Non-profit

Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)

Official logo of the DSA. (link)
Website:

www.dsausa.org

Location:

NEW YORK, NY

Tax ID:

13-3109557

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(4)

Budget (2016):

Revenue: $861,265
Expenses: $479,962
Assets: $585,877

Formation:

1982

Type:

Socialist Political Faction

National Director:

Maria Svart

Membership:

~45,000 (June 2018) [37]

The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is a far-left political faction in the United States that supports socialist and other left-wing candidates in the Democratic Party. [1] It describes itself as “the largest socialist organization” in the country. [2] The group claims to have endorsed 60 elected officials at the local through the federal level in office as of 2019. [3]

Two members of Congress, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), identify as members of the faction. [4] The organization endorsed self-described socialist U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for President of the United States for the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries. [5]

History

The DSA was created in 1982 as a merger of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee and the New American Movement. [6] It was largely a fringe movement until U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders’s insurgent 2016 presidential campaign nearly unseated Democratic Party favorite and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Sanders lost to Clinton by fewer than four million votes in the Democratic Primary amidst accusations that the Democratic National Committee had unfairly made behind-closed-doors agreements which favored Clinton against Sanders. [7][8]

According to DSA, the group’s membership was active but limited in size and influence for decades. After Sanders’ presidential run and Republican candidate Donald Trump’s subsequent victory over Clinton in the presidential general election, 13,000 members joined the organization over eight months. [9]

The DSA claimed 25,000 members as of summer 2017 and claimed 45,000 members in June 2018. [10]

Principles

A 2018 National Public Radio report on the Democratic Socialists of America examined several of the group’s core principles. National Director Maria Svart told NPR that the government should be in charge of some industries, such as health care and utilities. [11] Svart provided the following example to NPR, suggesting that bakeries should be government-run:[12]

“Let’s say you were negotiating at a bargaining table with workers in a bakery, and the workers said, ‘Look, we want more than a quarter of the bread; we want half of the bread, or we want two-thirds of the bread,’ ” she said. “The socialist would say, ‘Actually, we want the bakery. We want to control it all, for all of our benefit.’ ”

DSA officials told NPR that the group wants to abolish the U.S. Senate and have state control of the means of production, a founding member of the DSA’’s West Virginia chapter told NPR. “We will ultimately want to get rid of” capitalism. [13]

Policies and Programs

As of May 24, 2019, the DSA prioritizes three left-wing objectives: Medicare for All, Strong Unions, and Electoral Power. [14]

Medicare for All

Medicare for All, a proposal for government-controlled health care, is described by the DSA as “a stepping stone towards” its “vision” of “a democratic socialist system [where] we would collectively provide care as a society.” The DSA advocates that all “residents” should receive taxpayer-funded health care, even non-citizens. [15]

Strong Labor Unions

The Democratic Socialists of America seeks to strengthen major labor unions to create “a national project” to “build power in the economy” to stop workplaces from being “the place where the owning class extract[s] resources from the working class.” In 2017, the DSA created the Democratic Socialist Labor Commission after the DSA National Convention. The resolution approved at the convention “mandates the creation of the commission…to help foster the growth of chapter-based labor working groups.” [16]

Electoral Power

The third major DSA priority is gaining seats in “local and state office” while “grappling with how to build independent political power to hold candidates…accountable to their constituents rather than the donor class. DSA’s efforts seek to help candidates get elected to office without losing independence. [17] This strategy is designed to prevent candidates from using DSA resources as candidate-specific resources.

