New Dark-Money Group Spending Against Progressives Is Suspiciously Well Aligned With Powerful Democrats

Opportunity for All Action Fund has spent more than $500,000 in four primaries to support conservative House Democrats.

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 03: A view of the U.S. Capitol Building on May 03, 2022 in Washington, DC. In an initial draft majority opinion obtained by Politico, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito allegedly wrote that the cases Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern v. Casey should be overruled, which would end federal protection of abortion rights across the country.  (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
A view of the Capitol May 03, 2022 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

A dark-money group formed by longtime Democratic operatives has spent more than half a million dollars since May to back conservative Democrats in safe blue seats in three upcoming primaries, according to its most recent disclosures — and is boosting another by spending to attack their main Republican opponent. Opportunity for All Action Fund, which incorporated in August, represents yet another incursion into dark money and outside spending from mainstream Democrats desperate to defend against progressive challengers.

Each incumbent backed by Opportunity for All Action Fund is facing a primary challenge from their left: Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., is facing Kina Collins, an organizer and anti-gun violence activist who first challenged him in 2020; Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., is facing Amy Vilela, who ran unsuccessfully in a Nevada Democratic congressional primary in 2018; on Tuesday, Rep. Donald Payne Jr., D-N.J., beat organizer Imani Oakley and Akil Khalfani, a professor who ran against him in the 2020 primary as an independent. Justice Democrats is backing Collins’s campaign this cycle, and on Wednesday, she will campaign virtually alongside Justice Democrats-endorsed primary candidates Jessica Cisneros, whose Texas campaign is awaiting a recount, and Summer Lee, who won the Democratic primary in Pennsylvania’s 12th District last month.

Opportunity for All Action Fund started running digital ads on Facebook backing the three incumbents last month.

The cutout has not revealed who ultimately decided to launch the operation or who is funding it, but several public details give clues about its origins. For one, each of the incumbents is also backed by Team Blue PAC, launched last June by House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries of New York, New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer, and Alabama Rep. Terri Sewell to protect caucus members facing primary challenges. Team Blue PAC endorsed five incumbents in February and has given $5,000 to each of their campaigns, including Davis, Titus, Payne, and Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Shontel Brown, D-Ohio, who beat former state Sen. Nina Turner last month. Jeffries campaigned alongside Davis in Chicago last week, and also campaigned for Payne and Brown.

Opportunity for All Action Fund also spent in an effort to defeat Frank Pallotta, the winner of the Republican primary who will face Gottheimer, one of the Democratic caucus’s most conservative members and Team Blue PAC’s co-founder, in November. The group spent more than $150,000 to oppose candidate Pallotta, a Trump Republican who won the GOP race on Tuesday. Pallotta came within 8 points of unseating Gottheimer in 2020. The group also sent mailers in the race attacking Pallotta.

The slew of spending comes as Jeffries and Gottheimer escalate an ongoing battle with the progressive wing of the party and Jeffries pursues a path toward becoming House speaker or minority leader, replacing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi when she eventually retires. Neither office responded to a request for comment.

Opportunity for All Action Fund’s bare-bones website and “OFA” logo led a local New Jersey site writing about the fund to wonder whether it was “a misleading bid to implicate Obama for America.” The group is indeed run by Patti Solis Doyle, a partner at the Brunswick Group and a former adviser to President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign who also managed Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid; Darrel Thompson, a partner with theGROUP who was previously a top staffer for former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, chief of staff for Obama’s 2004 Senate campaign, and financial services director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee; and Mike McKay, founding and managing partner at the Miami-based Empire Consulting Group and a former staffer for Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y. Empire Consulting Group’s co-managing partner, Chaka Burgess, is on the board of the Congressional Black Caucus PAC along with Jeffries, who is also a CBC member alongside Sewell, Payne, and Meeks. Opportunity for All Action Fund lists as its incorporator Emma Olson Sharkey, an associate at Elias Law Group, a firm founded in August by lawyer Marc Elias, who was general counsel for Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Top House Democrats and outside groups have backed embattled incumbents facing progressive candidates in several competitive primaries this year, including the caucus’s last member to oppose abortion rights, conservative Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar. Another group called Mainstream Democrats PAC, backed by LinkedIn founder and major Democratic donor Reid Hoffman, is also boosting those efforts and has spent more than $1 million since April to fight progressives in three competitive races, including Cuellar’s opponent, Cisneros, as well as Turner and Jamie McLeod-Skinner, who beat Rep. Kurt Schrader in Oregon.

Correction: June 9, 2022
A previous version of this article stated that House Majority PAC shares space with OFA. The office, a House Majority PAC spokesperson clarified, is a mailing address used by multiple political organizations and the mention has been removed.

Update: June 8, 2022, 12:02 p.m.
This article has been updated to reflect that Rep. Donald Payne Jr. won his primary election on Tuesday.

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