Icky, Sticky & Secretive: Who’s Behind Dems’ New $75 Million Ad Campaign?

The campaign is run by Acronym, a dark money group, but here are some clues as to who’s funding it.

[Editor’s Note: Money + Secrecy = Who Owns The Party. — Mark L. Taylor]

By Alex Kotch
Sludge (11/6/19)

Veterans of the Obama campaigns are launching a $75 million digital ad effort to counter President Donald Trump’s dominance of online advertising and viral misinformation.

Acronym, a “dark money” nonprofit, and its affiliated super PAC, Pacronym, plan to boost Democratic candidates and the party’s image in five 2020 battleground states: Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. On Monday, the groups announced a campaign called “Four Is Enough,” which will buy ads on Facebook, Google, Hulu, Instagram, Pandora, and YouTube.

Tara McGowan, a former press secretary for Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and digital producer for Obama’s 2012 campaign, is founder and CEO of Acronym. David Plouffe, Obama’s 2008 campaign manager and 2012 adviser, is on the group’s board and will help raise the tens of millions of dollars they plan to spend between Acronym and Pacronym. They have already raised roughly $30 million, according to The New York Times.

Other possible funders may be okay with Warren, but certainly not the democratic socialist Sanders. Billionaire Clinton ally Saban has said he likes all the Democratic presidential candidates except Sanders, whom he “profoundly dislikes.”

After working on Obama’s 2012 campaign, McGowan was digital director of NextGen Climate Action, a super PAC founded and funded by current presidential contender and hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer.

Previous Acronym staff also came from the Obama—and Clinton—orbits. Greta Carnes, who was a field organizer for Obama in 2012 and a Clinton digital organizer in 2016, is Acronym’s senior organizing director as well as national organizing director for the Pete Buttigieg campaign, according to her LinkedIn profile. It’s possible that Carnes is no longer with Acronym and hasn’t updated her profile.

Acronym’s former treasurer, political strategist Hannah Linkenhoker, worked on Clinton’s 2008 campaign. Clinton tweeted her approval of the “Four Is Enough” campaign on Tuesday.

In August, Acronym announced a $10 million online voter registration drive in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and Texas.

Clues About Funding

Founded in 2017, Acronym is a 501(c)(4) “social welfare” nonprofit, meaning that it’s not required to disclose its donors, so we don’t know who is providing the $75 million that Acronym plans to spend. And Acronym did not respond Sludge’s multiple attempts to ask about its contributors.

We do, however, know about the funding behind Pacronym, which as a super PAC is required to report its funders to the Federal Election Commission.

In the 2018 election cycle, Pacronym received the bulk of its funding ($2 million) from the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, a political nonprofit led by Obama’s first attorney general, Eric Holder. Acronym and Pacronym were largely focused on state legislative races during that cycle.

Pacronym also got $300,000 from Acronym and $50,000 from Dollar Shave Club CEO Michael Dubin, who was an Acronym board member as of mid-2018. Dubin is also on the board of Papa John’s, a company with a rightwing CEO who opposes LGBTQ rights and has co-founded free-market academic centers with the Charles Koch Foundation. …

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