Non-profit

State Engagement Initiative (Democracy Alliance)

Type:

Voter Mobilization Group

Project of:

Sixteen Thirty Fund

Democracy Alliance

Founded:

2015

 The State Engagement Initiative (SEI) is a left-of-center voter mobilization group founded by the Democracy Alliance and funded by the Sixteen Thirty Fund. SEI worked to promote left-of-center and “progressive” policy in key states pertaining to the 2020 general election, including Pennsylvania which spent money to “establish a progressive majority on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.” [1]

SEI works alongside Committee on States, reportedly a collection of wealthy donors, political operatives, labor unions, environmental groups, and other liberal organizations, similar to the organization of the Democracy Alliance. [2] [3]

Background

The State Engagement Initiative is a left-of-center voter mobilization group created by the Democracy Alliance (DA), a network of highly influential funders within the Democratic Party and the political Left. The Democracy Alliance itself generally coordinates funding strategies rather than engaging in grantmaking; consequently, the State Engagement Initiative itself is a project of the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit funding and fiscal sponsorship provider. [4]

Democracy Alliance stated in its 2020 investment portfolio that the State Engagement Initiative was created to push back against right-of-center “ascendence” across the United States. The project works alongside Committee on States, reportedly a collection of wealthy donors, political operatives, labor unions, environmental groups, and other liberal organizations, similar to the organization of the Democracy Alliance. [5]

Committee on States creates “donor tables” and assists donors in supporting “multi-cycle investment plans designed to build progressive power.” SEI seeks support for the investment plans from national donors and matches any donations made with in-state support. [6]

The goal of the State Engagement Initiative and the Committee on States is to “win progressive policy through the electoral process.” [7]

2020 State Funds

The Democracy Alliance founded the 2020 State Funds in Spring 2015. The funds were created to make “significant investments” in 12 states that were competitive in the 2020 presidential election. The funds created by DA include the State Engagement Initiative, Climate Fund, Democracy Fund, and the Inclusive Economy Fund. DA also created the Black Civic Engagement Fund, the Youth Engagement Fund, and the Latino Engagement Fund. [8]

The Climate Fund is a center-left environmentalist group that funds campaigns in states considered “critical” by DA and is a project of the New Venture Fund, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit funding and fiscal sponsorship provider. The Democracy Fund is a center-left voter registration and mobilization group created by DA and also a project of the New Venture Fund. [9]

The Inclusive Economy Fund financially supported state and local nonprofit organizations that pursue left-of-center economic policy implementation. It began in 2015 and used the New Venture Fund as its “fiscal sponsor.” The Inclusive Economy Fund was affiliated with the Inclusive Economy Action Fund (IEAF), an advocacy project fiscally sponsored by the Sixteen Thirty Fund. Both IEF and IEAF appear to have ceased operations in 2018. [10] [11] [12]

Funding

The State Engagement Initiative invested more than $3 million into seven states from fall 2015 until spring 2016. According to Democracy Alliance, SEI dollars were matched at a minimum of 1:1 by “in-state donors.” DA noted that SEI made a “critical investment” in Pennsylvania to help “establish a progressive majority on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.” The other states SEI invested money into were Florida, Wisconsin, Arizona, New Mexico, and Minnesota. [13]

According to a 2016 Democracy Alliance report, the State Engagement Initiative raised approximately $6,670,000 and had expenditures of $6,670,000. [14]

Political Activities

According to a 2016 report by the Democracy Alliance, the State Engagement Initiative works to challenge the alleged dominance that conservative legislators and politicians have at the state level in several key states by encouraging progressive voters to increase their turnout rate. The funds used many state-based allies to target the following states: [15]

  • Arizona Donor Collaborative
  • Florida Alliance
  • Georgia Donor Alliance
  • The Ohio Alliance
  • Oregon Progressive Group
  • PA Alliance
  • Nevada Student Action
  • Project New Mexico
  • Put NC First
  • Virginia Plus
  • The Wisconsin Progressive Investment Network

Leadership

The funds share an advisory board consisting of Kim Anderson, executive vice president of the Democracy Alliance; Anne Bartley, co-founder of the Democracy Alliance-aligned Committee on StatesDaaiyah Bilal-Threats, special assistant to the executive director of the National Education AssociationJeff Blodgett, co-founder of the advocacy group RePower (formerly Wellstone Action); Linda Honold of the Brico FundJulie Kohler, senior adviser to the Democracy Alliance; Gara LaMarche, former president of the Democracy Alliance; John Ost, director of political mobilization for the American Federation of TeachersMichael Podhorzer of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)Michelle Ringuette, assistant to the president of the American Federation of TeachersSusan Sandler of the Sandler Foundation; Adrianne Shropshire of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU); Bill Vandenberg of the Open Society Foundations; and Joe Zimlich of the Bohemian Foundation. [16]

