Non-profit

Defending Democracy Together (DDT)

Website:

www.defendingdemocracytogether.org

Location:

Washington, DC

Tax ID:

82-3877328

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(4)

Formation:

January 3, 2018

Board Chair:

William “Bill” Kristol

Defending Democracy Together is a right-leaning 501(c)(4) advocacy and incubation group founded in Washington, D.C. in January 2018. Its leadership consists of former Weekly Standard editor-at-large William “Bill” Kristol, Ethics and Public Policy Center senior fellow Mona Charen, and other conservatives.[1] The group 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.[2][3][4] The group hosts a number of fiscal projects on issues such as immigration, trade, and U.S. foreign policy.

Republic Affairs (formerly Defending Democracy Together Institute) is the 501(c)(3) counterpart of Defending Democracy Together. It also has an affiliated 527 super PAC, Defending Democracy Together Action Fund.

In October 2018, DDT co-signed comments submitted to the National Parks Service concerning a proposed rule change which would eliminate demonstrations on the White House’s southern sidewalk, require permits for demonstrations, and charge fees for “costs associated with permitted demonstrations.” The comments were also co-signed by left-of-center organizations, including the Arkay Foundation, Democracy Fund, Pritzker Innovation Fund, and Third Way. Ostensibly right-leaning co-signers included former Rep. Bob Inglis, the advocacy group Stand Up Republic, Hoover Institution senior fellow Larry Diamond, and the environmentalist Niskanen Center.[5]

In October 2020, OpenSecrets released a report which found DDT to be the biggest “dark money” spender of 2020. [6] OpenSecrets found that DDT spent $15.4 million in “dark money” during the 2020 election cycle on supporting presidential candidate Joe Biden and opposing former President Donald Trump for reelection. [7]

Background

Formation

Defending Democracy Together was officially formed on January 3, 2018, according to filings with the Virginia State Corporation Commission. DDT’s founding documents listed its address as 1090 Vermont Ave. NW, Suite 800, in Washington, D.C.; the address is shared by Berman and Company, a political consulting firm catering to center-right clients. [8]

In December 2019, DDT announced that it would change locations and occupy office space shared by Longwell Partners, the consultancy formed that same month by DDT co-founder and ex-Berman senior vice president Sarah Longwell. [9]

Projects

Defending Democracy Together manages the Becoming American Initiative, a fiscal project of the group created to “provide the conservative case for immigration and DACA reform.” The Initiative is headed by Linda Chavez, a DDT board member and former Reagan administration official.[10]

The Russia Tweets and Republicans Against Putin are also projects of DDT. The latter has accused President Trump of not “stand[ing] up to [Vladimir] Putin.” [11] [12]

In February 2019, DDT launched a television advertisement in the Washington, D.C. area urging viewers to ask their congressional representatives to “terminate President Trump’s emergency declaration” at the U.S.-Mexico border. [13]

Republicans for the Rule of Law

On May 3, 2020, Republicans for the Rule of Law spent $1 million on several television and online advertisements urging Republicans in Congress to support expanding in-mail voting measures within the next coronavirus relief bill. [14] The ads include right-leaning voters asking Congress for the ability to vote by mail for 2020 elections due to the danger of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Regarding the ads, DDT executive director Sarah Longwell commented, “The goal for us is to help elevate Republican voices who want to see expanded voting options in November and want to see that people can vote safely and securely.” [15] Longwell claimed that the issue of in-mail voting has “become politicized” by President Donald Trump, even though the ads do not mention him by name. [16]

Republican Voters Against Trump

Defending Democracy Together supports the Republican Voters Against Trump initiative. In May 2020, the initiative launched a $10 million advertisement campaign, which seeks to encourage Republicans voters to support Democratic candidate Joe Biden over President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

The advertisements feature Republican voters stating reasons why they are not voting for Trump. According to Sarah Longwell, the executive director of Defending Democracy Together, the advertisements will target voters in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Arizona. Bill Kristol, the former editor of the Weekly Standard and Never Trump commentator, and Tim Miller, a previous adviser to Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign, are involved in the Republican Voters Against Trump initiative. [17]

Operation Grant

Operation Grant was a project of Defending Democracy Together organized under Republican Voters Against Trump, created to help Joe Biden win the 2020 general election by winning over Republican and former Trump voters in Ohio. [18] It argued that it was necessary for Trump to lose reelection, citing the “well documented and debated” examples of “President Trump’s many failures and deficiencies.” [19] The project was unsuccessful in helping Joe Biden win the state, as Donald Trump beat him by eight percentage points, or 475,000 votes.

