Media Democracy Fund (MDF)





Net Neutrality Advocacy Group

Project of:

New Venture Fund

Proteus Fund (formerly)

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The Media Democracy Fund is a left-of-center activist organization that works on media and internet related issues. It is a project of the New Venture Fund (itself managed as part of a network of “dark money” organizations under the ambit of for-profit philanthropic consultancy Arabella Advisors1) and was founded by a seed grant from the Proteus Fund. The organization is funded by numerous left-wing foundations.

The Media Democracy Fund became most famous through its advocacy of so-called “net neutrality” regulations on the internet. The MDF was part of a coalition of left-of-center organizations in pushing for those regulations.

In addition to receiving grants from numerous left-wing organizations and foundations, the MDF also makes grants to left-wing organizations as a part of its mission.


The Media Democracy Fund works to use the internet to expand the role of government and increase government welfare programs. Media Democracy Fund supports “net neutrality” regulations, ostensibly to prevent the creation of “fast lanes” by which Internet Service Providers could charge more in order to move certain “packets” of data. It also supports limits on how ISPs use data and market the data collected from users. 2


The largest program the MDF runs is grantmaking. The MDF makes grants to organizations that agree with its values, including the Brennan Center for Justice, United We Dream, Demand Progress, ACLU of Massachusetts, and Free Press. 3 4

The MDF works build a movement in order to increase government control over the internet and other forms of media. It funds left-wing organizations that campaign for increased government control and it funnels money from left-wing donors and foundations such as the Democracy Fund, Open Society Foundations, and the MacArthur Foundation to other left-wing groups.

The MDF also funds technologists and places them on the staff of advocacy organizations. To support this it runs the Ford-MDF Technology Exchange Fund, which is a collaboration between MDF and the Ford Foundation, and the PhDX university fellowship program. 5 6

The MDF also works to create policies that promote access to and adoption of affordable broadband services in underserved areas such as the inner city and rural areas. 7

The MDF is involved in more than just internet access. It works on issues related to allocating the radio spectrum and works to expand the ability of activists and others to acquire low power radio licenses. 8 Left-of-center activists have focused on expanding its use of low-powered radio stations in order to limit the influence of conservative talk radio; the low-powered radio format is generally dominated by left-progressive interests. 9

It also works on copyright issues. It works to shift copyright protections away from major corporations and shift those more to the benefit of artists and creators. 10

It also promotes the work of journalists and public media. But it does not fund journalism training or provide direct assistance or funding to journalism outlets. 11

One area of work that has seen an expansion of work is the work against internet surveillance by governments and corporations. Recently, the MDF has significantly increased its digital security work in response to undisclosed “threats against civil society organizations.” 12


Amber French is the executive director of the MDF. Before joining MDF, she served as director of partnerships for the Proteus Fund. She has had a 20-year career in philanthropy, partnership, and leadership training work for various left-of-center organizations. She was named by “Slate” as one of the women who secured the Obama-era Federal Communications Commission’s “net neutrality” rules in 2015. 13

Amalia  Deloney is a trained human rights attorney who serves as the director of programs. She has been working in the left-wing advocacy arena for over 20 years. Before joining MDF, Deloney was the policy director at MediaJustice. Prior to her work at MediaJustice, she served as the co-director of a Latino-left capacity building project called Raices Project. 14

Kristin Paterson a social researcher and organizer who serves as the director of programs. From 2001 to 2016 she worked at the Future of Music Coalition, a nonprofit that advocates for musicians. In the 1990s, she was the co-owner of the independent label Simple Machines, which released over 70 records in eight years. 15

Benjamin Lennett is a program officer. Prior to joining MDF he was a consultant who provided advice on things related to antitrust, internet freedom, and broadband infrastructure. Before that, he was a policy director for the Open Technology Institute at the New America Foundation. 16


The Media Democracy Fund is a project of the New Venture Fund. The New Venture Fund is a charitable nonprofit managed by the left-leaning consulting firm Arabella Advisors. 17

The New Venture Fund serves as a fiscal sponsor for the MDF. The New Venture Fund operates as a “dark money” conduit which allows donors to conceal their identity. 18

The MDF has a lobbying arm called the Media Democracy Action Fund. 19


Although the MDF can conceal its donors, it has disclosed some of the foundations who have supported it in the past. Among the donors are some of the biggest left-wing foundations in the country. Among the groups are the Democracy Fund, the Ford Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Park Foundation, the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, the Knight Foundation. It is also supported by the Mozilla Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and the Wallace Global Fund. 20


The Media Democracy Fund was created in 2006 by the Proteus Fund. The initial grants used to set up MDF totaled $1,240,000. The initial executive director was Helen Brunner. 21

In 2009, the MDF attempted to launch a campaign targeting conservative TV show hosts Lou Dobbs and Glenn Beck, but the MDF ultimately scuttled the campaign. 22

In 2015, the MDF was instrumental in the Obama administration’s push for “net neutrality.” The regulations would increase the government’s control of the internet. 23

In 2016, hacked documents from George Soros’s Open Society Foundations revealed plans to expand the government’s control of the internet. The foundation would fund $1.8 million in grants to various organization, including MDF, to research “race and broadband access.” 24


  1.             Hayden R. Ludwig. “Big Money in Dark Shadows: Arabella Advisors’ Half-billion-dollar ‘Dark Money’ Network.” Capital Research Center (
  2. “Home.” Home. Accessed May 6, 2020.
  3.        “List Of Grantees”. 2020. Media Democracy Fund.   
  4.        “What We Do”. 2020. Media Democracy Fund.
  5. “What We Do”. 2020. Media Democracy Fund.
  6.   “Media Democracy Fund”. 2020. Center For International Media Assistance.
  7.           “Media Democracy Fund”. 2020. Center For International Media Assistance.
  8. Ludwig, Hayden. 2017. “The Left’S Low Power Coup”. Capital Research Center.
  9. “Media Democracy Fund”. 2020. Center For International Media Assistance.
  10. “Media Democracy Fund”. 2020. Center For International Media Assistance.
  11. “Media Democracy Fund”. 2020. Center For International Media Assistance.
  12. “Staff”. 2020. Media Democracy Fund.
  13. “Staff”. 2020. Media Democracy Fund.
  14. “Staff”. 2020. Media Democracy Fund.
  15. “Staff”. 2020. Media Democracy Fund.
  16. Ludwig, Hayden. 2019. Big Money In Dark Shadows. Ebook. Washington, D.C.: Capital Research Center.
  17. Ludwig, Hayden. 2019. Big Money In Dark Shadows. Ebook. Washington, D.C.: Capital Research Center.
  18. Ludwig, Hayden. 2019. Big Money In Dark Shadows. Ebook. Washington, D.C.: Capital Research Center.
  19. “Our Funding Partners”. 2020. Media Democracy Fund.
  20. “Media Democracy Fund”. 2020. Center For International Media Assistance.
  21. Vadum, Matthew. 2009. “Soros-Backed Media Democracy Fund Scuttles Anti-Beck, Anti-Dobbs Campaign”. Capital Research Center.
  22. Ludwig, Hayden. 2019. Big Money In Dark Shadows. Ebook. Washington, D.C.: Capital Research Center.
  23. Takala, Rudy. 2016. “Hacked Documents Reveal Soros Plans For More Internet Regulation”. Washington Examiner.
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