NOTE: This piece was originally published on Townhall in 2009. I’ve updated it prior to republishing here.
LEGEND: The players are highlighted in bold RED, the funds, organizations, and groups are highlighted in bold BLUE, and the money that changes hands is in bold GREEN.
If you missed the first Connect the Dots segment on George Soros, click HERE to read it.
The Shadow Party
No one knows for certain who first coined the term “Shadow Party,” but Business Week Journalist Lorraine Woellert might have been first when she called the Democrat network a “shadow party” in a September 2003 article.
Since then, the term “Shadow Party” has been used to refer to one of the networks of non-profit activist groups organized by George Soros and others to mobilize resources; money, get-out-the-vote drives, campaign advertising, and policy initiatives to advance Democratic Party agendas, elect Democratic candidates, and guide the Democratic Party ever-further towards the left.
In the book, The Shadow Party: How George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Sixties Radicals Seized Control of the Democratic Party, by David Horowitz and Richard Poe, they question how a small group of Boomer radicals were able to take over the Democratic Party.
Horowitz explained that George Soros, a billionaire, had engineered campaign finance reform, by pouring tens of millions of dollars into the campaign finance reform movement (and getting others to do it too). The Democrats – and George Soros in particular – had been pushing for McCain-Feingold for years touting the idea that it would limit the ability of the political parties to raise money. But surprise! As soon as the campaign finance laws were in place, Soros’ groups took advantage of a loophole for private organizations called 527s*, that could collect money. And they took advantage of that loophole big time.
*A 527 group is a tax-exempt group created primarily to influence the selection, nomination, election, appointment or defeat of candidates to federal, state or local public office.
It is interesting to note that of the top twenty 527 organizations; at least fourteen are left-leaning, accounting for more than $300 million dollars – and they don’t have to publicly report their contributors.
Five unions are in the top twenty (using compulsory member dues) and two of those accounted for $66 million by themselves. And that doesn’t count union-paid campaign staffs that are not counted as contributions.
One of the largest union contributors is the SEIU (Service Employees International Union). The membership was once told that every member would devote five working days a year to political action. That means that 2.1 million members times five days = 10.5 million man-days to work on electing Democrats – that is scary.
Soros managed to put together a coalition, which we now call the Shadow Party, which accounted for about $300 million of the Democratic campaign funds. Actually, it was much more than that. He even created a group that orchestrated media ads, so that meant that his groups, since they were in place before the democratic nominee was even chosen, were able to shape the message of the John Kerry campaign and, in effect, control the campaign that way.
The Shadow Party in this sense was conceived and organized principally by Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Harold Ickes. Its efforts were amplified by, and coordinated with, key unions and activist groups.
There was no official birth announcement when the Shadow Party was launched at El Mirador, George Soros’ Southampton estate on Long Island. But it was the most significant development in American politics in decades. At this meeting of political strategists, wealthy donors, left-wing labor leaders and progressive activists, Soros laid out his plan to defeat George Bush in the 2004 presidential election. He personally contributed over $27 million dollars to pro-Democrat 527s during the 2004 election cycle, most of it directed at ousting Bush from office. One of Soros’ cohorts, Chairman Peter Lewis of Progressive Insurance was the second leading donor coughing up $14.1 million, followed by Jane Fonda ($13 million), and Hollywood producer Stephen Bing ($9.8 million). Other major funders of the Shadow Party include the Tides Foundation and the Open Society Institute.”
Soros put it together. He bought together elements of the philanthropy world, the political world, the business world, the union world and the world of radical street politics and created a juggernaut we now call the Shadow Party.
By early 2004, the core of Soros’ Shadow Party was in place. It consisted of seven ostensibly “independent” nonprofit groups, all but one (MoveOn.org) were headquartered in Washington, DC. The seven principal groups are highlighted here:
1. America Coming Together (ACT): A newly formed but previously poorly funded voter-registration group called America Coming Together (ACT) was selected to be a core voter-oriented operation and got over $23 million dollars in pledges from the El Mirador attendees. In 2004, ACT ran what was called “the largest voter-contact program in history,” with more than 1,400 canvassers contacting voters door-to-door and phone. All in a determined effort to push leftist programs and defeat George Bush.
2. America Votes (AV): This national coalition coordinated the efforts of many get-out-the-vote organizations and their thousands of contributing activists. Soros‘s support for America Votes would continue well past 2004. Indeed he would donate $2.15 million to this coalition in the 2006 election cycle, another $1.25 million in the 2008 cycle and yet another $1.25 million in 2010.
