Person

Rob McKay

Rob McKay is former chairman of the left-of-center donor convening Democracy Alliance. [1] A venture capitalist, he is the son of former Taco Bell CEO Rob McKay, Sr. [2] [3] His foundation, the McKay Family Foundation, lost its non-profit status in 2018 for failure to file nonprofit tax returns, a sign the Foundation may be defunct. [4]

McKay has used his wealth to support left-of-center causes, especially in California, since he and his family created their foundation in 1992. He has also donated a significant amount of his time to left-of-center advocacy, such as a voting effort in San Francisco and acting as chairman of the political group Democracy Alliance.

Early Life

McKay was raised in a Republican family in historically conservative-leaning Orange County, California. He became motivated to join left-of-center movements as an undergraduate student at Occidental College, where he protested in favor of American divestment from South Africa to change that nation’s racist apartheid policies. His work as a banker put him in touch with many homeless people, which led him to help found the McKay Foundation around the same time as the 1992 Rodney King riots devastated Los Angeles. The Foundation assisted in the city’s rebuilding. [5]

McKay has been managing partner of McKay Investment Group since 1992. [6]

McKay Foundation

McKay, his siblings, and his parents founded the McKay Foundation in 1992. Funded in part by McKay’s wealthy parents, it immediately began distributing funds to assist Los Angeles with recovery from the Rodney King riots. It has engaged in significant political and cultural change grant-giving to left-of-center organizations. [7]

The group’s website is longer live. [8] Its non-profit status was revoked in 2018 for not filing 990 annual report forms for three years in a row, a sign the foundation may be defunct. [9]

One of the Foundation’s most notable endeavors was its 1998 push for a higher minimum wage in San Francisco, California through its founding of the Living Wage Coalition. The minimum wage increase was signed in 2000. [10] The Foundation has pushed other minimum wage increases in California cities. [11]

In 2014, McKay was one of three paid staff listed on its 990 form. Its nearly $397,000 in revenue came exclusively from Mckay. [12] Its almost $603,000 in 2013 revenue came from McKay and his mother, Elaine. She donated almost $437,000. The Foundation’s donations went to left-leaning groups across the country, including the influential Tides Foundation and the radical environmental group Rainforest Action Network. [13]

McKay’s father donated millions of dollars to the Foundation before his passing. [14]

Democracy Alliance

McKay was a founding funder of Democracy Alliance and its chairman from 2006 to 2014. Democracy Alliance is a shadow network of wealthy liberal activists like McKay, 2020 presidential candidate and environmentalist billionaire Tom Steyer, and liberal financial billionaire George Soros who donate their money to left-leaning foundations, activist groups, and other entities. [15] [16] The group had a reported 100 members in 2014,[17] and its members provided $381.7 million to Alliance-approved groups between 2005 and 2013. [18] In the eyes of left-leaning activists, the group acts as a counter to the right-of-center and libertarian advocacy network supported by industrialist Charles Koch and his late brother David. [19]

After the 2012 elections, the group was accused of being too closely tied to the Obama White House and the overall Democratic Party, as well as accused of looking at short-term investments instead of taking a longer view of the impact its money could have. [20] The group’s donors were highly sought after by activist organizations which were organized after President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election victory. A 2017 summit brought 420 people, the largest in Democracy Alliance’s history. [21]

McKay led Democracy Alliance to major influence within Democratic circles, including providing funding to influential and powerful groups like the think tank Center for American Progress, the former Obama election group Organizing for America, the left-of-center media pressure group Media Matters for America, and the Democratic-aligned voter data group Catalist. [22] [23] He and other Democracy Alliance donors gave serious consideration to funding the Black Lives Matter movement. [24]

Democracy Alliance has been accused of not being transparent. As McKay departed the group in 2014, he said the group was considering greater transparency with its donations. [25]

Other Political Involvement

McKay and his wife Anna have donated over $300,000 to the Democratic Party between 1990 and 2012, and he organized at least one prominent fundraiser for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. [26] He also introduced President Obama to a number of Democracy Alliance donors and urged him to reject the Keystone XL Pipeline. [27] [28]

McKay has been in leadership roles with a number of left-of-center causes and organizations. He was secretary-treasurer of the Fund for America and one of its major funders. Like its predecessors America Coming Together and Democracy Alliance, the Fund was created to direct high-dollar donations to left-of-center political advocacy and activist groups. [29]

McKay was a founding donor of America Coming Together, an unsuccessful effort by Democratic Party donors to unseat President George W. Bush in the 2004 elections. [30] McKay was also a major donor to American Bridge 21st Century, the Democratic Party-aligned opposition research firm. [31] [32]

He has sat on the board of directors for the left-of-center magazine Mother Jones and was a director for the media group Salon. [33] Salon received a total of over $18 million in venture capital funding from McKay Investment Group in 1999 and 2001. [34]

McKay also served on the board of directors for the feminist group Ms. Foundation for Women. While its mission is feminist-focused, Ms. Foundation aligns itself with the broad left-of-center social change movement related to race and gender, among other issues (most notably abortion). [35] [36]

