Anti-Trump Advocacy Group Paid Millions To Executive Director’s Firm

It was recently reported that an advocacy group opposed to former President Donald Trump paid millions of dollars over three years to a firm operated by the organization’s executive director.

The anti-Trump organization Defending Democracy Together (DDT), founded to tackle the supposed “nativist and authoritarian impulses” in the GOP, has reportedly paid more than $10.6 million to the communications firm Longwell Partners since 2020 for services ranging from management to research.

The executive director of DDT, Sarah Longwell, is the president and CEO of Longwell Partners. She owned approximately 35% of the organization as of 2022. DDT entrusted its management responsibilities to Longwell’s firm from 2020-2023, according to Just the News.

Just the News reported that Longwell Partners provided other services to DLT including research, advertising, media relations, program management, accounting and financial management, alongside other things.

Over 10% of DDT’s revenue was comprised of payments to Longwell’s firm in 2020, equaling about $5 million, according to tax documents. In 2021, close to 20% of DDT’s revenue, about $2.6 million, was sent to Longwell Partners, with such a figure increasing to nearly $3 million the following year.

An investigative researcher for Capital Research Center told the Daily Caller that the association between DDT and Longwell’s firm is concerning.

“The generous fees paid by Defending Democracy Together to a for-profit firm owned by Longwell are definitely cause for concern,” the researcher, Parker Thayer, told the outlet.
“The use of an in-house for-profit management firm by PACs and nonprofits is mostly an expeditious way to handle complex inter-organization management fees for groups that collaborate and have overlapping staff,” Thayer said.

“But it is also a very convenient way for groups to avoid disclosing payments to personnel and firms that would otherwise need to be reported individually,” he added.

While speaking to the Daily Caller, nonprofit ethics expert Doug White said that the arrangement between organizations that Longwell manages and her communications firm is cause for ethical concerns.

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

White continued by saying that the payments “might be legal, but she should be forthright and transparent about the conflict, and explain, without being asked, why another communications firm can’t be used.”