Members of a major left-wing dark money outfit are providing large chunks of cash for, and serving as top advisers and officers of, President Barack Obama’s personal advocacy group.
Democracy Alliance donors have contributed at least $1.87 million to Organizing for Action (OFA), the 501(c)(4) organization that evolved out of Obama’s reelection campaign, according to data released by OFA.
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Democracy Alliance members also have official roles in running OFA. According to Democracy Alliance documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, OFA’s board of directors includes four Democracy Alliance "partners," individuals who pay $30,000 in annual dues and contribute at least $200,000 to the left-wing groups that Democracy Alliance supports.
An additional five Democracy Alliance members sit on OFA’s "advisory board." According to the Democracy Alliance documents, that advisory board is expected to grow from 65 to 75 members this year, and to collectively provide "at least $3.5 million" in OFA financing.
The Democracy Alliance began fundraising for OFA in 2013, the same year that it launched as a 501(c)(4) advocacy group to push liberal policy priorities such as carbon emission restrictions, immigration reform, and gun control.
Many of OFA’s top issues are low on Americans’ list of political priorities, polls show, but Democracy Alliance has been an enthusiastic supporter.
"OFA is a strong partner to many organizations in the progressive movement and has established a strong track record on a host of issues," state promotional materials said, detailing up to $40 million in Democracy Alliance support for 20 groups this year, including OFA.
According to those materials, Democracy Alliance is hoping to steer between $600,000 and $1 million to OFA this year. Data compiled by the Sunlight Foundation shows that Democracy Alliance donors have already given $500,000 in the first quarter of 2014.
The bulk of Democracy Alliance’s support for OFA has come from Amy Goldman Fowler, who was listed on documents obtained by the Free Beacon as one of the Alliance’s newest partners, having signed on in 2013.
Goldman gave OFA $500,000 that year and another $250,000 from January to April of 2014.
Other Democracy Alliance partners who donated this year include Ryan Smith, who chipped in $50,000 on top of $300,000 in 2013 contributions; Jon Stryker, brother of founding Democracy Alliance member Pat Stryker, who gave $100,000 in the first quarter, matching his 2013 donations; and Wayne Jordan and his wife Quinn Delaney, who gave a combined $100,000 to OFA in the first quarter on top of the $50,000 Jordan donated last year.
According to Democracy Alliance documents, those are only half of the Alliance partners supporting OFA. "Investment portfolio" brochures for both Fall 2013 and Spring 2014 say that 10 Democracy Alliance partners are supporting the group.
Unlike many political groups, the Democracy Alliance does not actually solicit donations or spend money. Instead, it connects major left-wing donors to groups that Democracy Alliance has strategically vetted and recommended for support.
The arrangement means that there is little public documentation about how many partners Democracy Alliance has, how much money they donate, and which groups that money supports. So while Sunlight noted the overlap between Democracy Alliance members and OFA donors, others on its list of top financiers may also be connected with the Alliance.
Those ambiguities complicate OFA’s frequent refrain that it greatly exceeds its legal requirements for the disclosure of donor information.
While it does disclose more than the law requires, large amounts of information about its donor base, especially with respect to that base’s overlap with Democracy Alliance members, remain shrouded from public scrutiny.
While Sunlight lauded OFA for disclosing some donor information, it criticized the group for making its list of donors difficult to search and sort, and for declining to disclose the professional affiliations of those donors.
Problems with the disclosures, Sunlight wrote, "illustrate the capriciousness of ‘voluntary’ disclosure. What is given can easily be taken away."