“Read the Confidential Document Left Behind at the Democracy Alliance Meeting”
The Democracy Alliance takes pains to ensure that its work disbursing millions of dollars to top left-wing organizations remains secretive and free from public scrutiny. But a document left on the floor of the group’s recent gathering reveals for the first time the names of a number of individuals involved in the effort.
It lists new Democracy Alliance “partners,” individuals who every year must pay $30,000 in dues and contribute at least $200,000 to the groups that DA supports. It also reveals names of DA “advisers,” foundation participants, and individuals getting a “sneak peek” at the group’s activities.
Among its new partners are top labor union bosses, financial and business leaders, and heirs to billion-dollar fortunes who have made names for themselves as high-dollar Democratic donors.
Security was tight at the Democracy Alliance conference last week at the chic Ritz Carlton in Chicago. Politico reporter Ken Vogel was manhandled by security when he tried to interview an attendee. Other conference-goers ripped off their nametags when a Washington Free Beacon reporter approached.
The Democracy Alliance does not actually accept donations. Instead, it solicits contributions from left-wing millionaires and billionaires, and serves as a “pass through” between those donors and top liberal advocacy groups, including the Center for American Progress, Media Matters for America, and Democratic Super PAC Priorities USA.
The group emphasizes secrecy in all of its operations, even as its members and the DA “favored organizations” to which they donate decry the role of “dark money” in American politics. DA does not disclose details of any of the transactions it facilitates, and its members and donation recipients are prohibited from speaking publicly about the organization and its operations.
While few conference attendees would speak with the Free Beacon last week, one mistakenly left a revealing document on the floor of a publicly accessible area of the conference. The list of new partners provides previously unreported details on one of the left’s most powerful dark money groups.
The list of new DA partner reveals increasing involvement by top labor bosses in the group’s work financing those organizations.
New members in 2014 include Noel Beasley, president of Workers United, a textile union affiliated with the Service Employees International Union, and Keith Mestrich, president of the union-owned Amalgamated Bank, where Beasley, also a SEIU vice president, serves as chairman.
Amalgamated, which is majority-owned by the SEIU, is still owed $8.5 million by the Democratic National Committee for a pair of loans taken out in 2012 to support the DNC’s work to reelect President Barack Obama.
“We are a partisan bank that’s owned by a union,” Mestrich told the Washington Post last year. “There’s no question that unions are very tight with the Democratic Party, and we make no bones about that.” He would not answer questions about the bank’s involvement with the Democracy Alliance at last week’s conference.
The addition of top officials at Workers United and Amalgamated comes after DA added other top labor bosses in 2013, according to the list of new members.
Many of DA’s new partners, though, have the personal financial means to support its favored organizations, due either to their own successful business ventures or to large inheritances.
Amy Goldman is one of the country’s foremost horticulturalists, but her fortune comes from her status as heiress to one of the largest real estate fortunes ever amassed. Goldman’s father, Sol, owned nearly 600 New York commercial real estate properties when he died in 1987. At one point, he owned the famed Chrysler Building.
Amy Goldman has since become one of the Democratic Party’s largest individual campaign contributors. Goldman has donated more than $6 million to Democratic candidates, party organs, interest groups, and independent expenditure groups since 1990.
Those donations have included $1 million to Priorities USA in 2012, $500,000 to House Majority PAC the same year, $1.75 million to Planned Parenthood from 2011 to 2013, and $750,000 to Organizing for Action last year. [...]
Another benefactor of a massive inheritance that appears on DA’s new partner list was donating tens of thousands of dollars to Democrats while he was still in school.
Philip Munger is the son of Berkshire Hathaway vice chairman and Warren Buffett lieutenant Charles Munger, whose estimated net worth is $1.2 billion, according to Forbes. Munger the younger is a professor at the New School in New York City. Despite living on an educator’s salary, he also manages to donate vast sums to Democratic politicians.
Munger has shelled out more than $700,000 in political contributions since 1990, all to Democrats or liberal interest groups. He donated $46,300 while he was still a student, according to FEC forms that require donors to disclose their profession.
Munger was among the first donors to OFA, topping the group’s list of “founding members” with a $250,000 contribution.
More inherited wealth will likely flow through DA from Henry van Ameringen, heir to the International Flavors and Fragrance fortune. Van Ameringen is another massive Democratic donor. He has donated more than $900,000 to Democrats since 1990.
Van Ameringen was the 21st largest individual contributor to 527 “political action committees” in 2012, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. He is the ninth largest donor to those groups in the current election cycle.
Some new DA partners include individuals with their own successful business careers.
Adam Abram made his fortune in insurance and real estate. He sold his company, James River Group, to Bermuda-based Franklin Holdings in 2007. Abram is currently Franklin’s chairman. He also founded Adaron Group, a commercial real estate developer in North Carolina.
Some of Abram’s recent ventures have come under scrutiny for alleged cronyism. James River Group provided $15,000 in financing for an economic impact study that recommended construction of an airport in the research triangle region of North Carolina. The company indicated that the airport was “’very important’ or ‘essential’ to [its] business,” according to the study.
Some residents saw that as a financial conflict. “As a resident of rural Orange County … I find it deeply disturbing that companies like the James River Group fund an economic study and they themselves want the airport because the airport will benefit their businesses,” one resident wrote.
Abram has donated more than $110,000 to Democrats since 1990. He cohosted Michelle Obama at a 2008 fundraiser in Durham, N.C.
Other individuals on DA’s list of new partners have been far friendlier to Obama. Rick Segal, CEO of financial services firm Seavest, bundled between $250,000 and $500,000 for the president’s reelection campaign, in addition to his $165,000 in political contributions since 1990.
Boskind is the CEO of Deer Oaks Mental Health Associates, a Texas based mental health organization. He is also involved in theater, producing a number of plays designed to promote liberal political sensibilities, including Gore Vidal’s “The Best Man.”
These and other individuals (full list below) are some of DA’s newest partners, but the list also includes a host of individuals with other statuses at the organization.
The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel was given a “sneak peak,” according to the list. Lee Wasserman and Lisa Guide of the Rockefeller Family Fund are listed as “committed.” Joan Davidson, heir to the Welch juice fortune and president emeritus of the J.M. Kaplan Fund, is listed under the status “convening.”
The Democracy Alliance did not respond to requests for comment or additional information about the roles that DA partners and other individuals listed on the document play.
On the back of the document, someone took notes that appeared to refer to potential or actual donations by individuals and groups affiliated with the DA.
“McKay 25k AV” likely refers to Rob McKay, and a $25,000 contribution to America Votes, a group that DA has supported. “Nathan Cummings 500k CCC” is likely a reference to a $500,000 contribution from the Nathan Cummings Foundation to the Center for Community Change, which has previously received Nathan Cummings grant funds.
The classical liberal takeaway: the country is run by rich corporatists and their government connections. Party doesn’t matter — though the fact that Democrats play the “man of the people” role is at once risible and surreal.
The progressive takeaway: “the author’s use of the phrase ‘dark money’ to refer to those who back President Obama and the fundamental transformation agenda is unabashedly racist, though he tries to hide it in a dog whistle that we are especially adept at sussing out.
“Also, ZOMG THE KOCH BROTHERS!!1!!!”