Non-profit

Data for Progress

Website:

www.dataforprogress.org

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(4)

Founder:

Sean McElwee

Project of:

Tides Advocacy

Data for Progress is a left-of-center public opinion research group. It is a project of Tides Advocacy, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization. [1] Data for Progress was founded by Sean McElwee, a political activist who also co-founded the far-left immigration agitation group AbolishIce. Data for Progress primarily produces data-based reports and scorecards designed to shift the future of the Democratic Party in a more populist and radical left-wing direction. [2]

Data for Progress supports far-left policies, including Medicare-for-All, the Green New Deal, and the dismantling of U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE). [3] [4]

Data for Progress campaigned for socialist Senator Bernie Sanders’ (D-VT) 2020 presidential campaign, declaring that “Progressives control the future of the [Democratic] Party.” [5]

Political Activities

Give Smart Initiative

In the lead-up to the 2020 elections, Data for Progress created the Give Smart Initiative and set up an ActBlue page asking for donations of $80 that would be split between the campaigns of eight Democratic Party candidates in close races at the state level. [6]

Involvement in Selection of President Biden’s cabinet

Data for Progress was extremely vocal following President Joe Biden’s successful campaign in 2020 in encouraging the new president to select progressive cabinet members. In early 2020, the organization launched the Progressive Cabinet Project which published four separate memos in 2020 showing popular support for progressive cabinet selections. [7] One memo gave specific recommendations for progressive candidates to fill each cabinet position. Among the suggested cabinet members were Janet Yellen for Secretary of the Treasury, Deb Haaland for Secretary of the Interior, Xavier Becerra for Secretary of Health and Human Services, Marcia Fudge for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Katherine Tai for United States Trade Representative, all of whom were chosen for their respective offices. [8] These memos were cited in several articles by mainstream news outlets, and after President Biden announced his cabinet picks Sean McElwee criticized President Biden for not being progressive enough with his selections, saying, “Biden does coalition politics and figures out who are the people who will offend the least number of coalition interest groups.” [9]

Generating Support for the Green New Deal

Data for Progress is also very active in supporting the Green New Deal. During the 2020 Democratic Presidential primary Data for Progress published a Green New Deal scorecard, ranking each candidate on their level of support for the Green New Deal and its individual policy prescriptions. [10] Data for Progress has also published extensive research on the level of public support for the Green New Deal, and has encouraged the Biden administration and other elected officials to support its policies.

Controversy

McElwee’s Ties to Sam Bankman-Fried & No-Confidence Vote

On November 18, 2022, McElwee was given a no-confidence vote over a conference call by senior leadership for Data for Progress over his ties to cryptocurrency investor Sam Bankman-Fried and the latter’s involvement in financial scandals and misappropriation of customer funds through his cryptocurrency company FTX, which had declared bankruptcy a week earlier on November 11, 2022. [11] [12] Not only had McElwee worked with Bankman-Fried as an advisor on political projects [13] but both men, along with data scientist David Shor, had hosted a fundraiser in June 2022 for Democratic Representative of New York’s 15th congressional District Ritchie Torres (D-NY) [14] [15] [16], whose campaign Bankman-Fried and his brother Gabriel had previously donated $40,300 to. [17]

According to Puck News writer Theodore Schleifer, McElwee’s ties to Bankman-Fried, along with allegations that McElwee placed bets on previous elections polled by Data for Progress, had resulted in the no-confidence vote and that McElwee was expected to exit the company by the end of the year. [18] A statement from the group’s advisory board claimed, “We are grateful for Sean’s vision and leadership in creating Data for Progress and establishing it as a preeminent progressive organization for change in this country.” [19] On November 28, McElwee released a statement to Puck News addressing his exit from the organization:

“My vision for Data for Progress was to give progressives access to a tactic—polling—that would allow us to tell our story about where the public stands on our priorities, and DFP has accomplished that goal. I am increasingly interested in other theories of change to make the world a better and more progressive place and will be leaving Data for Progress at the end of the year to pursue those new approaches to change. I am working with the Board to ensure a smooth transition in leadership. [20] [21]

