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Wealthy leftists help unions bankroll ‘progressive’ groups

By   /   November 19, 2014  /   News  /   No Comments

By Jason Hart | Watchdog.org

Committee on States, a project of the secretive Democracy Alliance, is helping labor unions and leftist millionaires coordinate advocacy for big government in 20 states.

Working with union coalition AFL-CIO and its public-sector affiliate American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees as “institutional partners,” COS has steered over $45 million into state-based “progressive” organizations since 2013, according to internal documents obtained by The Washington Free Beacon.

John D. Rockefeller

OLD MONEY: Committee on States donors include at least two heirs to the Rockefeller family fortune

“This is an electrifying figure that amplifies the national investments of Democracy Alliance partners in infrastructure strategies like America Votes, Progress Now, State Voices, 501c(3) and 501c(4) funding streams, and others,” an Oct. 21 COS memo asserted.

Democracy Alliance, America Votes, ProgressNow and State Voices benefit greatly from big government — all four organizations are funded by public-sector unions whose income is taken from the paychecks of teachers and other public employees.

John Stocks, chairman of the Democracy Alliance board and a founder of COS, is executive director of National Education Association, the largest labor union in America. Anna Burger, another COS leader, was secretary-treasurer of Service Employees International Union when COS launched in 2006.

“Committee on States membership in 2014 consists of 21 national donors and institutional partners,” the COS memo said, without specifying how many of its institutional partners are labor unions. COS follows the Democracy Alliance model of recommending donors to left-wing groups instead of distributing donations itself.

In addition to AFL-CIO, NEA, SEIU and AFSCME, Democracy Alliance works closely with American Federation of Teachers, the only AFL-CIO affiliate larger than AFSCME. NEA and AFT are both public-sector unions, and many of SEIU’s 1.8 million members are government workers.

“Together we are building a progressive future, one that is sustainable, state-focused and dedicated to winning electoral and policy victories,” the COS memo published by the Free Beacon concluded.

The public union business model hinges on unsustainable government spending. This is why NEA, SEIU, AFT, AFSCME and AFL-CIO savage prominent limited-government advocates Charles and David Koch in an attempt to discredit causes the billionaire brothers support.

With that in mind, who is behind the Democracy Alliance project helping union bosses prop up “progressive” groups? In addition to Stocks and Burger, leaders of COS include:

  • Rob Stein, Democracy Alliance founder, former Democratic National Committee adviser, and chief of staff for President Clinton’s 1992 transition team
  • Michael Vachon, an adviser to and personal spokesman for left-wing hedge fund billionaire George Soros, whose net worth is approximately $24 billion
  • Pat Stryker, a Stryker Corporation heiress whose net worth is an estimated $2.1 billion
  • Anne Bartley, wife of SEIU executive Larry McNeil and an heiress to the Rockefeller family fortune
  • Alida Messinger, ex-wife of Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and also a Rockefeller heiress
  • Rob McKay, son of the founder of Taco Bell
  • Lynde Uihlein, an heiress to the Schlitz Brewing Co. and Allen-Bradley Co. fortunes
  • John Hunting, whose father was a founder of Steelcase, Inc. and who said in a 2010 interview, “I believe that it is immoral to hoard money when global warming is on the verge of destroying the eco-systems we depend on.”
  • Douglas Phelps, president of U.S. Public Interest Research Group and Environment America and advisory board chairman of leftist charity Fund for the Public Interest
  • Colorado lobbyist Ted Trimpa and former Colorado State University president Al Yates, who worked with Stryker and other wealthy donors to develop “The Colorado Model,” on which COS is based

NEA, AFSCME and AFL-CIO failed to respond to requests for comment on how the activities of COS are different from or preferable to the work of union-maligned donors to free-market groups.

An appendix to the Oct. 21 COS memo listed investments by COS partners as shown in the following table, noting most state figures “include large contributions by our labor union allies.”

State Estimated 2013/14 Investment
Arizona $2 million
California $3.5 million
Colorado $6 million +
Florida $6 million +
Idaho $900,000
Maine $1.25 million
Massachusetts $200,000
Michigan $1 million
Minnesota $7 million
Nebraska $250,000
New Mexico $3.4 million
North Carolina $7 million
Ohio $1 million
Oregon $250,000
Pennsylvania $2 million
Texas $2 million
Utah $200,000
Washington $1.3 million
Wisconsin $9 million
Wyoming $250,000

COS indicated “donor alliances” are being coordinated in Georgia, New Hampshire and Montana, as well.

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Jason is an Ohio-based reporter covering labor issues for Watchdog.org, with a focus on right-to-work, public employee unions and Obamacare. Before joining Watchdog, Jason was communications director for Media Trackers Ohio. His work has been featured at FoxNews.com, Hot Air, The Daily Signal, RedState, Townhall and elsewhere. His investigations into labor union spending and Obamacare's Medicaid expansion have been cited by national commentators including Jim Geraghty, Michelle Malkin, Erick Erickson, Dana Loesch and Mark Levin. Jason can be reached on Twitter at @jasonahart and by email at jhart@watchdog.org