* Network of non-profit activist groups organized by George Soros and others to advance Democratic Party agendas and guide the Democratic Party ever-further towards the left in the early 2000s
No one knows for certain who first coined the term “Shadow Party.” In the November 5, 2002 Washington Post, writer Thomas B. Edsall wrote of “shadow organizations” that were springing up to circumvent McCain-Feingold‘s soft-money ban (which is discussed at length below). Journalist Lorraine Woellert first called the Democrat network a “shadow party” in a September 15, 2003 Business Week article titled “The Evolution of Campaign Finance?” Other journalists soon followed suit.
Here, the term “Shadow Party” is used specifically to refer to the network of non-profit activist groups organized by George Soros and others to mobilize resources — money, get-out-the-vote drives, campaign advertising, and policy initiatives — to advance Democratic Party agendas, elect Democratic candidates, and guide the Democratic Party ever-further towards the left in the early 2000s. The Shadow Party in this sense was conceived and organized principally by Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Harold Ickes. Its efforts were amplified by, and coordinated with, key government unions and the activist groups associated with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). The key organizers of these groups were veterans of the Sixties left.
How the Goundwork for the Shadow Party Had Been Laid: “Campaign Finance Reform”
George Soros quietly laid the groundwork for the Shadow Party apparatus from 1994 to 2002. During that period, the billionaire spent millions of dollars promoting the passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, better known as the McCain-Feingold Act, which was ultimately signed into law in November 2002 by President Bush. Soros began working on this issue shortly after the 1994 midterm elections, when for the first time in nearly half a century, Republicans had won strong majorities in both houses of Congress. Political analysts at the time attributed the huge Republican gains in large part to the effectiveness of television advertising, most notably the “Harry and Louise” series (which cost $14 million to produce and air) where a fictional suburban couple exposed the many hidden, and distasteful, details of Hillary Clinton’s proposals for a more socialized national health-care system. Soros was angry that such advertisements were capable of overriding the influence of the major print and broadcast news media, which, because they were overwhelmingly sympathetic to Democrat agendas, had given Hillary’s plan a great deal of free, positive publicity for months. Three weeks after the 1994 elections, Soros announced that he intended to “do something” about “the distortion of our electoral process by the excessive use of TV advertising.” That “something” would be campaign-finance reform.
Starting in 1994, Soros’s Open Society Institute and a few other leftist foundations began bankrolling front groups and so-called “experts” whose aim was to persuade Congress to swallow the fiction that millions of Americans were clamoring for “campaign-finance reform.” This deceptive strategy was the brainchild of Sean Treglia, a former program officer with the Pew Charitable Trusts. Between 1994 and 2004, some $140 million of foundation cash was used to promote campaign-finance reform. Nearly 90 percent of this amount derived from just eight foundations, one of which was the Open Society Institute, which contributed $12.6 million to the cause. Among the major recipients of these OSI funds were such pro-reform organizations as the Alliance For Better Campaigns ($650,000); the Brennan Center for Justice (more than $3.3 million); the Center For Public Integrity ($1.7 million); the Center For Responsive Politics ($75,000); Common Cause ($625,000); Democracy 21 ($300,000); Public Campaign ($1.3 million); and Public Citizen ($275,000).
The “research” which these groups produced in order to make a case on behalf of campaign-finance reform was largely bogus and contrived. For instance, Brennan Center political scientist Jonathan Krasno had clearly admitted in his February 19, 1999 grant proposal to the Pew Charitable Trusts that the purpose of the proposed study was political, not scholarly, and that the project would be axed if it failed to yield the desired results: “The purpose of our acquiring the data set is not simply to advance knowledge for its own sake, but to fuel a continuous multi-faceted campaign to propel campaign reform forward. Whether we proceed to phase two will depend on the judgment of whether the data provide a sufficiently powerful boost to the reform movement.”
The stated purpose of McCain-Feingold was to purge politics of corruption by: (a) putting restrictions on paid advertising during the weeks just prior to political elections, and (b) tightly regulating the amount of money that political parties and candidates could accept from donors. Vis à vis the former of those two provisions, the new legislation barred private organizations, including unions, corporations, and citizen activist groups, from advertising for or against any candidate for federal office on television or radio during the 60 days preceding an election, and during the 30 days preceding a primary. During these blackout periods, only official political parties would be permitted to engage in “express advocacy” advertising, i.e., political ads that explicitly urged voters to “vote for” or “vote against” a specified candidate. Equally important, major media networks were exempted from McCain-Feingold’s constraints; thus they were free to speak about candidates in any manner they wished during their regular programming and news broadcasts. This would inevitably be a positive development for Democrats, who enjoyed the near-universal support of America’s leading media outlets.