Republican Accountability Project

In January 2021, Defending Democracy Together launched the Republican Accountability Project. Its goal was to raise $50 million through “undisclosed donors” to support congressional Republicans who are critical of former President Donald Trump and “work to unseat” congressional Republicans who continue to support Trump. [20][21]

The project was created in response to the January 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol. It claims the attack was “directly incited” by former President Donald Trump and was an attempt by radical supporters who were trying to “overturn a fair election.” The project also claims it will use its funds to dispel “lies and conspiracy theories” about voter fraud and rigged elections. [22]

Confirm Gupta Ad Campaign

Defending Democracy Together launched a “Confirm Gupta” ad campaign in early 2021, encouraging any senators needed to confirm President Joe Biden’s nomination for associate attorney general Vanita Gupta. It reportedly spent over $1 million on the ad. DDT co-founder Sarah Longwell stated that the ad was created to oppose some Republicans’ characterizations of Gupta as a radical leftist, which Longwell said was false. [23]

Funding

Defending Democracy Together has been criticized for taking 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.[24] 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” (image available here). [25]

As of January 2020, however, Democracy Fund Voice’s website notes that it awarded up to $1.6 million in grants to DDT in 2018. [26]

DDT received $1.6 million in two grants from Democracy Fund Voice in 2018, according to the latter’s 2018 IRS Form 990 filing. The grants were for, respectively, “general operating support” and “research and advocacy to restore faith in U.S. democracy.” [27]

DDT also received $75,000 from the Hopewell Fund in 2018 for “civil rights, social action, [and] advocacy.” [28] The Hopewell Fund is part of a $600 million network of left-wing funding nonprofits managed by Arabella Advisors in Washington, D.C.

Defending Democracy Together’s IRS Form 990 filing for 2018 was obtained by the Capital Research Center and is available here:

Leadership

Sarah Longwell is executive director of Defending Democracy Together. Longwell is a former senior vice president for Berman and Company, the right-leaning political consultancy that shared office space with DDT; she is now president and CEO of Longwell Partners, a consulting firm she launched in December 2019. [29] [30] In February 2019, Longwell wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post in her capacity as DDT executive director in which she wrote: “It was a failure of political imagination that helped put Trump in the Oval Office. A primary challenger may need only a little political imagination to begin the process of evicting him.” [31]

Charles “Charlie” Sykes is president of DDT and a senior fellow at the right-leaning Wisconsin Policy Research Institute. Sykes, a self-described “prominent and outspoken critic of Donald Trump,” is also a national advisory board member for the left-wing funding group Democracy Fund; Democracy Fund Voice, a “sister” nonprofit to Democracy Fund, has  donated at least $600,000 to DDT. Sykes is also a board member for Stand Up Republic, a left-leaning organization funded by Democracy Fund Voice. [32] [33] [34]

Board of Directors

While public filings have not been released detailing DDT’s board of directors as of early 2019, Republic Affairs’ board of directors consists of Bill Kristol, Charlie Sykes, and executive director Sarah Longwell. [35]

Sarah Longwell is DDT’s executive director and a former senior vice president for Berman and Company, the right-leaning political consultancy that initially shared office space with DDT. (The organization has since left the office space and now shares office space with Longwell Partners, Sarah Longwell’s consulting firm.) [36] Another DDT director, Jordan Bruneau, is a former staffer for Berman and Company. [37]

DDT’s website also lists former U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis as a director. Inglis also serves as executive director of RepublicEn, a global warming advocacy and research group funded by left-wing environmentalist groups. [38]

