The Democracy Alliance is a network of progressive donors who coordinate their political donations to groups that the Alliance has endorsed. It has been described by Politico as "the country's most powerful liberal donor club."
Members of the Democracy Alliance are required to contribute at least $200,000 a year to groups the Democracy Alliance vets and recommends. As of 2014, the Alliance had helped distribute approximately $500 million to liberal organizations since its founding in 2005. Members of the Democracy Alliance include billionaires George Soros and Tom Steyer. In 2017 and 2018 alone, Democracy Alliance Members spent $600 million on various liberal causes.
The Democracy Alliance planned to spend $374 million during the 2014 midterm election cycle to boost liberal candidates and causes. According to the Democracy Alliance's website, the group "was created to build progressive infrastructure that could help counter the well-funded and sophisticated conservative apparatus in the areas of civic engagement, leadership, media, and ideas."
A PowerPoint presentation, "The Conservative Message Machine Money Matrix", created by Rob Stein and shown to individuals and small groups of donors in 2003 and 2004, is often credited as being the impetus for the group's formation.
The first meeting of the Democracy Alliance was held at The Boulders near Scottsdale, Arizona in April 2005. Rob Stein was appointed interim CEO, pending the group's selection of a permanent leader. George Soros, Peter B. Lewis and Tim Gill were all involved in the organization's founding.
At the Democracy Alliance's second meeting, held at the Chateau Elan near Atlanta, Georgia in October 2005, management consultant Judy Wade was installed as the CEO of the organization. At the group's fourth meeting in Miami in November 2006, Wade was replaced with Kelly Craighead.
In 2012, the Democracy Alliance ceased funding a number of prominent progressive organizations. According to the Huffington Post, "The groups dropped by the Democracy Alliance tend to be those that work outside the [Democratic] party's structure." This move cost the Democracy Alliance the support of Soros ally Peter B. Lewis, the billionaire founder of Progressive Auto Insurance.
According to the Huffington Post, the Democracy Alliance "is largely divided into two camps: one that prefers to focus on electing Democrats to office, and another that argues for more attention to movement and progressive infrastructure building in order to create a power center independent of the Democratic Party apparatus."
In 2015, the Democracy Alliance announced a new strategy called "2020 Vision."
The strategy is centered on electing more Democrats to state level offices to build its political influence by 2020. The Democracy Alliance plans to raise more than $150 million over five years to assist more than 30 groups, including organizations focused on battles to increase the minimum wage, oppose voter ID laws, address global warming and reduce the influence of money in elections.
Under its latest strategy, the Democracy Alliance will divide its funding streams into four categories. There are 35 groups funded in these categories. This is the old STRATEGY, and in 2017 the issue of Latino and maginilized communities was addressed in the Alliances New American Majority Fund, with specific investments in Latino engagement and African American electoral funding.
As of 2015, the Democracy Alliance, which does not disclose its membership, is reported to have about 110 partners who are required to contribute at least $200,000 a year to groups it vets and recommends. Members include Tom Steyer and some of the U.S.'s biggest labor unions. It has recommended that its donors financially support the Black Lives Matter movement.
In advance of the 2020 elections, the Democracy Alliance retooled its strategy and began to focus on "playing down longtime relationships with groups in Washington and instead preparing to pour $100 million into key states to help defeat President Donald Trump."
Gara LaMarche is the president of the Democracy Alliance. LaMarche, a longtime progressive activist and close ally of George Soros, assumed the post in 2013. Prior to LaMarche's hiring, Hillary Clinton aide Kelly Craighead led the Alliance. Howard Dean has previously been considered as a potential president for the Democracy Alliance. The board of directors for the Democracy Alliance includes John Stocks, Patricia Bauman, Weston Milliken, Gara LaMarche, Mary Kay Henry, David desJardins, Nick Hanauer, Farhad Ebrahimi, Josh Fryday, Keith Mestrich, Fran Rodgers, Susan Sandler and ex-Clinton administration official Rob Stein. Other members include Drummond Pike; John R. Hunting; Paul Rudd (co-founder of Adaptive Analytics); Pat Stryker; Gail Furman; real estate developer Robert Bowditch; Pioneer Hybrid International-heir and congressional candidate Scott Wallace; Susie Tompkins Buell; real estate developer Albert Dwoskin; and Taco Bell-heir Rob McKay.
Get out the vote efforts
Inside Philanthropy described the Democracy Alliance as a "site of frequent coordination between left-leaning funders looking to get out the vote. Its secretive donor base appears to be mobilizing in response to COVID-19, and elections are on the agenda." The Democracy Alliance seeks to increase voter engagement among people of color, women, and young people.
