The Democracy Alliance is an investment partnership of business and philanthropic leaders committed to achieving a hopeful and healthy democracy that improves our lives and those of the next generation. Membership in the Alliance is by invitation. Alliance Partners represent a range of progressive perspectives, and have diverse backgrounds in business, philanthropy, and academia.
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Secretive Miami meeting
A secretive network of left-wing billionaires and their political operatives descended on the luxurious Biltmore Hotel in Miami over the mid weekend of May 13, 14, 2012, to discuss strategy for the coming elections.
The location of the conference had been kept a closely guarded secret by the members and guests of Democracy Alliance (DA), a collection of ultra-wealthy liberal donors formed in 2005, and was reported in a Washington Free Beacon exclusive.
Attendees roamed the grounds at the 150-acre tropical resort on their way to cocktail gatherings, salsa dance lessons, and workshops such as “Occupy the Voting Booth” and “The 1 Percent Rule.” Local police guarded entrances as members attended a “partners only” meeting in the hotel’s Country Club Courtyard.
“Name badges must be worn at all times,” attendees were informed.
A Free Beacon reporter who tried to attend the conference after-party was intercepted by Alexandra Visher, the DA’s vice president of partner engagement and communications.
“These are individuals of considerable means” who often support policies that run contrary to their own interests, Visher said, as she escorted the reporter out of the party.
The conference was attended by the biggest names in liberal politics, including billionaire financier George Soros, who has already pledged at least $2 million to pro-Democratic groups for the 2012 election cycle.
Ari Rabin-Havt, executive vice president of Media Matters for America , was overheard speaking to colleagues about his plans for a new MMFA fellowship, and bragging about a phone call he had received from Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager for the Obama re-election team.
The Center for American Progress, a think tank with deep ties to the Obama administration, was also heavily represented. CAP president Neera Tanden joined former Rep. Tom Perriello (D., Va.), president and CEO of the CAP Action Fund, and Van Jones, a senior fellow and former White House green jobs adviser, among others.
Perriello was overheard in between sessions talking to other attendees about President Barack Obama’s electoral prospects in Virginia.
“There’s going to be an insane amount of money on the other side, and we’ve seen what that can do in a Congressional [election]” he said, noting that a “gender gap” had opened up in Northern Virginia that may be “very helpful.”
Controversial former Rep. Alan Grayson (D., Fla.), who nicknamed his most recent opponent and current congressman Daniel Webster (R., Fla.) “Taliban Dan,” cracked jokes in the elevators.
Phillips, who serves as secretary for the DA, oversees a number of political action committees such as PAC+, which focuses on Latino voters, and PowerPAC.org, a “statewide social justice organization working with community organizations and activists to build political power in California.”
Sussman, a hedge-fund manager who invests in Chinese companies, is married to Rep. Chellie Pingree (D., Maine) and currently serves on the board of CAP.
Craighead is the DA’s president and managing director. She formerly worked as a “strategic consultant” to liberal groups like MMFA.
The SEIU’s Larry McNeil, identified as a long-time “Saul Alinski organizer” [sic] in one online biography, was there with his wife Anne Bartley, currently a trustee of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and a top contributor to the EMILY’s List Women Vote! PAC.
Sandor Straus, a prominent investment manager who has given at least $115,000 to Democratic candidates and liberal organizations this cycle, and Al Yates, the former Colorado State University president who played a pivotal role in the DA’s formation, were also in attendance.
DA founder emeritus Rob Stein has described the group as a “political investment bank” whose mission is to “balance the market place of ideas and political activism with center-left ideas, messages, and organizing strategy.” Members are required to pay annual dues starting at $30,000 and contribute at least $170,000 per year to recommended groups.
The timing of the conference was significant as the organization is said to be experiencing dissent within its ranks.
“There is heavy debate over whether to fund organizations closely aligned with the Democratic Party or those that operating outside it and pressuring it to move in a more progressive direction,” the Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim had recently reported.
The DA also caused a stir when it decided to stop funding a number of groups that operated outside the explicitly partisan realm of the Democratic Party, such as Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and Third Way, a center-left think thank.
Other liberal grassroots organizations that have not been ostracized by the DA include America Votes, the Campaign for Community Change, and Act Blue, a PAC that bills itself as “the online clearinghouse for Democratic Action.”
It is not clear whether any senior administration officials or campaign representatives spoke at the conference.
Visher, the DA spokesperson, told the Free Beacon that the group’s members should be allowed to meet and advance their agenda in private.
She cited the New York Times’ Nicholas Confessore as a reporter whose work was appropriately respectful of the network’s privacy.
Confessore reported last week that the DA was planning to “convene near Miami,” but did not provide additional details such as the exact location of the event or notable invitees.
When contacted by the Free Beacon regarding his reasoning for not reporting such information, Confessore referred us to Eileen Murphy, the Times’ vice president of corporate communications.
“You are getting into a level of detail regarding our reporting and editing process here that we do not typically discuss publicly,” Murphy said in an email. “Sorry I won’t be able to be of much assistance.”