The DSA argues that “many socialists” are “right to be” concerned and “suspicious of electoral work” because it “grants legitimacy to a system dependent on the disaffection and cynicism of the voter-citizen.” Additionally, the DSA noted that many of its candidates might end up either powerless or voting in favor of compromise instead of enacting socialist priorities. The DSA offers five responses: campaigns can provide platforms for recognition of policies, elections organize people, organizing puts pressure on those in power, election campaigning can “demonstrate credibility to potential allies,” and “placing leftists in office” provides socialists “a permanent, public platform” for its policy preferences. [18]

Other Priorities

The DSA made a number of policy and political statements about hot-button issues in 2019. [19] The organization defended Rep. Illan Omar (D-MN) after she was accused of downplaying the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and after she was criticized by leaders in both parties for apparent anti-Semitic comments. [20][21]

DSA has also declared its opposition to the constitutional Venezuelan government supported by the United States and most other democratic states. The Democratic Socialists of America called U.S. support for National Assembly leader and constitutional Acting President Juan Guaido “imperialism,” [22]

The DSA also attacked the state of Georgia for attempting to prohibit most abortions after six weeks’ gestation. [23] The organization also stated in its May 10, 2019 press release that it raised and donated over $127,000 for the National Network of Abortion Funds.

DSA endorsed the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign in 2017. This effort is meant to put economic and other pressures on Israel. It has been condemned by some as anti-Semitic. Prior to 2017, the DSA was formally pro-Israel. [24]

Associated Elected Officials

In 2018, DSA-associated Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) won election to the U.S. House of Representatives. The group won a number of statewide seats in several states, and the party won six seats on the Chicago, Illinois City Council. [25] [26]

Ocasio-Cortez’s victory was heralded as the rise of the Democratic Party’s farthest-left wing, much as “Tea Party” victories in 2010 were harbingers of conservative priorities in the GOP. Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

Tlaib has been accused of anti-Semitism for comments attacking Israel for defending itself against Hamas rocket attacks, and she described talking about the Holocaust as having a “calming” effect on her because of how Israel was created in 1948 by, according to Tlaib, taking land from Palestinians. [27] [28] In the same speech where she described the “calming” effect, Tlaib described Israel as a “safe haven for Jews, post-the Holocaust, post-the tragedy and the horrific persecution of Jews across the world at that time.” [29] [30]

Ocasio-Cortez announced before being sworn in that she would support primary challenges to Democratic colleagues who did not support far-left initiatives like the Green New Deal or Medicare for All. She has since backed off on that and other similar claims. [31]

Leadership

The DSA’s national director is Maria Svart. She earned $68,338 in 2016 as the company’s only paid staff member. [32] DSA’s Operations Director is Kristina Sepulveda. [33]

Funding

Nearly half of the Democratic Socialists of America’s nearly $2.1 million in revenues in 2017 came from dues. In the first half of 2018, DSA member dues accounted for over three-quarters of its revenues. [34] It was on track to break $2.5 million in revenues in 2018 as of halfway through the year.

The DSA’s revenues have increased dramatically since 2014. From 2010 to 2014, it only broke $300,000 in revenues once – in 2010. Its revenues increased to over $490,000 in 2015 and over $800,000 in 2016. [35]

The DSA spent $240,844 in 2016 on political and educational efforts. It spent $77,839 was spent supporting Sanders’ campaign and $63,106 to “educate the public about declining living standards in the United States.” Community organizers in a number of cities spent a total of $43,195 on “educational programming,” while $32,669 was spent on youth activism efforts. $21,746 was spent on “other” programs, while $2,289 was spent on “racial justice.” [36]