3. Center for American Progress (CAP): This entity was created to serve as a think tank promoting leftist ideas and policy initiatives. Soros was enthusiastic about the Center’s potential and pledged in July 2003 to donate up to $3 million to help get the project off the ground. From the outset, CAP’s leadership featured a host of former high-ranking officials from the Clinton administration. Hillary Clinton predicted that CAP would provide “some new intellectual capital” with which to “build the 21st-century policies that reflect the Democrat Party’s values.” George Soros and Morton Halperin together selected former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta to serve as president of CAP. Podesta said his goal was to develop CAP as a “think tank on steroids,” featuring “a message-oriented war room” that “will send out a daily briefing to refute the positions and arguments of the right.”
4. Media Fund (MF): was founded by Harold Ickes in 2003. He’s a democratic lobbyist and strategist who is widely recognized as the chief organizer of the Shadow Party. The Media Fund was the vehicle responsible for conceptualizing, producing, and placing political ads in radio, television, print, and Internet forums. Ickes helped those who were seeking ways to circumvent McCain-Feingold’s soft-money ban by ultimately finding a loophole (527s). They could fund issue-oriented ads, voter-education initiatives, get-out-the-vote campaigns, and other “party-building” activities – i.e., anything that did not explicitly urge people to vote for or against any specific candidate, by name was permissible.
MF took in more than $59.4 million in donations during the 2004 election cycle, much of it from leftwing government labor unions such as the AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) and the SEIU (Service Employees International Union). MF also received many millions of dollars that had first been laundered through Joint Victory Campaign 2004 (JVC), which was heavily funded by George Soros, Stephen Bing, and Peter Lewis. In 2004 alone, JVC, which shared a Washington, DC office with the Media Fund, channeled more than $53 million into the Shadow Party network, $38.4 million to MF and $19.4 million to America Coming Together.
During the 2004 presidential campaign season, MF focused its advertising efforts on the 17 recognized battleground states. According to the Federal Election Commission, MF spent approximately $53,389,856 on 37 television advertisements, 24 radio advertisements, nine newspaper advertisements and 20 mailers that referenced either Bush or Kerry in the context of the 2004 Presidential election.
In 2007, the Federal Election Commission levied a fine of $580,000 against the Media Fund, finding that many of its expenditures had been illegal. Since then, the Media Fund has been mostly inactive.
5. MoveOn.org: This California-based entity was the only one of the Shadow Party’s core groups that was not a new startup operation. Launched in September 1998, MoveOn was created by Joan Blades and Wes Boyd, the married cofounders of Berkeley Systems. It is a Web-based political network that organizes some 3.2 million online activists around specific issues, raises money for Democratic candidates, generates political ads, and is very effective at recruiting young people to support Democrats. Soros pledged to give MoveOn $5 million.
MoveOn endorsed Democratic candidate Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential race. In a massive effort aimed at pushing Obama to victory, MoveOn dispatched approximately a million volunteers to work on his campaign nationwide — 600,000 in battleground states and 400,000 in non-battleground states. In addition, MoveOn registered more than 500,000 young Obama supporters to vote in battleground states, while adding a million young people to its member rolls during the summer of 2008 and mobilizing them. All told, MoveOn and its members contributed more than $58 million directly to the Obama campaign.
6. The Thunder Road Group (TRG): is the strategic nerve center of the Shadow Party. It coordinates strategy for America Coming Together (ACT), America Votes, and the Media Fund – the three groups most involved in Shadow Party strategic planning. TRG is a political consultancy that combines the roles of strategic planning, polling, opposition research, covert operations, and public relations. It is through TRG that the Shadow Party formulates its plans and dispatches orders to the network.
The seventh entity was the Joint Victory Campaign 2004, a fundraising operation which was focused on winning the White House in 2004 and to which Soros personally contributed over $12 million dollars. They distributed $19.4 million to America Coming Together and $38.4 million to Media Fund in what turned out to be a futile effort. The group has essentially ceased operations after Bush won the presidency.
According to Ellen Malcolm of America Coming Together, the financial commitment that Soros made to these Shadow Party groups in 2003 “was a signal to potential donors that he had looked at what was going on and that this was pretty exciting, and that he was going to stand behind it, and it was the real deal.” As Byron York observed, “After Soros signed on, contributions started pouring in.” ACT and the Media Fund alone took in some $200 million, including $20 million from Soros alone. This amount of money was unprecedented in American politics.
