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Democracy Alliance Dumps Progressive Organizations

The private network of major progressive and Democratic donors has dropped a number of prominent organizations.
 
 
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The Democracy Alliance, a private network of major progressive and Democratic donors, has dropped a number of prominent organizations, according to people familiar with the group's decision.

The donor network has long faced tension over how to build a progressive movement and bring about social change, particularly over whether to focus on electing Democrats in the next cycle or building lasting infrastructure. The group has faced particularly acute friction over deciding if it should devote funds to President Obama's reelection or invest in more long-term projects.

Among those who support the creation of a progressive infrastructure, 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 groups dropped by the Democracy Alliance tend to be those that work outside the party's structure. Groups with closer ties to the party, such as the Center for American Progress and Media Matters, retained their status with the Democracy Alliance as favored organizations.

The decision to drop certain groups was delivered to those affected last week. Among the ones axed are Robert Greenwald's Brave New Foundation, James Rucker's Citizen Engagement Lab, Melanie Sloan's Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (known as CREW), Third Way, the Center for Progressive Leadership, the Advancement Project, Democracia, Free Press and Simon Rosenberg's NDN, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. Groups working on issues relating directly to people of color appear to be the most dramatically affected.

America Votes, which works on electing Democrats, was retained, as were the Center for Community Change, Progressive Majority and the New Organizing Institute.

"Being dumped at the very time that our Koch brothers' work is coming to the fore is ironic because the biggest lesson I've learned from the Koch brothers is that funding wide and funding deep is the way to create fundamental social change," said Greenwald, whose  recent documentary investigations have drawn attention to the two wealthy GOP donors who have raised at least $100 million to defeat Obama in 2012.

"What I've seen over and over again with the Koch brothers is they understand you don't just fund one element. You fund the ideas through think tanks, the activists through grassroots organizations. You fund the pundits who go on and talk about these things. You fund the electoral work," Greenwald added. "It's tragic that Democracy Alliance is cutting back on the spectrum of what's being funded at the very time that the Koch brothers and others have made clear how necessary it is to have a broad range of funding [for] different progressive organizations and institutions."

In addition to providing services to the group Color of Change, Citizen Engagement Lab incubated a host of startup organizations including Ultra Violet, Presente, and Forecast the Facts. Color of Change, which deploys online activism to combat racism, is credited, along with Media Matters, with taking down Glenn Beck by urging advertisers to stop backing the Fox News host; Media Matters and Color of Change worked together on the project. CREW works to uncover corruption in Congress but  has drawn attention for its work investigating for-profit colleges. Third Way is a centrist group often derided by progressives. The Advancement Project strives to fight the disenfranchisement of minority voters and the Center for Progressive Leadership tries to expand the ranks of diverse progressive leaders. 

"The recent decisions were part of a natural funding cycle that all philanthropic organizations go through," an official at the Democracy Alliance said. "In addition to an evolving strategy that focuses on a smaller set of anchor organizations, we’re also recommending that donors support a broader landscape of groups. Organizations that we've recommended in the past will continue to get support -- donors know these organizations and they will continue to do good work."

 
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