Non-profit

Defending Democracy Together Institute (DDTI)

Location:

Washington, DC

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Formation:

August 2018

Board Chair:

William “Bill” Kristol

The Defending Democracy Together Institute (DDTI) is a right-leaning advocacy group and website publisher founded in Washington, D.C., in August 2018. The Institute publishes the Bulwark, a news and editorial website whose editor-in-chief, former talk radio host Charlie Sykes, serves as president of the organization.[1] DonorsTrust, a center-right donor-advised fund provider which handled a contribution from the center-left Hewlett Foundation directed to the organization, called it a “nonprofit dedicated to incubating and assembling pro-democracy voices. . . created by conservatives uncomfortable with the flamboyant rhetoric that can come from President Trump.”[2]

Its 501(c)(4) counterpart, Defending Democracy Together, has taken positions in opposition to a number of initiatives by President Donald Trump, often through its project, Republicans for the Rule of Law. Most prominently, it has supported continuing birthright citizenship and strongly supported the Justice Department investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.[3] [4] [5]

Background

Former Weekly Standard editor William Kristol founded Defending Democracy Together Institute in 2018. After Clarity Media, the Standard’s corporate parent, closed the magazine in December of that year, a number of former staffers (most prominently podcaster and former radio host Charlie Sykes) joined DDTI to produce original content for the Bulwark, a news and commentary website which is DDTI’s flagship project.[6]

McKay Coppins of the Atlantic reported that Bulwark editor-in-chief and DDTI president Sykes said that the Bulwark will target a number of right-leaning figures who “still have a veneer of respectability” whom Sykes considers too close to President Donald Trump or the Trump administration’s agenda.[7]

According to the Bulwark’s website, the group was founded to “provide a voice for non-Trumpian conservatives.” The website has accused the conservative movement of “being driven by grifters and mountebanks into a dark hole of nativism, protectionism, isolationism, and fabulism.” It also accuses President Trump of being “a serial liar, a narcissist and a bully, a con man who mocks the disabled and women, a man with no fixed principles who has the vocabulary of an emotionally insecure 9-year-old.” [8]

Funding

Because Kristol formed DDTI in mid-2018, public tax returns are unavailable for the organization as of early 2019. The left-leaning William and Flora Hewlett Foundation reported making a contribution to DDTI in September 2018; the grant was paid to the Institute through DonorsTrust, a right-of-center donor-advised fund provider.[9]

The organization’s 501(c)(4) advocacy counterpart, Defending Democracy Together, has been criticized for accepting at least $600,000 in two grants from Democracy Fund Voice, a 501(c)(4) group created and funded by left-wing mega-donor Pierre Omidyar.[10] According to Democracy Fund Voice’s website, in May 2018 it “approved two grants to Defending Democracy Together: first in the amount of up to $100,000 over one year and then in the amount of up to $500,000 over one year,” with specific mention of DDT’s Republicans for the Rule of Law project.[11]

Board of Directors

According to its incorporation filing, the Defending Democracy Institute’s board of directors consists of Bill Kristol, Charlie Sykes, and Sarah Longwell. [12]

References

  1. “About Us.” The Bulwark. Accessed March 04, 2019. https://thebulwark.com/about-us/
  2. Lawson Bader. “DonorsTrust Grows Liberty Beyond Grant-Making.” DonorsTrust. November 1, 2018. Accessed November 19, 2018. https://www.donorstrust.org/why-donorstrust/grows-liberty-beyond-grant-making/
  3. “Republican Immigration Group Defends Birthright Citizenship.” Press Release, Defending Democracy Together. October 30, 2018. Accessed November 19, 2018. https://www.defendingdemocracytogether.org/press-release/republican-immigration-group-defends-birthright-citizenship/
  4. “Manafort Conviction Proves Mueller Investigation is not a Witch Hunt.” Press Release, Defending Democracy Together. August 21, 2018. Accessed November 19, 2018. https://www.defendingdemocracytogether.org/press-release/manafort-conviction-proves-mueller-investigation-is-not-a-witch-hunt/
  5. “New Republican Group Launches Pro-Mueller Campaign.” Press Release, Defending Democracy Together. April 11, 2018. Accessed November 19, 2018. https://www.defendingdemocracytogether.org/press-release/new-republican-group-launches-pro-mueller-campaign/
  6. DeRensis, Hunter. “Does The Bulwark Mean the Neocons Are Staging A Comeback?” The National Interest. January 09, 2019. Accessed March 04, 2019. https://nationalinterest.org/feature/does-bulwark-mean-neocons-are-staging-comeback-41007.
  7. Coppins, McKay. “Naming and Shaming the Pro-Trump Elite.” The Atlantic. February 22, 2019. Accessed March 04, 2019. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2019/02/bulwarks-quest-shame-high-profile-trump-backers/583354/.
  8. “About Us.” The Bulwark. Accessed March 6, 2019. https://thebulwark.com/about-us/
  9. “Grant: Donors Trust Inc. – For support of the Defending Democracy Together Institute.” Hewlett Foundation. September 19, 2018. Accessed November 19, 2018. https://hewlett.org/grants/donors-trust-inc-for-support-of-the-defending-democracy-together-institute/; Screenshot: https://www.influencewatch.org/hewlett-foundation-2018-grant-defending-democracy-together-institute/  
  10. DeRensis, Hunter. “Does The Bulwark Mean the Neocons Are Staging A Comeback?” The National Interest. January 09, 2019. Accessed March 04, 2019. https://nationalinterest.org/feature/does-bulwark-mean-neocons-are-staging-comeback-41007.
  11. “Grants: Defending Democracy Together.” Democracy Fund Voice. May 3, 2018. Accessed November 19, 2018. https://democracyfundvoice.org/defending-democracy-together/; Screenshot: https://www.influencewatch.org/democracy-fund-2018-grant-defending-democracy-together/ 
  12. “Defending Democracy Together Institute – Initial File Number: N00006054804.” Washington, D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. Accessed November 19, 2018. https://corponline.dcra.dc.gov/BizEntity.aspx/ViewContact?bizEntityContactId=733663&currentTabConfigurationId=576

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Ian Bassin
    "The Bulwark" Podcast Guest
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Defending Democracy Together Institute (DDTI)

1090 Vermont Ave., N.W.
Suite 800
Washington, DC 20005