In addition to its limits on pre-election political advertising, McCain-Feingold also placed onerous new restrictions on the types of donations which candidates, parties, and political action committees (PACs) could now accept. Previously, they had been permitted to take two types of contributions. One of these was “hard money,” which referred to funds earmarked for the purpose of express advocacy. Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulations stipulated that in a single calendar year, no hard-money donor could give more than $1,000 to any particular candidate, no more than $5,000 to a PAC, and no more than $20,000 to any political party.
The other category of pre-McCain-Feingold donations was “soft-money,” which donors were permitted to give directly to a political party in amounts unlimited by law. But to qualify for designation as “soft money,” a donation could not be used to fund “express advocacy” ads on behalf of any particular candidate. Rather, it had to be used to pay for such things as “voter-education” ads or “issue-oriented” ads, political messages that carefully refrained from making explicit calls to “vote for” or “vote against” any specific candidate. So long as an ad steered clear of uttering such forbidden instructions, there was no limit as to how much soft money could be spent on its production and dissemination.
McCain-Feingold raised the per-donor maximum for certain hard-money donations: A donor could now give up to $2,000 to a candidate, $5,000 to a PAC, and $25,000 to a political party. But the new law banned soft-money contributions to political parties altogether.
Historically, Republicans had enjoyed a 2-1 advantage over Democrats in raising hard money from individual donors. Democrats had relied much more heavily on soft money from large institutions such as labor unions. Thus it seems counter-intuitive that Soros, who clearly favored Democrats over Republicans, would seek to push legislation whose net effect, the removal of soft money, would be unfavorable to Democratic Party fundraising efforts.
But Soros’s motive becomes clear when we look at the types of organizations whose fundraising activities were left unaffected by McCain-Feingold. These were “527 committees,” nonprofits named after Section 527 of the IRS code, which, unlike ordinary PACS, were not required to register with the FEC. Run mostly by special-interest groups, these 527s were technically supposed to be independent of, and unaffiliated with, any party or candidate. As such, they were permitted to raise soft money, in amounts unbound by any legal limits, or all manner of political activities other than express advocacy. That is, so long as a 527 did not use soft money to pay for ads explicitly urging people to cast their ballots either for or against any particular candidate, it was technically in compliance with the McCain-Feingold law. Practically speaking, of course, such things as “issue-oriented ads” and “voter-education” ads can easily be tailored to favor one party or candidate over another, while carefully steering clear of “express advocacy.”
Once McCain-Feingold was in place, Soros and his political allies collaborated to set up a network of “527 committees” ready to receive the soft money that individual donors and big labor unions normally would have given directly to the Democratic Party. These 527s could then use that money to fund issue-oriented ads, voter-education initiatives, get-out-the-vote drives, and other “party-building” activities, not only to help elect Democratic candidates in 2004, but more broadly to guide the Democratic Party ever-further leftward. By helping to push McCain-Feingold through Congress, Soros had effectively cut off the Democrats’ soft-money supply and diverted it to the coffers of an alternative network of beneficiaries, which he personally controlled. As Byron York observed, “[T]he new campaign finance rules had actually increased the influence of big money in politics. By giving directly to ‘independent’ groups rather than to the party itself, big-ticket donors could influence campaign strategy and tactics more directly than they ever had previously…. And the power was concentrated in very few hands,” most notably Soros’s.
Soros’s First Experiment With “527 Committees”: The “Shadow Conventions”
Clear hints of Soros’s intentions began to appear as early as the 2000 election season. It was then that Soros (shouldering about one-third of the cost) sponsored the so-called “Shadow Conventions.” Organized by author, columnist, and socialite Arianna Huffington, the Shadow Conventions were media events designed to lure news crews from the real party conventions of that year. Huffington held her “Shadow Conventions” at the same time and in the same cities as the Republican and Democratic Conventions, in Philadelphia and Los Angeles respectively, and featured leftwing critics of mainstream politics. The Shadow Conventions promoted Huffington’s view that neither Democrats nor Republicans served the interests of the American people any longer. In Huffington’s view, U.S. politics needed a third force to break the deadlock.
