Also see Committee on States (Other Group)
The Democracy Alliance is a collective of left-of-center donors that has been active in orchestrating “the activities of a permanent ‘left infrastructure’” since 2004. The organization, the brainchild of Democratic consultant Rob Stein, was established as “a taxable nonprofit” corporation and is not a 501(c) organization.
The group was not created to “dole out money itself,”  rather it was meant to operate more as an “exclusive collective” of “partners,” billionaires and millionaires (and later, organizations) committed to providing at least $200,000 per year to left-of-center organizations. Billionaire financier George Soros and late Progressive Insurance chairman Peter Lewis are the most notable Democracy Alliance donors, but the list of Democracy Alliance partners includes many “of the biggest names in liberal politics.”
In 2014, the Democracy Alliance recommended that its partners provide a total of “$39.3 million to 20 organizations.”  Currently the group recommends 32 organizations for funding as well as seven “state funds,” which are nonprofits run by Democracy Alliance staff but under the auspices of other 501(c) nonprofits.
Since the group’s formation in 2005, the Democracy Alliance has “steer[ed] more than than $600 million. . . to a portfolio of carefully selected groups, including pillars of the Clinton-aligned establishment like the think tank Center for American Progress and the media watchdog Media Matters.”
According to documents obtained by The Washington Free Beacon in 2019, “the Democracy Alliance’s partners have infused $1.83 billion into the left since its inception.”
The Democracy Alliance has faced numerous criticisms that focus on the hypocrisy of the organization. “Many of the donors and operatives” of the Democracy Alliance decry so-called “dark money” and “support measures to reduce the role of money in politics” and yet “they are nonetheless active participants.”
The “inspiration” for the Democracy Alliance, the brainchild of Democratic consultant Rob Stein, was the belief among liberal strategists and progressive donors that the Democratic Party lost power in the early 2000’s “because liberals [did] not have a well-funded network of policy shops, watchdog groups and training centers for activists equivalent to what [had] existed for years on the right.”  Between 2003 and 2005, Stein pitched to more than “700 Democratic donors”  the idea of “[emulating] the conservative funders by investing in the ‘guts’ of politics–leaders and ideas and institutions that would last beyond one election.”
On December 13, 2004, a month after the re-election of President George W. Bush, Stein convened “twenty-five of the wealthiest donors in the progressive community” in Washington for an important Democracy Alliance strategy session. This initial group of attendees “had collectively poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the effort to defeat Bush–and had nothing to show for it.” “Major donors George Soros and Peter Lewis, who each gave roughly $23 million to 527s for the 2004 elections, had latched onto the Democracy Alliance cause and were attracting other donors.”
After Stein passed away in May 2022, Democratic operative David Brock told The New York Times that the Democracy Alliance “changed the way people thought about their philanthropy,” and that “it was revolutionary on our side, and over the last 20 years it was the sole reason why sustainable Democratic infrastructure got built.” Brock also noted that his own organization, Media Matters for America, and its network of affiliated groups were on track to spend $100 million in the 2022 election cycle, and that none of that would have been possible without Stein and the Democracy Alliance.
Democracy Alliance is “a taxable nonprofit”  corporation registered in the District of Columbia. The group’s original paperwork was filed with the District on January 4, 2005. In 2006, Rob Stein said, “think of it as a corporation that does not make a profit and doesn’t aspire to make a profit. We’re an association of individuals. We have a board of directors – 13 people elected by the partners. And we file corporate papers regularly and comply with all disclosure requirements.”
The conservative Capital Research Center (which publishes this website) analyzed Stein’s description in the following manner:
In other words the DA has no interest in asking the IRS to register it as tax-exempt or to allow contributions to it to be tax-deductible. Were the DA to request tax-exemption as a 501(c)(4) lobby group or as a 527 political group, it would have to abide by a dizzying array of legal constraints. Members of the Democracy Alliance may want to impose Big Government bureaucracy and red tape on Americans, but the friends of George Soros are too rich to be bothered.
The Democracy Alliance has been labeled a “vast liberal conspiracy,” with a “DA-funded extra-party political machine.”
The Democracy Alliance operates as an “exclusive collective of donors.” Democracy Alliance “partners,” initially “were required to pay a $25,000 entry fee, $30,000 in annual dues and a minimum of $200,000 per year to organizations recommended by the Alliance.”
Because the Democracy Alliance is a taxable nonprofit and not a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, “the Alliance does not take in any money to distribute to groups.” Formerly, the only money the group took in paid for their “administrative costs.” However, the Democracy Alliance currently administrates seven “state funds,” nonprofits that pool donations into causes in-line with the Democracy Alliance’s objectives.
