Democracy Alliance Members Fund 'American Oversight' Investigations of Trump

Group running FOIA op on Trump admin claims to be nonpartisan

Scott Wallace
Scott Wallace / Facebook
May 22, 2019

Two members of the Democracy Alliance contributed seed money in 2017 to a new organization created to file hundreds of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in hopes of unearthing scandal on the Trump administration.

Recent IRS disclosures show $280,000 in combined donations from Democracy Alliance members Patricia (Pat) Stryker and Scott Wallace to the nonprofit American Oversight, which bills itself as the "top Freedom of Information Act litigator investigating the Trump administration."

IRS 990 forms show that money is just shy of ten percent of the $3.44 million assembled for the first-year launch of American Oversight, which currently claims to have lodged more than 100 FOIA lawsuits in its quest for documents on the current administration.

American Oversight has portrayed itself as nonpartisan since its inception despite relying on funding from prominent members of the progressive Democracy Alliance, members of which agree to donate heavily to liberal causes, and the focus of its mission.

"Corruption starts at the top," the group's website states on its "About" page. "From President Trump's failure to divest from his business empire to cabinet secretaries using their taxpayer-funded positions for their personal benefit, the Trump administration has been plagued by scandal, misconduct, and conflicts of interest."

Last year, American Oversight was in the news for its aggressive efforts to uncover documents from Brett Kavanaugh's work in the 1990s on the investigation of President Clinton, documents liberals hoped might derail his confirmation to the nation's highest court.

American Oversight's efforts parallel another D.C.-based organization attacking the Trump administration, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

CREW wasted no time in inundating the new presidential administration with ethics complaints. Memos obtained exclusively by the Free Beacon at a January 2017 meeting of elite progressive donors show that future success for CREW would mean Trump would "be afflicted by a steady flow of damaging information, new revelations, and an inability to avoid conflicts issues."

None of the documents obtained by the Free Beacon at that time mentioned American Oversight specifically, but the group was founded less than three months later.

Furthermore, an analysis by the website Influence Watch, a project of the conservative leaning Capital Research Center, determined that at "the end of 2018, at least 11 of American Oversight's 17 staffers and three of its four board members have known career histories with major left-wing organizations, Democratic Party campaigns, or Democratic officials."

The current senior adviser at American Oversight previously worked at CREW.

"American Oversight publishes all of our records requests, lawsuits, and the documents we obtain on our website so the public can easily see our work and our priorities," the group's communications director, Clark Pettig, said in an email. "We are an independent nonprofit and we make financial disclosures consistent with the law."

Wallace ran for a congressional seat in Pennsylvania last cycle, only to be rejected by a 51-48 margin in that state's 1st Congressional District. His donation to American Oversight came through his Wallace Global Fund II, a tax-exempt private foundation.

Stryker has a long history of political activism thanks to her inheritance of much of her family's fortune from the Stryker Corporation, which makes medical devices. She was also a founding member of the so-called "Gang of Four" in Colorado that helped create a political infrastructure that would circumvent the traditional Democratic Party machinery but would nevertheless promote liberal and progressive causes.

That effort in Colorado—later dubbed the "Blueprint"—was so successful that many of its strategies were absorbed into the national Democracy Alliance, which now directs millions annually to create and sustain organizations like Media Matters and CREW.

Stryker was also a bundler for President Obama, and was briefly enmeshed in scandal because she was also a key investor in Abound Solar, a Colorado-based solar company that received federal loan guarantees from the Department of Energy but later declared bankruptcy.

Emails published in 2012 showed that some of Abound's solar panels were installed on the roof of her tax-exempt organization, the Bohemian Foundation, but later had to be taken down because of a high failure rate. That happened just months before the company would ink its deal with the feds.

Whistleblowers later told the Daily Caller that "our solar modules worked as long as you didn't put them in the sun."

As the 2012 election was nearing, President Barack Obama was questioned about the Abound deal and potential cronyism. Obama said the White House had no involvement in such deals, but more emails later emerged that sharply contradicted him.

Requests for comment were not returned from either the Bohemian Foundation or the Wallace Global Fund II.

Published under: Democracy Alliance