Non-profit

Democracy 21

Website:

www.democracy21.org

Location:

WASHINGTON, DC

Tax ID:

52-1948022

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(4)

Budget (2019):

Revenue: $105,416
Expenses: $99,132
Assets: $11,500

Type:

Campaign Finance Advocacy

Founded:

1997

Founder and President:

Fred Wertheimer

Democracy 21 is a lobbying and advocacy group that aims to combat the influence of private money in politics. It was founded in 1997 by longtime activist Fred Wertheimer. [1]

Media Bias/Fact Check has rated Democracy 21 as strongly left of center. [2]

D21 founder and president Fred Wertheimer has been described by National Public Radio (NPR) as “one of the progressive movement’s leading strategists on ethics and campaign finance laws since the 1980s.” [3] Wertheimer has been involved in the development and drafting of several bills that focus on campaign finance. He was reportedly involved in the drafting and lobbying for the For the People Act, [4] proposed Democratic-backed legislation that would mandate left-of-center policies on ballot harvesting, voter access, election security, and campaign finance nationwide. [5]

History

Democracy 21 (D21) was founded in 1997 by activist Fred Wertheimer, to advocate for left-of-center views on campaign finance and government transparency and accountability. [6] Wertheimer has been described by National Public Radio (NPR) as “one of the progressive movement’s leading strategists on ethics and campaign finance laws since the 1980s.” [7]

Starting in 2001, D21 helped to develop and draft portions of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA) and was involved in the lobbying effort to enact it. BCRA banned unlimited contributions to political parties from corporations, labor unions, and individuals and increased campaign finance disclosure requirements. [8]

From 2006 to 2010, D21 helped to draft the DISCLOSE Act of 2010, designed to prohibit unlimited and undisclosed contributions in federal elections. This legislation passed the House but was rejected in the Senate by one vote. It has since been incorporated into H.R. 1, the For the People Act and S.949, its Senate counterpart. [9]

From 2016 to 2020, D21 worked with Democratic members of Congress to develop and draft portions of the For the People Act, and has lobbied for its passage. [10] D21 helped to develop the For the People Act and actively lobbies for it. The bill requires states to expand early voting, same-day voter registration, mail-in voting, and use so-called independent commissions to redistrict legislative districts. [11] It also creates a matching funds program for small donor candidate contributions, creates new campaign finance disclosure requirements, and eliminates candidate-specific “super-PACs.” [12]

D21 has an associated nonprofit organization, Democracy 21 Education Fund.

Attacks on the Trump Administration

Democracy 21 campaigned against the Trump administration. D21 president Fred Wertheimer was described by NPR as “a central figure in the opposition network” to the Trump administration. [13]

D21 supported Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Trump collusion with Russian agents and both Trump impeachments. D21 filed numerous complaints during the Trump administration years, including five complaints against then-Attorney General William Barr accusing him of bias on behalf of President Trump, a Justice Department complaint requesting an investigation of Trump for allegedly soliciting foreign campaign contributions, and a Justice Department complaint requesting a criminal investigation of alleged campaign finance violations by the Trump campaign. [14]

Wertheimer has published many articles attacking President Trump and his administration, many focusing on what he calls “the Big Lie” of the 2020 presidential election and alleged voter suppression efforts by Republicans. In “Trump’s Ceaseless Efforts to Undermine Our Democracy,” Wertheimer claimed that Republican-led states are passing “election sabotage laws” that seek to suppress the votes of Democrats as well as people of color, the disabled, and young voters. [15]

Financials

Democracy 21 received $75,800 in grants and contributions and spent $45,354  in employee compensation and benefits and professional fees in 2020. [16]

Leadership

Fred Wertheimer is founder and president of Democracy 21. [17] Previously, he was president of Common Cause, a left-wing advocacy group that focuses on campaign finance, election integrity, and government accountability. [18]

Nick Ucci is board chair. [19] Previously he was executive vice president and chief operating officer at People for the American Way (PFAW), a progressive advocacy group. [20]

Don Simon is board vice chair and counsel to Democracy 21. [21] He is a partner at Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Endreson and Perry LLP, a law firm that represents Indian tribes across the United States. Previously Simon was executive vice president and general counsel of left-of-center advocacy group Common Cause and has participated in election monitoring on behalf of the National Democratic Institute. [22]