References

  1. “About Us.” Republicans for the Rule of Law. Accessed November 19, 2018. https://www.ruleoflawrepublicans.com/about-us/ ^
  2. “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/ ^
  3. “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/ ^
  4. “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/ ^
  5. “Re: Proposed rule regarding demonstrations and special events in the National Capital Region, 83 Fed. Reg. 40460: Regulation Identifier No. 1024-AE45.” Niskanen Center. October 15, 2018. Accessed November 19, 2018. https://niskanencenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/NPS-proposed-regs-comment-letter.pdf ^
  6. “Never-Trump Group Is 2020’s Top ‘Dark Money’ Spender so Far.” OpenSecrets News, October 13, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2020/10/never-trump-groups-darkmoney-1020/. ^
  7. “Biden Nominee’s Confirmation Fight Fueled by Dueling ‘Dark Money’ Groups.” OpenSecrets News, March 9, 2021. https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2021/03/gupta-confirmation-fight-fueled-by-darkmoney/. ^
  8. “Defending Democracy Together.” Commonwealth of Virginia, State Corporation Commission. Accessed March 6, 2019. https://sccefile.scc.virginia.gov/Business/0826432 ^
  9. Press Release. “Strategist Behind Republicans for the Rule of Law and The Bulwark, Launches New Communications Firm.” PR Newswire. December 3, 2019. Accessed February 4, 2020. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/strategist-behind-republicans-for-the-rule-of-law-and-the-bulwark-launches-new-communications-firm-300968423.html ^
  10. “About Us.” Becoming American Initiative. Accessed November 19, 2018. https://www.becomingamericaninitiative.org/about-us/ ^
  11. “Home.” The Russia Tweets. Accessed November 19, 2018. https://russiatweets.com/ ^
  12. “Home.” Republicans Against Putin. Accessed November 19, 2018. https://www.republicansagainstputin.com/ ^
  13. Tweet (Bill Kristol). February 24, 2019. Accessed March 6, 2019. https://twitter.com/BillKristol/status/1099846332490174465 ^
  14. Herb, Jeremy. “Anti-Trump conservative group presses for expanded vote-by-mail in November.” CNN. May 1, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/01/politics/conservative-ads-mail-voting/ ^
  15. Herb, Jeremy. “Anti-Trump conservative group presses for expanded vote-by-mail in November.” CNN. May 1, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/01/politics/conservative-ads-mail-voting/ ^
  16. Herb, Jeremy. “Anti-Trump conservative group presses for expanded vote-by-mail in November.” CNN. May 1, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/01/politics/conservative-ads-mail-voting/ ^
  17. Warren, Michael. “New GOP group launches $10 million campaign to get Republicans to vote for Biden over Trump”. Cable News Network. 28 May, 2020. https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2020/05/28/politics/republican-voters-against-trump-ad-campaign/index.html?__twitter_impression=true. ^
  18. Operation Grant. “Weaver and Kristol: Why Operation Grant Is Needed.” Operation Grant for Ohio, October 1, 2020. https://operationgrant.org/2020/08/13/john-weaver-and-bill-kristol-explain-why-operation-grant-is-needed/.

    Archive:

    Operation Grant 1-19 Homescreen

    screencapture-operationgrant-org-2020-10-31-voices-of-voters-rural-ohioans-consider-their-presidential-options-2021-01-19-10_21_24

    screencapture-operationgrant-org-about-2021-01-19-10_28_14

    screencapture-operationgrant-org-news-2021-01-19-10_27_38

    screencapture-operationgrant-org-why-we-changed-2021-01-19-10_26_40

    Operation Grant – Miles Taylor

    screencapture-operationgrant-org-2020-10-30-miles-taylor-former-homeland-security-chief-of-staff-talks-national-security-in-dayton-2021-01-19-10_22_53

    screencapture-operationgrant-org-2020-10-31-in-2020-republicans-must-pair-words-with-actions-2021-01-19-10_24_27

    screencapture-operationgrant-org-2020-10-31-some-ohio-republicans-throw-support-behind-biden-2021-01-19-10_20_09

