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America Votes Loses Its Leader

America Votes, one arm of the tripartite soft money organization founded in 2004 to defeat President Bush in his bid for a second term, has lost its president -- Cecile Richards -- to Planned Parenthood.

Richards, who is the daughter of former Texas Gov. Ann Richards (D), takes over for Gloria Feldt, who left a year ago after an eight-year stint at the pro-abortion rights group.  Richards's decision to leave America Votes raises questions about the future of the organization, which has struggled to stay relevant following Bush's reelection victory.

Some predict that America Votes will follow America Coming Together and the Media Fund -- the two other wings of the so-called "shadow Democratic Party" -- into the political abyss. The Media Fund, which was charged with managing the vast television campaign financed by the millions the three groups raised, dramatically scaled back its efforts -- although it did run a small research and development program in the Virginia governor's race. ACT was shuttered last summer as it struggled to attract donors without a clear goal for its immediate future.

Jim Jordan, a veteran Democratic strategist, cast Richards's departure as a major problem for the future of the group. "It's a real blow to America Votes and to the political left more broadly.  Her skills -- strategic, political, personal -- are so exceptional, perhaps unique, that she may prove to be literally irreplaceable in that role."

Sources familiar with the group insist that America Votes will continue operating. They note that Carl Pope, president of the Sierra Club, is currently serving as the acting chair of the organization and is leading the search for Richards's replacement.

Steve Rosenthal, who left his position as the head of ACT to start his own consulting business, said "there is a strong team in place -- and now that the America Votes partners have been through a cycle and seen the power of working together off a single plan with the same research and targets, there's no going back to the old way of doing things."

America Votes also recently received a $6 million commitment from the Democracy Alliance -- a group of high-dollar donors that includes billionaire philanthropist George Soros -- according to an informed source close to Richards. America Votes has commitments in the neighborhood of $8 million and ended 2005 with $2.7 million in the bank, the source added.

Will America Votes survive and, if so, will it be in a position to heavily influence the 2006 midterms or the 2008 presidential election?  The jury is out.

By Chris Cillizza  |  January 11, 2006; 1:09 PM ET
Categories:  Democratic PACs  
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Come back to the five-n-dime,
Gov'nr Richards, Gov'nr Richards!

Posted by: jay lassiter | January 12, 2006 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Although it's been said, I have to add my voice to the chorus of comments re the scope of Planned Parenthood's activities. My eyes popped out when I read "pro-abortion rights group" as a description of that organization. It was founded in 1916, and its leaders were arrested for attempting to disseminate information about birth control. Although the provision of contraceptive services is, for the most part, no longer controversial, it is still a very valuable service---one that is otherwise unavailable to many women.

Posted by: JRG | January 12, 2006 4:57 PM | Report abuse

I always wondered why Rethuglicans are against abortion. It seems they are willing to kill or torture everyone else. And, how can you be pro-life and be pro-death penalty, pro-torture and pro-war?

Posted by: KAS | January 12, 2006 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Planned Parenthood aside, America Votes is as strong as ever.

Heading up AV is probably the hardest job in politics: making sure all the groups on the left sit down together, so the organization will have to choose wisely. Regardless, though, AV's funding is still intact, and they have a talented staff of folks who know how to get the job done.

As Steve said, the progressive groups have seen the power of working together, and they will continue to do so.

Posted by: pizzatch | January 11, 2006 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Sure it is you idiot. But that's not all it is. For instance, we don't call Bush a moron. He is. We call him the President. Or, Dictator. Or Fuhrer.

Posted by: Esquire | January 11, 2006 4:18 PM | Report abuse

So Planned Parenthood is NOT pro-abortion rights? Give me a break.

Posted by: butchie b | January 11, 2006 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Seriously, Chris. You could try a little harder with these posts.

"Pro-abortion rights group"? How about, oh, I don't know, calling it what it is - a "pro-choice rights group."

Thanks for painting everything in red.

Posted by: corbett | January 11, 2006 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Planned Parenthood is a "pro-abortion rights group"? Talk about using the right wing talking points.

Planned Parenthood does far more that protect the rights of women to have abortions. They provide family planning, contraceptive information, contraceptives, parenting programs, lamaze, etc. It is about everything related to planning parenthood, and hence the name.

Limiting their existence to being "pro-abortion" is like calling the NRA a "pro-bullet" group.

Posted by: NA Rudy | January 11, 2006 1:29 PM | Report abuse

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