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SBF and the Injustice Democrats
How SBF, AIPAC and pro-Trump billionaires coordinated to crush the left
When I looked into SBF’s political giving to write a follow up to last week’s piece, I thought I knew what I was looking for. It’s a subject I’ve written about before.
But, when I looked at the end-of-cycle FEC data, the results were truly shocking.
I found more evidence SBF was collaborating with AIPAC and Trump supporting billionaires to stop the growth of the squad and the electoral left.
Five billionaire funded PACs were coordinating closely on a strategy to defeat progressive candidates in Democratic primaries — a kind of Injustice Democrats.
Mark Mellman, a long-time operative and AIPAC ally, appears to be at the center of the effort and likely spearheaded the shared campaign. He was hired by four of the five groups this cycle, who collectively paid his firm $476,016.67.
As you may have heard, SBF gave nearly $40 million to Democrats in 2022. But, I found that SBF wasn’t primarily funding groups that help Democrats defeat Republicans. According to FEC data, over 75% of the money SBF contributed to Democrats in 2022 went to groups that spent nearly all their money on competitive primaries in the Democratic Party.
SBF personally contributed $29,250,000 to Protect Our Future and DMI PAC (which later contributed the money to Web3 Forward). Both of these groups spent the vast majority of their money on Democratic primaries. They also worked closely with two AIPAC affiliated SuperPACs called the United Democracy Project (UDP) and the Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI), and a group called Mainstream Democrats which aimed to defeat the “far-left.”
Together, these five PACs make up the Injustice Democrats.
Total Outside Spending this Election Cycle by the Injustice Democrats
United Democracy Project: $26,108,857
Democratic Majority For Israel: $8,818,636
Protect Our Future: $28,530,613
Web3 Forward: $4,663,333
Mainstream Democrats: $2,441,529
SBF was one of the key funders of the Injustice Democrats.
But, SBF wasn’t the only billionaire to support the effort. Trump supporting billionaires Bernard Marcus (owner of Home Depot), Robert Kraft (owner of the Patriots), and Paul Singer (owner of Elliot Investment Management) each gave a million dollars to help defeat working class candidates.
Overall, the five groups that make up the Injustice Democrats spent $44,454,111 on outside expenditure this cycle.
What did SBF have in common with the pro-Israel lobby and pro-Trump billionaires? In short, a desire to staunch the rise of the left, and keep the Democratic Party in the hands of financial and political elites who protect the status quo.
The SBF and AIPAC affiliated PACs which made up the Injustice Democrats worked together directly in at least 14 competitive primaries.
Primaries where SBF and AIPAC affiliated PACs worked together
All told, their work spread over at least 24 races -- a handful of which progressives clearly would have won if not for the millions spent by the Injustice Democrats. By my count, Injustice Democrats won 20 out of 24 of the primaries they were involved in.
The revelations about SBF’s crimes should raise questions about his closest allies in the Democratic Party — including AIPAC, DMFI, Mark Mellman and Reid Hoffman.
Should SBF, pro-Trump billionaires and AIPAC have a veto over who can become a nominee of the Democratic Party? If not, what are Democratic Party leaders going to do about it?
Who Are the Injustice Democrats?
To understand the Injustice Democrats, you have to first understand the Justice Democrats -- and the “pro-Israel” lobby’s reaction to it.
Since 2018, the Justice Democrats, alongside groups like the Working Families Party, helped elect several new members to Congress like AOC and Cori Bush in an effort to push the party to the left. The squad and their allies in Congress have a profoundly different view of Israel/Palestine, as they do on most issues, than the prevailing consensus within the DC political elite.
The pro-Israel lobby has long expected Democrats and Republicans to acquiesce to the Israeli government’s policy towards the Palestinians, no matter how heinous or contrary to American interests it may be. But, the rise of the squad and the generational shift in the Democratic Party base’s attitudes towards Palestine threatened to shatter that consensus, and bring real, meaningful consequences to Israeli governments that systematically violate international law and Palestinians basic human rights.
In response to the rise of the squad and the shift within the Democratic Party on Israel, long-time AIPAC ally Mark Mellman started a group called the Democratic Majority for Israel. DMFI is basically AIPAC for Corporate Democrats. Starting in 2020, Mellman raised big money from AIPAC affiliated donors to funnel into competitive primaries between progressive and corporate Democrats to stop the rise of the squad. The effort initial met with mixed results.
But, in the 2022 Congressional midterm primaries, DMFI eventually hit on an approach that worked. Instead of focusing exclusively on Israel, they could serve as the nexus of anti-Squad and anti-working class political spending in Democratic Party politics.
Lots of billionaires and corporate CEOs don’t like the idea of bartenders, principals and nurses becoming Members of Congress. Mark Mellman realized he could convince them to spend millions of dollars to stop it (and pay him hundreds of thousands of dollars along the way).