    ^

  19. Saxbe, Rocky. “Our Choice Is Between America’s Future or a Political Party.” Operation Grant for Ohio, October 31, 2020. https://operationgrant.org/2020/10/31/our-choice-is-between-americas-future-or-a-political-party/. ^
  20. “Biden Nominee’s Confirmation Fight Fueled by Dueling ‘Dark Money’ Groups.” OpenSecrets News, March 9, 2021. https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2021/03/gupta-confirmation-fight-fueled-by-darkmoney/. ^
  21. “About.” Republican Accountability Project, January 29, 2021. https://accountability.gop/about/. ^
  22. “About.” Republican Accountability Project, January 29, 2021. https://accountability.gop/about/. ^
  23. Nakamura, David. “Anti-Trump Conservatives Rally to Back Vanita Gupta, Biden’s Pick for Key Justice Dept. Post.” The Washington Post. WP Company, March 1, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/vanita-gupta-biden-justice-department/2021/03/01/cec4c74c-79f1-11eb-b3d1-9e5aa3d5220c_story.html. ^
  24. Julie Kelly. “NeverTrump’s Billionaire Leftist Benefactors.” November 14, 2018. Accessed November 19, 2018. https://amgreatness.com/2018/11/14/nevertrumps-billionaire-leftist-benefactors/ ^
  25. “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/. Archived page: https://web.archive.org/web/20180729172412/https://democracyfundvoice.org/defending-democracy-together/ ^
  26. Defending Democracy Together. Democracy Fund Voice. Accessed January 8, 2020. https://democracyfundvoice.org/defending-democracy-together/. See screenshot: https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2020/01/Democracy-Fund-Voice-Grants-to-Defending-Democracy-Together.-01.2020.pdf ^
  27. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). Democracy Fund Voice. 2018. Schedule U. ^
  28. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). Hopewell Fund. 2018. Schedule U. ^
  29. “Leadership and Staff.” Defending Democracy Together. Accessed March 6, 2019. https://www.defendingdemocracytogether.org/about-us/ ^
  30. Press Release. “Strategist Behind Republicans for the Rule of Law and The Bulwark, Launches New Communications Firm.” PR Newswire. December 3, 2019. Accessed February 4, 2020. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/strategist-behind-republicans-for-the-rule-of-law-and-the-bulwark-launches-new-communications-firm-300968423.html ^
  31. Sarah Longwell. “The right strategy to primary Trump.” The Washington Post. February 1, 2019. Accessed March 6, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-right-strategy-to-primary-trump/2019/02/01/06c565ea-25a1-11e9-90cd-dedb0c92dc17_story.html?utm_term=.fcfc31c052c1 ^
  32. “About Us: National Advisory Board.” Democracy Fund. Accessed March 6, 2019. https://www.democracyfund.org/about-us ^
  33. “About Us.” The Bulwark. Accessed March 6, 2019. https://thebulwark.com/about-us/ ^
  34. “Our Board.” Stand Up Republic. March 6, 2019. https://standuprepublic.com/board/ ^
  35. “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 ^
  36. Press Release. “Strategist Behind Republicans for the Rule of Law and The Bulwark, Launches New Communications Firm.” PR Newswire. December 3, 2019. Accessed February 4, 2020. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/strategist-behind-republicans-for-the-rule-of-law-and-the-bulwark-launches-new-communications-firm-300968423.html ^
  37. “Leadership and Staff.” Defending Democracy Together. Accessed March 6, 2019. https://www.defendingdemocracytogether.org/about-us/ ^
  38. “Leadership and Staff.” Defending Democracy Together. Accessed March 6, 2019. https://www.defendingdemocracytogether.org/about-us/ ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Sarah Longwell
    Executive Director, Co-founder
  2. William Kristol
    Board Member
  3. Mona Charen
    Director
  4. Bob Inglis
    Board Member

Supported Movements

  1. Vote Early Day
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Defending Democracy Together (DDT)

925 15th St NW
5th Floor
Washington, DC 20005