The top political adviser to one of the Democratic Party’s biggest donors privately urged fellow Democrats last week to abandon the push around federal voting rights legislation in favor of legislative items with better chances of passage.
Dmitri Mehlhorn, a key confidant to Democratic funder Reid Hoffman, the billionaire co-founder of LinkedIn, made the case to advisers to other Democratic megadonors that the attention being placed by activists and lawmakers on the For the People Act was setting the party up for failure, according to people involved in the discussions and emails obtained by POLITICO.
Mehlhorn’s emails are perhaps the first and most vivid indication of a strategic fissure within the Democratic ranks over how much to emphasize voting rights legislation. From President Joe Biden on down, lawmakers and activists have framed the debate as existential for the future of democratic governance, arguing that the failure to move a bill (let alone prioritize one) would irrevocably harm the country.
Mehlhorn’s views on the matter reflect a portion of the party that is second-guessing that strategy. It’s unclear how big the contingent is but it is undeniably influential.
The tough and threatening language Mehlhorn used in his emails drew backlash from some fellow donor advisers, who have been organizing in support of the bill and believe Democrats need to be united.
In response, Mehlhorn insisted in his emails to them that his objection was not to the substance of the bill but that Democrats are wasting valuable time and precious political capital on legislation that he believed was unlikely to pass. He made the case that in the run-up to the 2022 elections, Democrats ought to be spending time on more achievable goals and that donors would be disillusioned after pouring money into a failed effort….
Some donor advisers have disagreed with Mehlhorn’s tactics but sympathized with his larger point about the future of the For The People Act. “Was he too brash? Maybe. Is he right? Many people think so,” one fellow donor adviser familiar with the internal disputes told POLITICO.