McKay chaired the California Help America Vote Act committee which was created by Congress in each state. [37] [38] He is one of a number of left-leaning activists and advocates on another official state voting regulation and policy board. [39]

He was on the board of directors for ProgressNow Action, a Colorado-based group which assisted the Democratic National Committee with the party’s 2008 national convention. [40] He was also a founding donor of the Democratic Super PACs Priorities USA and Priorities USA Action, and was on the Priorities USA board of directors. [41] [42]

He also funded America Votes, which coordinates left-of-center political activity. [43] In 2014, he and Soros were part of a group of wealthy Democratic donors who strategized for significant state-level political donations and engagement. [44]

McKay donated $1.5 million in 2002 in support of the unsuccessful Proposition 52 effort to enact same-day voter registration in California. [45] He was credited as being the main person behind Prop 52. [46]

Anna McKay

Rob McKay’s ex-wife, Anna McKay, has been heavily engaged in liberal politics. She protested the Keystone Pipeline in 2012. [47] An Australian native, she traveled the world before marrying McKay and engaging in U.S. politics. She is a longtime board member for the environmentalist group Rainforest Action Network and was elected chair in 2016. [48]

References

  1. Insight Center for Community Economic Development, Rob McKay. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://insightcced.org/past-archives/mission-vision-values/national-advisory-board/rob-mckay/ ^
  2. [1] Ronald D. White, “Robert McKay, who designed the first Taco Bell and turned it into a fast-food empire, dies at 86,” October 06, 2017. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.latimes.com/business/la-me-robert-mckay-20171006-story.html ^
  3. Insight Center for Community Economic Development, Rob McKay. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://insightcced.org/past-archives/mission-vision-values/national-advisory-board/rob-mckay/ ^
  4. Cause IQ, McKay Family Foundation. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.causeiq.com/organizations/mckay-family-foundation,363946926/ ^
  5. Capital Research Center, The McKay Foundation, June 15, 2015. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://capitalresearch.org/article/the-mckay-foundation/ ^
  6. LinkedIn, Rob McKay profile. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.linkedin.com/in/rob-mckay-475a0323 ^
  7. Stanford Graduate School of Business, The McKay Foundation. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/faculty-research/case-studies/mckay-foundation ^
  8. Verizon, McKay Foundation website dead link. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://searchassist.verizon.com/main?ParticipantID=euekiz39ksg8nwp7iqj2fp5wzfwi5q76&FailedURI=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.mckayfund.org%2F&FailureMode=1&Implementation=&AddInType=4&Version=pywr1.0&ClientLocation=us ^
  9. Cause IQ, McKay Family Foundation. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.causeiq.com/organizations/mckay-family-foundation,363946926/ ^
  10. Stanford Graduate School of Business, The McKay Foundation. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/faculty-research/case-studies/mckay-foundation ^
  11. Don Hazen, “Same-day democracy: New modes of voter registration may bring people to the polls,” October 03, 2002. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.newsreview.com/reno/same-day-democracy/content?oid=18873 ^
  12. Cause IQ, The McKay Foundation 2014 990-PF. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.causeiq.com/organizations/view_990/363946926/ed28b90c2e53260833c37cfd62e3e968 ^
  13. Cause IQ, The McKay Foundation 2013 990-PF. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.causeiq.com/organizations/view_990/363946926/41eca33697ea9d4cb8677de8e38a239d ^
  14. CJ Ciaramella, “Obama’s trust fund baby: Son of Orange County Republicans and Taco Bell heir spends family fortune electing Dems and enriching liberal foundations,” March 29, 2012. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://freebeacon.com/issues/obamas-trust-fund-baby/ ^
  15. Kenneth P. Vogel, “The left’s secret club,” April 24, 2014. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.politico.com/story/2014/04/democrats-democracy-alliance-liberal-donors-105972 ^
  16. Matea Gold, “New Koch offensive puts spotlight on Democracy Alliance,” September 08, 2014. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2014/09/08/new-koch-offensive-puts-spotlight-on-democracy-alliance/ ^
  17. Matea Gold, “New Koch offensive puts spotlight on Democracy Alliance,” September 08, 2014. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2014/09/08/new-koch-offensive-puts-spotlight-on-democracy-alliance/ ^
  18. Andrew Prokop, “The Democracy Alliance: How a secretive group of donors helps set the progressive agenda,” November 24, 2014. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.vox.com/2014/11/24/7274819/democracy-alliance ^
  19. Andy Kroll, “Inside the Democracy Alliance, the liberal answer to the Koch donor network,” May 06, 2013. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/05/democracy-alliance-liberal-donors-koch-brothers/ ^
  20. Lachlan Markay, “Democracy Alliance in turmoil as member dissatisfaction mounts: DA network and scale of dark money financing far larger than previously reported,” July 09, 2014. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://freebeacon.com/politics/democracy-alliance-in-turmoil-as-member-dissatisfaction-mounts/ ^
