Campaign Finance

Liberal Nonprofit Groups Actually Love Corporate Cash, Wall Street Simoleons


Campus Progress

During the 2012 election, the Democratic PAC American Bridge attacked Mitt Romney and other prominent Republicans every time one of them attended a "high-dollar fundraiser" or revealed close ties to Wall Street. Yet there was one group that American Bridge never attacked: Bain Capital. 

Why? Because, as Ben Smith and Evan McMorris-Santoro revealed today, Bain Capital executives were bankrolling American Bridge:

[I]n January, as Romney's nomination — and the line of attack — became clear, American Bridge's top fundraiser took a stand. In a series of meetings through the first half of 2012, several people close to the group confirmed, fundraiser Mary Pat Bonner demanded that the group avoid any public attacks on Bain. That's because, two sources said, two top Bain executives are key contributors to the network of organizations maintained by Brock and Bonner, which includes Media Matters and American Bridge. And some familiar with the group's work say it deliberately pulled public punches against Bain — though not against Romney — through much of the year.

"Anything that was discussed doing publicly in regard to Bain, even if it were just a quote piling on, was either shot down immediately, or there was a question, 'Could Mary Pat be OK with this?' And the answer was always no," said one person privy to the group's internal conversations. The group's political staffers were "unhappy" about the conflict — but accepted it and tried to work around it, the source said.

May is shaping up to be a bad month for nonprofit groups run by David Brock. Last week, a few of his allies on the left raked him over the coals after the advocacy arm of Media Matters for America published a memo defending the Justice Department's crusade against the Associated Press. Today, BuzzFeed drops the hammer with their story about Bain. Being called out as a hypocrite is so embarrassing!

But Brock et al. may actually be the lesser of the two "dark money" offenders to be unmasked today. The other is the Center for American Progress, which is up to its neck in corporate cash, reports The Nation's Ken Silverstein:

A confidential CAP donor pitch I obtained describes the Business Alliance as "a channel for engagement with the corporate community" that provides "the opportunity to…collaborate on common interests." It offers three membership levels, with the perks to top donors ($100,000 and up) including private meetings with CAP experts and executives, round-table discussions with "Hill and national leaders," and briefings on CAP reports "relevant to your unique interests."

CAP doesn't publicly disclose the members of its Business Alliance, but I obtained multiple internal lists from 2011 showing that dozens of major corporations had joined. The lists were prepared by Chris Belisle, who at the time served as the alliance's senior manager after having been recruited from his prior position as manager of corporate relations at the US Chamber of Commerce. According to these lists, CAP's donors included Comcast, Walmart, General Motors, Pacific Gas and Electric, General Electric, Boeing and Lockheed. Though it doesn't appear on the lists, the University of Phoenix was also a donor.

Incidentally, Scott Lilly, a Hill veteran who joined CAP in 2004 as a senior fellow covering national security, simultaneously served as a registered lobbyist for Lockheed between 2005 and 2011. Rudy deLeon, CAP's senior vice president for national security and international policy, was a Boeing executive and directed the company's lobbying operations between 2001 and 2006, before joining the think tank the following year.Several CAP insiders, who asked to speak off the record, told me that when Podesta left, there was a fear that contributions would dry up. Raising money had always been important, they said, but Tanden ratcheted up the efforts to openly court donors, which has impacted CAP's work. Staffers were very clearly instructed to check with the think tank's development team before writing anything that might upset contributors, I was told.

I obtained a March 2012 e-mail from Belisle to Podesta and CAP's communications and legal teams, which was also copied to Tanden. The e-mail noted a Think Progress item featuring a New York Times op-ed by former Goldman Sachs executive Greg Smith, who called the company's environment "toxic and destructive." At the time, the firm was under heavy fire for deceiving investors and for its larger role in driving the speculation in toxic securities that unwound the economy. Belisle said he was "flagging" the item for Tanden since she had recently met with Michael Paese, director of Goldman's Washington lobbying office. Two sources told me that Goldman Sachs subsequently became a donor. Purse and Paese declined comment.