Among the issues highlighted at the Shadow Conventions were racism, class inequality, marijuana legalization, and campaign-finance reform. Most speakers and delegates pushed a hard-left line, accompanied by “Free Mumia” chants from the crowd and an incendiary tirade by Jesse Jackson. A former conservative, Huffington told reporters: “I have become radicalized.”
The Shadow Conventions were purely symbolic affairs; they fielded no candidates for office. However, many of Soros’s activities during the 2000 campaign went beyond symbolism. It was during the 2000 election that Soros first experimented with raising campaign funds through Section 527 groups. In preparation for the 2000 election, Soros assembled a team of wealthy Democrat donors to help him push two of his pet issues — gun control and marijuana legalization. Their donations greatly exceeded the limits on political contributions stipulated by campaign-finance laws. Soros therefore laundered their contributions through Section 527 groups — dubbed “stealth PACs,” by the media of that time.
One of Soros’s stealth PACs was an anti-gun group called Campaign for a Progressive Future (CPF). This group sought to neutralize the influence of the National Rifle Association (NRA) by targeting for defeat any political candidate, at any level, whom the NRA endorsed. Soros personally seeded CPF with $500,000. During the 2000 election season, CPF funded political ads and direct-mail campaigns in support of state initiatives favoring background checks at gun shows.
Soros similarly used other 527s to agitate in favor of pro-marijuana initiatives which appeared on the ballot in various states that year. Donors to Soros’ stealth PACs during the 2000 election cycle included insurance mogul Peter B. Lewis and InfoSeek founder Steven Kirsch, both of whom would turn up as major contributors to Soros’s Shadow Party during the 2004 election season.
The Effect of 9/11 on Soros and the Genesis of the Shadow Party:
All of Soros’s maneuverings — vis a vis the effort to pass McCain-Feingold and the staging of the Shadow Conventions — were suddenly injected with an extra large dose of urgency after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Soros was utterly convinced that the U.S. government’s response to those attacks was so wrongheaded, and so dangerously misguided, that it threatened the very survival of the human race.
Before 9/11, Soros had viewed his philanthropy as a way of incrementally changing health care, criminal sentencing, drug laws, and other social systems he regarded as flawed. The direction in which he wanted to steer the United States was clear in the radical agendas of the groups that he had been funding for nearly a decade through his Open Society Institute. Those agendas could essentially be distilled down to three overriding themes: the diminution of American power, the subjugation of American sovereignty in favor of one world government, and the implementation of a socialist redistribution of wealth, both within the U.S. and across national borders.
But after 9/11, Soros decided that the world was endangered by American dominance, and that it was essential to fundamentally change the country overnight as it were, rather than over time. By Soros’s reckoning, President Bush, who had taken office eight months earlier, was moving in a dangerous direction, giving rise to anti-American hatred in the hearts of people all across the globe. Specifically, the billionaire detested what he viewed as the arrogance the President displayed when he publicly branded America’s enemies as “evil”; when he unapologetically expressed his faith in the exceptionalism of his own culture; and when he seemed disinclined to consider the possibility that the terrorists may have had something valuable to teach Americans about how the rest of the world perceived the United States. Moreover, Soros considered terrorism to be, in large measure, a consequence of economic inequity and the exploitation of poor countries by their wealthier counterparts.
Reasoning from these premises, Soros maintained that the proper long-term response to 9/11 would be for America to launch a global war on poverty, to send massive amounts of aid to impoverished regions around the world where international terrorism tended to originate. Indeed, he had long maintained that the “root causes” of terrorism were “poverty” and “ignorance.” Just eight days after 9/11, Soros gave a speech where he said that the “cornerstone” of his “plan” was to “address the social conditions that provide a fertile ground from which [terrorist] volunteers who are willing to sacrifice their lives can be recruited.” This plan would call on “rich countries” to boost their levels of “international assistance,” which, while unlikely to “prevent people like bin Laden from exercising their evil genius,” would “help to alleviate the grievances on which extremism of all kinds feeds.”
