Non-profit

Third Way

Website:

www.thirdway.org

Location:

WASHINGTON, DC

Tax ID:

20-1734070

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(4)

Budget (2019):

Revenue: $16,165,124
Expenses: $14,002,839
Assets: $29,348,907

Formation:

2005

Type:

Think Tank

Executive Director:

Jonathan Cowan

Third Way is a left-of-center think tank [1] based in Washington, D.C., that believes the center-left is the “only real path” for the future in the United States. [2] Founded in 2005 by former Clinton administration staffers, [3] Third Way conducts policy research, writes papers, and advocates for left-of-center policy on issues including climate and energy, the economy, education, health care,  national security, [4] and social policy. [5] Third Way has supported the pro-abortion Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify an expansive reading of the Supreme Court’s holding in Roe v. Wade guaranteeing abortion access nationwide into law. [6]

The think tank has published articles with suggestions for how the Biden administration can improve its approval ratings on the economy [7] [8] and outlined an alleged “Republican plot to steal the presidency” in 2024 based on “suppressing the vote, installing big lie counters, threatening election officials, seizing legislative control, and sabotaging the Electoral College.” [9]

Following the 2020 elections, Third Way stood up Shield PAC, a super PAC which aims to protect at-risk House Democrats in swing districts. [10] [11] Third Way president Jonathan Cowan has claimed that Republicans are “firmly in the grip of a deeply anti-democratic right-wing populism” [12] and Third Way’s research has investigated what a coalition “to defeat populism” must look like. [13] Third Way Institute is a 501(c)(3) that supports Third Way’s nonprofit activities. [14]

History and Leadership

Third Way was founded in 2005 by former Clinton administration staffers. [15] By 2013, Third Way had become a “prominent voice in center-left debates” and was named Think Tank of the Year by Prospect magazine. [16] [17]

Jonathan Cowan has been the president of Third Way Institute since 2005. [18] [19] [20] From 2000 to 2004, he was the president of the gun control advocacy organization Americans for Gun Safety. [21] [22] [23] Cowan has also worked as Chief of Staff of the Department of Housing and Urban Development under then-Secretary Andrew Cuomo (D) [24] [25] and as co-founder of Lead or Leave. [26] [27] In 2021, Cowan said that Republicans are “firmly in the grip of a deeply anti-democratic right-wing populism” and accused the party of trying to manipulate the 2025 counting of electoral votes. [28]

Third Way executive vice president Matt Bennett has accused the Republican Party of being engaged in a systematic, sophisticated, and serious plot to execute a coup” and plotting to steal the 2024 presidential election. [29]

Activities and Funding

Third Way is a left-of-center think tank [30] based in Washington, D.C., that believes the center-left is the “only real path” for the future. [31] The think tank conducts policy research, writes papers, and advocates on issues including climate and energy, economy, education, health care, national security, [32] politics, and social policy. [33] Third Way has supported the pro-abortion Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify an expansive reading of the Supreme Court’s holding in Roe v. Wade guaranteeing abortion access nationwide into law. [34]

In 2022, Third Way published articles with suggestions for how the Biden administration can improve its approval ratings on the economy. [35] [36] The think tank also outlined an alleged “Republican plot to steal the presidency” in 2024, based on “suppressing the vote, installing big lie counters, threatening election officials, seizing legislative control, and sabotaging the Electoral College.” [37]

Following the 2020 elections, Third Way stood up Shield PAC, a super PAC which aims to protect at-risk House Democrats in swing districts. [38] [39]  Shield PAC’s advisors include former U.S. Reps. Anthony Brindisi (D-NY), Joe Cunningham (D-SC), Kendra Horn (D-OK), Ben McAdams (D-UT), and Xochitl Torres Small (D-NM), all of whom were defeated for re-election in the 2020 elections. [40] Third Way senior executives Matt Bennett and Jon Cowan are co-founders of Shield PAC. Bennett joined the anti-Trump Super PAC Lincoln Project’s podcast to discuss Shield PAC shortly after its launch. [41] Third Way also commissioned a 2020 election analysis paper with The Collective PAC and Latino Victory Fund to analyze the “mixed bag” results for Democrats. [42]

Third Way also operates the left-of-center DeCarb America initiative with the left-environmentalist Clean Air Taskforce and the center-left Bipartisan Policy Center. The DeCarb America Initiative aims to change American energy use from fossil fuels to nuclear power and other weather-dependent energy in pursuit of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. [43]

Policy Positions

Third Way is active in Democratic Party policy debates. The think tank claims it helped “rescue” Obamacare during the policy debate in 2009, [44] promoted same-sex marriage and supported the elimination of the Defense of Marriage Act, [45]  supported the Obama administration’s federally focused education agenda, [46] supports expanded nuclear energy use, [47] supports expanded free trade policies including the defeated Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), [48] changes to the police system, [49] and other positions. [50]