  21. Fredreka Schouten, “George Soros-aligned group weighs funding anti-Trump activists,” March 20, 2017. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/03/20/george-soros-democracy-alliance-anti-trump-activists-meeting/99417808/ ^
  22. Andrew Prokop, “The Democracy Alliance: How a secretive group of donors helps set the progressive agenda,” November 24, 2014. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.vox.com/2014/11/24/7274819/democracy-alliance ^
  23. Andy Kroll, “Inside the Democracy Alliance, the liberal answer to the Koch donor network,” May 06, 2013. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/05/democracy-alliance-liberal-donors-koch-brothers/ ^
  24. Jonathan Swan and Kyle Plantz, “Liberal donor group looks to fund more minority groups,” November 18, 2015. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/260650-liberal-donor-group-looks-to-fund-more-minority-groups ^
  25. Matea Gold, “Liberal donors eye new long-term investments in states and new voters to boost Democrats,” May 04, 2014. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/liberal-donors-eye-new-long-term-investments-in-states-and-new-voters-to-boost-democrats/2014/05/04/0433e53a-d20f-11e3-9e25-188ebe1fa93b_story.html ^
  26. CJ Ciaramella, “Obama’s trust fund baby: Son of Orange County Republicans and Taco Bell heir spends family fortune electing Dems and enriching liberal foundations,” March 29, 2012. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://freebeacon.com/issues/obamas-trust-fund-baby/ ^
  27. Dan Berman and Reid J. Epstein, “Obama’s options on Keystone,” January 31, 2014. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.politico.com/story/2014/01/barack-obama-keystone-options-102956 ^
  28. Kenneth P. Vogel, “Obama courts hesitant mega donors,” March 02, 2012. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.politico.com/story/2012/03/obama-courts-hesitant-mega-donors-073534 ^
  29. NPR, Funding an Attack Ad: How the Money Flowed. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.npr.org/news/images/2008/mar/05/attackad.html ^
  30. Complaint against America Coming Together, the Leadership Forum, filed with the Federal Election Commission, January 15, 2004. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://eqs.fec.gov/eqsdocsMUR/0000614E.pdf ^
  31. Michael Luo, “Effort for liberal balance to G.O.P. groups begins,” November 23, 2010. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/23/us/politics/23money.html?_r=1 ^
  32. FactCheck.org, American Bridge 21st Century, August 16, 2012. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.factcheck.org/2012/08/american-bridge-21st-century/ ^
  33. Salon Media Group Inc 2007 DEF 14A. Accessed February 22, 2020.https://sec.report/Document/0001266454-07-000401/ ^
  34. CB Insights, McKay Investment Group. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.cbinsights.com/investor/mckay-investment-group ^
  35. For Women, Current Grantees. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://forwomen.org/grants-2/current-grantees-fy15/ ^
  36. Insight Center for Community Economic Development, Rob McKay. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://insightcced.org/past-archives/mission-vision-values/national-advisory-board/rob-mckay/ ^
  37. The Center for Voting and Democracy, California HAVA Committee Testimony, May 16, 2003. Accessed February 22, 2020. http://archive.fairvote.org/administration/cahava.htm ^
  38. U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Help America Vote Act. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.eac.gov/about/help-america-vote-act ^
  39. California Secretary of State, Committee Members – California’s Plan for Voting in the 21st Century. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/help-america-vote-act/hava-state-plan-2003/committee-member-bios/ ^
  40. NPR, Profile: Progress Now Action, August 04, 2008. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=92997421 ^
  41. Robert Maguire, “Obama’s shadow money allies file first report,” January 08, 2013. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2013/01/obamas-shadow-money-allie/ ^
  42. Center for Responsive Politics, America Votes 2006. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/527s/527cmtedetail_donors.php?ein=204359961&cycle=2010 ^
  43. Brian Montopoli, “Democrats launch outside spending group; conservatives charge hypocrisy,” April 29, 2011. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/democrats-launch-outside-spending-group-conservatives-charge-hypocrisy/ ^
  44. Matea Gold, “Liberal donors eye new long-term investments in states and new voters to boost Democrats,” May 04, 2014. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/liberal-donors-eye-new-long-term-investments-in-states-and-new-voters-to-boost-democrats/2014/05/04/0433e53a-d20f-11e3-9e25-188ebe1fa93b_story.html ^
  45. Robert Salladay, “Profile / Political philanthropist Rob McKay / Taco Bell heir takes initiative / S.F. man would spice voter registration rules,” July 14, 2002. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/PROFILE-Political-Philanthropist-Rob-McKay-2822862.php ^
  46. Don Hazen, “Same-day democracy: New modes of voter registration may bring people to the polls,” October 03, 2002. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.newsreview.com/reno/same-day-democracy/content?oid=18873 ^
  47. Carla Marinucci and Joe Garofoli, “Obama losing financial backing of big S.F. donor,” February 16, 2012. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/Obama-losing-financial-backing-of-big-S-F-donor-3334655.php ^
  48. Rainforest Action Network, Board of Directors. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.ran.org/board_of_directors/ ^
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