Under the original conception of the Democracy Alliance, the group “would not dole out money itself, but collectively the partners would meet twice a year through its auspices to decide which organizations to fund.”
Because of this structure, where “little money passes through [Democracy] Alliance bank accounts,” the group has been described as a “middle man that puts donors together with causes deemed worthy of support.” 
Documents obtained by The Washington Free Beacon in 2019 reportedly showed that Democracy Alliance partners “have infused $1.83 billion into the left since its inception.”
Groups Supported via “Pass-Through” Funding
Because the Democracy Alliance “serves as a ‘pass through’ for donations to supported groups” there is no “public documentation revealing DA’s role in the fundraising process” As a result of this structure, “few contributions made to organizations through the Alliance are public.”
Prior to 2014 there was no full list of Democracy Alliance supported organizations or their fundraising goals. In 2014, documents revealed for the first time the Democracy Alliance’s full portfolio of supported organizations. According to these documents, the Democracy Alliance hoped “to provide $39.3 million to 20 organizations,” which if successful would amount to “one out of every five dollars” in those groups’ cumulative $175 million budgets.
Reports indicated that the funds would “finance eleven ‘core functions’ carried out by the various organizations the DA supports.” The list of core functions ranged from “fighting the right” to “perfecting data and tools” to “supporting progressive candidates.” 
Some of the 2014 Democracy Alliance Network funding recommendations include: (baseline funding target/stretch funding target):
America Votes ($3.5 million / $4 million)
Center for American Progress ($3.23 million / $5.5 million)
Center for Community Change ($2.2 million / $3 million)
Media Matters for America ($2.4 million / $3 million)
Organizing for Action ($600,000 / $1 million)
ProgressNow ($1.6 million / $1.9 million)
State Voices ($1.4 million / $2 million)
Women’s Equality Center ($1.5 million / $2 million)
The Alliance’s 2014 funding snapshot also revealed 21 groups that had received DA support over the past nine years. Among the organizations previously backed by the Alliance were the “Sierra Club, the pro-abortion EMILY’s List, and the hard-left Hispanic advocacy group La Raza [now UnidosUS].”
2020 Vision State Funds
The DA operates special funds in select states to advance liberal policy and Democratic electoral opportunities. 
2015 Funding Recommendations
In 2015, the Democracy Alliance’s “proposed funding recommendations” included 34 different organizations and eight “state funds” broken down into four categories The following are some of the more notable organizations recommended.
National Partners and Cross-Issue Organizations:
National People’s Action
Focus Issue Organizations:
Tools & Innovation Organizations:
2017 “Resistance Map”
In late 2017, the Democracy Alliance distributed a chart it called the “Resistance Map” to its members, highlighting advocacy and agitation organizations it recommends for donations from Democracy Alliance members. The chart shows dozens of organizations divided into fifteen areas: 
|Center for Community Change||Mijente||People’s Action||SafetyNet Defense Fund|
|Center for Popular Democracy||Millions of Jobs||People’s Defense||United We Dream|
|Color of Change||MoveOn.org||PICO National Network||Working America|
|Faith in Public Life||NDWA||Planned Parenthood||Working Families|
|Health Care for America Now||Organizing for Action||#RESIST|
|American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)||Advancement Project||National Immigration Law Center|
|Brennan Center for Justice||Demos|
|Emergent Fund (Project of Solidaire and Women Donors Network)||Women Effect Fund|
|Corporate and Government Ethics|
|American Oversight||Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)||Swamp Watch|
|Backers of Hate||Map the Power||United to Protect Democracy|
|Americans for Financial Reform||Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP)|
|Center for American Progress (CAP)||National Employment Law Project (NELP)|
|Electoralizing the Groundswell|
|The Resistance Calendar||Resistance Summer||Sister District Project||Swing Left|
|GiveGreen (Project of League of Conservation Voters and Natural Resources Defense Council)|
|Pressuring Elected Officials|
|Daily Action||5calls.org||People Power||#ResistTrump Tuesdays|
|Daily Grab Back||Indivisible||#ReadyToResist||Stand Up America|
|TownHall Project||Wall of Us|
|Media Matters for America||Priorities USA|
|Protecting Direct Democracy|
|Ballot Initiative Strategy Center|
|Innovation & Accelerators|
|Higher Ground Labs||New Left Accelerator|
|New Media Ventures|
|March for Science (April 22, 2017)||People’s Climate March (April 28, 2017)|
|Women’s March DC|
The Alliance puts “a premium on secrecy to protect the anonymity of its donors, actively discouraging members from speaking to the media and forcing grantees to sign nondisclosure agreements.” The Democracy Alliance has been known to hire its own security and has even brought along shredders and confidential materials disposal bins to its conferences to keep their operations secret. 
