Anti-Trump Group Criticized For Payments To Executive Director’s Company

While some political pundits and groups that emerged as opponents of former President Donald Trump likely did so on ideological grounds, others have been accused of using their anti-Trump messages as a way to pad their own pockets.

Critics say that was apparently the case for Defending Democracy Together, a non-profit organization built on the claim that the “unsettling nativist and authoritarian impulses” of today’s GOP “are antithetical to what it means to be a Republican, and what it means to be American.”

While the group’s resources have been used to advance a variety of projects, records indicate a large portion of its money found its way into a communications firm that happened to be at least partially owned by its executive director.

According to Federal Election Commission documents, Sarah Longwell serves as the president and CEO of Longwell Partners in addition to her role at Defending Democracy Together. As of 2022, she also owned 35% or more of the company.

Beginning in 2020, the political organization paid Longwell Partners for management services totaling more than $10.6 million. The percentage of Defending Democracy Together’s revenue funneled to Longwell’s firm increased over time, beginning with 12.7% in 2020 and ballooning to nearly one-third of the organization’s revenue by 2022.

Parker Thayer of Capital Research Center weighed in on the controversial arrangement, asserting: “The generous fees paid by Defending Democracy Together to a for-profit firm owned by Longwell are definitely cause for concern.”

He went on to acknowledge that nonprofit organizations sometimes use “an in-house for-profit management firm” to “handle complex inter-organization management fees for groups that collaborate and have overlapping staff,” but cautioned that such an arrangement is “also a very convenient way for groups to avoid disclosing payments to personnel and firms that would otherwise need to be reported individually.”

According to Doug White, who specializes in ethical issues affecting nonprofit entities, the stream of money from Defending Democracy Together to Longwell’s firm raises some serious red flags.

“She benefits as part owner of the for-profit that is paid by the nonprofit and super PAC she runs,” he explained. “It’s a conflict of interest.”