21st Century Democrats

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21st Century Democrats
Formation 1986
Type Political action committee
Headquarters Washington, D.C.
Membership 100,000+[1]
Executive Director Jennifer Petty
Key people Tom Harkin, Jim Hightower, Lane Evans, founders
Website Official website

21st Century Democrats is a political organization founded by Senator Tom Harkin, commentator Jim Hightower and Congressman Lane Evans to help elect "progressive" or "populist" candidates.


21st Century Democrats started out relatively small but has quietly grown in size and significance in the last few election cycles."[2] In 2004 election cycle, according to the Political Money Line, it was the 13th largest Political Action Committee (PAC) in the United States raising nearly $7 Million. Among progressive ideological PACs, it ranked fourth behind America Coming Together, EMILY's List, and MoveOn.org.

Unlike traditional PACs, 21st Century Democrats focuses on recruiting, training, and hiring field organizers to organize grassroots campaigns on behalf of candidates for local offices, statewide office, and even targeted presidential swing states.[3] The group has ties to Democracy for America, which grew out of Howard Dean's presidential campaign.[4]

Partner Organizations[edit]

In 2009, 21st Century Democrats joined Service Employees International Union, MoveOn.org, and Daily Kos in a new effort called Accountability Now PAC. This new Political Action Committee promised to use party primaries to challenge Democratic incumbents that PAC members do not support.[5]

Fraudulent "advisory board" scandal and lack of candidate contributions[edit]

In February 2014, the Washington Examiner reported that despite raising $5 million since 2009, 21st Century Democrats had not given any money whatsoever to political candidates since that time, nor had it spent money on independent expenditures supporting candidates or on significant "ground game" activities, citing Federal Election Commission disclosures. [6]

The paper reported that the PAC had received more warning letters from FEC analysts over financial discrepancies than any other PAC, and that it had repeatedly paid fines for violations, including $190,000 to the state of Minnesota.

The vast majority of money raised by the PAC simply goes to overhead, not political causes--mostly to telemarketing firm Integral Resources.

The PAC's web site does not list the names of any staffers, instead prominently featuring a six-person "advisory board" including former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, former Labor secretary Robert B. Reich, and former Democratic National Committee chairman Don Fowler. All three denied, to the Washington Examiner, having ever heard of the group, and said the endorsement quotes attributed to them were fabricated.

The PAC has left multiple vendors unpaid for many years. Among its $217,000 in debts are $3,250 it owes Georgetown University, $20,000 owed to lawyers and $18,000 to accountants.

Religious discrimination lawsuit[edit]

In November 2007, 21st Century Democrats was sued in United States federal court by their former communications director, Kenneth Goldman.[7] The lawsuit stated that three workers were fired in 2006 for refusing to attend "religious events," referring to the Landmark Forum.[7] A formal complaint was filed in a Washington, D.C. court, stating that Landmark Education has "religious characteristics and theological implications."[7] The lawsuit also stated that Landmark Education's influence could be felt in the 21st Century Democrats' "mission, business structure ... and communications."[7]

The executive director for 21st Century Democrats stated he believed the lawsuit had no merits, and called it "frivolous."[7] The suit was dismissed by the court with prejudice.[8]

A spokesman for Landmark Education stated that the San Francisco, California based company "is in no way religious in nature and any claim to the contrary is simply absurd."[7] Goldman stated that two other employees of 21st Century Democrats regularly discussed their unease with him over Landmark Education's influence over the company, and believed that former executive director Kelly Young treated the Landmark Forum seminars like a "religion."[7] Landmark Education and the two other employees who were fired are not a party to the lawsuit between Goldman and 21st Century Democrats.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "21st Century Democrats". 21st Century Democrats. Archived from the original on September 26, 2010. Retrieved October 10, 2010. "Join more than 100,000 21st Century Dems" 
  2. ^ Attlesey, Sam; Stahl, Lori (January 23, 1996). "New Group Seeks to Re-Focus Democratic Message.". Local News (Dallas Morning News). 
  3. ^ Garofoli, Joe (September 22, 2004). "Attention overwhelms tiny slice of swing state" (Article). News. The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved December 22, 2008. 
  4. ^ staff (2008). "Governor Howard Dean, Founder". About us (Democracy for America). Archived from the original on December 22, 2008. Retrieved December 22, 2008. 
  5. ^ Robert Schlesinger (February 27, 2009). "Progressive Acccountability Now PAC Will Target Wayward Democrats in Primaries" (Article). U.S. News & World Report. Archived from the original on March 2, 2009. Retrieved March 11, 2009. 
  6. ^ Rosiak, Luke (February 14, 2014). "Most troubled PAC in history flies under radar, squanders Democratic donors' cash". Nation/Politics (The Washington Examiner). Retrieved February 14, 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h McElhatton, Jim (November 27, 2007). "Democratic PAC faces lawsuit for employee 'religious events'". Nation/Politics (The Washington Times). Retrieved November 27, 2007. [dead link]
  8. ^ http://www.keepandshare.com/doc/1667705/growing-generations-order-of-dismissal-11-6-08-pdf-december-20-2008-5-00-pm-45k

External links[edit]