See Also: Democracy Alliance (DA) (Other Group)
The Committee on States is the state-level counterpart organization to the left-of-center donor conglomerate Democracy Alliance. According to Democracy Alliance documents, the Committee on States and the Democracy Alliance both share the same address, and like the Democracy Alliance the Committee on States was formed in 2006. Like its national counterpart, Committee on States is based on the experience of the liberal donor effort that helped Democratic candidates take control of state government in Colorado after the 2006 midterm elections, known as the Colorado Democracy Alliance.
Committee on States is reportedly a collection of wealthy donors, political operatives, labor unions, environmental groups, and other liberal organizations, similar to the organization of the Democracy Alliance. The organization maintains close ties to the Democracy Alliance and Democracy Alliance’s State Engagement Initiative, two organizations characterized by critics as “dark money” for which Committee on States reportedly handles non-tax-deductible contributions.
Committee on States, like the closely aligned left-wing donor collective Democracy Alliance did at the national level, was founded in 2006 to spread the model of the Colorado Democracy Alliance to other states. Colorado Democracy Alliance was credited with funding a political machine that greatly strengthened Democratic Party fortunes in the state of Colorado. The Democracy Alliance has described Committee on States-aligned state-based donor alliances as “mini-Democracy Alliances” and noted that the “dollars raised are used to help nurture and leverage more donor capacity in the states and thus dramatically multiply the number of donors across the country involved in the network.”
According to a Committee on States memorandum obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, the Committee credits a number of liberal donors and political professionals with its creation. The donor-co-founders include Christopher Findlater, John Hunting, Rob McKay (the Democracy Alliance founder emeritus, and in 2006, the Democracy Alliance board chair), the late Fred Baron, Alida Messinger, Pat Stryker, and Lynde Uihlein. Political professionals included Anne Bartley, then an officer with the Rockefeller Family Fund who has held positions in other Rockefeller-associated philanthropies; Al Yates, the Colorado Democracy Alliance chief strategist; Anna Burger, then-Secretary Treasurer of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU); Ted Trimpa, a Colorado-based Democratic political consultant; Doug Phelps, president of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) left-wing network; John Stocks, executive director of the National Education Association (NEA) teachers union; Michael Vachon, a personal political aide to liberal billionaire donor George Soros; Frank Smith, the political director of the Democracy Alliance; and Democracy Alliance founder Rob Stein.
Since its creation, Committee on States has been closely aligned with the Democracy Alliance. The two share a co-founder (Rob Stein), reportedly have overlapping membership, and appears to handle non-tax-deductible contributions for the Democracy Alliance’s State Engagement Initiative.
Documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon have indicated the states targeted by Committee on States. The State Engagement Initiative, a Democracy Alliance program for which Committee on States serves as fiscal sponsor, focuses on three tiers of states. A document identified the states as “challenge states,” including Florida, North Carolina, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin; “growth states” consisting of Georgia and Arizona; and “governing states” like Oregon, Minnesota, and Colorado. Each tier of states was assigned based on the states’ ability to be won over to liberal Democratic control and to enact progressive-left policies. In 2016, all had “important federal and state races on the ballot,” according to Democracy Alliance materials.
According to a Committee on States memo, “21 Democracy Alliance donors and a network of ‘state-based donor alliances’ affiliated with the Committee provided more than $45 million in funding for state-level liberal and Democratic organizations during the 2014 election cycle. That included significant investments in prominent swing states, including more than $6 million each in Florida and Colorado, $2 million in Pennsylvania, $7 million in North Carolina, and $9 million in Wisconsin.”
Committee on States has also worked with liberal groups on Democratic redistricting priorities. In early 2015, Committee on States held a “Redistricting Summit” with liberal voter activation group America Votes and what the Committee called “labor union allies.”
The Committee on States, like Democracy Alliance, has expressed that it can serve as a way for donors and organizations to circumvent legal firewalls between electorally involved organizations and groups prohibited by law from intervening in elections without technically violating the law. As the Committee on States serves as a funding conduit for liberal political groups, it can help donors work around the legal firewalls—a service it has reportedly offered to its membership.
Scott Anderson serves as executive director of Committee on States. Prior to taking over the Committee, he served as executive director of the North Carolina Association of Educators, a state affiliate of the National Education Association teachers union.
Like Democracy Alliance, Committee on States does not disclose its membership or funding sources. Little is known about the membership of Committee on States or entities funding its activities.
According to disclosures filed with the United States Department of Labor Office of Labor-Management Standards, the SEIU, NEA, American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and AFL-CIO all provided funding to Committee on States in their 2016 fiscal years. The NEA contributed $800,000 to Committee on States, the SEIU $525,000, and the other two labor unions combined for $75,000.