Leadership

Data for Progress is led by co-founder and executive director, Sean McElwee. McElwee is a self-described socialist; prior to founding Data for Progress, McElwee worked as a policy analyst at Demos, and helped to found AbolishIce, a far-left immigration agitation group. [22] [23] McElwee’s company bio on Data for Progress’ website makes no mention of his history with AbolishIce, neither does it mention his socialist beliefs. [24] McElwee is also the director of polling at Take Back the Courts, a far-left judicial advocacy group that supports packing the Supreme Court, and is on the board of Secure Elections for America Now. [25] [26] On November 18, 2022, McElwee was given a vote of no confidence by Data for Progress’ senior leadership over his ties to cryptocurrency investor Sam Bankman-Fried, who was facing financial scandals in light of his cryptocurrency company FTX declaring bankruptcy a week earlier on November 11, 2022. [27] [28] Following the vote, McElwee was expected to exit his position with Data for Progress by the end of 2022. [29]

Data for Progress is also led by vice president of policy and strategy Julian Brave NoiseCat. NoiseCat has previously been involved in left-of-center organizing in native American communities and worked for 350.org as a leader on U.S. policy. [30]

Data for Progress’ on-the-ground operations are overseen by principal Gustavo Sanchez who previously worked as director of data engineering for Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2020 Presidential campaign, and at the Movement Cooperative. [31]

Funding

Information about Data for Progress’ funding is not available since the organization operates as a fiscally-sponsored project of Tides Advocacy and thus does not make public financial disclosures of its own. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, however, the organization received roughly $89,000 in payments from various PACs for polling services during 2020, including the League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund and Justice Democrats. [32]

