CREW's Left-Wing Funders

CREW is funded by a long list of left-wing organizations and foundations.

George Soros’ Open Society Institute gave $250,000 to CREW in 2008, which reported revenue of $3 million and a staff of 13 employees that year. Soros is a well-known funder of left-wing nonprofit groups. Other beneficiaries of Soros' money include: the Center for American Progress, Media Matters for America, America Coming Together, and MoveOn.org.

The Democracy Alliance made an early donation that helped breathe financial life into CREW. Members of this collaboration of liberal activists and labor unions, include George Soros, Peter Lewis, Rob Reiner, Norman Lear, and Drummond Pike (of the progressive Tides Foundation).

As one of CREW’s largest donors, Democracy Alliance has an unmistakably partisan agenda. It was founded in 2005 by a collective of at least 80 millionaires and billionaires for the purpose of moving America to the left ideologically.

Democracy Alliance founder Rob Stein told a Democratic Party national convention panel in August 2008 that the Alliance “over the past 30 months has put about $110 million into 30 groups.” Recipients of these grants read like a “Who’s-Who” of liberal activists:

  • The Center for American Progress;
  • Media Matters for America;
  • Young Democrats of America;
  • Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN);
  • Emily’s List; and,
  • the Air America talk radio network.

CREW executive director Melanie Sloan was a regular guest on Al Franken’s Air America talk show.

Following the 2010 election, the Democracy Alliance held a conference at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, DC. One attendee told a Politico reporter who managed to get in, "The agreement is that everything that goes on here is confidential." In attendance were many Democratic donors and left-leaning activists. Also in attendance was CREW’s Melanie Sloan. CREW was also reportedly one of the organizations represented at the conference. Sloan refused to comment on her participation.

In addition to Soros, Democracy Alliance members who fund CREW include Tim Gill (the Gill Foundation), Albert Dwoskin (the Dwoskin Family Foundation), Drummond Pike (the Tides Foundation), and Stephen Silberstein (the Stephen Silberstein Foundation).

The Tides Foundation has donated nearly $200,000 to CREW over the years. Tides was founded by philanthropist Drummond Pike and funds many leftist groups. Pike is also a member of the Democracy Alliance. According to its website, Tides sponsored 677 projects between 1996 and 2006, with combined revenues of $522.4 million.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) gave $75,000 to CREW in 2006. SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger is also the vice-chair of the Democracy Alliance.

In 2008, CREW received nearly $1.8 million—more than half of its total revenue—from 14 foundations, all of them known for funding left-leaning political causes:

  • PBL Fund ($396,354)
  • Bohemian Foundation ($250,000)
  • Open Society Institute ($250,000)
  • Dyson Foundation ($200,000)
  • Gill Foundation ($150,000)
  • Marisla Foundation ($100,000)
  • Leland Fikes Foundation ($100,000)
  • Stephen M. Silberstein Foundation ($100,000)
  • Arca Foundation ($75,000)
  • Wallace Global Fund ($50,000)
  • Baytree Fund ($35,000)
  • Tides Foundation ($35,000)
  • Lotus Foundation ($30,000)
  • Dwoskin Family Foundation ($25,000)

Pay-for-Play?

CREW insists that its donors do not play a role in determining its agenda. But the organization has attacked politicians and organizations that are foes of its contributors.

Cuba: The Arca Foundation gives significant funding to groups advocating opening ties to Cuba and reducing travel restrictions to the communist nation. Since 2004, CREW (an Arca grantee) has filed four complaints with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging improper campaign contributions by the US-Cuba Democracy PAC, a political action committee that supports a tough stance against Fidel Castro’s regime.

Gay rights: A major priority of the Gill Foundation is supporting organizations that advocate for LGBT rights. CREW, a Gill Foundation recipient, targeted former Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO), one of the chief political foes of the gay rights movement. Just three days before election day in 2004, CREW filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice claiming that Musgrave was illegally running her campaign out of her district office. The U.S. Department of Justice never officially acted on the complaint.

Not surprisingly, CREW has never criticized its own donors or their causes. Corruption charges have dogged American labor unions, for example, but CREW has never filed a single complaint against a union.

CREW demands that nonprofit groups disclose the sources of their funding, but it hasn't provided a complete list of its own donors.

Following the 2010 elections, CREW posted a blog entry on its website criticizing Karl Rove's fundraising group, American Crossroads, for refusing to release a list of its donors. CREW opined, "This is not a partisan issue—both left and right-leaning groups are reaping the benefits of non-disclosure under the 501(c)4 status and it's time this nonsense comes to an end." But CREW itself has reaped the benefits of non-disclosure under its own 501(c)3 status.

CREW has previously criticized other groups for not disclosing their donors. CREW went after public relations and research firm Berman and Company (a co-author of this report) for allegedly acting at the behest of its funders. And CREW filed a complaint with the IRS against the Center for Consumer Freedom, requesting that CCF disclose its donor list. According to the complaint, "We believe that a thorough investigation of the sources of [The Center for Consumer Freedom's] revenue will disclose the nearly exclusive funding by industry forces for whom CCF does their bidding." (The IRS’s subsequent audit failed to find any substantive issues with CCF’s tax-exempt status.)

CREW also pushed hard for Congress to pass the DISCLOSE Act, which would have required nonprofit organizations to disclose their donors if they engaged in political activity. Following the 2010 mid-term election, CREW's blog declared, "Yesterday voters were resoundingly disgusted with the barrage of television ads, mostly negative and extremely misleading, by shadowy outside groups."

At the same time, CREW has never released an itemized list of its donors. Melanie Sloan has admitted that certain groups, such as the Open Society Institute, fund CREW. Researchers have unearthed other CREW donors by cross-referencing tax filings and other documents from other left-leaning foundations and organizations. But much of CREW's funding remains undisclosed.

We have not gone after any particular union. I wouldn't say there's been an issue where I think a union has given money in some way that has been, that some member has changed their vote just because of a campaign contribution.

- Melanie Sloan, asked if CREW

has ever targeted a labor union on C-SPAN