References

  1. Democratic Socialists of America, “What is Democratic Socialism,” Accessed May 24, 2019. https://www.dsausa.org/about-us/what-is-democratic-socialism/
  2. Democratic Socialists of America, “About Us,” Accessed May 24, 2019. https://www.dsausa.org/about-us/
  3. Emma Whitford, “The Democratic Socialists of America helped elect them. Now what?” May 22, 2019. Accessed May 24, 2019. http://inthesetimes.com/article/21859/democratic-socialists-of-america-elected-officials-hold-accountable-DSA
  4. Diamond Naga Siu, “Democratic Socialists of America scored wins in the midterms. What’s on their agenda?” December 8, 2018. Accessed May 24, 2019. https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/democratic-socialists-america-scored-wins-midterms-what-s-their-agenda-n941911
  5. Elizabeth Llorente, “Democratic Socialists of America endorses Bernie Sanders despite some members’ reservations,” March 22, 2019. Accessed May 24, 2019. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/democratic-socialists-of-america-endorses-bernie-sanders-for-2020-amid-some-members-concerns-that-hes-politics-as-usual
  6. Democratic Socialists of America, History, Accessed May 24, 2019. https://www.dsausa.org/about-us/history/
  7. Real Clear Politics, 2016 Popular Vote, Accessed May 24, 2019. https://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2016/president/democratic_vote_count.html
  8. Scott Detrow, “Clinton campaign had additional signed agreement with DNC in 2015,” November 3, 2017. Accessed May 24, 2019. https://www.npr.org/2017/11/03/561976645/clinton-campaign-had-additional-signed-agreement-with-dnc-in-2015
  9. Democratic Socialists of America, History, Accessed May 24, 2019. https://www.dsausa.org/about-us/history/
  10. Theresa Alt and Sasha Hammad, “2017 Democratic Socialists of America financial report,” August 2018. Accessed May 24, 2019. https://archive.org/details/2017DsaFinancialreport/page/n5
  11. Danielle Kurtzleben and Kenny Malone, “What you need to know about the Democratic Socialists of America,” July 26, 2918. Accessed May 24, 2019. https://www.npr.org/2018/07/26/630960719/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-democratic-socialists-of-america
  12. Danielle Kurtzleben and Kenny Malone, “What you need to know about the Democratic Socialists of America,” July 26, 2918. Accessed May 24, 2019. https://www.npr.org/2018/07/26/630960719/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-democratic-socialists-of-america
  13. Danielle Kurtzleben and Kenny Malone, “What you need to know about the Democratic Socialists of America,” July 26, 2918. Accessed May 24, 2019. https://www.npr.org/2018/07/26/630960719/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-democratic-socialists-of-america
  14. Democratic Socialists of America, Main Page, Accessed May 24, 2019. https://www.dsausa.org/
  15. Democratic Socialists for America, Medicare for All, Accessed May 24, 2019. https://medicareforall.dsausa.org/about
  16. Democratic Socialist Labor Commission, “What is the DSLC?” Accessed May 24, 2019. http://labor.dsausa.org/
  17. DSA National Electoral Committee, “Our Electoral Strategy,” Accessed May 24, 2019. https://electoral.dsausa.org/national-electoral-strategy/
  18. DSA National Electoral Committee, “Our Electoral Strategy,” Accessed May 24, 2019. https://electoral.dsausa.org/national-electoral-strategy/
  19. Democratic Socialists of America, Statements, Accessed May 24, 2019. https://www.dsausa.org/statements/
  20. Andrew Desiderio, “Progressives back Rep. Omar after Trump criticism sparks threats,” April 15, 2019. Accessed May 24, 2019. https://www.politico.com/story/2019/04/15/ilhan-omar-progressives-solidarity-1274616
  21. Democratic Socialists of America, “DSA statement in solidarity with Representative Ilhan Omar,” April 15, 2019. Accessed May 24, 2019. https://www.dsausa.org/statements/dsa-statement-in-solidarity-with-representative-ilhan-omar/
  22. Democratic Socialists of America, “DSA statement on Venezuela coup,” April 30, 2019. Accessed May 24, 2019. https://www.dsausa.org/statements/dsa-statement-on-venezuela-coup/