On subsequent occasions, Soros would reiterate his belief that terrorism was caused by a dearth of “international income redistribution” and a “growing inequality between rich and poor, both within countries and among countries.” “A global open society,” Soros stressed, “requires affirmative action on a global scale.” He called for a “radical reordering” of American “priorities,” where “[i]nstead of devoting the bulk of the budget to military expenditures to implement the Bush doctrine, we would engage in preventive actions of a constructive nature.” “The United States cannot do whatever it wants,” he scolded. “… Our nation must concern itself with the well-being of the world.”
In Soros’s calculus, 9/11 represented “an unusual opportunity to rethink and reshape the world.” Observing that the recent attacks had “shocked” Americans “into realizing that others may regard them very differently from the way they see themselves,” Soros posited that his fellow countrymen were now “more ready to reassess the world and the role the United States plays in it than in normal times.” And acknowledging that “[t]his awareness may not last long,” he said: “I am determined not to let the moment pass.”
The urgency which Soros felt with regard to seizing the moment was further heightened on the night of January 29, 2002, when George W. Bush delivered his State of the Union address. In that speech, the President made his first controversial reference to Iraq as part of an “axis of evil” that posed a potentially deadly threat to America. Bush intimated that he would soon turn his foreign-policy attention toward Saddam Hussein‘s regime, which continued to “flaunt its hostility toward America,” “support terror,” and violate its international agreements. As the President pledged not to “wait on events while dangers gather,” nor to “stand by as peril draws closer and closer,” speculation about a possible U.S. invasion of Iraq began to coalesce. In Soros’s view, such an invasion “would actually be a victory for the terrorists,” because the inevitable killing of “innocent civilians” would give groups like al Qaeda “the kind of radicalization that they are looking for” in order to justify “a vicious cycle of escalating violence.” “War is a false and misleading metaphor in the context of combating terrorism,” said Soros. “Treating the attacks of September 11 as crimes against humanity would have been more appropriate. Crimes require police work, not military action.” Moreover, Soros characterized the so-called “Bush doctrine” of preemptive military action against those who may pose a threat to the U.S. an “atrocious proposition.”
By the time the U.S. invaded Iraq in early 2003, Soros’s contempt for President Bush’s “imperialist vision” had reached a fever pitch. Accusing Bush of “deliberately foster[ing] fear because it helps to keep the nation lined up behind the president,” Soros added cynically: “Terrorism is the ideal enemy. It is invisible and therefore never disappears. An enemy that poses a genuine and recognized threat can effectively hold a nation together.” In August, Soros warned that the very “fate of the world depends on the United States, and President Bush is leading us in the wrong direction” with his “false and dangerous” doctrine. In the fall, Soros referred to Bush administration officials and Republicans generally as “extremists” who “don’t believe in the system of democracy as we know it”; and who embraced “a very dangerous ideology” which held that “the United States … should impose its power, impose its will and its interests on the world.”
As the Iraq War took an increasing toll in terms of both American and Iraqi lives, Soros wrote that the U.S. military response to 9/11 had actually turned out to be a greater moral atrocity than the original “crime” that prompted it, because the war “has claimed more innocent civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq than have the attacks on the World Trade Center.” In short, Soros characterized the Bush administration’s “pursuit of American supremacy” as more dangerous than Islamist terror.
Not only did Soros believe that Bush was following a mindless and perilous policy, but he saw the President’s motives as wholly dishonorable. Soros repeatedly accused Bush of using intelligence that had been “exposed as exaggerated or even false” to justify the invasion of Iraq under “false pretenses.” He denounced “the exploitation of September 11 by the Bush administration to pursue its policy of dominating the world in the guise of fighting terrorism.” He expanded on this theme by accusing Bush of seeking “to justify repressive measures” on the home front while “establish[ing] a secure alternative to Saudi oil” in the Mideast.
On numerous occasions, Soros drew parallels between the Bush administration and some of history’s most infamous totalitarian regimes. Bush’s view that “there is only one model of democracy,” said Soros, was “as false, and potentially as dangerous, as that of the Communists’ belief that there is only one way to organize society.” Soros further likened Bush’s “Orwellian” assertion that “[y]ou can have freedom as long as you do what we tell you to do,” to Soviet rhetoric about “people’s democracies.” “When I hear President Bush say, ‘You’re either with us or against us,’ it reminds me of the Germans,” Soros stated. “My experiences under Nazi and Soviet rule have sensitized me.”