Third Way’s research has investigated what a coalition “to defeat populism” must look like based on analysis of voter files and electoral databases and analysis of polling and opinion surveys to understand what suburban voters want in a candidate. [51]

In 2020, Third Way spent $7,319,529 on its energy and climate programs. Its work in this space included developing policy and establishing the organization’s approach to nuclear energy, weather-dependent energy, and so-called zero-carbon technology. That same year, Third Way’s social policy and politics program spent $4,500,117 on devising a collation to “defeat populism” by emphasizing left-of-center policy positions on immigration, gun rights, LGBT rights, abortion, border security, and “DREAMers,” illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children. That same year Third Way spent $1,622,987 on its economics program to address health care and Covid-19 pandemic issues, childcare, and the future of work. Third Way also spent $1,139,623 on its national security program, with a heavy emphasis on cyber policy and cybersecurity. [52]

Grants

In 2020, Third Way issued several grants to left-of-center organizations including $297,683 to Smart Growth America;  $199,525 to The Energy for Growth Hub; $100,000 to pro-nuclear-energy environmentalist Breakthrough Institute; $100,000 to the left-leaning environmentalist National Wildlife Federation; $100,000 to the center-left Bipartisan Policy Center; $100,000 to the labor union-aligned BlueGreen Alliance; and $50,000 to NewDEAL Forum, a coalition of Democratic Party elected officials, to identify policies that can reduce emissions in an “equitable, worker-friendly way.” [53] In 2019, Third Way distributed a $30,000 grant to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and $25,000 grant to NewDEAL for “pro-growth progressive research.” [54]

Funding

Third Way receives its funding from individual contributions and grants. [55] In 2020, Third Way received contributions and grants worth $18,132,500 and reported expenses of $15,511,587. These totals include a $11,600,000 grant from Third Way’s 501(c)(3) affiliate, Third Way Institute. [56]

In 2019, Third Way received $15,659,266 of contributions and grants and reported expenses of $14,002,839. [57] This includes a $11,329,191 grant from Third Way Institute. [58]

Associated Organizations

Third Way Institute is a 501(c)(3) that supports Third Way’s nonprofit activities. [59] Third Way shares employees with Third Way Institute [60] and all of Third Way Institute employees’ wages are paid by Third Way based on cost sharing, according to tax filing disclosures. [61] Third Way also shares an address with the Third Way Foundation. [62]