You can find lots of stories bemoaning the influence of "dark money"–the soylent green of the nonprofit world–on CAP's ThinkProgress blog. But you probably won't find the one above. 

NEXT: Top IRS Official Will Invoke Fifth Amendment

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. It’s okay when they do it.


  3. So Jonathan Lavine and Joshua Bekenstein are the two spineless twats who bankrolled their own cannibalism. Way to be, guys.

    1. They made it so Bain wasn’t attacked. Maybe that was the idea.

      1. Nope. Jonathan Lavine was a major OFA bundler.

        I’m gonna insta-Godwin and say they’re akin to kapos.

      2. FOE is right. Bain paid the piper so that Obama would leave them alone before during and after election. His entire administration is based on the “scratch my back and maybe I won’t make your life difficult since I am running the country” principle.

        It’s ironic that Romney founded the company, but it doesn’t surprise me. Bain is full of hacks.

        1. Considering Romney was only included in the company so that the other partners could leverage his dad’s political connections, I don’t find it ironic at all.

          1. “Considering Romney was only included in the company so that the other partners could leverage his dad’s political connections, I don’t find it ironic at all.”

            Pretty fucking stupid to include someone in a company for their family connections and make them the sole shareholder.

            1. 1. We only know he was the sole shareholder in 1999, that doesn’t mean he was the sole shareholder when it was founded 15 years earlier.

              2. Since it was primarily a shell company for Bain Consulting at it’s founding, being a shareholder wouldn’t have been particularly valuable at the time anyways.

              3. Let’s be realistic here. When someone one year out of college gets hired to a vice president level position at an established company, he’s not being hired for his ability.

        2. It’s kind of a myth though that big corporations don’t like the government. They do, because they can use the government to keep out competition and to pay for things that otherwise they might have to provide employees.

      3. “they made it so Bain wasn’t attacked” in much the way business folks “made it” so their stores did not sustain an unexplainable fire or the owner’s wife/kids did not have an ‘accident’ or some other similar approach.

  4. Just another bunch of Danegeld seekers.

  5. so Bain execs thought Obama was the better alternative than the man whose work likely contributed to their own financial status? Okay then.

    1. Seriously, if there were justice, those two would be the targets of the IRS.

      1. Or shareholders (are they still private? If so, then their partners)

    2. Some businesses give money to candidates they like, some give money to candidates they fear.

  6. Of course they do. Oligarchs are bad, unless “he’s our oligarch” (Soros/Bloomberg). Citizens United is an atrocity, except when it works for them (Bloomberg again).

  7. I think this is the first I’ve heard someone use the word “simoleans” since the Dukes of Hazzard was in first run.

    1. I prefer the more traditional ‘pazoozas”

  8. Anyone who’s ever worked in the political nonprofit sector knows that fundraising is the main purpose of the organization. That’s where most of the brainpower always seemed to go.

  9. Out of one side of their mouths, leftists bitch and moan about big money in politics. Out of the other side, they dangle the carrot of big money to get Obama to reject the Keystone Pipeline:

    In a letter seen by the Guardian, 150 high-profile figures, who between them raised millions for Obama’s two election campaigns, urged the president to use the next four years to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change….

    Tom Steyer, founder of the Farallon hedge fund, pledged to spend millions on behalf of election candidates who oppose the pipeline….

    “I think the president may feel alone because there is just this drum beat of advertising in favour of Keystone, framed as it is in a jobs context,” said [some leftist]. “But when he denies the Keystone permit he will ignite a rush of financial contributions and boots on the ground for clean energy candidates in 2014.”

  10. “The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.”

    1. But that’s not what modern Leftists really want, they want corporatism, where the government and giant companies they deem hip work hand in hand.

    2. Irony: Socialists declaring that capitalists will sell their own downfall because of their love of money, then socialists sell their own downfall because of their love of money.

  11. Tax serfs should actually form vigilante mobs and toss David Brock, the Podestas, etc out of their mansions, occupy them and return them to tax payers.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.