In one of the first and highest profile primaries of the cycle, DMFI spent $1,551,002 helping Shontel Brown defeat Nina Turner in Ohio’s 11th Congressional district. She lost overwhelmingly. Protect Our Future, SBF’s PAC, also spent $1,010,178 on the race. Mellman had his proof of concept.
Turner’s race became a model for how the Injustice Democrats could defeat the rising progressive faction in the Democratic Party. It showed how pro-Israel, pro-crypto and corporate interests could funnel billionaire money into a Democratic primary without being held accountable.
Crypto + Israel + Billionaires = Injustice Democrats
The Injustice Democrats' success this cycle was the result of bringing together three major interests: crypto (including SBF and his affiliated groups), billionaires (several of whom supported Trump), and AIPAC-affiliated donors.
In addition to Mark Mellman’s DMFI, AIPAC created a PAC called the United Democracy Project (UDP). The group raised over 8 million dollars from AIPAC directly. UDP also became the venue for other billionaires who wanted to stop the left from rising in the Democratic Party -- even those who supported Donald Trump, like Robert Kraft, Bernard Marcus, and Paul Singer.
SBF and his pro-crypto allies were the second leg of the Injustice Democrats. SBF’s primary political vehicle this cycle was a group called Protect Our Future which was nominally concerned with pandemic prevention. Protect Our Future spent $28,530,613 on competitive primaries in the Democratic Party. In addition, SBF made a $2 million contribution to a pro-crypto PAC called DMI PAC -- which then proceeded to re-give the money to a group called Web3 Forward, which spent $4,663,333 this cycle -- 83% of it on competitive primaries.
The final group in the Injustice Democrats was started this cycle by billionaire Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn. According to their website, “Mainstream Democrats PAC was founded as the only Democratic group with the courage to consistently defend mainstream Democrats and defeat extreme candidates whose stated goal is “to overthrow” the Democratic Party.” They spent way less than the other groups in the Injustice Democrats, but were much more explicit about the group’s overall goal.
None of the Injustice Democrats groups did much to help Democrats win races against Republicans -- they overwhelmingly focused on helping Injustice Democrats defeat progressive candidates.
What % of PACs spending was on Democratic primaries
Protect Our Future: 100%
Web3 Forward: 95%
Mainstream Democrats: 83%
The races they focused on were almost entirely in safe Democratic districts, so there isn’t even a plausible argument they worked to ensure a more electable candidate could defeat the Republican in a competitive general election.
The entire effort was just about stopping the rise of the electoral left.
Coordination Between the PACs
My analysis shows these groups were clearly coordinating on strategy: they targeted many of the same races, they gave each other money and, in one case, even reportedly shared office space.
According to Puck News: “Mainstream Democrats shares staff, offices and other resources with another PAC that has gone after Turner, the Democratic Majority For Israel—which, despite its name, has been focused on beating back liberals more broadly. Now, with a new brand and with Hoffman’s help, the group is going bigger.”
Mark Mellman’s polling firm was employed by Protect Our Future, DMFI, Web3 Forward and Mainstream Democrats.
All told, the Mellman Group was paid $476,016.67 this cycle by the billionaire-funded Injustice Democrats:
$23,433.33 from Web3 Forward
$15,450.00 from Protect Our Future
$355,816.67 from DMFI
$81,316.67 from Mainstream Democrats
The financial connections between these five groups are extensive:
DMFI contributed $500,000 to Mainstream Democrats
Mainstream Democrats gave $103,000 back to DMFI.
The coordination on races was quite extensive -- ranging from the highest profile races that showcased a well funded progressive endorsed by Working Families Party and Justice Democrats to those in which the Injustice Democrats poured money into crushing long-shots.
At least one of the Injustice Democrats groups was involved in nearly every competitive primary this cycle, including:
Andrea Salinas vs. Carrick Flynn
Yuh Line Niou vs. Dan Goldman
Omari Hardy vs. many candidates
Jamie Skinner McLeod vs. Kurt Scharder
Marie Newman vs. Sean Casten
Rubin Ramirez vs. Michelle Vallejo
Sarah Klee Hood vs. Francis Conole
Alexandria Biaggi vs. Sean Patrick Maloney
Doyle Canning vs. Val Hoyle
David Segel vs. Seth Magaziner
What’s At Stake
Laying out the Injustice Democrats effort should put a chill through the spine of anyone who believes working people should have a voice in the Democratic Party.
It also raises some important questions.
What should we do about races like Donna Edwards or Jessica Cisernos, who likely would have won if not for the flood of Injustice Democrats money?
Are Democratic Party leaders in the White House and Congress with the Injustice Democrats strategy?
Did Sean McElwee convince SBF to also fund a few token progressives? If so, why?
If you were part of one of the races the Injustice Democrats was involved in, I’d love to hear from you.
If you’re an activist or journalist interested in digging more into these issues, I’d be happy to share my data with you.