Dem Super PAC Spends Millions on Firms, Salaries—Nothing on Candidates

Website endorsements are only sign of PAC's support for Democratic candidates

cash money
Credit: Flickr user Keith Cooper

A Democratic super PAC founded by a former U.S. senator has pulled in millions of dollars in recent years but has not made any contributions to Democratic candidates or committees since 2008, a review of campaign finance records shows.

Instead, 21st Century Democrats Super PAC has poured millions into fundraising firms and salaries. The Super PAC also pays rent to a firm whose owner pleaded guilty to his involvement in the racketeering scheme run by recently convicted Rep. Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.).

21st Century Democrats, which was created in 1988 by former Sen. Tom Harkin, commentator Jim Hightower, and former Rep. Lane Evans (D., Ill.), has a stated mission of "training progressives and building a network of populist Democrats who stand up for America’s working families. The super PAC pledges to "support progressive Democratic leaders who will shape the direction of the Democratic Party and enact public policy that transforms this country to a just, fair and equal society for all."

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Despite the group’s stated mission, the only support they appear to have given to Democrats in recent years comes in the form of endorsements posted on their website.

The 2008 election cycle was the last time the PAC provided financial support to Democratic candidates. During the cycle, it hauled in $2.5 million but distributed only a fraction of that—$31,500—to a handful of committees.

The PAC raised nearly $7 million between 2010 and 2016 and spent $6.9 million. None of the money was given to Democratic candidates during this time.

The group instead spent $2.5 million on fundraising, $632,200 on salaries, and $373,800 on "unclassifiable" services including consulting and data and technology services.

Roughly $450,000 went to administrative purposes such as rent, utilities, and office supplies. Additionally, the PAC began paying rent in 2015 to the D.C.-based LSG Strategies Services Corporation, a political consulting firm owned by Thomas Lindenfeld.

In 2014, Lindenfeld pleaded guilty to honest services wire fraud involving Rep. Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), who was recently found guilty on 23 counts of corruption charges stemming from a racketeering conspiracy in which he and four of his associates misappropriated hundreds of thousands of dollars from federal, campaign, and charitable sources.

Integral Resources, a Massachusetts-based fundraising outfit that operates three call centers, was the group’s top recipient of cash the past six years. Integral currently has only six clients—including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. It has been paid $2.4 million by 21st Century Democrats since 2010.

Lucy Winterhalder, a representative for the Democratic National Committee’s youth council, also collected money from the group this cycle.

Winterhalder is an executive assistant at The Bonner Group who acts as a scheduler for Mary Bonner, a big money donor adviser, and David Brock, the founder of Media Matters and the pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC American Bridge.

21st Century Democrats boasts a high-profile advisory board, featuring personalities like Democratic political commentator James Carville.

"The work of 21st Century Democrats has never been more important than it is right now. They have my support. I hope they will have yours," Carville is quoted as saying on the website, even though the PAC has given no money to Democratic candidates.

Carville did not answer an inquiry about his involvement with the group.

AmericasDemocrats.org, which shares an address with 21st Century Democrats, is holding an event at the upcoming Democratic National Convention featuring New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’ Malley.

The super PAC did not return a request for comment about its expenditures.