Harold Ickes, who had served as White House deputy chief of staff in the Clinton White House, had a hand in creating every Shadow Party core group except MoveOn. He was also entrusted with the vital task of making these organizations function as a cohesive entity. In 2004, Democratic strategist Harold Wolfson suggested that outside of the official campaign of presidential candidate John Kerry, Ickes “is the most important person in the Democratic Party today.”
In addition to its seven core members, the Shadow Party also came to include at least another 30 well-established leftwing activist groups and labor unions that participated in the America Votes coalition. Among the better-known of these were ACORN; the AFL-CIO; the AFSCME; the American Federation of Teachers; the Association of Trial Lawyers of America; EMILY’s List; the NAACP; NARAL Pro-Choice America; the National Education Association; People for the American Way; Planned Parenthood; the Service Employees International Union; and the Sierra Club.
Recognize those names? I thought you might. It’s a veritable “Who’s Who” of leftist groups. Over time, the Shadow Party grew to more than 65 member organizations – all committed to anti-capitalist, socialistic policies – and all benefitting from a seemingly unending supply of funds from George Soros and his wealthy friends.
The Democracy Alliance
When President Bush won re-election in 2004, Soros was devastated; his massive financial investments and herculean organizing efforts had all gone for naught. Adding insult to injury, the hated Republicans had retained control of both houses of Congress. As Soros contemplated what course of action he ought to pursue next, the answer came to him in the form of Democrat political operative Rob Stein (another Clinton administration retread).
Stein had studied the conservative movement to determine why it seemed to be winning political battles. He concluded that a few influential, wealthy family foundations had spearheaded the creation of a $300 million network of politically influential organizations. He mapped out, in painstaking detail, the conservative movement’s networking strategies and funding sources.
Soros quickly and enthusiastically embraced Stein‘s concept. In April 2005, Soros brought together 70 likeminded, carefully vetted, fellow millionaires and billionaires in Phoenix, Arizona, to discuss Stein’s ideas and expeditiously implement a plan of action.
Most of those in attendance agreed that the conservative movement represented “a fundamental threat to the American way of life.” And, like Soros, a considerable number of them looked favorably on Stein’s analysis and concept. Thus was born the Democracy Alliance (DA), an immensely important newcomer to the Shadow Party.
No grants were pledged at the Democracy Alliance’s gathering in Phoenix, but at an Atlanta meeting three months later, DA partners pledged $39 million, about a third of which came directly from George Soros and Peter Lewis. Alliance member Simon Rosenberg claimed in August 2008 that DA had already “channeled hundreds of millions of dollars into progressive organizations.” The Democracy Alliance is known to consist of at least 100 donor-partners but historically has been secretive regarding their identities.
Since approximately 2006, Democracy Alliance members and staff have been working to establish subchapters of the organization in all 50 states. Their most successful effort to date has been in Colorado, where the initial results were striking: In 2004, Colorado had a Republican governor, two Republican U.S. senators, and five Republican House members (out of seven); by the end of the 2008 elections the state had a Democratic governor, two Democratic U.S. Senators, and five Democratic House members (out of seven). Pretty impressive, huh?
In January 2013, DA allied itself with the newly formed Organizing for Action, whose mission was to advance president Barack Obama‘s legislative agendas.
David Horowitz on George Soros and the Shadow Party
David Horowitz “wrote the book” on the Shadow Party literally, (The Shadow Party: How George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Sixties Radicals Seized Control of the Democratic Party) and through his research, believes that he knows what makes the man tick.
He had a few choice words to say about Soros: “You have to understand who this man is, because he can be portrayed in many ways – philanthropist, capitalist. In fact, he says that the capitalist system has replaced communism as the greatest threat. Second, he says America is the greatest obstacle to world justice and stability. His agenda is what he calls ‘to burst the bubble of American supremacy.’ Soros is technically an American, but he is very hostile towards the United States.”
Horowitz also believes that the Shadow Party is gaining strength. But it’s growing under the radar; not really visible. Very few Americans, and very few Democratic voters, even know the Shadow Party exists. It’s working behind the scenes and its agendas are quite radical in a way that most Americans just can’t grasp.
If the idea that one organization, run by a Soros associate, can put 10.5 million man-days into defeating America, and there are other organizations with the same aims; doesn’t scare one into wondering if America can survive, I don’t know what will.
In the end, Soros has put together a $300 million coalition of forces that is unique in the history of American politics. He has put together a coalition of billionaires, of giant unions, of street radicals, and of seasoned political operatives. It’s a never-before-seen combination in American politics and it is a formidable force.