21st Century Democrats (21CD)

21st Century Democrats (21CD)


  • Seeks to help “transform the Democratic Party from within” by aiding the election or re-election of “genuinely progressive Democrats”

21st Century Democrats (21CD) is a political action committee (PAC) which was established in 1986 as “Democrats 2000.” Its co-founders were Senator Tom Harkin, Congressman Lane Evans, and Texas Agriculture Secretary Jim Hightower. From its inception, the organization’s primary mission was to help “transform the Democratic Party from within” by aiding the election or re-election of “genuinely progressive Democrats” who believe that “the government has a positive role to play in our country.” Such candidates, says 21CD, “will shape the direction of the Democratic Party and enact progressive public policy which transforms this country to a just, fair, and equal society for all.” During each election cycle, 21CD directs resources to the campaigns of: (a) Democrats positioned to challenge “vulnerable [Republican] members of Congress who side with corporate interests instead of constituents,” and (b) “vulnerable [Democratic] incumbents” who are locked in tight, “competitive races.”

21CD also: (a) trains young people to become grassroots organizers; (b) provides support to Democrat elected officials “through our comprehensive progressive network”; and (c) promotes the development of a “farm team” of leftwing populists who will eventually become Democratic Party leaders.

During the 2004 election season, 21CD received nearly $7 million from donors committed to unseating President George W. Bush. These included left-wing activists Andrew and Deborah Rappaport, who donated $600,000 to fund pro-Democrat voter-mobilization efforts. That same year, 21CD launched a massive Young Voter Project, also known as “Vote Mob,” in an effort to persuade 18-to-29-year-olds in swing states to register and vote as Democrats. All told, the organization spent approximately $2 million in 2004 to build a database of more than 200,000 young voters in Ohio, Minnesota, Oregon, and Nevada.

Also during the 2004 election season, 21CD partnered with Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean’s Democracy for America, assisting the latter with grassroots training and organizing on behalf of Democrats. Further, 21CD was: (a) a member organization of the George Soros-backed America Votes coalition, and (b) a key constituent of the Shadow Party.

In December 2004, the Campaign Finance Board of Minnesota levied a $293,000 fine against 21CD’s Minnesota Committee because 21CD National had failed to register as a political committee in that state. As a result of that oversight, any amount contributed by the national group to the Minnesota chapter in excess of $100 was technically illegal. 21CD National was also fined $25,000 for the transgression.

In 2007, former 21CD communications director Kenneth Goldman filed a lawsuit against the organization, claiming that then-Executive Director Kelly Young had terminated him and two other 21CD directors for their refusal to attend “Landmark Education” seminars — which were the progeny of Erhard Seminars Training (EST), Inc. and had ties to New Age religious and spiritual practices. As Goldman’s complaint put it, Landmark had “religious characteristics and theological implications” which influenced the mission and business practices of 21CD. Goldman claimed, for instance, that Young had routinely infused Landmark Education jargon terms — such as “create possibilities”, “create a new context”, and “enroll in possibilities” — into staff meetings. He also charged that Young had: (a) “urged” staff members to participate in Landmark Education events outside of the workplace; (b) driven staffers to and from those events; and (c) used 21CD funds to pay admission and transportation costs for the staffers who attended.

In 2009, 21CD joined the Service Employees International Union, MoveOn.org, Daily Kos, Democracy for America, and Color of Change in supporting the “Accountability Now PAC,” which focused its support on moderate Democratic candidates running for office in moderately liberal to moderately conservative districts. This strategy was founded on the theory that such candidates stood a better chance of winning their elections than far-left candidates.

In 2009 as well, 21CD identified the following as “progressive issues” that were at the top of its list of priorities:

  • “Universal healthcare coverage, most especially for our children”
  • “Fair taxes and social responsibility” (i.e., much higher tax rates for the wealthy)
  • “Corporate accountability” (i.e., high tax rates and stringent environmental regulations for corporations)
  • “Good jobs, living wages, and secure pensions”
  • “Civil and human rights”
  • “A clean and sustainable environment with conservation of our natural resources”
  • “Clean and fair election laws enabling maximum voter participation” (i.e., elimination of Voter ID requirements, and expansion of mail-in voting, ballot harvesting, and same-day voter registration)

In 2009 and 2010, 21CD’s Youth Leadership Speaker Series invited a number of prominent leftists to convey their views to young trainees. The guest speakers at these events included such notables as Keith Ellison, James Clyburn, Elijah Cummings, Van Jones, Barbara Lee, Barney Frank, and Dennis Kucinich.

As of May 2013, 21CD‘s advisory board consisted of Carol Moseley Braun, James Carville, Don Fowler, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, and David Wilhelm.

Following is a list of some of the more prominent political figures whom 21CD has supported over the years: Barbara Boxer, Russ Feingold, Keith Ellison, Mark Ritchie, Tom Udall, Andre Carson, Sherrod Brown, Chellie Pingree, Ben Ray Lujan, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, Jon Tester, Sherrod Brown, Tammy Duckworth, Kamala Harris, Patty Murray, Bob Filner, Alan Grayson, Linda Chavez-Thompson, Ken Salazar, Emanuel Cleaver, Neil Abercrombie, Lane Evans, Carol Moseley Braun, and John Edwards. For more comprehensive lists of candidates backed by 21CD, click here.

Over the couse of its history, 21CD has had a number of well-connected individuals in its employ. For example:

  • Former 21CD communications director Scott Fairchild was selected in 2010 to be the campaign manager for Chicago mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel, onetime chief of staff to President Barack Obama.
  • The former national campaign director of 21CD’s Young Voter Project, Lilah Pomerance, later joined America Votes and also ran the New Mexico and Ohio affiliates of “John Edwards for President” in 2004.
  • Former 21CD executive director Mark Lotwis worked with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and managed a re-election campaign for Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-New York). Moreover, Lotwis’s wife, Lisa Konwinski, was appointed deputy director for legislative affairs under President Obama.

Below is a chart indicating how much money 21CD has raised and spent during the various election cycles since the turn of the 21st century:

Total Raised: $3,286,694
Total Spent: $3,247,527

Total Raised: $3,712,314
Total Spent: $3,852,764

Total Raised: $6,947,302
Total Spent: $6,819,410

Total Raised: $5,100,403
Total Spent: $5,142,143

Total Raised: $3,782,577
Total Spent: $3,803,870

Total Raised: $2,306,300
Total Spent: $2,161,264

Total Raised: $2,367,871
Total Spent: $2,312,165

Total Raised: $1,188,496
Total Spent: $1,280,478

Total Raised: $1,776,043
Total Spent: $1,761,624

Total Raised: $2,234,037
Total Spent: $2,088,761

Total Raised: $2,104,975
Total Spent: $2,235,642

Total Raised: $1,247,277
Total Spent: $1,467,138

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