The Democratic Socialists of America Fund was originally established in 1978 as the Institute for Democratic Socialism (IDS). Michael Harrington, who became famous for his 1962 work The Other America, was a founder of IDS as well as its sister organization, the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (now merged into Democratic Socialists of America/DSA). IDS’s mission, like that of the DSA Fund today, was to help spread democratic socialist ideals through educational materials and activist training.
Throughout the last quarter of the 20th century, IDS was part of several historic progressive projects and events. In December 1980, IDS organized a three-day conference, “Eurosocialism and America” that brought over 2000 U.S.-based activists to D.C. to meet with the leaders of social democratic and democratic socialist political movements from Europe and the developing world to explore how democratic socialist policy alternatives could benefit the United States. Speakers included heads of state or soon-to-be heads of state such as Willy Brandt of Germany, François Mitterrand of France, Olof Palme of Sweden, and Michael Manley of Jamaica.
A harbinger to today’s Medicare-for-All movement, in 1993 IDS (with help from organized labor such as the United Automobile Workers) brought trade unionists, doctors, and parliamentarians from Canada to speak at public forums and press conferences across the United States on the applicability of the Canadian single-payer health care system to the United States. The tour played a significant role in the creation of the single-payer movement in this country.
In the mid-1990s, IDS changed its name to the Democratic Socialists of America Fund. During this time, it lent significant support to the Prison Moratorium Project, coordinated by DSA’s youth section (now the Young Democratic Socialists of America). This effort to divest from private prisons into public education led Sodexho to abandon its carceral business practices.
Throughout this millennium, DSA Fund has continued to advocate for democratic socialism. More recent projects include supporting a Eugene Debs book project and GET UP, a popular education program about economic inequality. Each year, the fund has provided generous support to young socialists attending both the annual winter and summer youth conferences. In total, 10,000 college-age socialists have attended these events over the past 40 years.
Today the DSA Fund continues to build the socialist project and advance educational work around alternatives to capitalism.
DSA Fund Board Members
The Board consists of 12 Directors. The DSA Fund Board elects its members to staggered two-year terms. At least four of the Directors are women, at least two of the Directors self-identify as members of racial or national minorities, and at least one was age 30 or under as of the date the director was elected.
Theresa Alt (Secretary-Treasurer)
Theresa Alt has been on the DSA Fund Board since 1993 and was for a time the only Fund Board member who was also on the DSA National Political Committee. She is active locally in her Ithaca NY DSA chapter; in electoral campaigns; and in living wage, affordable housing, and single payer work. She does public access videos and programs on community radio.
Leanna Ballester joined DSA in 2017 and has held fundraising leadership positions within the NYC chapter. She loves to plan events and raise money for socialist causes. Leanna is currently a member of the DSA Fund’s Fundraising Committee and is a member-at-large living in Lake Huntington, NY.
Yael Bridge is an Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker. Most recently she directed THE BIG SCARY “S” WORD about the history and resurgence of socialism in the US, now streaming on Hulu. She is currently finishing a short film about the UTLA teacher strike of 2019, WHEN WE FIGHT. She proudly serves as the co-chair of the Labor Committee at the Documentary Producers Alliance. She resides in Oakland, where she works as a filmmaker and film educator.
Bianca Cunningham organized with her Verizon wireless co-workers to join Communication Workers of America in 2014. She alongside others bargained the contract for over a year before going out on strike for 49 days in 2016. She was fired for her organizing and went to work in District 1 while her case was pending at the NLRB. The decision that she was illegally fired and should be returned to work was overturned by the DC Circuit Court. She joined Labor Notes as a staff organizer with a focus on training development. Bianca is the co-chair of NYC-DSA and a co-founder of the AfroSocialists and Socialists of Color Caucus.
David Duhalde (Chair)
David Duhalde is a long-time democratic socialist activist, starting as a campus activist with what is now called Young Democratic Socialists of America. Since then, he has served as DSA’s National Youth Organizer and Deputy Director. Duhalde also served as political director of the Bernie Sanders-inspired Our Revolution.
David Green is a neurologist in private practice in Farmington Hills, Mi. He served on DSA’s NPC for many years. He was the Chair of Detroit DSA from 1996-2018; later, became a member of the DSA National Political Committee.
Frank Llewellyn was one of the original incorporators of the Institute for Democratic Socialism which later became the Democratic Socialists of America Fund. A lifelong activist and socialist he served Democratic Socialists of America in New York City since the organization was founded. He served on its National Political Committee and as its National Director for more than ten years. He is currently the Treasurer of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for Congress.
James Tierney is on the steering committee of Lincoln DSA and serves as its treasurer, both terms ending effective June 2023. He has also volunteered with DSA Fund on the How We Win series. In his day job, he is a lawyer and law professor who teaches and writes about the law of capitalism. He is on the faculty at the University of Nebraska College of Law until fall 2023, when he will join the faculty of Chicago Kent College of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology. In spring 2023, he is also a part-time lecturer at Rutgers Law School, where he is a member of the Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union (PTLFC-AAUP-AFT local 6324). Before teaching, he was senior counsel at the Securities and Exchange Commission’s office of the general counsel, where he mostly worked on enforcement cases against predatory financial advisers, and was a member of NTEU local 293. He also worked for global law firm Mayer Brown, an experience that led to him joining DSA, and before that as a legal clerk to a federal court of appeals judge. He has relevant experience with political education, nonprofit finances and governance, legislative and policy drafting, strategic policy communications with regulators, and writing “friend of the court” legal briefs on behalf of progressive nonprofits. He’s licensed as a lawyer in the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, and Nebraska, and has degrees from the University of Chicago and Brown University.
Maxine Phillips is a former national director of DSA, a former NPC member, the former executive editor of Dissent magazine, and the current volunteer editor of Democratic Left. She is a co-editor of the Religious Socialism site. She joined the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee in 1977 after hearing about it during a discussion group at church on corporate capitalism. In New York City, she is active with the NYC Religious Socialism Working Group and the New Sanctuary Coalition.
Chris Riddiough (Vice Chair)
Christine Riddiough was a founding member of DSA. She was an activist in the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union, the first and largest of the socialist feminist women’s organizations of the 1970s. She was a member of the New American Movement and has been active in the LGBTQ movement over the last 40 years. She has served as political director of DSA and as a member of the DSA National Committee. She lives in Washington, DC and teaches computer programming and statistics.
Russell Weiss-Irwin lives in Boston, Massachusetts, where he teaches middle school and is active in his union and his Baptist Church, and co-chairs the Boston DSA Labor Working Group. He joined DSA in 2014, when he was a student and YDSA member at City College of New York, and then co-founded Central Jersey DSA in 2015, and served on DSA’s National Political Committee from 2015 to 2017. He loves cooking and biking and working to build a world free of capitalism and oppression.
Brandon West is a labor organizer, former voting rights advocate, and previous DSA endorsed candidate for City Council in Brooklyn. Brandon has worked to protect and increase access to the ballot and strengthen the political voice of historically disadvantaged communities. He has organized work places, and built coalitions at the State and National level since 2009.
Budget & Finance
Read the bylaws of the DSA Fund here.