  23. Democratic Socialists of America, “DSA statement on Georgia abortion law,” May 10, 2019. Accessed May 24, 2019. https://www.dsausa.org/statements/dsa-statement-on-georgia-abortion-law/
  24. Abraham Riesman, “How the DSA went from supporting Israel to boycotting the Jewish ‘Ethnostate,’” December 1, 2018. Accessed May 24, 2019. https://www.thedailybeast.com/how-the-dsa-went-from-supporting-israel-to-boycotting-the-jewish-ethnostate
  25. Emma Whitford, “The Democratic Socialists of America helped elect them. Now what?” May 22, 2019. Accessed May 24, 2019. http://inthesetimes.com/article/21859/democratic-socialists-of-america-elected-officials-hold-accountable-DSA
  26. Democratic Socialists of America, “NPC statement on 2018 elections,” November 7, 2018. Accessed May 24, 2019. https://www.dsausa.org/statements/npc-statement-on-2018-elections/
  27. Beth Baumann, “Another anti-Semitic trope: Rashida Tlaid attempts to spin Hamas attack on Israel,” May 5, 2019. Accessed May 24, 2019. https://townhall.com/tipsheet/bethbaumann/2019/05/05/another-anti-semitic-trope-rashida-tlaib-attempts-to-spin-hamas-attack-on-israe-n2545874
  28. Samuel Chamberlain, “Rashida Tlaib slammed by House GOP over comments on Holocaust, Palestinians,” May 12, 2019. Accessed May 24, 2010. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/rashida-tlaib-holocaust-calming-feeling-house-gop
  29. Beth Baumann, “Another anti-Semitic trope: Rashida Tlaid attempts to spin Hamas attack on Israel,” May 5, 2019. Accessed May 24, 2019. https://townhall.com/tipsheet/bethbaumann/2019/05/05/another-anti-semitic-trope-rashida-tlaib-attempts-to-spin-hamas-attack-on-israe-n2545874
  30. Samuel Chamberlain, “Rashida Tlaib slammed by House GOP over comments on Holocaust, Palestinians,” May 12, 2019. Accessed May 24, 2010. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/rashida-tlaib-holocaust-calming-feeling-house-gop
  31. Susan Ferrechio, “AOC denies report she threatened disloyal Democrats with primary challengers,” March 1, 2019. Accessed May 24, 2019. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/congress/aoc-denies-report-that-she-threatened-disloyal-democrats-with-primary-challengers
  32. Pro Publica, Democratic Socialists of America 2016 990, Accessed May 24, 2019. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/133109557
  33. Democratic Socialists of America, “Leadership and Structure,” Accessed May 24, 2019. https://www.dsausa.org/about-us/structure/
  34. Theresa Alt and Sasha Hammad, “2017 Democratic Socialists of America financial report,” August 2018. Accessed May 24, 2019. https://archive.org/details/2017DsaFinancialreport/page/n5
  35. Pro Publica, Democratic Socialists of America 2016 990, Accessed May 24, 2019. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/133109557
  36. Pro Publica, Democratic Socialists of America 2016 990, Accessed May 24, 2019. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/133109557
  37. Theresa Alt and Sasha Hammad, “2017 Democratic Socialists of America financial report,” August 2018. Accessed May 24, 2019.

    https://archive.org/details/2017DsaFinancialreport/page/n5

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Cornel West
    Honorary Chair
  2. Matt Christman
    Former Member and Cincinnati, OH Chapter Founder
  3. Lee Halprin
    Award Benefactor

Supported Movements

  1. Medicare-for-All
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: July 1, 1988

  • 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
    2016 Dec Form 990 $861,265 $479,962 $585,877 $28,281 N $852,781 $0 $2 $0
    2015 Dec Form 990 $490,928 $415,331 $201,160 $24,867 N $479,398 $0 $5 $0 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $299,947 $305,918 $120,000 $19,304 N $293,334 $0 $0 $53,861 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $292,233 $319,215 $114,784 $15,754 N $271,848 $0 $0 $57,414 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $269,123 $291,863 $141,938 $15,926 N $250,453 $0 $0 $55,047 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990 $262,353 $287,305 $172,466 $23,714 N $228,859 $0 $13 $0 PDF
    2010 Dec Form 990 $341,719 $224,129 $182,717 $9,013 N $325,770 $0 $32 $45,203 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)

    75 MAIDEN LN STE 702
    NEW YORK, NY 10038-4667