The “CREW Model” Emulated by Other DC Groups
CREW, founded in 2003, is a highly partisan organization that bills itself as a nonpartisan watchdog. Its allies in the mainstream media help prop up the veneer of objectivity while CREW pushes attacks that largely focus on the right side of the political aisle. It’s a model that has been exported to other D.C. outfits in recent years.
Melanie Sloan, who co-founded CREW and led it for a decade, departed in 2014 after liberal operative David Brock became board chairman. Brock said the CREW addition made a “kind of a one-stop-shop” for liberal activism that included American Democracy Legal Fund. It was a refreshing admission of CREW’s use as a partisan tool.
Sloan has since become an advisor to American Oversight, another leftwing legal advocacy group. Similar to CREW, AO claims to be nonpartisan until you realize the weight of its complaints target people on the political right. InfluenceWatch has discovered that 11 of 17 staff members at AO have careers in leftwing advocacy.
Sloan was also on the advisory board of Restore Public Trust, a project of the shadowy New Venture Fund (discussed below).
CREW alumni also formed a group calling itself the “Campaign for Accountability.” Ironically, this organization was founded as part of the New Venture Fund, a huge dark money network that lacks transparency in its own operations. NVF incubates a number of leftwing campaigns under its nonprofit umbrella. This setup obscures who is donating to these projects, and also obscures the operations of the projects themselves, since they don’t have to file a separate tax return from NVF. It’s all lumped together.
Initially, CfA was run by former CREW counsel Anne Weisman, with former CREW researcher Daniel Stevens on staff. CfA’s advisory board featured CREW co-founder Lewis Mayberg and liberal activists. And, like CREW, CfA has ginned up complaint after complaint against right-leaning politicians and activists, with a slant towards environmental issues and abortion.
Weisman has since left CfA and returned to CREW, and Stevens now runs CfA. Money may have been a factor–Weisman makes close to $200,000 a year at CREW, while Stevens makes about half that as executive director of CfA, according to tax records.
CfA, meanwhile, has spun off as its own 501(c)(3) and appears to be independent of the New Venture Fund. CfA received $587,919 from the Buffett Foundation in 2018. This single donation accounted for nearly half of CfA’s revenue that year. The Buffett Foundation is a wealthy supporter of leftwing causes, particularly abortion.