Soros saw “the forthcoming elections” of 2004 as “an excellent opportunity to deflate the bubble of American supremacy.” He resolved to employ his wealth and his ideological fervor to capitalize on this opportunity, knowing that the best time to implement radical change is during times of upheaval and crisis, i.e., times like the aftermath of 9/11. “Usually it takes a crisis to prompt a meaningful change in direction,” Soros himself had written in his 2000 book Open Society: Reforming Global Capitalism. To accomplish this, he would create a political apparatus of extraordinary influence.**
Soros’s “Shadow Party” Takes Shape
There was no official birth announcement when the Shadow Party was launched on July 17, 2003 at El Mirador, George Soros’s Southampton estate on Long Island. But it was the most significant development in American politics in decades. At this meeting of political strategists, wealthy donors, left-wing labor leaders and progressive activists, Soros laid out his plan to defeat George Bush in the 2004 presidential election.
Attendees included such luminaries as OSI director Morton Halperin; EMILY’s List founder and abortion-rights activist Ellen Malcolm; former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta; Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope; former Clinton speechwriters Jeremy Rosner and Robert Boorstin; labor leader and former Clinton advisor Steve Rosenthal; and major Democrat donors such as Lewis and Dorothy Cullman, Robert Glaser, Peter Lewis, and Robert McKay.
The consensus among those in attendance was that voter turnout, particularly in 17 “swing” or “battleground” states would be the key to unseating President Bush. Steve Rosenthal and Ellen Malcolm, CEO and president, respectively, of a newly formed but poorly funded voter-registration group called America Coming Together (ACT) suggested that voters in those swing states should be recruited and mobilized as soon as possible. Agreeing, Soros told the pair that he personally would give ACT $10 million to help maximize its effectiveness. A few other attendees also pledged to give the fledgling group large sums of money: Soros’s billionaire friend Peter Lewis, chairman of the Progressive Corporation, promised to give $10 million; Robert Glaser, founder and CEO of RealNetworks, promised $2 million; Robert McKay, president of the McKay Family Foundation, committed $1 million; and benefactors Lewis and Dorothy Cullman pledged $500,000.
By early 2004, the administrative core of George Soros’s Shadow Party was in place. It consisted of seven ostensibly “independent” nonprofit groups, all but one of which were headquartered in Washington, D.C. In a number of cases, these groups shared one another’s finances, directors, and corporate officers; occasionally they even shared office space. The seven groups were:
1) America Coming Together (ACT): Jump-started by Soros’s $10 million grant, ACT in 2004 ran what it called “the largest voter-contact program in history,” with more than 1,400 full-time paid canvassers contacting potential voters door-to-door and by phone.
2) Center For American Progress (CAP): This entity was established to serve as a think tank promoting leftist ideas and policy initiatives. Soros, enthusiastic about the Center’s potential, pledged in July 2003 to donate up to $3 million to help get the project off the ground. From the outset, CAP’s leadership featured a host of former high-ranking officials from the Clinton administration. Hillary Clinton predicted that the organization would provide “some new intellectual capital” with which to “build the 21st-century policies that reflect the Democrat Party’s values.” George Soros and Morton Halperin together selected former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta to serve as president of CAP. Podesta said his goal was to develop CAP as a “think tank on steroids,” featuring “a message-oriented war room” that “will send out a daily briefing to refute the positions and arguments of the right.”
3) America Votes: This national coalition coordinated the efforts of many get-out-the-vote organizations and their thousands of contributing activists. Soros’s support for America Votes would continue well past 2004. Indeed he would donate $2.15 million to this coalition in the 2006 election cycle, another $1.25 million in the 2008 cycle, and yet another $1.25 million in 2010.
4) Media Fund: Describing itself as “the largest media-buying organization supporting a progressive message” in the United States, this group produced and strategically placed political ads in the print, broadcast, and electronic media.
5) Joint Victory Campaign 2004 (JVC): This fundraising entity focused on collecting contributions and then disbursing them chiefly to America Coming Together and the Media Fund. In 2004 alone, JVC channeled $19.4 million to the former, and $38.4 million to the latter. Soros personally gave JVC more than $12 million that year.
