A group led by liberal operative and Hillary Clinton loyalist David Brock is frantically compiling and pushing opposition research hits on former Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz, as Democrats fear the billionaire could ensure Donald Trump's re-election if he enters the 2020 presidential race.
American Bridge 21st Century, a Washington, D.C.-based political action committee with an affiliated foundation, began digging into Schultz as soon as he floated a potential presidential bid and started pitching the research to publications.
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The Daily Beast reported last week that Bridge sent the publication a file hitting the former chief executive on his family foundation, mainly focused on $400,000 the foundation had spent on furniture and a $21,000-per-month salary its executive director collected during the 2016 tax year, an annual salary of $252,000.
Despite Bridge hitting the salary of the executive director at Schultz's foundation, Brock himself collects more than that amount from almost every foundation he oversees, including American Bridge.
Bridge's most recently available tax forms, covering the fiscal year ending in 2016, show that Brock paid himself $275,000 in salary and other compensation. Brock took in more than $230,000 from Bridge's PAC throughout the entirety of the 2016 election cycle, according Federal Election Commission filings.
Brock also pocketed $292,649 in salary and other compensation that same fiscal year from Media Matters for America, and received nearly $170,000 from Correct the Record's PAC, an entity that was used to push back on "disinformation" on Hillary Clinton during her failed presidential run.
CNBC additionally reported on Monday that Bridge had pitched them on a separate research file hitting Starbucks over its history of settling lawsuits with its employees.
Liberal billionaire George Soros is one of the top donors to American Bridge, giving $380,000 to the PAC during the 2018 election cycle on the heels of the $2 million the financier sent to the PAC during the presidential cycle.
Brock has appeared at secretive gatherings held by the Democracy Alliance, the left's largest dark money donor network that counts Soros as a member. Representatives from Brock's organizations have also appeared on panels at the conferences.
The alliance's members have poured more than $600 million into Democratic infrastructure and institutions since its founding in 2005.
Following Clinton's defeat, many prominent Democratic organizers and operators expressed displeasure over Brock and his web of operations and said that they wanted party leaders to drop him.
"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."
A Clinton operative added that Brock is "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 official told the Daily Beast that he had met with Brock on a number of occasions, and 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."
Around this time, Brock had bigger plans as Donald Trump were being sworn into office.
Brock gathered with 100 donors at the posh Turnberry Isle Resort just outside Miami mid-January 2017 to plot how to "kick Donald Trump's ass" over the course of the next four years using American Bridge, Media Matters, Shareblue, and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)—despite Brock publicly stepping away from CREW months prior, as he did not want the organization to appear too partisan as he amped up his operations with Bridge.
The Washington Free Beacon was present at the gathering and obtained his confidential memo laying out his plans for his organizations and how they planned to attack Trump and Republicans in the upcoming years.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee additionally paid American Bridge nearly $60,000 for research consulting during the 2018 cycle, signaling that the party did not make moves to distance itself from Brock as some liberal operatives had hoped.
American Bridge did not respond to a request for comment by press time.