Thus the full list of its roughly 110 donors is unknown, but “its members have included some of the biggest names in liberal politics.”
In April 2005, the Democracy Alliance held it first three-day conference for fifty “partners” in Phoenix, Arizona. “Only the most committed and well-to-do donors were accepted into the high-priced club.”  Among that first group of partners were “billionaires George Soros, Peter Lewis and Herb and Marion Sandler; major Clinton fundraisers Mark and Susie Buell and Bernard Schwartz; New York venture capitalist and longtime Clinton supporter Alan Patricof; Hollywood celebrities Rob Reiner and Norman Lear; wealthy high-tech Californians such as Working Assets founder Michael Kieschnick; and the AFL-CIO and the SEIU.” 
In June 2006, a group of partners from the Alliance’s progressive wing were elected to the board, this group included a number of notable names. They included then-Open Society Institute official Gara LaMarche; Anna Burger, then of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU); Drummond Pike of the Tides Foundation; and Rob McKay, Taco Bell heir and president of the McKay Family Foundation.
In 2014 “a document left on the floor of the group’s recent gathering [revealed] for the first time the names of a number of individuals involved” in the Democracy Alliance. Among the “new partners” were “top labor union bosses, financial and business leaders, and heirs to billion-dollar fortunes who have made names for themselves as high-dollar Democratic donors.”
Observers noted that organized labor comprised a large contingent of the new members in 2013 and 2014 and that “the rising influence of the labor movement within the Democracy Alliance mirrors the renewed popularity of its favored policies in the Obama White House.”
In April 2018, the Democracy Alliance hosted its by invitation only conference in Atlanta, Georgia, with the goal of “Charting a Course for Progressive Power.” The conference was aimed at strategizing ways for Democratic Party politicians and left-of-center organizations to regain control of Congress in the 2018 midterm elections. Attendees to the conference included representatives from George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, Media Matters for America, and American Bridge 21st Century.
Committee on States
See also: Committee on States (Other Group)
The Committee on States is the state-level counterpart organization to the 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.
Dark Money Hypocrisy
Democracy Alliance has often been criticized for its hypocrisy related to so-called “dark money,” a liberal term of art for anonymized spending on politics and policy. In 2014, Politico wrote, “while many of the donors and operatives gathered [at a Democracy Alliance meeting] decry the new [post-Citizens United] system — and support measures to reduce the role of money in politics and increase transparency — they are nonetheless active participants.”
The Washington Free Beacon pointed out the a number of Democracy Alliance funded organizations that hypocritically fought against 501(c)(4) organizations and the “prevalence of dark money.” The Beacon pointed out that the liberal think tank Center for American Progress’ (CAP) dark money critique directly applied to 16 of the 20 Democracy Alliance supported organizations in 2014 (including CAP itself, which has a related 501(c)(4) arm called the CAP Action Fund).”
Even some major liberal donors have called for the Democracy Alliance to end their own hypocrisy and at the very least include the Democracy Alliance in their criticisms of dark money.
Democracy Alliance leaders and beneficiaries have defended against these criticisms, “claiming the moral high ground to assert that [they] can do something that [their] morally crippled adversaries cannot.” Democracy Alliance former president Gara LaMarche has claimed that the “big difference” between the Democracy Alliance and the political spending by the Kochs and their allies is that for the right-wing this spending “is in effect a business expense — it coincides with and advances their bottom line financial interests. There’s a moral distinction here.”
However, despite these assertions that Democracy Alliance partners are not “trying to figure out how to rig the game… to make money” some Alliance donors have in fact “benefited from policies that its supported organizations advance.” 
“The individuals and foundations that comprise the Democratic fundraising base in general and the Democracy Alliance in particular benefit from tax subsidies and mandates for non-carbon energy; from government-funded research and development; from trade and tax policies that favor Hollywood and Silicon Valley; from measures that increase union membership and therefore dues to union bosses; from infrastructure spending that directs funds to construction unions; and from housing and development projects that provide well compensated livelihoods to social workers, foundation executives, and—dare one say it—community organizers.”
