DNC Grassroots Victory Fund Bankrolled by 13 Wealthy Liberals

Single donor can give $865,000 every year to benefit DNC, state parties

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A grassroots committee launched by national Democrats as part of a joint fundraising venture is hauling in all of its funds from just 13 deep-pocketed liberal donors, Federal Election Commission filings show.

The Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund, established in October 2017, is a joint fundraising committee between the Democratic National Committee, all 50 state Democratic parties, and the District of Columbia Democratic Committee.

The arrangement between all of the entities allows the victory fund to collect massive six-figure checks from donors. An individual can contribute a maximum of $10,000 to each state party every year (the joint committee contains all 50 state parties and D.C., which comes to $510,000 total per individual donor that can go to the fund); $35,500 to the DNC; and another $106,500 to the DNC's convention, legal proceedings, and building funds, which amounts to an additional $319,500 per donor.

Ultimately, one individual donor can give a total of $865,000 to the Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund every year. The money from the fund is then transferred to the DNC and the state and local Democratic parties. The structure of the joint fundraising venture could also act as a loophole to allow donors to legally circumvent contribution limits.

So far this year, just 13 wealthy Democrats are fueling the Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund. Three donors have already given maxed out $865,000 contributions. The donors have together pushed $4.3 million into the joint venture.

Deborah Simon, an Indiana-based philanthropist who is one of the nation's top Democratic donors, has vowed to "do anything" to defeat President Donald Trump in 2020, keep the House of Representatives in the Democrats' hands, and take back the Senate. Simon has contributed the maximum $865,000 to the victory fund. Cynthia Simon Skjodt, Deborah's sister who is also among the nation's top liberal donors, also poured $865,000 into the fund.

Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn, is the third donor so far to max out at a $865,000 donation to the Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund.

Like the Simon sisters, Hoffman has pushed millions into backing Democrats in recent years on the national and state levels. He was the first major donor to a "Republican" group of women who backed Democrats in swing districts during the midterm elections. Hoffman also funded a pro-Democrat group tied to a "fake news" disinformation campaign, for which he later apologized.

The remaining millionaire and billionaire donors to the fund have given anywhere between $25,000 and $849,000.

Once money is parked in the joint fundraising committee, it can be split up among the involved entities without exceeding the legal limits placed on individual donors. Throughout the first half of the year, a total of $1.6 million was pushed from the fund to the DNC, while more than $2 million made its way to the state Democratic parties.

The DNC has been struggling to raise funds this cycle. In July, the committee brought in just $8.5 million, less than half of the Republican National Committee's $20.7 million raised throughout the month.

Issue One, an organization that works to reduce the influence of money in politics, criticized the fund in 2017 after its initial launch.

"The Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund seems to be drawing a roadmap for how wealthy people can give more than half a million dollars a year in a single check to the political party of their choice," Meredith McGehee, Issue One's chief of policy, programs, and strategy, said prior to the fund becoming fully active. "In spite of its name, it seems highly unlikely this fund will focus on the grassroots. There's a huge disconnect between this new fundraising organization's name and what it does to eviscerate campaign contribution limits."

While joint fundraising committees are used by both major political parties, the Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund's structure that allows wealthy individuals to cut checks up to $865,000 is staggering in comparison to most other joint fundraising committees. The money from the victory fund will also ultimately be used to benefit Democratic politicians who often speak out against big money in politics and call for campaign finance reform.

The DNC did not respond to a request for comment.