12/06/2013 06:17 pm ET Updated Feb 05, 2014

Third Way Attacks Elizabeth Warren and Bill de Blasio, and Should Disclose Bank Donations

The "think tank" Third Way, who I referred to as a Democratic "pretender" in my recent column in The Hill, wrote an oped for the Wall Street Journal that attacked progressive economic populism and attacked Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and New York Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio yet refuses to disclose whether it receives money from banks. Let me first disclose to readers the following:

While preparing my column I sent Third Way two media inquiries asking for this information.

The first asked whether Third Way receives money from banks, Wall Street firms, hedge funds, large insurers or other firms who would benefit from Third Way''s attack on Warren and de Blasio. The answer was: Third Way would not tell me. In my second inquiry, which I stated was an attempt by me to be fair, I asked if Third Way could confirm to me that they do NOT receive money from financial firms. The answer was: they would not tell me. I also asked how many members of their board have ties to financial firms. The answer ignored that question., a group that monitors corporate donations, suggests that Third Way has received money from Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch. I cannot independently verify this, though I suspect it is true. I call on Third Way to publicly disclose all donations from money center banks, Wall Street firms, hedge funds, private equity funds, large insurers and any other firm that benefits from the anti-populist, anti-Warren, anti-de Blasio views it advocates. I call on these companies to publicly disclose their donations to Third Way.

I support the letter from Sen. Warren to financial firms calling on them to disclose donations to Third Way, and I urge members of the House and Senate to ask representatives of these firms whether they donate to Third Way at public hearings in Congress.

Finally on this point, I took a close look at the board of trustees of Third Way and described the board in my column as dominated by male Wall Streeters. I encourage readers and others in the media to carefully examine this board.

Let me be clear: Third Way has a right to whatever views it chooses to advocate and to receive funds from any legal source. No doubt its board members are honorable people and the financial relationships a majority of its board members have are with honorable companies who have a right to donate to whichever beneficiary they choose. Here's the problem:

When Third Way attacks core progressive Democratic values and attacks by name leading advocates of core Democratic progressive principles, and does so in the Wall Street Journal, is it acting for a third way in politics, or as a fifth column for banks trying to influence policy and buy influence through undisclosed donations to "think tanks" that publicly attack political opponents of financial abuse?

The point of my column in The Hill was to urge Hillary Clinton to champion the cause of progressive patriotic populism that Third Way attacks. I have strongly supported Elizabeth Warren for years. I strongly supported Bill de Blasio. I was and remain a strong supporter of Occupy Wall Street. The real issue here is profound.

I have been to many rodeos in my political life, and one thing I learned long ago is the power of the 1 percent to seek advantage over the 99 percent by funneling large amounts of money to groups -- some might call them front groups -- that support their friends and attack their opponents. There are forms of what normal people would call lobbying, and this is one of them. The use of secret money to reward friends and seek to destroy opponents is a common practice in our corrupted system.

Third Way has a legal right to keep their donations secret, and we have a legal right to give Third Way zero credibility until they disclose their donations. In the meantime America is lucky to have leaders such as Elizabeth Warren and Bill de Blasio who disclose their donations and fight honorably for the 99 percent.