Democracy Alliance Playbook Shows Obsession With Kochs

Monday, 23 Jun 2014 12:23 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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The liberal Democracy Alliance's 21 core groups plan to spend hundreds of millions of dollars this election cycle to boost liberal candidates — with growing amounts of that cash  spent to vilify industrialists' Charles and David Koch and their political spending.

"Conservatives, particularly the Koch brothers, are playing for keeps with an even more pronounced financial advantage than in recent election cycles," says the introduction to a briefing book provided to donors before the alliance's spring meeting at the Chicago Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Politico reports.

The briefing book has not been disputed by the alliance, but the organization isn't commenting on its contents.

The book shows a growing obsession with the Koch brothers, but also reveals the alliance's political machine, which includes mobilizing Democratic voting blocs, creating extensive voter databases and airing expensive advertising to promote liberal candidates. It also calls for reducing how big money influences politics.

The booklet contains a flow chart that includes program goals and assessments for the 21 alliance core groups, which include the Center for American Progress, Media Matters, America Votes, and the Obama-linked Organizing for Action.

The book also recommends that its wealthy members, such as financier George Soros, donate to 172 other groups to further boost Democratic coffers.

As political parties and candidates must abide by laws on contribution limits and disclosure regulations, outside groups like the alliance may accept unlimited, and even anonymous, contributions.

The alliance has hoped to keep some of its dealings secret. It distributed a memo to its board members before the Chicago meeting that included suggested answers to questions about its rules and photographs of reporters it believed would try to enter the event. 

The alliance's spending hasn't come close to that of the Koch brothers', however. The alliance has steered more than $500 million to liberal groups since 2005, but the Kochs spent more than $400 million in 2012, the last presidential election year, alone.

Another difference is that Koch donors are expected to provide almost all of the associated conservative groups' finances of more than $290 million earmarked for 2014, while the alliance collects from "partners," many of whom are outside the group's ranks.

In addition, alliance partners are required to donate at least $200,000 a year to recommended groups, and can decide where their money goes. But donations to Koch groups are collected and distributed as officials see fit.

As a result, the Center for American Progress and the Center for American Progress Action Fund are expected to receive up to $5.5 million from the association, and says it works with the Obama administration and other groups on issues such as gun control.

The alliance also said other groups helped expand gay marriage, boosted Obamacare, and helped get liberal judges appointed, serving as "strong evidence that we are more than capable of turning back the latest threats from the right," reads the briefing. "But to prevail in 2014 and beyond, progressives must invest significant resources in the Rising American Electorate (RAE) of unmarried women, young people, and people of color."

The booklet also showed how the alliance and the Koch groups parallel each other. For example, Soros and other backers gave seed money for the Catalist company, which led in privatizing political capital, and last year committed another $2.25 million. Meanwhile, Koch's nonprofits have spent $24 million for Themis, a vital voter database.

In addition, the alliance expects to spend $3.9 million in Hispanic voter outreach, $1.7 million to register younger, "millennial voters," and $2 million to push turnout among "low-propensity women voters."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid last week on the floor complained the Koch-backed groups are secretive "like a cult," but the Nevada Democrat's colleagues, including Vice President Joe Biden, have attended alliance meetings, which are also generally not open to the public.

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