August 13, 2014; Politico
NPQ has frequently cited and turned to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and its founding executive director, Melanie Sloan, for important insights into politicians’ creation and subsequent use and abuse of nonprofits for political ends. Although Republicans typically condemned CREW as a part of a Democratic Party attack structure, we found CREW refreshingly nonpartisan, willing to call out Democrats as well as Republicans on issues of corruption—witness its annual list of “the most corrupt members of Congress,” with its high profile inclusion of Democrats like New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez and New York Congressman Gregory Meeks, among other notables. CREW even went so far as to call for the resignation of powerful Democrat Charles Rangel, though Rangel has stayed in office and recently narrowly beat back a vigorous primary challenger.
Republicans nonetheless thought that CREW hit them harder than it went after Democrats, though from our perspective given our focus on shenanigans related to nonprofits, the problem was that since the days of Tom DeLay, Republicans have been more likely to muck around in 501(c)(3) territory. While Republicans might have thought CREW was too partisan Democratic, Kenneth Vogel reports in Politico that Democrats found its criticisms of their allies too hard to take, suggesting that the always strongly partisan Nancy Pelosi was no great fan and that the Democracy Alliance, which typically recommends progressive, Democratic organizations to its donor members, dropped CREW from its “top tier” of organizations for support.
CREW was a watchdog, but Vogel says that might be changing. The CREW board of directors just elected former Republican, now Democratic political activist David Brock as chairman of the board. Sloan is resigning, though staying on temporarily until executive director until a new ED is hired.
Brock already runs Media Matters for America, American Bridge (a super PAC), and the American Independent Institute. Brock told Vogel that adding CREW to his array of organizations makes the collection of organizations “kind of a one-stop-shop now.” Brock is also creating another watchdog, the American Democracy Legal Fund, a 527 to be run by the head of American Bridge, Brad Woodhouse, to take a more explicitly partisan role against Republicans. A 501(c)(3) public charity, CREW will add a 501(c)(4) arm as well.
Some of us remember Brock from his Republican days before h