Confidential Memo: Secretive Liberal Donor Club Plots $275 Million Spending Plan for 2020

Democracy Alliance has steered $1.83 billion to progressive infrastructure since 2005

George Soros / Getty Images
April 11, 2019

A secretive group of top liberal donors has budgeted $275 million to be injected into progressive infrastructure leading up to the 2020 elections, confidential documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon show.

The Democracy Alliance, which has been pivotal in helping bankroll left-wing causes and organizations since its founding in 2005, held its annual Spring conference at the ritzy Four Seasons Hotel in Austin, Texas, last week. Members and liberal groups mapped out their goals of expanding and strengthening the progressive political base, building and supporting progressive governance at every level, and restoring and expanding structural power.

The gatherings, which typically feature prominent Democratic politicians, are not publicly announced in advance, feature tight security, and are billed as a "safe place for its progressive funders." Members of the alliance, who are called "partners," are prohibited from talking to media, told to "refrain from leaving sensitive materials in public spaces," and to dispose of unwanted materials in "specially-identified recycling bins."

The Free Beacon was on site for the alliance's spring gathering and obtained a number of private and confidential documents from the group, including its agenda for the conference, its "Vision for a Progressive America," and its upcoming "Investments Strategy and Recommendations."

Gara LaMarche, who was previously the vice president and director of U.S. Programs at George Soros's Open Society Foundations, leads the Alliance, which counts Soros as a member and consists of more than 100 millionaire and billionaire donors who each pledge at least $200,000 annually to organizations that are recommended by the club. Its full list of members is unknown due to the group's secrecy.

According to confidential documents distributed to its members in Austin, the Democracy Alliance’s partners have infused $1.83 billion into the left since its inception.

The donor club has backed more than 150 liberal organizations, including the Center for American Progress, Media Matters for America, and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). In recent years, the group took in smaller and lesser-known anti-Trump "resistance" groups such as the Center for Popular Democracy, Center for Community Change, and Swing Left.

While the alliance has heavily focused on funding liberal organizations for much of its existence—and still continues to do so—the group will now "redouble" its focus on state-based actions to expand progressive power for 2020.

The Democracy Alliance has set their total budget at $275 million and is planning to marshal at least $135 million from its partners to be used in a number of areas for the 2020 elections, with an overwhelming majority of this aimed at defeating Donald Trump’s reelection.

"The stakes are clear and have never been higher," they write on their investment strategy. "In the short term, progressives must win in 2020, and over the long term, we must combat the root of our current political crisis." (Emphasis in original.)

"Over the course of our year-long consultation process with Partners and movement leaders, there was a clear consensus that the DA's 'sweet spot'—where we have historically enjoyed success—is in raising catalytic funding to fill the gaps in the progressive infrastructure. It is in that focus on gaps that guided the Board and Investment Committee's work, helping us identify three goals and five funding priorities that Partners and movement leaders believe are most critical and achievable with the collective resources that the DA could collectively invest."

The Democracy Alliance will immediately get to work on its objectives using its State POWER Funds, a group of collaborative funds that make lucrative investments in state endeavors.

"Changing the laws and policies that maintain and perpetuate this concentration of power is the only way that the DA's vision for an inclusive economy, fair democracy, safe and sustainable planet, and equitable and just nation will ever be realized," they write.

The alliance has set a budget of $18 million and recommends $12 million to be invested in the New American Majority Fund and its related Action Fund, which addresses the "chronic underinvestment in state-based organizations" by disbursing resources to build power that is used to "advocate for progressive policy change, mobilize underrepresented voters, and elect progressive champions."

The New American Majority's 2019 and 2020 benchmarks calls for $10 million to be used for year-round organizing in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, and Virginia.

Democracy Alliance Spring 2... by on Scribd

The alliance set a total estimated budget of $21.5 million and recommends new investments of $8.4 million with its Climate and Clean Energy Equity Fund and Action Fund, which works to "fill a gap in the climate movement" by building power in "communities most impacted by climate change," or communities with people of color and indigenous people, according to the group.

As of now, the Climate Equity Fund will target five states—Florida, Minnesota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Virginia—and hopes to expand the number to nine states in 2020. They will seek to obtain its objective by working in conjunction with other funds and allies to expand and engage the electorate year-round.

It will push statewide climate and clean energy campaigns in at least five states and seek to elect "climate equity majorities" in Virginia in 2019, scope out and plan electoral campaigns for 2020 races, and work to elect "champion legislators" in at least seven states.

The DA wants to push investments into rural and small town organizing as a priority for 2020, with the initiative's budget set at $10 million while the alliance seeks $2.5 million more from its partners to be put towards "five vetted and complementary plans for deep rural organizing" led by Faith in Action, Faith in Public Life, People's Action, Working America, and the Race/Class Narrative Project.

The "small town" objective will launch or continue work in at least 25 targeted rural communities to build infrastructure and leadership for civic engagement and progressive agenda development.

The DA also sees conservative media as a problem. As such, the alliance set an $8 million budget to counter right-leaning media outlets, while asking its members to donate $5 million more.

"Conservatives have invested in a sophisticated network of online media properties devoted to amplifying their content and messaging that reaches millions of people online—their own supporters but an unsuspecting public, too. Progressives must find a way to do the same," they write.

However, the Democracy Alliance's most ambitious goal is laying the foundation to block President Donald Trump and the GOP and expanding the map for progressive wins.

The group's State Victory Fund's budget has been set at $200 million, and the group recommends its members give $100 million in investments through a combination of 501(c)3, 501(c)4, limited liability companies, and 527 contributions.

The State Victory Fund community, led by the alliance and the Committee on States, an organization that coordinates money to state-level progressive organizations, is a "sophisticated and robust" network of national and state donors. The DA says that in their first cycle, the victory fund drove $195 million into 15 states to help win elections and build power from the ground up. The alliance recruited 343 new national and state donors to the initiative to "build and sustain an independent ecosystem of state-based political power."

The new money to the victory fund will be used to amplify the "harm" that the "Trump administration and conservatives have caused in Americans' lives," engaging in year-round organizing, resourcing state-based campaigns to expand access to the ballot, and resourcing efforts in 2019 in Wisconsin and Virginia to win judicial and legislative seats needed to control redistricting, ballot access, and pass progressive policy.

Budgets totaling $17.5 million have also been set to target women voters, building a progressive political pipeline for talent on the state level, and to "change the rules of our democracy" with ballot measures and legislative reforms led by a coalition of liberal organizations including the Center for Popular Democracy, Demos, End Citizens United, MoveOn, NAACP, Planned Parenthood, and Working Families Organizations, which will run campaigns in 25 states by 2021.

LaMarche did not return a request for comment on the alliance's 2020 objectives.