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.
January 11, 2006; 1:09 PM ET
Categories: Democratic PACs
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