References

  1. “Support.” Data for Progress. Accessed August 14, 2019. Original URL: https://www.dataforprogress.org/support. Archived here: https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2019/08/Data-for-Progress-Donate-Page-Capture.-08.2019.png ^
  2. “Future Of The Party Report.” Data For Progress. Accessed May 25, 2021. https://www.dataforprogress.org/future-of-the-party-report. ^
  3. “Medicare-for-All.” Data for Progress. Accessed August 14, 2019. https://www.dataforprogress.org/medicare-for-all ^
  4. “Green New Deal.” Data for Progress. Accessed August 14, 2019. https://www.dataforprogress.org/green-new-deal ^
  5. McElwee, Sean. “Memo: Progressives Control the Future of the Party.” Data For Progress. Data For Progress, February 17, 2020. https://www.dataforprogress.org/memos/progressives-control-the-future-of-the-party. ^
  6. “Give Smart: Donate to Flip 8 State Legislatures.” ActBlue. Accessed May 25, 2021. https://secure.actblue.com/donate/givesmart?amount=80. ^
  7. Kanfer, Billie. “Progressive Cabinet Project.” Data For Progress. Data For Progress, June 11, 2020. https://www.dataforprogress.org/memos/progressive-cabinet-project?rq=progressive+cabinet. ^
  8. Smith, Aidan. “Progressive Cabinet Project: Shaping a Progressive Administration .” Data for Progress, 2020. https://www.filesforprogress.org/reports/progressive-cabinet-project-report.pdf. ^
  9. Seitz-Wald, Alex. “Biden’s Cabinet Isn’t Shaping up to Be Progressives’ Dream, but It’s Far from Their Nightmare.” NBCNews.com. NBCUniversal News Group, December 7, 2020. https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2020-election/biden-s-cabinet-isn-t-shaping-be-progressives-dream-it-n1250050. ^
  10. “Green New Deal Scorecards.” Data For Progress. Accessed May 25, 2021. https://www.dataforprogress.org/gnd-candidates. ^
  11. Schleifer, Theodore. “An S.B.F. Ally in the Barrel.” Puck, November 28, 2022. https://puck.news/an-s-b-f-ally-in-the-barrel/ ^
  12. Schleifer, Theodore. “The Lost Gospel of S.B.F.” Puck, November 22, 2022. https://puck.news/the-lost-gospel-of-s-b-f/ ^
  13. Schneider, Elena. “How the newest megadonor wants to change Washington.” Politico, August 4, 2022. https://www.politico.com/news/2022/08/04/democratic-megadonor-sam-bankman-fried-00049048 ^
  14. Higgins, Eoin. “FTX-BACKED PACS EXPAND THE CRYPTO LOBBY IN CONGRESS.” The Intercept, August 5, 2022. https://theintercept.com/2022/08/05/crypto-lobby-ftx-pacs-sam-bankman-fried/ ^
  15. “David Shor.” Center for American Progress, Accessed November 29, 2022. https://www.americanprogress.org/people/shor-david/ ^
  16. “Rep. Ritchie Torres, NY-15.” Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Accessed November 29, 2022. https://chci.org/staff-member/rep-ritchie-torres/ ^
  17. Ross, Chuck. “Sam Bankman-Fried and FTX Cronies Gave $300k to House Committee Members Investigating Him.” The Washington Free Beacon, November 18, 2022. https://freebeacon.com/democrats/bankman-fried-and-cronies-gave-300k-to-house-committee-members-investigating-him/ ^
  18. Schleifer, Theodore. “An S.B.F. Ally in the Barrel.” Puck, November 28, 2022. https://puck.news/an-s-b-f-ally-in-the-barrel/ ^
  19. Schleifer, Theodore. “An S.B.F. Ally in the Barrel.” Puck, November 28, 2022. https://puck.news/an-s-b-f-ally-in-the-barrel/ ^
  20. Schleifer, Theodore. “An S.B.F. Ally in the Barrel.” Puck, November 28, 2022. https://puck.news/an-s-b-f-ally-in-the-barrel/ ^
  21. Schleifer, Teddy (@teddyschleifer). “Full statement from Data for Progress founder @SeanMcElwee to @PuckNews: https://puck.news/an-s-b-f-ally-in-the-barrel/.” Twitter, November 28, 2022. https://twitter.com/teddyschleifer/status/1597412760014290945 ^
  22. “Who We Are.” Data For Progress. Accessed May 25, 2021. https://www.dataforprogress.org/who-we-are#fellows. ^
  23. Perlberg, Steven. “How ‘Abolish ICE’ Went From Twitter Slogan To Winning Over Progressives And Dividing Politics”. Buzzfeed News. July 28, 2018. Accessed January 31, 2020. https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/stevenperlberg/abolish-ice-sean-mcelwee. ^
  24. “Who We Are.” Data For Progress. Accessed May 25, 2021. https://www.dataforprogress.org/who-we-are#fellows. ^
  25. “Who We Are.” Data For Progress. Accessed May 25, 2021. https://www.dataforprogress.org/who-we-are#fellows. ^
  26. Take Back the Court Action Fund. Accessed May 25, 2021. https://www.takebackthecourt.today/. ^
  27. Schleifer, Theodore. “The Lost Gospel of S.B.F.” Puck, November 22, 2022. https://puck.news/the-lost-gospel-of-s-b-f/ ^
  28. Schleifer, Theodore. “An S.B.F. Ally in the Barrel.” Puck, November 28, 2022. https://puck.news/an-s-b-f-ally-in-the-barrel/ ^
  29. Schleifer, Theodore. “An S.B.F. Ally in the Barrel.” Puck, November 28, 2022. https://puck.news/an-s-b-f-ally-in-the-barrel/ ^
  30. Julian Brave NoiseCat. Accessed May 25, 2021. https://www.julianbravenoisecat.com/. ^
  31. “Who We Are.” Data For Progress. Accessed May 25, 2021. https://www.dataforprogress.org/who-we-are#fellows. ^
  32. “Vendor/Recipient Profile: Data+for+Progress.” OpenSecrets. Center for Responsive Politics. Accessed May 25, 2021. https://www.opensecrets.org/campaign-expenditures/vendor?cycle=2020&vendor=Data%2Bfor%2BProgress. ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Sean McElwee
    Founder, Executive Director
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