6) Thunder Road Group (TRG): This political consultancy coordinated strategy for America Coming Together, America Votes, and the Media Fund. Its duties included strategic planning, polling, opposition research, covert operations, and public relations.
7) MoveOn.org: This California-based entity was the only one of the Shadow Party’s core groups that was not a new startup operation. Launched in September 1998, MoveOn was a Web-based political network that organized online activists around specific issues, raised money for Democratic candidates, generated political ads, and was very effective at recruiting young people to support Democrats. In November 2003, Soros pledged to give MoveOn $5 million to help its cause.
According to Ellen Malcolm of America Coming Together (ACT), the financial commitment which Soros made to these Shadow Party groups in 2003 “was a signal to potential donors that he had looked at what was going on and that this was pretty exciting, and that he was going to stand behind it, and it was the real deal.” As Byron York observed, “After Soros signed on, contributions started pouring in.” ACT and the Media Fund alone took in some $200 million, including $20 million from Soros alone. This type of money was unprecedented in American politics.
Harold Ickes, who had served as White House deputy chief of staff in the Clinton White House, had a hand in creating every Shadow Party core group except MoveOn. He was also entrusted with the vital task of making these organizations function as a cohesive entity. In 2004, Democratic strategist Harold Wolfson suggested that outside of the official campaign of presidential candidate John Kerry, Ickes “is the most important person in the Democratic Party today.”
In addition to its seven core members, the Shadow Party also came to include at least another 30 well-established leftwing activist groups and labor unions that participated in the America Votes coalition. Among the better-known of these were ACORN; the AFL-CIO; the AFSCME; the American Federation of Teachers; the Association of Trial Lawyers of America; the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund; EMILY’s List; the Human Rights Campaign; the League of Conservation Voters; the NAACP; NARAL Pro-Choice America; the National Education Association; People for the American Way; Planned Parenthood; the Service Employees International Union; and the Sierra Club.
According to author Richard Poe, the Shadow Party consisted of more than 65 member organizations as of 2004.
New Mexico’s then-governor, Democrat Bill Richardson, observed that “these groups” were “crucial” to the anti-Bush effort. “Now that campaign-finance reform is law,” he said, “organizations like these have become the replacement for the national Democratic Party.” And no donor was more heavily invested in these organizations, or in defeating President Bush, than George Soros, who contributed $27,080,105 to pro-Democrat 527s during the 2004 election cycle. The second leading donor was the billionaire insurance entrepreneur Peter Lewis ($23,997,220), followed by Hollywood producer Stephen Bing ($13,952,682) and Golden West Financial Corporation founders Herbert and Marion Sandler ($13,007,959).
Failure and Resiliency: Birth of The Democracy Alliance
When President Bush won re-election in 2004, George Soros was devastated; his massive financial investments and herculean organizing efforts had all gone for naught. Adding insult to injury, the hated Republicans had retained control of both houses of Congress. As Soros contemplated what course of action he ought to pursue next, the answer came to him, somewhat unexpectedly, in the form of Democrat political operative Rob Stein, former chief of staff to Commerce Secretary Ron Brown during the Clinton administration. During the preceding two years, Stein had been busy devising a strategy by which Democrats might reclaim supremacy in the executive and legislative branches of government. He began working on this strategy shortly after the Republicans had gained eight House seats and two Senate seats in the 2002 midterm elections. Lamenting that he was “living in a one-party [Republican] country,” Stein at that point resolved to study the conservative movement and determine why it was winning the political battle. After a year of analysis, he concluded that a few influential, wealthy family foundations, most notably Scaife, Bradley, Olin, and Coors, had spearheaded the creation of a $300 million network of politically influential organizations. Stein featured these facts in a comprehensive PowerPoint presentation, titled “The Conservative Message Machine Money Matrix,” which mapped out, in painstaking detail, the conservative movement’s networking strategies and funding sources.
Next, Stein set out to show his presentation, mostly in private meetings, to political leaders, activists, and prospective big-money donors of the left. He hoped to inspire them to join his crusade to build a new organization, a financial clearinghouse to be called the Democracy Alliance (DA), dedicated to offsetting the efforts of conservative funders and injecting new life into the progressive movement. At each presentation, Stein asked the viewer to pledge that he or she would keep confidential the substance of the proceedings, so as to give the project a chance to coalesce and gain some momentum without excessive public scrutiny.
