Are the Justice Democrats a money scam to defraud progressives?
On January 23, 2017 Cenk Uygur, the well known owner of TYT, and Kyle Kulinksi (Secular Talk) founded the Justice Democrats, a progressive PAC.
It’s goal was to run “a unified campaign to replace every corporate-backed member of Congress and rebuild the Democratic Party from scratch”.
Basically: to endorse and support leftist candidates to primary Democrats.
In recent months doubts have been expressed about how Justice Democrats (further: JD) selects candidates to endorse, but most of all: about how JD spends the money it collects from progressives.
JD is a PAC and it’s financial status can be found here:
This shows they had collected $923,803.95 (in June 2017), of which they have spent $499,634.87. That left them with $424,169.08 cash on hand.
Interesting is where their money went: they have paid a large amount of money to Brand New Congress and some money to ActBlue Technologies, Inc (run by Zack Exley, one of the founders of JD).
In March 2017 JD announced it had teamed up with Brand New Congress.
So it appears that most of the money JD collects from donors, is funnelled to Brand New Congress, LLC and booked as “strategic consulting”.
The question is however: how much (if any) of the money is actually spend on candidates’ campaigns?
A question that becomes even more intriguing when you consider that JD doesn’t donate money to candidates but demands that candidates pay money to them.
That is one of the recent scandals surrounding Justice Democrats: apparently endorsements are bought and paid for by candidates.
All this came out when JD refused to endorse David Hildebrand, a progressive challenger of Dianne Feinstein. Instead they chose to endorse Alison Hartson, the National Director of WolfPac. Wolf Pac, a PAC that was created and run by…Cenk Uygur.
Now the interesting thing about Wolf Pac is that is has been pointed out Wolf Pac is just a money making scam, where the only money that is spend is spend on staffers’ salaries. Money that is collected from small donations by progressives.
So, basically Justice Democrats decided to endorse a candidate who was on Cenk Uygur’s pay roll for the last few years:
This of course to the utter shock of many progressives who had already decided to support David Hildebrand, another and more logical candidate running for Dianne Feinstein’s seat.
The whole manner in which Justice Democrats decides who to endorse is decided in dark backrooms, much to the chagrin of progressives running for office.
So, where is the money small donors pay to JD going? Well, to big salaries for consultants for example, see:
“Here is where some of the money is going…inflated executive fees.”
Here’s the reaction from another candidate that was all of a sudden dropped as JD endorsed candidate:
The endorsement of Hartson led to angry reactions by many progressives who support David Hildebrand and the accusation Cenk Uygur is really just promoting his own people/ interests.
However, what is more interesting is how a thread on Twitter led to reactions by other candidates who describe how they didn’t receive money from JD, but were instead supposed to pay a LOT of money to JD for an endorsement:
The above tweets are from Hector Morales, who is running for Congress in Texas’ 29th Congressional District. Initially he was endorsed by Justice Democrats, and..(and this is what matters) he was supposed to pay Justice Democrats 95% (!!!) of his fundraised money.
So, unlike what Justice Democrats tells their donors, they don’t use/ spend their donors’ money to support individual candidates, but instead are demanding that those candidates pay them…
When Morales stopped paying them (a candidate cannot run a campaign when he has to pay everything to a PAC like JD) Justice Democrats dropped him from their list of endorsed candidates…
Basically what this shows is that Justice Democrats sells endorsements for a lot of money.
So to recap: Justice Democrats collects money from small donors. People that often don’t have a lot of money and to whom this money actually means something.
As one wrote in JD’s Reddit sub, when someone asked for a website with info on how JD spends their money: “That would be great. I am a monthly donor (of very modest means) to Justice Democrats, and even I don’t know the answer to that questions.”
This money is not used to support candidates, but paid to other PACs and political consultants. On top of that Justice Democrats asked (asked in that JD claims to have stopped that practise) candidates to pay them 95% of their fundraising in return for an endorsement.
What it does with the money it collects this way is unclear.
One thing is clear however: that money is not spend on candidates’ campaigns.
Now, I am sure this isn’t the whole story and some investigation would turn up more facts. But the one name that constantly pops up in this story is that of Cenk Uygur.
It’s not exactly wrong to state that he is someone who earns a LOT of money on what his brand is: attacking Democrats, stoking anger among progressives and primarying Democrats.
Although he speaks a lot about campaign finance reform, he owns and runs a number of PACs and doesn’t in any way, shape or form tell anyone how the money he collects from small donors is spend.
Transparency? Well, not from Cenk.
I am not a Bernie Sanders supporter, far from it. But I think the Senator should be concerned his supporters are basically scammed out of their hard earned cash by people like Cenk Uygur.
You think this is just a neo liberal moaning about good ole progressive Cenk?
Guess who else shares this concern?
From the Senator’s son:
Recently, Johhny Akzam (running for Congress) tried to get some info on how JD selects it’s candidates and how it spends it’s money and he posted the taped conversation he had with Saikat Chakrabarti (from JD/ BNC) here:
If you care to listen to the tape: it’s particularly impressive how someone can spent 30 minutes avoiding any real answer…
We do learn however that JD has 15 staffers. That seems to be the best we can say about JD: as any other PAC started by Cenk Uygur, it seems to spend the money it collects on staffers, consultants and strategic fees.
I started this article with the header: “Are Justice Democrats a money scam to defraud progressives?”
At this point, I think there are strong reasons to assume that yes, JD is just a money scam. Money seems to be funnelled from PAC to PAC and each of these PAC’s are somehow connected to Cenk Uygur.
But the least we can say with certainty is that JD is one of many PAC’s associated with Cenk Uygur that collects money from progressives but does not in any way, shape or form tell people what they do with that money.
Some way to remove dark money from politics eh?
And finally: although recent scandals surrounding Cenk (who wrote disgusting essays about women and made many sexist remarks about women on his shows) have led JD to remove Cenk Uygur from JD (and Kyle Kulinski also left JD), there is as of yet no sign to assume this leads to more openness from JD about how it spends it’s money.