The Democracy Alliance (DA), a collective of wealthy Democratic and left-progressive individual and institutional donors, hosts semi-annual conferences for its members and guests. Described as a “major gathering of the institutional left,” the conferences primarily serve to connect prospective left-leaning donors with similarly-minded activist groups, and to provide a forum for speakers and panels on important political issues, policy, and strategy.  In past years, conferences have featured some of the most prominent activists, leaders, and politicians in the United States.
Purpose and Format
Democracy Alliance conferences have been held twice a year since the Alliance’s founding in 2005.  The conference format typically consists of a series of presentations and panels hosted by allied organizations and individuals. These events often feature prominent left-of-center activists, leaders, and politicians who discuss issues and strategy related to furthering their priorities.
Another purpose is to provide a forum for wealthy donors to learn about organizations that the Democracy Alliance has vetted and recommended.  Because both donors and organization representatives attend and participate in conference sessions, “[a]t DA conferences, furious networking is the order of the day.” 
Typically held over the course of several days at a luxury hotel or resort, conferences are invite-only and security is known to be extremely tight.  Participation guidelines stipulate that “conference participants are entitled to the expectation that their conference experience and their identity should remain confidential.”  Locked trash bins are provided for attendees to dispose of unwanted conference materials for shredding, and attendees often refrain from discussing conference proceedings with the media. 
Despite the security employed, news outlets such as the Washington Free Beacon and Politico frequently report on Democracy Alliance conferences and publish materials from past conferences. Agendas contained in these materials detail scheduled itineraries and participants.
Democracy Alliance’s fall 2019 conference, entitled “Focus|Strategy|Victory” was held from November 13-16 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington DC.  The introduction to the conference agenda noted the “need to address the critical challenges of our time and ward off the dystopian future of a second Trump term. This really is the most important election of our lifetimes.” 
A relatively large number of Democratic political figures participated in the conference, including Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Mark Warner (D-VA); Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), and Xochitl Torres Small (D-NM); Governors Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI), Tony Evers (D-WI), Laura Kelly (D-KS), and Jay Inslee (D-WA); and former Governors Terry McAuliffe (D-VA) and Bob Wise (D-WV)
Former President Barack Obama held a “fireside chat” on civic and political engagement with former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.  Abrams also gave a keynote address on election security and reform.  Other notable speakers included Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez, former Obama administration official Valerie Jarrett, and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes. 
Democracy Alliance’s spring 2019 conference was held from April 3-5 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin, Texas.  The conference focused on the 2020 elections and on making “the long-term, multi-year investments to build progressive political power and sustain it.” 
Former Democratic mayor of Tallahassee and Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum gave keynote remarks alongside U.S. Representative Jennifer Wexton (D-VA).  Other notable conference participants included New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D), who provided video remarks, and Tara McGowan, the founder of ACRONYM. 
Democracy Alliance’s fall 2018 conference, entitled “Taking Our Democracy Back” was held from November 15-16 at the Capital Hilton in Washington, DC.  The conference took place in the immediate aftermath of the 2018 U.S. midterm elections, in which the Democratic Party retook the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. Conference topics included discussion on “progressive legislative strategy at the local, state, and national level” in the wake of those elections. 
Notable participants included U.S. Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe (D), billionaire activist Tom Steyer, and National Education Association executive Kim Anderson.  Leana Wen, the former president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, gave remarks at the closing dinner. 
Democracy Alliance’s spring 2018 conference, entitled “Charting the Course for Progressive Power” was held from April 15-18 at the InterContinental Buckhead Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia.  Conference topics included “the growth of women’s political power, the evolution of progressive leadership in the South, and how to counter the vulnerabilities technology and social media pose to our democracy.”  Democracy Alliance partners also received a special welcome reception at the Center for Civil and Human Rights, at which NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson gave keynote remarks. 
Notable participants included Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez, ACRONYM founder Tara McGowan, former Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Cecile Richards, billionaire activist Tom Steyer, U.S. Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Mark Pocan (D-WI), and state Attorneys General Mark Herring (D-VA), Karl Racine (D-DC), Josh Shapiro (D-PA), and Josh Stein (D-NC).  Demand Justice Executive Director Brian Fallon was a panelist on a panel entitled “Preserving the Role of Our Courts,” the purpose of which was to discuss “new approaches to fight back and protect our courts against the Trump Administration and their congressional allies’ extremist takeover.”
Democracy Alliance’s fall 2017 conference, entitled “Beyond #Resistance: Reclaiming our Progressive Future” was held from November 15-18 at the La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, California.  Key issues addressed at the conference included voter mobilization, “turning resistance energy into electoral action,” state-level electoral politics, and climate change.  Specific sessions also focused on local prosecutor races, election security, and social media. 
