Democracy for America
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|Headquarters||South Burlington, Vermont|
|Charles R. Chamberlain|
|Howard Dean, Jim Dean|
Democracy for America (DFA) is a progressive political action committee, headquartered in South Burlington, Vermont. Founded by former Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean in 2004, DFA leads public awareness campaigns on a variety of public policy issues, trains activists, and provides funding directly to candidates for office. The organization has more than a million members in the United States and internationally.
Dean created the PAC Fund for a Healthy America in 2001 in Montpelier in advance of a planned campaign for President. In March 2004, following the conclusion of Dean's presidential campaign, the organization was renamed "Democracy for America".
Following his unsuccessful run for the Democratic nomination in the 2004 presidential election, Dean used the organization to build on the grassroots momentum for Democratic candidates around the country. DFA used the Internet-based, grassroots organizing that Dean had created for his presidential campaign to help like-minded Democrats get elected. In 2004 the organization endorsed and supported Democrats (known as the Dean Dozen) on the federal, state, and county levels.
Since then, Democracy for America has helped elect over 600 progressives into office, including President Barack Obama, while building their membership to over a million like-minded progressives across all fifty states.
DFA focuses on endorsing candidates, at all levels of office, both local and national. DFA's endorsements are often orchestrated by members of local groups, and they provide resources, such as funds and addresses, to endorsed campaign. According to their own records, the group endorsed over 578 candidates. Candidates wishing for an endorsement may apply on the organization's website.
DFA initially endorsed Bernie Sanders in the 2016 U.S. presidential race after earning a record-breaking 87.9% of the vote in their online poll.
The organization switched its endorsement in July 2016 "...to stand with Bernie Sanders by joining him in formally endorsing Hillary Clinton for President." Sanders has since formed his own group Our Revolution.
Notable past DFA endorsements have included:
- Keith Ellison for DNC Chair
- Bernie Sanders for U.S. Senate in Vermont and U.S. President
- Barack Obama for U.S. Senate in Illinois and U.S. President
- Julie Gunnigle for Maricopa County Attorney
- Al Franken for U.S. Senate in Minnesota
- Misty K. Snow for U.S. Senate in Utah
- Mark Begich for U.S. Senate in Alaska
- Ned Lamont for U.S. Senate in Connecticut
- Jeff Merkley for U.S. Senate in Oregon
- Elizabeth Warren for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts
- Howard Dean for DNC Chair
- Deval Patrick for Governor of Massachusetts
- Jon Tester for U.S. Senate in Montana
- Sheldon Whitehouse for U.S. Senate in Rhode Island
- Martin Heinrich for U.S. Representative for New Mexico's 1st district
- Joey Novick  for mayor of Flemington, New Jersey
- Sam Yoon for Boston City Council
- Jerry McNerney for U.S. Representative from California's 11th District
- Jack Markell for Governor of Delaware
- Linda McCulloch for Montana Secretary of State
- Debra Bowen for California Secretary of State
- Denise Juneau for Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction
- Donna Edwards for U.S. Representative in Maryland from Maryland's 4th district
- Jim Himes for U.S. Representative for Connecticut's 4th district
- Alan Grayson for U.S. Representative in Florida from Florida's 8th district
- Paulette Jordan for Governor of Idaho in 2018
Democracy for America's status on various social and economic issues places the organization strongly on the left of the American political spectrum. Although they often endorse and advocate for Democratic Party candidates, DFA is also to the left of many national and state Democratic lawmakers.
In 2006, the group supported Ned Lamont over Sen. Joseph Lieberman in Connecticut's primary and general elections. DFA also supported Carol Shea-Porter in her Democratic primary and general election victory in New Hampshire's 1st congressional district. In 2008, the group supported Donna Edwards of Maryland's 4th congressional district
During the 2008 Minnesota Senate election between Norm Coleman and Al Franken Democracy for America aligned themselves with the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and called their campaign "Donate a Dollar a Day to Make Norm Go Away". Coleman lost to Franken following an official statewide recount.
Before creating this PAC, the group's founder, Howard Dean, who was already a famous person, had strongly campaigned/promoted universal health care. Therefore, as its first major issue, after the 2008 presidential election, DFA campaigned mainly about universal health care (in support).
In 2011, DFA's main issue of interest was about employees of companies, such as by promoting unions. DFA, Progressive Change Campaign Committee (or PCCC), and several other organizations with lesser contribution levels, combined funds to spend $2.2 million canvassing about these issues, including phone calls, door-to-door campaigning, and TV ads.
DFA has also campaigned to oppose legislation that requires voters to present government-issued identification cards, birth certificates, or passports before voting. The organization has at various times deemed the laws "excessive" and "Draconian," and has argued that the laws inhibit ordinary citizens from being able to enter the polling stations.
DFA continues also to campaign on behalf of legislation which they believe homosexual Americans would want, even though same-sex marriage in the United States has been mandatorily legal across America for several years. In 2009, the organization sent volunteers to Maine to campaign against Ballot Question 1, which nullified a same-sex marriage law passed by the state's legislature. In a related issue, DFA pushed for the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" laws in regards to the U.S. military.
Foreign policy issues
Endorsed Presidential Candidates
In 2008, Democracy for America endorsed Barack Obama, who was then an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq. In February 2009, President Obama stated unequivocally that American occupation in Iraq will end no later than August 31, 2010. DFA did not withdraw its support for Obama after he failed to do this.
Training and scholarships
DFA members at both the national and local levels have participated in numerous training programs, intended to instruct prospective candidates on running a successful political campaign. DFA's main training initiative, called the Campaign Academy, consists of 16 hours of interactive workshops that bring hundreds of local activists, campaign staff and candidates together for 2 days of intensive campaign training. Topics have included; online organizing, shutting down a campaign, canvassing and phonebanking, recruiting volunteers, how to increase voter turn out, developing a finance plan, sustaining your media presence, winning with social networks and building a grassroots army: volunteer recruitment.
Netroots Nation Scholarship competition
DFA also awards scholarships to progressive or liberal bloggers, known as the "Netroots Nation Scholarship". In 2010, DFA sent 60 online activists to Netroots Nation, held in Las Vegas, NV from July 22–25. Other sites for the Netroots Nation Convention have included Austin, Texas, in 2008 and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 2009.
In 2010, DFA sent field organizers to progressive campaigns for a program called Dean Corps. Similar to Sen. Russ Feingold's Progressive Patriot corps, organizers represented an in-kind contribution to the recipient campaign. The goal is to hire, train and place field organizers on key progressive campaigns to get more real progressive Democrats elected in all 50 states at all levels of office.
"DFA Community" was a political and social networking tool that allowed DFA members to meet like-minded people in their area, form groups, and organize events. Members typically met on the first Wednesday of every month in organized groups around the country. DFA Community is currently listed as having over 600 online groups, with representation in every congressional district. While DFA members in local groups regularly implement the priorities of the national organization, DFA local groups are voluntary, autonomous, and not officially affiliated with the national organization. Some of DFA's most notable groups include East Bay for Democracy, Democracy for New Jersey, Philly For Change, DFA Columbia (Missouri), and Democracy For New York City.
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