VADUM: Left vs. left

Soros club for rich liberals flounders between short- and long-term goals

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George SorosDemocracy Alliance, an invitation-only club for billionaire leftist political donors, has decided to drown Democrats and President Obama’s re-election campaign in an ocean of cash this year. Democracy Alliance, founded in 2005, is a financial clearinghouse that recommends to its wealthy members projects and groups aimed at transforming America into a European-style socialist state. The secretive group has directed untold hundreds of millions of dollars to left-of-center causes.

For those unfamiliar with Mr. Soros, he is the pre-eminent funder of the left in the United States. He openly favors American decline and has said European-style socialism “is exactly what we need now.” The radical, anti-American philanthropist praises China effusively, saying the totalitarian nation has “a better-functioning government than the United States.” Mr. Soros already has begun doling out funds for Democrats. In the 2012 cycle, he has given a modest $203,500, but that number promises to rise exponentially.

Democracy Alliance’s original mission was to focus on building political infrastructure - think tanks, activist groups, leadership schools and media outlets - to help the left gain and keep power. The idea was to focus on long-term organizational issues as opposed to the more mundane task of helping Democrats get elected every election cycle.

But political expediency has forced a stunning course correction that is causing deep fissures in Democracy Alliance that ultimately may destroy it. On one side of an internal divide are Democracy Alliance members who believe in the original mission of the donors’ collaboration.

Soros doppelganger Peter B. Lewis, who helped found the group with Mr. Soros, thinks Democracy Alliance has become far too partisan. In a crushing blow to the club, the Progressive Insurance magnate, who spent $25 million in 2004 in a failed attempt to defeat President George W. Bush, reportedly resigned from Democracy Alliance in disgust weeks ago.

“Peter’s focus since 2004 has been on scaling up the progressive infrastructure, as opposed to election or political candidates,” a source told Politico last month.

Although Mr. Lewis donated $200,000 last summer to David Brock’s American Bridge 21st Century, a super PAC approved by Democracy Alliance, a source close to the reclusive billionaire reportedly said he probably won’t give any more cash to super PACs. Mr. Lewis is not pleased with Democracy Alliance’s newfound focus on them.

Trial lawyer Guy Saperstein said he quit Democracy Alliance because the group is now “more devoted to short-term election tactics than it ever had been.” Mr. Saperstein said he donated more than $1 million through Democracy Alliance.

On the other side of the split are those members who want the group to align itself more closely with organizations close to the Obama White House, such as Media Matters for America and the Center for American Progress, in order to boost Democrats in the approaching election.

Democracy Alliance officially has dumped several of the less partisan groups as recommended grantees. Among them are Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW); documentary filmmaker Brave New Foundation; and the Campaign for America’s Future, which repeatedly has attacked Democrats for taking insufficiently left-wing stances.

Trust funder Rob McKay, the Taco Bell heir who chairs Democracy Alliance’s board, is going all-out to make sure President Obama wins a second term. Mr. McKay, who also sits on the board of the pro-Obama Priorities USA Action super PAC, helped organize a $35,800-a-plate fundraiser for Mr. Obama earlier this year that was well-attended by Democracy Alliance members.

Democracy Alliance funds many key institutions on the left. One is Catalist, formerly known as Data Warehouse. The company was created by Clinton aide Harold M. Ickes and Democratic operative Laura Quinn to help leftist groups get out the Democratic vote. It describes its mission as providing “progressive organizations with the data and services needed to better identify, understand and communicate with the people they need to persuade and mobilize.” Its chairman is local real estate developer Albert J. Dwoskin.

Democracy Alliance also has funded People for the American Way, EMILY’s List, ACORN, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Progressive States Network, Center for Community Change, Sierra Club, U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Education Fund, and the Secretary of State Project, which has helped elect left-wingers as chief electoral officials in at least nine states.

The Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO are institutional members of Democracy Alliance. As I reveal in my book “Subversion Inc.,” among the group’s individual members are Bain Capital managing director Joshua Bekenstein; TV producers Marcy Carsey and Norman Lear; the founder of ACORN’s Project Vote affiliate, Sanford Newman; subprime mortgage pushers Herb and Marion Sandler; Tides Foundation founder Drummond Pike; Warner Music Group CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr.; Goldman Sachs banker Lawrence Linden; Rep. Jared Polis, Colorado Democrat; former Rep. Bob Clement, Tennessee Democrat; Livingston Kosberg, CEO of U.S. Physical Therapy Inc.; former Google software engineer David desJardins; and oil company executive Lee Fikes.

There apparently are upward of 100 members of Democracy Alliance. Whether they go along with the group’s new focus will determine whether Democracy Alliance will continue to be a factor in American politics.

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