The Alliance recommends a portfolio of progressive organizations that collaborate with each other. In 2014, the Democracy Alliance's “Progressive Infrastructure Map" included 172 organizations, 21 of which were considered core groups. In 2015, the Alliance's funding plans included 35 core organizations. Entities funded by the Democracy Alliance include:
- Advancement Project
- America Votes
- American Constitution Society
- Americans for Financial Reform
- Ballot Initiative Strategy Center
- Black Lives Matter (2016 to present through related groups)
- Black Civic Engagement Fund
- Brennan Center for Justice
- Center for American Progress
- Center for Community Change
- Center for Popular Democracy
- Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
- Color of Change
- Constitutional Accountability Center
- Economic Policy Institute
- Issue One
- Leading Green, a joint venture of the League of Conservation Voters and the Natural Resources Defense Council
- Media Matters for America
- National Employment Law Project
- National People's Action
- New Media Ventures
- Organizing for Action
- PICO National Network
- Roosevelt Institute
- State Innovation Exchange
- State Voices
- Wellstone Action
- Working America
- Working Families Party
- Vogel, Kenneth (April 24, 2014). "The left's secret club plans for 2014, 2016". Politico. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
- Grim, Ryan (October 8, 2013). "Democracy Alliance, Network Of Rich Liberal Donors, Signals Shift Away From Partisan Political Activity". Huffington Post. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
- Earle, Geoff (April 24, 2014). "De Blasio to be keynote speaker at Chicago conference". New York Post. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
- Community. Strategy. Investment. Impact. "...progressive infrastructure, ...progressive philanthropy, ...progressive agenda, ...progressive community." Official website. Retrieved: 20 October 2014.
- Severns, Maggie (May 5, 2019). "Liberal megadonors plan $100 million swing-state blitz to beat Trump". Politico. Retrieved 30 October 2019.
- Vogel, Kenneth (2014-06-23). "Inside the vast liberal conspiracy". Politico. Retrieved June 24, 2014.
- "Democracy Alliance". Democracy Alliance. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
- "How Vast The Left Wing Conspiracy", transcript of Hudson Institute panel discussion partly on the Democracy Alliance (with participation from its founder Rob Stein), November 30, 2006
- VandeHei, Jim (2006-07-17). "A New Alliance of Democrats Spreads Funding; But Some in Party Bristle At Secrecy and Liberal Tilt". The Washington Post. p. A01. Retrieved 2010-04-17.
- Gold, Matea (April 12, 2015). "Wealthy donors on left launch new plan to wrest back control in the states". Washington Post. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
- Bai (2006), p. 293
- "More Turnover at a Big Donor Shop" Archived 2008-12-03 at the Wayback Machine, U.S. News & World Report, April 16, 2007.
- "Big $$ for Progressive Politics", The Nation, October 16, 2006
- Grim, Ryan (February 28, 2012). "Democracy Alliance Dumps Progressive Organizations". Huffington Post. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
- Grim, Ryan (October 8, 2013). "Democracy Alliance, Network Of Rich Liberal Donors, Signals Shift Away From Partisan Political Activity". Huffington Post. Retrieved June 24, 2014.
- Schouten, Fredreka (April 12, 2015). "Liberal donors gear up to fund new state-level agenda". USA Today. Retrieved May 28, 2015.
- Vogel, Kenneth; Wheaton, Sarah (November 13, 2015). "Major donors consider funding Black Lives Matter". Politico. Retrieved December 7, 2015.
- "Leadership". Democracy Alliance. Archived from the original on April 25, 2010. Retrieved May 28, 2015.
- Neubauer, Chuck (June 23, 2011). "Soros and liberal groups seeking top election posts in battleground states". Washington Times.
- Rojc, Philip (April 1, 2020). "Virus-Proofing the Vote: Democracy Funders Respond to COVID-19". Inside Philanthropy. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
- "A 2020 VISION FOR THE DEMOCRACY ALLIANCE: FUNDING RECOMMENDATIONS" (PDF). Politico. Retrieved May 28, 2015.
- GOP plans to replicate success of Democracy Alliance and other liberal groups Politico, May 6, 2010
- Conservative Groups Focus on Messaging, but What Message Newsweek, May 7, 2010
- "Rich Liberals Vow to Fund Think Tanks: Aim Is to Compete With Conservatives", Washington Post, August 7, 2005