References

  1. “Fred Wertheimer.” Just Security. Accessed April 1, 2022. https://www.justsecurity.org/author/wertheimerfred/ ^
  2. “Democracy 21.” Media Bias / Fact Check. Updated June 30, 2021. Accessed March 31, 2022. https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/democracy-21/ ^
  3. “Fred Wertheimer.” Just Security. Accessed April 1, 2022. https://www.justsecurity.org/author/wertheimerfred/ ^
  4.  “Fred Wertheimer.” Just Security. Accessed April 1, 2022. https://www.justsecurity.org/author/wertheimerfred/ ^
  5. “Fred Wertheimer.” Just Security. Accessed April 1, 2022. https://www.justsecurity.org/author/wertheimerfred/ ^
  6. “Fred Wertheimer.” Just Security. Accessed April 1, 2022. https://www.justsecurity.org/author/wertheimerfred/ ^
  7. “Fred Wertheimer.” Just Security. Accessed April 1, 2022. https://www.justsecurity.org/author/wertheimerfred/ ^
  8. “Our History.” Democracy 21 – About. Accessed April 1, 2022. https://democracy21.org/about-us/our-history ^
  9. “Our History.” Democracy 21 – About. Accessed April 1, 2022. https://democracy21.org/about-us/our-history ^
  10. “Our History.” Democracy 21 – About. Accessed April 1, 2022. https://democracy21.org/about-us/our-history ^
  11. “Democracy Reform.” Democracy 21 – What We Do. Accessed April 1, 2022. https://democracy21.org/democracy-reform ^
  12. “Congress Must Pass the For the People Act.” Brennan Center for Justice. Accessed April 2, 2022. https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/policy-solutions/congress-must-pass-people-act#:~:text=Congress%20Must%20Pass%20the%20%E2%80%98For%20the%20People%20Act%E2%80%99,health.%20…%205%20Election%20Security.%20…%206%20Ethics ^
  13. “Fred Wertheimer.” Just Security. Accessed April 1, 2022. https://www.justsecurity.org/author/wertheimerfred/ ^
  14. “Our History.” Democracy 21 – About. Accessed April 1, 2022. https://democracy21.org/about-us/our-history ^
  15. Fred Wertheimer. “Trump’s Ceaseless Efforts to Undermine Our Democracy.” Medium. February 11, 2022. Accessed April 1, 2022. https://fred-wertheimer.medium.com/trumps-ceaseless-efforts-to-undermine-our-democracy-c3c5f37e7293 ^
  16. Democracy 21. Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax. (Form 990-EZ – Part I). 2020. ^
  17. “Staff.” Democracy 21 – About. Accessed April 1, 2022. https://democracy21.org/about-us/staff ^
  18. “Our Work.” Common Cause. Accessed April 1, 2022. https://www.commoncause.org/our-work/ ^
  19.  “Board of Directors.” Democracy 21 – About. Accessed April 1, 2022. https://democracy21.org/about-us/board ^
  20. “About Us.” People for the American Way. Accessed April 1, 2022. https://www.pfaw.org/about-us/ ^
  21. “Board of Directors.” Democracy 21 – About. Accessed April 1, 2022. https://democracy21.org/about-us/board ^
  22. “Donald J. Simon.” Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Endreson & Perry, LLP – Professionals. Accessed April 1, 2022. http://www.sonosky.com/attorneys-Donald-Simon.html ^
  See an error? Let us know!

Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: February 1, 1996

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2019 Dec Form 990EZ $105,416 $99,132 $11,500 $6,919 $0 $0 $0 $0
    2018 Dec Form 990EZ $75,454 $79,538 $8,207 $9,910 $0 $0 $0 $0
    2017 Dec Form 990EZ $45,604 $54,620 $6,257 $3,876 $0 $0 $0 $0
    2016 Dec Form 990EZ $45,252 $46,690 $15,495 $4,098 $0 $0 $0 $0
    2015 Dec Form 990EZ $45,251 $38,170 $14,846 $2,011 $0 $0 $0 $0
    2014 Dec Form 990EZ $45,502 $47,523 $13,018 $7,264 $0 $0 $0 $0
    2013 Dec Form 990EZ $45,153 $42,420 $9,658 $1,883 $0 $0 $0 $0
    2012 Dec Form 990EZ $60,329 $64,609 $8,223 $3,181 $0 $0 $0 $0
    2011 Dec Form 990EZ $16,237 $26,032 $13,008 $3,686 $0 $0 $0 $0

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Democracy 21

    2000 MASSACHUSETTS AVENUE NW
    WASHINGTON, DC 20036-1022