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As Democratic donors gather in Chicago, GOP takes aim

NEW YORK NY - APRIL 23: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio attends The Hispanic FederatiGalco-hosted by Mario Lopez

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 23: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio attends The Hispanic Federation Gala co-hosted by Mario Lopez at the Waldorf=Astoria on April 23, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Mireya Acierto/Getty Images for NUVOtv) ORG XMIT: 485930199

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Updated: May 28, 2014 6:38AM



WASHINGTON — Some of the deepest pockets in the Democratic donor world are huddling, starting Sunday, in Chicago for a conference designed to help them decide where to channel millions of political dollars.

It’s a gathering the Republican National Committee is gearing up to attack.

Freshman New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose election was hailed by the Democratic progressive wing, keynotes the opening of the Democracy Alliance “Spring Investment Conference” at the Ritz-Carlton. The organization consists of elite megadonors who combine their enormous collective financial firepower for favored candidates and causes.

According to the agenda I saw, the members — called “partners”— will discuss with an array of high-profile Democratic operatives, among other matters: whether Democrats are entering a new progressive era; climate change; gun control, and strategies for defending Obamacare in the states.

“Looking forward to discussing the fight against income inequality at the Democracy Alliance in Chicago on Sunday,” de Blasio said in a tweet.

Gov. Pat Quinn, facing a big re-election contest in November against super-rich GOP nominee Bruce Rauner, will attend the conference on Sunday, I’m told. And even though Quinn (whose top strategist, Bill Hyers, was de Blasio’s campaign manager) is not slated to speak, it’s a target-rich environment for Quinn’s fundraising efforts.

Republicans, stung last month when a string of potential 2016 GOP presidential contenders traveled to Las Vegas to court billionaire casino owner and donor Sheldon Adelson, are planning a series of strikes on the secretive Democracy Alliance during their Chicago meeting, which runs through Wednesday.

Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski told me “the left’s secret club of progressives and big-dollar donors . . . will meet behind closed doors to discuss how they can further pull their party to the left.”

“We’ll be using all of our resources to educate Americans about the Democrat Party — a party that’s stalling the Keystone Pipeline and dozens of jobs bills in the Senate because they are busy kissing the rings of Tom Steyer and big donors in Chicago.

“You can expect an array of tactics to show voters what the Democrat Party talks about when they think no one is watching,” Kukowski said.

Steyer, a billionaire, is using his fortune to craft plans to ensure Democrats make climate change a top political issue and is one of the expected speakers at the meeting.

The RNC started plotting its strategy after Politico’s Kenneth Vogel on Thursday broke the story about the Chicago conference.

Republicans like to portray Steyer and the Democracy Alliance as the left version of megadonors the Koch Brothers and Adelson.

David Axelrod, former top strategist for President Barack Obama — and one of the conference speakers — told me the comparison is not apt because the Democracy Alliance is made up of a “broad group of people. . . . This isn’t a command performance” for a “deep-pocketed casino owner.”

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., speaks Tuesday; Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood Federation of America president delivers remarks Wednesday. Other speakers include White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and White House political director David Simas.

The Chicago-based Organizing for Action, the spinoff of the Obama 2012 campaign, is using the meeting to showcase its operations, inviting the donors to a Wednesday cocktail party at its West Loop headquarters hosted by Obama 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina, OFA Chief Jon Carson and Julianna Smoot, who co-chairs the 2012 campaign. Smoot also is one of the three board members of the Barack Obama Presidential Library Foundation, which will oversee a multimillion-dollar fundraising drive.

Email: lsweet@suntimes.com

Twitter: @lynnsweet



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