Former SEIU Exec Joins Center for American Progress Action Fund

The woman known as the “Queen of Labor” is living up to her promise to focus on “building a sustaining progressive infrastructure.” Anna Burger, former SEIU Secretary-Treasurer, has just joined the board of directors at the Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAP Action).

CAP Action is a sister organization to the liberal think tank, Center for American Progress. While the Center for American Progress focuses on developing new policy ideas and on “critiquing the policy that stems from conservative values,” CAP Action focuses on how to put those policies into action – by organizing liberal grassroots groups, labor unions and other progressive partners as advocates.

John Podesta, Chairman of the Board of Directors for CAP Action, offered the following statement in the organization’s December 9th press release:

“The Center for American Progress Action Fund is pleased to welcome Anna Burger to our Board of Directors. She has been a longtime friend of the Center for American Progress and CAP Action and we’re very happy that she has agreed to help us advance our mission by serving in this new capacity.

Anna Burger has been fighting hard for progressive ideas and policies for nearly 40 years, including the visionary leadership she has provided for the progressive movement over the past decade. We face numerous opportunities and many challenges over the next two years and look forward to Anna’s help in charting our course. As we continue to push for an economy built on a strong middle class that works for all Americans, Anna’s continued leadership and experience could not come at a more important time.”

In addition to her previous post at SEIU, Burger has held many prominent positions that have played significant roles in advancing the progressive movement, including:

  • Former Chair of the Change to Win Federation, the labor coalition founded in 2005 by “reformers” who notoriously split from the AFL-CIO to build a stronger, more progressive labor movement, based on the organizing model. (Burger resigned this post when she retired from SEIU)
  • Current Board of Directors, Progressive States Network, alongside other directors such as Media Matters’ David Brock,’s Wes Boyd, ACORN’s Steve Kest, AFSCME’s Lee Saunders and CAP’s John Podesta.
  • Board of Directors of defunct They Work For Us/Working for Us, alongside other directors such as SEIU’s Tyrone Freeman,’s Eli Pariser and Thomas Mattzie, and Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas Zuniga.
  • Board of Directors of Economic Policy Institute, alongside other directors such as former managing director of Soros Fund Management and fellow Democracy Alliance board member Robert Johnson, The American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner and Robert Reich, and most of Big Labor’s most prominent leaders, including former SEIU president Andy Stern.
  • Member of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board

Burger also maintains her position as Vice-Chair of the Democracy Alliance, a collaborative network of elite donors that plans and provides funding to carefully selected organizations that currently, or will be created to, serve a specific purpose within the progressive infrastructure. The organization was formed in 2005 after Rob Stein’s infamous presentation titled “The Conservative Message Machine Money Matrix“, which detailed the conservative movement’s funding and management network and sparked an appeal for a permanent progressive infrastructure. Among the earliest beneficiaries of the Democracy Alliance were Media Matters and the Center for American Progress.

In a post I wrote this past August, Anna Burger Quits SEIU and Change to Win to ‘Build Progressive Infrastructure’, I stated that “Burger’s departure marks not just the end of an era for SEIU, but more importantly, it’s indicative of a new era for the Progressive movement.”

This appears to remain the case. Burger’s appointment to CAP Action seems to be yet another sign that a ‘Democracy Alliance 2.0’ is underway.

During a mid-November conference at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington DC, some of the left’s most elite political donors gathered at the $600 a night luxury hotel to plot their strategy for 2012. Hosted by the Democracy Alliance for its 150 or so donor partners and some of its member organizations, the three-day conference focused on post-election analysis of Democratic losses and a strategy for going forward.

But the event wasn’t solely about elections. Just as they were prior to the mid-term elections, Democrats seem to be split into two camps: those focused on the next election’s financing, and those focused on building and maintaining a permanent progressive infrastructure.

The head of one of Democracy Alliance’s earliest spawns, Media Matters, is focused on initiatives specifically for the 2012 elections, like creating a new super-PAC. The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent says that a source close to David Brock told him that the Media Matters founder and CEO is pitching his concept to donors as we speak. The NY Times reports that Brock has already collected over $4 million in donation pledges for the organization, called American Bridge, and appointed Robert F. Kennedy’s eldest child and former Maryland lieutenant governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend to serve as chairwoman.

With the White House now signaling it wants outside groups on the left to ramp up for 2012, Media Matters founder David Brock is in discussions to form a new group designed to raise and spend big bucks to counter the right’s powerful new infrastructure, a person who’s spoken directly with Brock about his plans tells me…

… “David is on the road right now talking to donors and strategists who would be interested in this,” the source tells me, adding that Brock intends to create a 527, which has partial donor disclosure rules. “He’s out pitching it right now.”

“There’s a general sense that in 2010 nothing was done and it cost Democrats,” the source continues. “People realize, including in the White House, that something needs to be done in 2012 or progressives will suffer at the ballot box again.”

But Democracy Alliance donor member George Soros remains partial to this infrastructure strategy. As I recently posted here at the Bigs, since his failed attempts at trying to oust former President George W. Bush several years ago, Soros has been committed to more long-term initiatives that would help push the country permanently to the left, and less so on elections, which are more temporary in nature. On the heels of that conference, Soros told fellow donors that Obama Might Not Be The Best Investment, indicating the focus should remain not only on electing progressive candidates, but even more so on long term infrastructure investments.

It’s a point with which Anna Burger herself agrees.

While Soros’s comment gave some attendees the impression that he’d cheer a primary challenge to the president, the point, sources say, was different. Rather, it is time to shuffle funds into a progressive infrastructure that will take on the tasks that the president can’t or won’t take on.

“People are determined to help build a progressive infrastructure and make sure it is there not just in the months ahead but one that will last in the long term,” said Anna Burger, the retired treasury secretary of SEIU. “Instead of being pushed over by this election it has empowered people to stand up in a bigger way.”

The appointment of Anna Burger to CAP Action leverages the labor leader’s strengths both in grassroots organizing and in fund-raising. Her existing post as Vice-Chair at the Democracy Alliance is surely an added benefit – to CAP Action and to the progressive movement as a whole. With this rebirth of sorts we’re seeing from the Democracy Alliance as Progressives try again to consume the Democratic Party, I expect we may see other similar high profile retirements/resignations and subsequent new appointments to prominent progressive posts.


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