References

  1. “About.” Third Way. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.thirdway.org/about. ^
  2. “About.” Third Way. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.thirdway.org/about. ^
  3. Shear, Michael D. “Political Groups Compete to Represent the Center.” New York Times. February 9, 2011. Accessed via Web Archive. March 14, 2012. February 6, 2022. https://web.archive.org/web/20120314235630/https://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/09/political-groups-compete-to-represent-the-center/. ^
  4. “National Security.” Third Way. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.thirdway.org/issue/national-security. ^
  5. “home.” Third Way. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.thirdway.org/ ^
  6.  Sudria Twyman and Nathan Kasai. “The Time is Now, The Place is Congress: Pass the Women’s Health Protection Act.” Third Way Blog. September 24, 2021. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.thirdway.org/blog/the-time-is-now-the-place-is-congress-pass-the-womens-health-protection-act. ^
  7. “Tweet.” Twitter. Posted February 4, 2022. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://twitter.com/ThirdWayTweet/status/1489609326515920898?cxt=HHwWhIC5kcnyk6wpAAAA. ^
  8. “Tweet.” Twitter. Posted February 4, 2022. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://twitter.com/ThirdWayTweet/status/1489650030067830789?cxt=HHwWisC-neqzpqwpAAAA. ^
  9. “Tweet.” Twitter. Posted January 26, 2022. Accessed February 7, 2022. https://twitter.com/ThirdWayTweet/status/1486402506724888577/photo/1. ^
  10. Matt Bennett and Jon Cowan. “January 6, 2025 could be the date American democracy dies. Mark it on your calendar.” USA Today. May 23, 2021. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2021/05/23/republicans-could-kill-democracy-if-democrats-lose-house-majority/5191699001/. ^
  11. Tumulty, Karen. “Opinion: Can House Democrats beat the midterm curse?” Washington Post. March 30, 2021. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/03/30/can-house-democrats-beat-midterm-curse/. ^
  12. Matt Bennett and Jon Cowan. “January 6, 2025 could be the date American democracy dies. Mark it on your calendar.” USA Today. May 23, 2021. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2021/05/23/republicans-could-kill-democracy-if-democrats-lose-house-majority/5191699001/. ^
  13. “Third Way Institute.” Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax. (Form 990). 2020. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/260535276/202101319349300845/full. ^
  14. “Third Way.” Return of Organization Exempt From income Tax. (Form 990). (2020). Schedule R. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/201734070/202101319349301625/full. ^
  15. Shear, Michael D. “Political Groups Compete to Represent the Center.” New York Times. February 9, 2011. Accessed via Web Archive. March 14, 2012. February 6, 2022. https://web.archive.org/web/20120314235630/https://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/09/political-groups-compete-to-represent-the-center/. ^
  16. Prospect Team. “Think tank of the year.” Prospect. July 15, 2013. Accessed February 5, 2022. https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/politics/think-tank-of-the-year-awards-prospect-2013. ^
  17. “Third Way Institute.” Devex. Accessed February 5, 2022. https://www.devex.com/organizations/third-way-institute-78647. ^
  18. “Third Way.” Cause IQ. Accessed February 5, 2022. https://www.causeiq.com/organizations/third-way-institute,260535276/. ^
  19. “Third Way Institute.” Devex. Accessed February 5, 2022. https://www.devex.com/organizations/third-way-institute-78647. ^
  20. “Jonathan Cowan.” Third Way. Accessed February 2, 2022. https://www.thirdway.org/about/staff/jonathan-cowan. ^
  21. Foster, Dick. “Billionaire backs gun-curb measure.” Rocky Mountain News. October 2, 2000. Accessed via Web Archive. December 8, 2008, February 6, 2022. https://web.archive.org/web/20081208034822/http:/denver.rockymountainnews.com/election/1002mons5.shtml. ^
  22. “Jonathan Cowan.” LinkedIn. Accessed February 2, 2022. https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonathan-cowan-9115657/. ^
  23. “Kelli Williams of ‘The Practice’ interviews Senator McCain about Gun Safety.” Getty Images Photo. February 24, 2002. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/jon-cowan-president-of-americans-for-gun-safety-kelli-news-photo/115375157. ^
  24. “:Americans for Gun Safety Is a True Anti-Gun Group.” NRA-ILA. Posted February 16, 2001. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.nraila.org/articles/20010216/americans-for-gun-safety-is-a-true-anti. ^
  25. “Institute of Politics Announces Fellows for Spring 2000.” The Harvard Gazette. February 3, 2000. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2000/02/institute-of-politics-announces-fellows-for-spring-2000/. ^
  26. “Jonathan Cowan.” Third Way. Accessed February 2, 2022. https://www.thirdway.org/about/staff/jonathan-cowan. ^
  27. Laursen, Eric. “Third Way’s Jon Cowan: Once Again, Ginning Up Faux Youth Outrage.” Huffpost. September 4, 2012. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-can-kicks-back_b_1848474. ^
  28. Matt Bennett and Jon Cowan. “January 6, 2025 could be the date American democracy dies. Mark it on your calendar.” USA Today. May 23, 2021. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2021/05/23/republicans-could-kill-democracy-if-democrats-lose-house-majority/5191699001/. ^
  29. “The Plot to Steal the Presidency.” Third Way. January 26, 2022. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.thirdway.org/presentation/the-plot-to-steal-the-presidency. ^
  30. “About.” Third Way. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.thirdway.org/about. ^
  31. “About.” Third Way. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.thirdway.org/about. ^
  32. “National Security.” Third Way. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.thirdway.org/issue/national-security. ^
  33.  “home.” Third Way. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.thirdway.org/. ^
  34. Sudria Twyman and Nathan Kasai. “The Time is Now, The Place is Congress: Pass the Women’s Health Protection Act.” Third Way Blog. September 24, 2021. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.thirdway.org/blog/the-time-is-now-the-place-is-congress-pass-the-womens-health-protection-act. ^
  35. “Tweet.” Twitter. Posted February 4, 2022. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://twitter.com/ThirdWayTweet/status/1489609326515920898?cxt=HHwWhIC5kcnyk6wpAAAA. ^
  36. “Tweet.” Twitter. Posted February 4, 2022. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://twitter.com/ThirdWayTweet/status/1489650030067830789?cxt=HHwWisC-neqzpqwpAAAA. ^
  37. “Tweet.” Twitter. Posted January 26, 2022. Accessed February 7, 2022. https://twitter.com/ThirdWayTweet/status/1486402506724888577/photo/1. ^
  38. Matt Bennett and Jon Cowan. “January 6, 2025 could be the date American democracy dies. Mark it on your calendar.” USA Today. May 23, 2021. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2021/05/23/republicans-could-kill-democracy-if-democrats-lose-house-majority/5191699001/. ^
  39. Tumulty, Karen. “Opinion: Can House Democrats beat the midterm curse?” Washington Post. March 30, 2021. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/03/30/can-house-democrats-beat-midterm-curse/. ^
  40. Anthony Brindisi, Joe Cunningham, Jackie Gordon, Christina Hale, Kendra Horn, Ben McAdams and Xochitl Torres Small. “Republican lies helped defeat us in 2020. We’re going to shield House Democrats in 2022.” USA Today. April 5, 2021. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2021/04/05/democrats-who-lost-house-races-no-more-republican-lies-column/4815284001/. ^
  41. “The Last Line of Defense with Matt Bennett.” The Lincoln Project. 2021. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-last-line-of-defense-with-matt-bennett/id1551582052?i=1000545723184. ^
  42. “2020 Post-Election Analysis.” Third Way. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.thirdway.org/report/2020-post-election-analysis. ^
  43.  “DeCarb America.” DeCarb America. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://decarbamerica.org/. ^
  44. “How Third Way Rescued the Affordable Care Act.” Third Way. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.thirdway.org/impact/how-third-way-rescued-the-affordable-care-act. ^
  45. “Our Impact.” Third Way. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.thirdway.org/impact/marriage-equality ^
  46. “Our Impact.” Third Way. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.thirdway.org/impact/marriage-equality. ^
  47. “Our Impact.” Third Way. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.thirdway.org/impact/marriage-equality. ^
  48. “Our Impact.” Third Way. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.thirdway.org/impact/marriage-equality. ^
  49. “Third Way Institute.” Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax. (Form 990). 2020. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/260535276/202101319349300845/full. ^
  50. “Our Impact.” Third Way. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.thirdway.org/impact/marriage-equality. ^
  51. “Third Way Institute.” Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax. (Form 990). 2020. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/260535276/202101319349300845/full. ^
  52. “Third Way.” Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax. (Form 990). 2020. Part III. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/201734070/202101319349301625/full. ^
  53. “Third Way.” Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax. (Form 990). 2020. Schedule I. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/201734070/202101319349301625/full. ^
  54. “Third Way.” Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax. (Form 990). 2019. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/201734070/202031839349302063/full. ^
  55. “Donate.” Third Way. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://www.thirdway.org/donate. ^
  56.  “Third Way Institute.” Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax. (Form 990). 2020. Schedule I. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/260535276/202101319349300845/full. ^
  57. “Third Way.” Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax. (Form 990). 2020. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/201734070/202101319349301625/full. ^
  58. “Third Way Institute.” Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax. (From 990). 2019. Schedule I. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/260535276/202021839349302062/full. ^
  59. “Third Way.” Return of Organization Exempt From income Tax. (Form 990). (2020). Schedule R. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/201734070/202101319349301625/full. ^
  60. “Third Way.” Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax. (Form 990). 2019. Schedule R. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/201734070/202031839349302063/full. ^
  61. “Third Way Institute.” Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax. (Form 990). 2020. Schedule O. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/260535276/202101319349300845/full. ^
  62. “Consumer Technology Association.” Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax. (From 990.) 2017. Schedule I. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/541963355/201813199349318681/full. ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Joe Zimlich
    Board Member
  2. Ted Trimpa
    Board Member
  3. Rachel Pritzker
    Board Member
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: July 1, 2005

