According to the group's statement of purpose on its new website, "American democracy has never been what it claimed to be." Discrimination by race and sex and a political system dominated by the wealthy are cited as hallmarks of US society, both historically and in the present.
"If Abraham Lincoln famously defined 'democracy' as 'government of, by and for the people,'" the statement reads, "American democracy was always government OVER everyone, BY a small wealthy class, and (with an occasional exception) FOR these same few." Wealth in private property has always been the main criteria for rule.
In current times, however, the capture of power by George W. Bush through two stolen elections marks a new moment in US history. "Even the modest degree of influence Americans once enjoyed over their rulers has practically disappeared," the statement says.
IED 's statement lauds the stated goal of building democracy around the world, but insists that "it has to start in the country that needs it most, which is our own."
While the potential for democracy in the US may be bleak, the IED statement proclaims rather optimistically its belief that the situation can be turned around.
Without naming particular groups designated to receive funds, IED has specified 4 main types of groups that do pro-democracy work which would be targeted: progressive workers' groups, progressive media, progressive education, and individuals and organizations who provide investigative analysis of US foreign policy. In the future, groups chosen to receive funds and the amounts they receive will be made public.
Prominent members of the board of IED and other officials include prison and social activist Mumia Abu-Jamal, renowned social critic Howard Zinn, human rights attorneys Lynne Stewart and Leonard Weinglass, award-winning essayist Gore Vidal, writer Micahel Parenti, environmental advocate Joel Kovel, and numerous other prominent academicians and activists. The idea was conceived by the organization 's president, Bertell Ollman.
The concept may be described as a left-wing version of the US government's grant funding arm the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). On IED's website, readers may find articles that discuss NED's role in international affairs and the various groups to which it has provided funds.
NED is widely criticized for use of US taxpayer money to fund groups and organizations that serve an interventionist purpose in order to promote US interests in other countries or in some instances to destabilize them.
For example, the US government, through the NED gave the International Republican Institute (IRI), an arm of the Republican Party, $200,000 to finance the creation of opposition political parties in Venezuela. Under the guise of "democracy," those funds enabled some tiny groups to project a larger voice calling for the downfall of the current democratically elected government.
Numerous examples of this kind of activity can be found among the recipients of US tax dollars through the NED in many countries. But overthrow of a particular government that the US doesn't like isn't always on the NED 's agenda. Sometimes influencing national or local elections or promoting groups that favor business or trade interests such as "free trade" agreements is enough. At the very least the influential presence of US government cash ensures that US corporate interests will be tended to.
While the names of many groups that receive NED funding seem innocuous or have goals that appear altruistic, the real purpose is to create dependency on US government funding sources for groups that probably wouldn 't exist without the money and that may potentially wield more political power as a result of their ties to the US government.