Big Labor Joins Ranks With Soros' Pro-Democratic Funding Group

Monday, 12 May 2014 05:47 PM

By Matthew Vadum

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A secretive pro-Democratic funding powerhouse is welcoming more representatives of the labor movement as members amid concerns that Republicans are on track to take over the U.S. Senate in November.

The development adds to organized labor's already considerable clout within the elite fundraising empire known as the Democracy Alliance, which claims to have funneled about $500 million into liberal and pro-Democratic organizations.

The invitation-only member-based Alliance, co-founded by radical billionaire philanthropist George Soros, describes itself on its website as a "first-of-its-kind partnership of change-makers who are committed to a stronger democracy and a more progressive America."

The Democracy Alliance keeps its membership confidential, but the names of new members came to light recently when Soros' son Jonathan left behind a partial membership list of the group during a meeting in a Chicago hotel. It included a number of Big Labor officials.

The goal of the Democracy Alliance is to foster a permanent political infrastructure of nonprofits, think tanks, media outlets, leadership schools, and activist groups.

The 100-plus millionaire and billionaire members of the Democracy Alliance range from high-tech entrepreneurs and bankers to Hollywood VIPs and heirs and heiresses.

It was formed in the wake of the 2004 elections, which brought stinging defeats to the left in battles for the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives. Markos Moulitsas, founder of the leftist Daily Kos blog, has called the Alliance "a vast left-wing conspiracy" to rival the conservative movement.

The elder Soros was deeply involved in creating the group. His donations to left-wing organizations dwarf financial contributions made to the right by the Koch brothers.

The Democracy Alliance has directed its members' funds to fairly well-established pressure groups, watchdogs, think tanks, get-out-the-vote operations, and political action committees. Members meet twice annually to select which causes to support with their wallets. The money is not funneled through Democracy Alliance bank accounts; members direct it to the approved recipient organizations.

New members from the labor movement include Noel Beasley, who is president of Workers United, a textile union affiliated with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and Keith Mestrich, president of the union-owned Amalgamated Bank, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

Other new members from organized labor include Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. CWA Senior Director George Kohl and Michelle Ringuette, who is Weingarten's assistant, also obtained memberships.

Other individuals previously reported as members of the Alliance who have ties to organized labor include former SEIU executive Anna Burger and National Education Association Executive Director John C. Stocks.

SEIU President Mary Kay Henry is vice chair of the Alliance's board of directors. SEIU and the AFL-CIO are institutional members of the Alliance.

The rising influence of the labor movement within the Democracy Alliance mirrors the renewed popularity of its favored policies in the Obama White House. President Barack Obama's policies are closely aligned with those advocated by the labor movement, whose activists helped to ensure Obama's election in 2008 and re-election in 2012.

The president has embarked on a public relations offensive this year in an effort to pressure Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. He has also taken executive action aimed at ensuring that federal contractors are paid the $10.10 rate.

Labor unions benefit from such increases because many collective bargaining agreements require pay raises for those covered by the pact when the minimum wage rises.

Meanwhile, other new Democracy Alliance members from outside the labor movement were identified in the recently discovered document.

Business people joining the group recently include Adam Abram (insurance and real estate), Rick Segal (financial services), and Paul Boskind (behavioral health).

Amy Goldman (real estate) and Henry van Ameringen (manufacturing) are now Alliance members. New School Professor Philip Munger, son of Berkshire Hathaway vice chairman Charles Munger, also became a member.

The normally secretive officials of the Democracy Alliance recently told the Washington Post that 11 new donors were welcomed into the group in the past few months. San Francisco hedge-fund manager Tom Steyer and Houston trial lawyers Steve and Amber Mostyn became members in recent years, they added.

The Democracy Alliance is registered as a taxable nonprofit in the District of Columbia. The organization has been promising to become more transparent in its operations for years but has not done so.

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