Middle Seat, the main media consulting firm behind Justice Democrats, MoveOn, The Squad, AOC, Beto O’Rourke, Working Families Party, Indivisible, and dozens of other self-proclaimed progressives has raked in more than $48 million in revenue – while simultaneously working to co-opt progressive messaging in an effort to carry water for Democratic party elites.
The representatives and organizations Middle Seat messaged for fundraised off promises such as Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, a living wage, housing for all, and student loan debt forgiveness, only to peddle unpopular incrementalist legislation like the Build Back Better Act once the candidates were elected.
What Beto, Biden, AOC, and the DNC all have in common
Middle Seat’s founders are no strangers to progressive messaging. Founders Zack Exley, Kenneth Pennington, and Hector Sigala all previously held roles on Bernie Sanders’ 2016 Presidential campaign. Kenneth Pennington and Hector Sigala went on to work a short stint with Our Revolution following Sanders’ Campaign, before founding Middle Seat.
Middle Seat, like many other political contractors, often have a heavy influence on what their clients are presenting to the public. Their suite of services includes social media, texting, web design, advertising, organizing, and even campaign strategy. Noting on their website that they, “work with campaigns and organizations to build and grow their impact in the progressive space.”
The firm is very close with Justice Democrats, having been formed in conjunction with each other, by some of the same people, and essentially serving as the for-profit wing of the PAC. The Justice Democrats’ connections to Middle Seat run deep considering Zack Exley was also a founder of Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress.
Together both organizations have established a recruitment pipeline where Justice Democrats find candidates and set them up with Middle Seat, which moderates their message and aligns it with the Democratic Party establishment while making millions and keeping their influence invisible to the public and the movement.
If Justice Democrats supporters gave to the Squad or JD candidates as a small grassroots donor, there’s a good chance it ended up with Middle Seat.
Middle Seat has amassed tremendous revenue from Justice Democrats, the Squad, and JD candidates alone. According to the Federal Elections Commission, Middle Seat brought in more than $9.1 million from Justice Democrats, affiliated political action committees, and JD candidates combined.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her Courage to Change PAC accounted for $2.8 million in revenue alone. Middle Seat also represents nearly every Justice Democrat candidate and member of Congress, who pay in tens of thousands of campaign dollars to the firm for services each month.
Some of Middle Seat’s most profitable Justice Democrats representatives are Jamal Bowman at $1.3 million spent, Ro Khanna at $1.4 million spent, and Ayanna Pressley at $488,000.
Middle Seat is bringing in funds from other progressive candidates and representatives. Charles Booker’s campaign and affiliated PACs have spent more than $3.1 million since the end of 2020 alone. Katie Porter and her affiliated PAC have paid in more than $2.3 million to Middle Seat, from 2019 to now.
While Middle Seat has capitalized off of progressive candidates and shifted their messaging to the right, they also worked with establishment candidates to pass moderate candidates off as progressive and shift the goalposts of the progressive movement, Beto O’Rourke, and Joe Biden stand as shining examples of this type of client.
The Biden Victory Fund was also a client of Middle Seat in 2020. The firm worked in conjunction with the Democratic National Committee’s in-house digital advertising team in an effort to make Biden more palatable for progressives.
But they weren’t Middle Seat’s first establishment candidate. The firm has also worked with DNC-backed clients such as MoveOn, Beto O’Rourke, and the Working Family’s Party.
Beto O’Rourke and his campaign support PACs, People Powered Action and Powered by the People, account for half of Middle Seat’s revenue at a whopping $23.1 million going to the firm. Middle Seat was contracted by the Beto campaigns, and supporting political action committees, during his 2018 Texas Senate race against Republican incumbent Ted Cruz and his subsequent 2020 Presidential run.
While the Squad and others have moved to the right under the messaging hand of Middle Seat, Beto garnered millions in campaign donations and support by masking his past stances. His campaign touted policies such as Medicare for All to capitalize on the zeitgeist born out of Bernie Sander’s 2016 Presidential run, despite his tendency in the past to support moderate and conservative legislation.
According to the by-line on Beto’s current website, Middle Seat has been contracted once again for his 2022 Texas gubernatorial race.
The American people are sick of being lied to by corrupt politicians, shady firms, and political parties that are bought out by the corporate establishment. This is a new election year and we are ready for change. Can you contribute $20.22 to help us build a People’s Party in 2022 so we have a real voice and a choice at the ballot box?
The Lies, The Grift, and The Cooptation
Many progressive candidates and organizations contracted by Middle Seat fueled their campaigns by touting themselves as Democratic-party outsiders. Now progressive figureheads like AOC, Cori Bush, and Jamaal Bowman are toeing the Party line.
For instance, they’ve replaced their criticisms of Joe Biden in 2020 with fawning reviews of his performance, despite the President’s ever-slumping approval ratings and refusal to support progressive policies he promised on the campaign trail.
In October, Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal gave a glowing speech in support of Joe Biden and his deeply unpopular Build Back Better Act saying, “The President is the inspirer, he is the closer, he is the convincer…He really is doing a phenomenal job.”
In January of 2021, The Squad and other progressive members of the House sparked a massive public outcry when they refused to use their influence to force the vote on Medicare for All by withholding their votes for Nancy Pelosi’s speakership unless she brought the legislation to the floor.
Earlier this year AOC, Cori Bush, and the Working Families Party put on a theatrical display at the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building during their sit-in to demand that Biden extend the moratorium on evictions. Just a few days later they touted Biden’s mere 60-day extension as a victory, despite the fact that the legislation wasn’t even close to their initial demand of Housing for All and left millions of renters without support.
It’s no surprise to see Middle Seat’s clients’ messaging shift, considering the firm “teamed up” with the DNC to conduct messaging for President Biden’s 2020 campaign, even showcasing their partnership on the Middle Seat website. The firm has utilized its proficiency in targeting the left to give the Democratic Party and Joe Biden a facade of progressivism in an effort to mask their corporatist agenda.
This is the machinery of co-optation in the Democratic Party. It’s a key piece of the overall picture of how the Democratic Party neutralizes the left within the party, and why it cannot be reformed.
When pulling on the proverbial thread, it’s clear how the Democratic Party and consulting operatives have co-opted the progressive movement and diluted it to push for Biden’s incrementalist agenda while candidates spend millions of small-dollar donor money on their services. The Squad and Congressional progressives have allowed the Democratic elite and consulting firms to push a corporate agenda while attempting to save face through political theater and messaging that runs counter to their actions and votes in the House and Senate.
The corporate parties and their affiliates will capitalize on the hopes of the American people for personal gain and political power and continue to direct movements away from policies the majority of Americans demand.
The label “progressive” only extends as far as the party associated with the candidate, incumbent, or organization. Movements and politicians can be co-opted and seized as long as they are intertwined with the corporate political system.
The answer to corruption is a major new party, free of corporate influence that will hold their representatives and affiliated organizations to the policies they have pledged to support.
Right now the People’s Party is gearing up in states across the country to garner ballot access and reach millions of voters. Can you contribute $20.22 today to help build a party that will not do politics as usual but makes a real, lasting, and sustainable change?
Thousands of volunteers are working across the country to build the People’s Party. A major new party that will demand an end to half-measures and weak policies. We deserve better than cooptation and the status quo. We deserve a People’s Party.
If you’d like to hear more check out this interview with Primo Radical: