy Alliance, a millionaire and billionaire donor club cofounded by George Soros, is back up and running after a five-year hiatus to help Democrats battle Republicans in the South.

The Southern Progress Fund, which is devoted to electing Democrats and pushing for voter engagement, relaunched to advocate for progressive policies, fight ballot initiatives, and hold "Republicans' feet to the fire—like Sens. Tom Cotton in Arkansas and Cindy Hyde-Smith in Mississippi."

The group's comeback signals that national Democrats may be looking to chip away at a longtime Republican stronghold. Democrats have insisted they can flip some southern states, such as Texas and Georgia, and have started funneling resources into the region.

The Southern Progress Fund's first order of business is campaigning against a ballot amendment in Arkansas this November. The amendment, Issue 3, was added by Republican legislators to reform the process for changing the state's constitution to give rural counties more influence. Liberals have utilized ballot amendments in Arkansas to push progressive ends due to the low threshold for signatures. Issue 3 would change this process by requiring valid petition signatures from 45 counties—instead of the current 15—to add a constitutional amendment to the ballot, among other changes. Arkansas allows its citizens to write constitutional amendments and legislative statutes.

"Southern Progress Fund will defeat Issue 3 and defend direct democracy in Arkansas," the group's website states. "We will fight legislative Republicans' effort to gut Arkansas' system of direct democracy on behalf of their wealthy campaign donors."

Originally formed in 2013, the Southern Progress Fund was relaunched after a five-year break on June 9. Arkansas business records show that Ezra Reese, a Washington, D.C.-based partner at the Perkins Coie law firm, incorporated the group at the time of its revival. Prior to dissolving five years ago, in 2013 Southern Progress Fund was registered in D.C. business records to Marc Elias, also a partner at Perkins Coie, who is widely considered the go-to lawyer for national Democrats.

The group was also previously backed by the Democracy Alliance donor network, whose donors have funneled nearly $2 billion into progressive groups and infrastructure. Documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon show that the Southern Progress Fund was part of the Democracy Alliance's "Progressive Infrastructure Map." Gara LaMarche, president of the alliance, told the Free Beacon that no one in the office had heard that the Southern Progress Fund relaunched. It is unclear who is attached to the group at this time.

The Southern Progress Fund could not be reached for comment.