  • 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 990 $16,165,124 $14,002,839 $29,348,907 $2,083,285 N $15,659,266 $0 $233,410 $1,194,145 PDF
    2018 Dec Form 990 $3,252,353 $11,170,460 $24,868,933 $2,201,809 Y $2,966,860 $0 $122,604 $1,686,605 PDF
    2017 Dec Form 990 $11,748,447 $10,584,926 $33,083,229 $1,980,398 N $10,763,751 $0 $86,368 $1,284,336 PDF
    2016 Dec Form 990 $10,405,228 $8,704,498 $27,962,854 $372,133 N $10,429,250 $0 $69,634 $1,366,221
    2015 Dec Form 990 $10,893,812 $8,917,953 $25,545,386 $526,340 N $10,382,480 $0 $64,266 $1,379,422 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $8,786,047 $8,774,006 $24,669,050 $737,949 N $8,736,500 $0 $56,748 $1,329,511 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $9,308,301 $7,974,017 $23,845,149 $696,238 N $9,224,000 $11,500 $72,754 $1,224,964 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $9,323,124 $7,168,015 $19,981,521 $522,419 N $9,219,000 $9,550 $83,213 $973,311 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990 $9,099,760 $6,361,583 $17,223,875 $574,471 N $8,862,201 $175,732 $61,827 $886,804 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Third Way

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