Scott Anderson, executive director of Committee on States, and Frank Smith, the funds’ political director, were listed as the group’s contacts as of 2019. [17]

References

  1. “2020 Funds Update: State Engagement Initiative.” Democracy Alliance. April 22, 2016. Accessed April 17, 2022. https://democracyalliance.org/da-blog/2020-funds-update-state-engagement-initiative/. ^
  2. “Democracy Alliance 2020 Investment Portfolio Progress & Updates.” InfluenceWatch. Accessed April 17, 2022. https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2019/04/Democracy-Alliance-2020-Investment-Portfolio-Report.pdf. ^
  3. Mogensen, Jackie Flynn. “This Is the Lefts Confidential $100 Million Plan to Win Back the States.” November 20, 2020. Accessed April 17, 2022. www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/11/committee-on-states-democracy-alliance-redistricting-2020/. ^
  4. “Democracy Alliance 2020 Investment Portfolio Progress & Updates.” InfluenceWatch. Accessed April 17, 2022. https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2019/04/Democracy-Alliance-2020-Investment-Portfolio-Report.pdf. ^
  5. Mogensen, Jackie Flynn. “This Is the Lefts Confidential $100 Million Plan to Win Back the States.” November 20, 2020. Accessed April 17, 2022. www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/11/committee-on-states-democracy-alliance-redistricting-2020/. ^
  6. “Democracy Alliance 2020 Investment Portfolio Progress & Updates.” InfluenceWatch. Accessed April 17, 2022. https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2019/04/Democracy-Alliance-2020-Investment-Portfolio-Report.pdf. ^
  7. “Democracy Alliance 2020 Investment Portfolio Progress & Updates.” InfluenceWatch. Accessed April 17, 2022. https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2019/04/Democracy-Alliance-2020-Investment-Portfolio-Report.pdf ^
  8. “Democracy Alliance 2020 Investment Portfolio Progress & Updates.” InfluenceWatch. Accessed April 17, 2022. https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2019/04/Democracy-Alliance-2020-Investment-Portfolio-Report.pdf ^
  9. “Democracy Alliance 2020 Investment Portfolio Progress & Updates.” InfluenceWatch. Accessed April 17, 2022. https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2019/04/Democracy-Alliance-2020-Investment-Portfolio-Report.pdf. ^
  10. “2020 Funds Update: State Engagement Initiative.” Democracy Alliance. April 22, 2016. Accessed April 17, 2022. https://democracyalliance.org/da-blog/2020-funds-update-state-engagement-initiative/. ^
  11. “Democracy Alliance 2020 Investment Portfolio Progress & Updates.” InfluenceWatch. Accessed April 17, 2022. https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2019/04/Democracy-Alliance-2020-Investment-Portfolio-Report.pdf. ^
  12. “Democracy Alliance Spring 2019 Investment Strategy and Recommendations.” Scribd. Accessed April 17, 2022. https://www.scribd.com/document/405643994/Democracy-Alliance-Spring-2019-Investment-Strategy-and-Recommendations. ^
  13. “2020 Funds Update: State Engagement Initiative.” Democracy Alliance. April 22, 2016. Accessed April 17, 2022. https://democracyalliance.org/da-blog/2020-funds-update-state-engagement-initiative/. ^
  14. “Democracy Alliance 2020 Investment Portfolio Progress & Updates.” InfluenceWatch. Accessed April 17, 2022. https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2019/04/Democracy-Alliance-2020-Investment-Portfolio-Report.pdf. ^
  15. “Democracy Alliance 2020 Investment Portfolio Progress & Updates.” InfluenceWatch. Accessed April 17, 2022. https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2019/04/Democracy-Alliance-2020-Investment-Portfolio-Report.pdf. ^
  16. “Democracy Alliance 2020 Investment Portfolio Progress & Updates.” InfluenceWatch. Accessed April 17, 2022. https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2019/04/Democracy-Alliance-2020-Investment-Portfolio-Report.pdf ^
  17. ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Daaiyah Bilal-Threats
    Advisory Board Member
  2. Jeff Blodgett
    Advisory Board Member
  3. Julie Kohler
    Advisory Board Member
  4. Joe Zimlich
    Advisory Board Member
  5. Kim Anderson
    Advisory Board Member
  6. Michael Podhorzer
    Advisory Board Member
  7. Michelle Ringuette
    Advisory Board Member
  8. Anne Bartley
    Advisory Board Member
  9. Gara LaMarche
    Advisory Board Member
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