Wealthy Liberals Form Partnership, Pledge to Support Think Tanks

Wealthy Liberals Form Partnership, Pledge to Support Think Tanks

At least eighty wealthy liberals have each pledged $1 million or more to the newly established Democracy Alliance to fund a network of progressive think tanks and advocacy groups, the Washington Post reports.

The goal of the alliance, which was founded last spring, is to foster the development of liberal and left-leaning institutions that can counter the influence of established conservative think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institution, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Cato Institute. According to alliance officials, many liberal groups are too focused on promoting an agenda that was enacted when Democrats enjoyed majorities in the Senate and House, as opposed to generating new ideas and strategies designed to win support from voters. To help stem the erosion of the Democratic Party's base, alliance staff members and its board of directors plan to draw up a list of groups that can effectively develop and promote liberal and progressive ideas.

"There has never been an organized or coordinated look at connecting the dots of the progressive movement," said San Francisco businessman and alliance board member Mark Buell. "For forty years, we had a voice somewhere, the White House, the House, the Senate. For the first time, we find ourselves without a voice."

Shifting money to the alliance could spell the end of pro-Democratic groups such as America Coming Together (ACT) and the Media Fund, which depend on many of the same donors as the alliance. ACT recently announced it was closing state offices and laying off staff, and its principal funder, billionaire George Soros, has stopped donating to it.

Many liberal groups have been dependent on one-year foundation grants for specific projects, said Democratic strategist and alliance founder Rob Stein, while the money flowing to conservative groups has often taken the form of long-term commitments with no strings attached. "To be effective in the twenty-first century in promoting your beliefs, it is necessary to have a financially secure institutional infrastructure that has the capacity to promote consistently and coherently a set of ideas, policies, and messages," said Stein. "We understand that it's very hard to promote a belief system and to be operationally high performing if you don't have multi-year funding."

Thomas B. Edsall. "Rich Liberals Vow to Fund Think Tanks." Washington Post 08/07/2005.