Stein officially filed DA’s corporate registration in the District of Columbia in January 2005. By that point, he had shown his PowerPoint presentation to several hundred people. Stein recalls that during those sessions, he consistently observed “an unbelievable frustration” by big Democrat donors who felt hopelessly unconnected to one another even as they longed to be part of a strategic coalition that could work collaboratively and cohesively. This was particularly true of George Soros, thus it was most significant that Soros quickly and enthusiastically embraced Stein’s concept. In April 2005, Soros brought together seventy like-minded, carefully vetted, fellow millionaires and billionaires in Phoenix, Arizona, to discuss Stein’s ideas and expeditiously implement a plan of action. Most of those in attendance agreed that the conservative movement represented “a fundamental threat to the American way of life.” And, like Soros, a considerable number of them looked favorably on Stein’s analysis and concept. Thus was born the Democracy Alliance (DA), an immensely important newcomer to the Shadow Party.
DA members, called “partners,” include individuals and organizations alike. Partnership in the Alliance is by invitation only. These partners pay an initial $25,000 fee, and $30,000 in yearly dues thereafter. They also must give at least $200,000 annually to groups which the Alliance endorses. Donors metaphorically “pour” these requisite donations into one or more of what Rob Stein refers to as DA’s “four buckets” of fundraising: ideas, media, leadership training, and civic engagement. The money is then apportioned to approved left-wing groups from each respective category.
The Democracy Alliance is known to consist of scores of donor-partners but historically has been quite secretive regarding their identities. Nevertheless, the Capital Research Center has managed to compile the names of some of the more significant current and former DA partners (in addition to George Soros and Rob Stein). A large percentage of them have significant ties to Soros that extend well beyond their shared membership in the Democracy Alliance.
No grants were pledged at the Democracy Alliance’s April 2005 gathering in Phoenix, but at an Atlanta meeting three months later, DA partners pledged $39 million, about a third of which came directly from George Soros and Peter Lewis. Because the Alliance has largely refrained from providing information about its giving, only a small percentage of its donees are known to the public. Thus it is impossible to determine precisely how much money DA has disbursed since its inception. One source, Alliance member Simon Rosenberg, claimed in August 2008 that DA had already “channeled hundreds of millions of dollars into progressive organizations.”
Radicalizing America, One State at a Time: “PLAN” and the Secretary of State Project
In August 2005, when the Democracy Alliance was just getting off the ground, George Soros’s Open Society Institute helped establish yet another new Shadow Party organization, the Progressive Legislative Action Network, or PLAN. Furnishing state legislatures with pre-written “model” legislation reflecting leftist agendas, this group was part and parcel of Soros’s methodical campaign to shift American politics and public attitudes toward the left, by gaining a foothold inside the corridors of power on a state-by-state basis.
Then, in July 2006, Democracy Alliance partner Michael Kieschnick collaborated with Becky Bond (who also had affiliations with the New Organizing Institute and Working Assets) and James Rucker (who co-founded Color of Change and formerly served as director of grassroots mobilization for MoveOn.org Political Action and Moveon.org Civic Action) to launch a major new initiative called the Secretary of State Project (SoSP), a rather unique addition to the Shadow Party. This “527 committee” was devoted to helping Democrats win secretary-of-state elections in crucial “swing” states, i.e., states where the margin of victory in the 2004 presidential election had been 120,000 votes or less. One of the principal duties of the secretary of state is to serve as the chief election officer who certifies candidates as well as election results in his or her state. The holder of this office, then, can potentially play a key role in determining the winner of a close election. Numerous Democracy Alliance partners became funders of SoSP. George Soros was one of them. In 2008, for instance, he personally gave $10,000 to the Project.
The Shadow Party (3-part series)
By David Horowitz and Richard Poe
The Shadow Party: History, Goals, and Activities
By Richard Poe
Profiles of Shadow Party Members
By Discover The Networks
The Shadow Party and the Shadow Government: George Soros and the Effort to Radically Change America (pamphlet)
By David Horowitz and John Perazzo
The Shadow Party: How George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Sixties Radicals Seized Control of the Democratic Party
By David Horowitz and Richard Poe