George Soros, one of the founding members of the Democracy Alliance, spoke at the conference.  Then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) gave opening remarks at a dinner program featuring longtime left-wing activist Heather Booth.  Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) each provided a videotaped message to conference attendees.  Other featured speakers included Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (D), Representative Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), left-of-center activist Van Jones, and labor union executives John Stocks, Mary Kay Henry, and Kim Anderson. 
Janell Ross, a reporter for the Washington Post, was placed on leave after it was revealed that she had participated in the conference.  Ross was a panelist at a session entitled “Getting the Economic Narrative Right,” at which one of the questions considered how to build “compelling narratives” to “build the public will to reorient our economy and combat inequality.”  The Washington Post stated to the Washington Free Beacon that it was unaware Ross had participated in the conference. 
Democracy Alliance’s fall 2016 conference, entitled “Seizing Opportunity & Building Power” took place from November 13-15 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, DC.  Held in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, Donald Trump’s victory led the Democracy Alliance to change many its plans for the conference, as reports indicated the original agenda would have “made more sense in the event of a Hillary Clinton Victory.”  According to Politico, Democracy Alliance officials recognized the need for a “reassessment” of strategy and tactics in order to resist Trump administration initiatives. 
Democracy Alliance co-founder George Soros spoke at the conference.  Several prominent Democratic political figures also participated, including Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and then-U.S. Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN).  Left-leaning operatives and commentators Van Jones and David Brock were featured in sessions, as was controversial left-wing activist Linda Sarsour.  Union leaders including Mary Kay Henry, John Stocks, and Karen Nussbaum were listed as conference participants, and the State’s Attorney for Cook County, Illinois, Kim Foxx (D), was toasted at an evening gathering. 
Democracy Alliance’s spring 2016 conference, entitled “Vision Strategy Victory” was held from April 9-14 at the Fairmont Hotel in Santa Monica, California.  According to Politico, at least two conference sessions “focused partly on harnessing the power of Hollywood and the entertainment industry as a tool in the culture wars.”  Conference attendees were invited to attend a tour of the Brave New Films studio and listen to actor Martin Sheen speak on the importance of advocacy in media. 
Then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) gave welcoming remarks over dinner.  Other notable participants included labor union officers Lee Saunders, John Stocks, and Brandon Davis, billionaire activist Tom Steyer, commentator and activist Van Jones, and Democratic U.S. Representative Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM). 
Democracy Alliance’s spring 2015 conference, entitled “Honoring the Past, Shaping the Future” was held from April 12-15 at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco, California.  The conference began on the same day that Hillary Clinton officially launched her 2016 presidential campaign. Clinton had reportedly declined an invitation to speak at the conference, citing a scheduling conflict. 
Billionaire activist Tom Steyer hosted three sessions at the conference, focusing especially on climate change.  Featured speakers included then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D), and Democratic political operative John Podesta.  Labor union leaders including AFSCME president Lee Saunders, National Education Association executive director John Stocks, and SEIU president Mary Kay Henry participated in panel discussions.  Other notable attendees included political operative David Brock, then-U.S. Representatives Donna Edwards (D-MD) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), then-California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom (D), and liberal mega-donor Jonathan Soros, son of left-wing billionaire giver George Soros. 
Democracy Alliance’s spring 2014 conference, entitled “A New Progressive Era?” was held from April 27-30 at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Chicago, Illinois.  The spring 2014 conference “marked the beginning” of president Gara LaMarche’s leadership of the Democracy Alliance, and with it a renewed focus on state-level and grassroots organizing, economic inequality, climate change, and issues related to electoral administration and access to voting.  According to an agenda document obtained by right-leaning outlet Power Line, partner attendees received a private tour of the Art Institute of Chicago and were invited to a party in the Ritz-Carlton’s presidential suite featuring wine from wineries owned by individual partners. 
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), senior Obama administration official Valerie Jarrett, and former Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards were all featured speakers at the conference.  Other notable participants included then-Democratic National Committee chair and U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), then-Tallahassee Mayor and future Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, senior Obama administration official David Axelrod, and billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer.  Labor union executives such as AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) president Mary Kay Henry were also session panelists. 
Individuals generally participate directly in Democracy Alliance conference functions either by appearing as a speaker or panelist at one of the sessions, or by hosting a session.  Organizations also frequently host sessions.  Individuals who have participated in past Democracy Alliance conferences are listed under the “Directors, Employees & Supporters” section below, while organizations that have been involved in past conferences are listed under the “Coalition Members” section.