The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), which focuses on electing Democrats to the U.S. Senate, pushed payments to an entity run by liberal operative David Brock for research consulting despite leading Democratic Party operatives complaining he was killing the party, with one former Obama official referring to Brock as "fucking weird."
Brock described American Bridge as "the Democratic epicenter of opposition research and rapid response in presidential and Senate elections" in a 49-page confidential memo obtained by the Washington Free Beacon at a January 2017 posh Florida retreat hosted by Brock where he huddled with more than 100 donors to plot how to "kick Donald Trump's ass."
Numerous Democratic Party organizers and operatives around that time said they wanted the party to drop Brock following Hillary Clinton's defeat.
"His ability to produce wins for Democrats is nonexistent," Jeff Weaver, former campaign manager for Bernie Sanders, told the Daily Beast in January 2017. "He does not have the kind of understanding of what kind of coalition you have to bring together to win national races—that’s his fundamental problem."
One Clinton aide told the Daily Beast that Brock was "useless" and said "you might as well have thrown those [tens of] millions of dollars down a well, and then set the well on fire."
A former Obama administration official who had met Brock on a number of occasions called him "fucking weird."
"I felt like I was meeting Mugatu from Zoolander … I don't know what the fuck [Brock’s network] did besides raise a ton of money, and I don’t think the after-action report on 2016 says we need more David Brock. Probably the opposite is true."
Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden, who advised Clinton during the 2016 campaign, referred to Brock as "batshit crazy," a "nut bar," and an "unhinged, soulless narcissist" in emails.
Several deep-pocketed progressive donors disagreed with this analysis.
Environmentalist Tom Steyer, the leader of the impeach Trump campaign, added hundreds of thousands in funding to the American Bridge PAC during the 2016 elections via the NextGen Climate Action Committee. Steyer has provided $100,000 in donations this election cycle.
In addition to American Bridge, Brock founded Media Matters for America and runs Shareblue, a progressive news website.
Brock previously chaired Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a nominally nonpartisan watchdog group that swung further to the left after Brock took over its operations. Worried that the organization would appear overly partisan under his leadership in the Trump era, Brock announced he was stepping away from the group.
CREW is also included in the confidential memo that was handed out by Brock to donors at the early 2017 Florida retreat.
The Free Beacon was on site at the retreat and obtained the memo, titled, "Democracy Matters: Strategic Plan for Action," which talks of using American Bridge, Media Matters, Shareblue, and CREW to defeat Trump through impeachment, expanding Media Matters to combat "government misinformation," ensuring Democratic control of the Senate during the midterms, filings lawsuits against the Trump administration, using a "digital attacker" to delegitimize Trump's presidency, and partnering with tech companies such as Facebook to combat "fake news."
On the litigation front, CREW has filed a number of lawsuits since Trump took office.
One lawsuit was filed in New York just three days after Trump was sworn in alleging that he had violated the emoluments clause, which bars foreign governments from paying U.S. officials. A federal judge tossed the suit.
The attorneys general from Washington, D.C., and Maryland later filed an almost identical lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Greenbelt, Md. Noah Bookbinder, CREW's executive director, and Stuart McPhail, CREW's litigation counsel, are both listed on the lawsuit below the attorneys general.
Brock appeared at another liberal gathering hosted by the Democracy Alliance in November 2017 to plot the next steps of the "resistance." The Democracy Alliance is the left's largest dark money donor network whose members each vow to steer hundreds of thousands to approved progressive organizations.
Two of Brock's organizations—American Bridge and Media Matters—are approved groups of the alliance. CREW is also a recommended group of the network alongside dozens of others such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Center for Community Change, and the Center for Popular Democracy, which spearheads an $80 million anti-Trump network backed by DNC Deputy Chair Keith Ellison.
The Free Beacon was also present at that conference, which took place 30 minutes outside of San Diego, Calif., at the La Costa Resort, and obtained the group's confidential agenda.
Brock, not listed on the group's agenda, made himself highly visible and was seen strolling around the sprawling property and staying at the hotel's bar until just past midnight. House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Soros, who was introduced by a "special videotaped message" by likely presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.), headlined the three-day gathering.
Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D., N.M), chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (Va.), CNN commentator Van Jones, and the Center for American Progress's Tanden were also in attendance.
The Free Beacon again was on site for the Democracy Alliance's spring meeting this year in Atlanta, Ga., and obtained the group's internal agenda. Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Tom Perez appeared with DNC staffers at multiple events.
Brock was not at the spring conference. However, Media Matters President Angelo Carusone and American Bridge President Bradley Beychok were in attendance.
"Media Matters President Angelo Carusone will describe the importance of mapping and understanding the fake news ecosystem and how forcing policy changes at Google, Facebook, and YouTube, can prevent the proliferation of fake news and suppressive tactics online in the lead up to the midterms," one event's description read.
Brock's 49-page memo laid out how the group would obtain this objective, which said Media Matters had already consulted with a number of social media giants as of early 2017.
"Media Matters will continue our core mission of disarming right-wing information, while leading the fight against the next generation of conservative disinformation: The proliferation of fake news and propaganda now threatening the country's information ecosystem," the group's documents read. "Utilizing our capacity as the nation's premier progressive media watchdog and rapid-response research center, Media Matters will further increase our visibility in the ecosystem, strengthen the ability of our supporters and partners to influence it, and improve the infrastructure on which it rests."
The group said that companies such as Google and Facebook would "no longer uncritically and without consequence host and enrich fake news sites and propagandists" and vowed to "innovate against fake news and propaganda" by using big data analysis and an "early warning system" using predictive technology and collaborating with social media platforms.
"After Facebook responded to our campaign by acknowledging the problem of fake news and agreeing to do something about it, we began a dialogue," the documents read. "It became clear from these conversations that Facebook needed our help in fully understanding the problem and identifying concrete solutions."
"Further, it also became clear that we had information and insight that they didn't have that was helpful in educating them on the full scope of the problem."
Months before Clinton launched her candidacy for president—during which Brock would act as her "attack dog"—her inner circle began "discreet conversations" of forming "working relationships" with tech companies including Facebook, Apple, and Google, internal memos showed.
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, met with Clinton insiders before the campaign's launch and provided them with gender and leadership research. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg met with John Podesta, Clinton's campaign chairman, in 2015. Dustin Moskovitz, Facebook's co-founder, gave $20 million to Clinton and Democrats.
Eric Schmidt, the former executive chairman of Alphabet, Google's parent company, went on to work directly with Clinton's campaign. While the Schmidt-backed group working with the campaign was never referenced by name, Schmidt provided funding to a tech startup called The Groundwork.
The Groundwork contained no more than a landing page throughout the 2016 elections and was developed through a company called Timshel, which is owned by Michael Slaby, the former chief integration officer for Barack Obama's campaign. The Groundwork was ultimately paid $600,000 by Clinton's campaign. Schmidt later appeared at Hillary Clinton's election night gathering wearing a "staff" badge.
Schmidt also helped Civis Analytics, a data consulting firm started by Dan Wagner, the chief analytics officer for Obama's 2012 campaign, raise tens of millions of dollars in funding.
Civis Analytics has been paid millions by liberal committees and PACs including the DNC, Priorities USA Action, the Senate Majority PAC, NextGen Climate Action, and the DSCC.
The DSCC and American Bridge did not respond to requests for comment.