Members of a secretive club of wealthy left-wing donors are bankrolling a major Democratic Super PAC backing a likely Hillary Clinton presidential run even as some of the group’s members complain it is too closely tied to the Democratic Party.
More than a third of total contributions this year to American Bridge 21st Century have come from individuals associated with the Democracy Alliance.
The most prominent and deep-pocketed is left-wing billionaire George Soros, who has donated half a million dollars to the group this year. Sixteen Democracy Alliance donors, including Soros, have given American Bridge just shy of $2 million since January.
American Bridge is an opposition research outfit founded by Democratic operative and prominent Hillary Clinton supporter David Brock. Brock has used American Bridge and Media Matters for America, an activist group he chairs, to attack those perceived as Clinton critics ahead of her widely expected 2016 presidential run.
American Bridge is also active in pushing Democratic midterm efforts this year. According to internal Democracy Alliance documents, the group is "providing content to" other Democrat-aligned groups, including super PACs Priorities USA, Senate Majority PAC, and House Majority PAC.
Those documents were handed out at Democracy Alliance’s April conference in Chicago, attended by Brock. A schedule of events at the conference show the group discussed efforts to "win key state and federal races in 2014."
"This discussion is intended to be a primer on the midterm elections and preview strategies for persuading and turning out a winning majority in November," the schedule says.
The Democracy Alliance documents hail its successful work on that front. "In the 18 months since its founding, American Bridge has become the preeminent research and tracking firm garnering over $200 million in earned media value."
That work supports the election and reelection of Democrats at the federal level. Such work may irk some Democracy Alliance supporters, who have griped in recent months that the group serves as an adjunct of the Democratic Party, rather than a more independent progressive infrastructure-building organization.
"Some former partners had the perception we were not sufficiently independent of the Democratic Party or the White House, or failed to take a long enough view of infrastructure and power-building beyond the next election cycle," wrote Democracy Alliance president Gara LaMarche in a letter to one of those former partners last month.
LaMarche pledged to revamp the group’s internal processes for doling out millions each year to top liberal organizations, and urged former partners to come back into the fold.
Democracy Alliance has recently seen a number of partners leave the group or eye the exits, according to internal documents. But LaMarche is hoping to increase the amount of money the group’s partners donate to its supported organizations each year—from roughly $70 million to "hundreds of millions."
Democracy Alliance does not disclose any information about its operations. Because it serves as a "pass through" between donors and its supported groups, Democracy Alliance’s role in raising hundreds of millions of dollars since its 2005 inception remains largely hidden from public view.
However, the names of Democracy Alliance donors and others affiliated with the group, obtained and published by the Washington Free Beacon and others, show overlap between its wealthy members and the donor rolls of the groups it supports.
Those groups are broken down into two categories: "aligned network" organizations, and a larger "progressive infrastructure." The latter, which includes American Bridge, received a total of $40.5 million from Democracy Alliance donors last year, LaMarche revealed in a presentation at the April conference.
Democracy Alliance donors have stepped up to back Democrats’ leading super PAC in just the first six months of this year. The Democracy Alliance-affiliated individuals who have given to American Bridge through June are:
Naomi Aberly: $5,000
Susie Buell: $250,000
Thomas Congdon: $2,500
David DesJardins: $100,000
Robert Dyson: $40,000
Lee Fikes: $150,000
Christopher Findlater: $10,000
Amy Goldman: $250,000
Lawrence Hess: $15,000
Wayne Jordan: $100,000
Barbara Lee: $100,000
Daniel Lewis: $100,000
Stephen Silberstein: $200,000
Ryan Smith: $25,000
George Soros: $500,000
Henry Van Ameringen: $100,000