“Rick Segal is a new DA “partner,” according to the list recently published by the Free Beacon. Segal, who bundled between $250,000 and $500,000 for Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection effort, runs a financial services firm, Seavest Inc., that is expected to benefit from Obamacare, the Washington Examiner recently reported.” 
Funding the ‘Resistance’
The Democracy Alliance has been criticized for funding the supposedly grassroots “resistance” to the Trump administration. On October 7, 2017, the New York Times released the Democracy Alliance’s “Resistance Map,” a chart containing dozens of left-wing organizations “to which the club is recommending its members donate to oppose the Trump administration.” Groups considered for donations from Democracy Alliance members include politically active nonprofits such as Indivisible, Swing Left, and America Votes, as well as PACss and advocacy organizations like Priorities USA and Organizing for Action.
In addition to the network of ultra-wealthy “partners,” Democracy Alliance’s initial founders were Rob Stein, Andrew Rappaport, Simon Rosenberg, spokesman Mike McCurry and, Chairman of the Board Steven Gluckstern.
Pamela Shifman is the president of the Democracy Alliance, taking over in September 2021. She formerly served for twelve years at the NoVo Foundation, ultimately as executive director. Before that, she worked at UNICEF, served as co-executive director of Equality Now, was a program coordinator at the Open Society Foundations, and was a legal advisor to the African National Congress Parliamentary Women’s Caucus in South Africa. Shifman also founded the Feminist Imaginations initiative at Panorama Global in 2020.
Gara LaMarche is the former president of the Democracy Alliance. He was selected to lead the organization in October 2013. LaMarche previously worked for the Open Society Foundations associated with George Soros. LaMarche also spent a number of years at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Human Rights Watch. Most recently, he served four years as head of Atlantic Philanthropies, where he among other things directed more than $20 million to support Obamacare in 2009 and 2010. LaMarche stepped down as president in the summer of 2021.
While the Democracy Alliance does not report its executive salaries, reports have indicated that the Democracy Alliance managing director position is a “plum $400,000-a-year” post.
Board of Directors
Democracy Alliance’s current board of directors is comprised of a number of key left-wing activists, funders, and influencers.
Rob Stein is founder emeritus.
Weston Milliken is board secretary.
Other Democracy Alliance board members include:
David desJardins, a philanthropist and entrepreneur;
Shekar Narasimhan, a financial advisor and founder of the superPAC AAPI Victory Fund;
Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) labor union;
Joe Zimlich, a progressive infrastructure activist, founding member of the Democracy Alliance, and family financial advisor.
Related Democracy Alliance Programs
2020 State Funds
The DA established the 2020 State Funds as “an aligned set of collaborative funds” that will make significant investments in “twelve strategic states.”
A 2015 report on these state funds wrote, “each of the funds has a 501(c)(4) and a 501(c)(3) component. Both tax structures permit the groups to keep donors confidential. However, their donors do not actually give money to the funds themselves; they give to “fiscal sponsor” organizations that then pass the money along to those funds. That can make it difficult to trace the sources of money behind the Alliance’s state efforts, which, despite the nonprofit tax statuses of the groups involved, appear to conduct significant political and electoral advocacy.”
Each fund has its own strategy and Advisory Board that provides resources, expertise, and governance. DA staff alongside out the funds’ work in coordination with the group’s Advisory Board and some DA Directors carry.
This is a departure from the Democracy Alliance’s previous mode of operation, instead of operating as a pass-through organization that merely recommends funding outside organizations, the Democracy Alliance is now recommending that partners fund nonprofits organizations run by Democracy Alliance staff under the supervision of an partner-comprised advisory board and in coordination with the Democracy Alliance’s Board of Directors.
Through these “dark money advocacy groups and tax-exempt sister organizations, the progressive Democracy Alliance and its high-dollar Democratic donors are hoping to turn back recent Republican gains in statehouses and governorships.”
In Fall 2015, the list of 2020 State Funds recommended for funding by Democracy Alliance partners was:
- Democracy Fund
- Inclusive Economy Fund
- New American Majority Fund
- State Engagement Initatives
- Black Civic Engagement Fund
- Latino Engagement Fund
- Youth Engagement Fund
Climate Fund and Climate Action Fund
According to a 2016 investment portfolio document published by the Democracy Alliance, the group maintains two environmentalist funders that are housed in two “sister” nonprofits managed by the for-profit philanthropy consulting firm Arabella Advisors in Washington, D.C. According to the document, the purpose of the two funds is to “invest in organizations building a powerful base with New American Majority communities and leading bold campaigns that address the climate crisis in critical states.”