Obama-Backed Group Appears at Democracy Alliance Donor Strategy Summit

Former president working with Eric Holder to focus on redistricting efforts

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March 25, 2017

A group backed by former President Barack Obama participated at a D.C. gathering of deep-pocketed progressive donors strategizing to "restore progressive government" and to ensure fair redistricting in upcoming years.

The gathering, hosted by the dark money Democracy Alliance network, is part of the network's spring investment conference and national donor summit held in D.C to plot resistance against President Trump and Republicans.

The summit consists of numerous panels and discussions with key Democratic groups and players. Kelly Ward, the executive director of the Obama-linked National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC) and former executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), appeared on a panel Thursday to discuss how progressive groups are "aligning their national plans with one another and in partnership with state donor alliances" for 2021 redistricting efforts.

The NDRC is chaired by Eric Holder, Obama's former attorney general. Obama himself has taken an active role in leading the group.

"Republican gerrymandered districts after the 2010 Census have put Democrats at a massive structural disadvantage," the group's website states. "That’s why the most important turning point for the future of the Democratic Party will take place in 2021: when states redraw their Congressional and state legislative lines."

The group's redistricting strategy carries electoral, legal, and ballot initiative components. It will focus on winning state elections that impact redistricting by coordinating with the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, a national committee that provides financial support to Democratic leaders on the state level, and the Democratic Governors Association, a group dedicated to electing liberal governors across the country. The NDRC will throw its support behind down-ballot races that could alter redistricting.

Greg Speed, who also sits on the board of the NDRC, led the panel discussion featuring Ward. Others on the panel included Guy Cecil, president of Priorities USA Action, a large progressive advocacy organization backed by millions of dollars from George Soros, and Nick Rathod, the executive director of the State Innovation Exchange, a nonprofit that supports state legislators who push progressive policy agendas.

Before leaving the White House, Obama held a strategy meeting with Democratic leaders to discuss the party's primary goals in the years to come. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D.) attended the session, according to the New York Times.

The group's leaders identified breaking up Republican congressional control as a central goal for the Democratic Party, and Obama said it would be one of his main focuses once he left the presidency.

Holder, a close friend of Obama's, later announced his intent to chair the NDRC.

To Obama, the goal is personal. Holder described it as resentment the president holds towards Republican lawmakers for breaking up the Democrat supermajority in Congress and pushing back against his policies.

"The tasks that he had placed before him were made a lot more difficult, progress a lot more difficult, than it needed to be," Holder said. "That's because of the Congress that he had to deal with, which was a function of the 2010 redistricting effort."

Others on the board include Elisabeth Pearson, the executive director of the Democratic Governors Association, Jessica Post, the executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, and Ali Lapp, the executive director of the House Majority PAC, a Nancy Pelosi-backed Super PAC that pours tens of millions of dollars into elections to help Democrats. Former Rep. Mark Schauer (D., Mich.) acts as a senior adviser to the group.

Holder, Pelosi, and McAuliffe recently began fundraising efforts for the NRDC with events in San Francisco and Los Angeles. The events drew top Democratic donors from California. Obama did not attend, according to reports.

The NDRC did not return a request for comment on its relationship with the Democracy Alliance by press time.