Democracy for America

Democracy for America
Democracy for America
DFA Logo.png
Founded 2004
Key people Howard Dean, Jim Dean
Office location South Burlington, Vermont
Website Democracy for America

Democracy for America (DFA) is a progressive, people-powered political action committee, headquartered in South Burlington, Vermont. Founded by former Democratic National Committee Chairman 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.[1] The organization has more than 1 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.[2][3] In March 2004 the organization was renamed "Democracy for America".[4]

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.[5] DFA used the Internet-based, grassroots organizing that Dean had created for his presidential campaign to help like-minded Democrats get elected.[6] In 2004 the organization endorsed and supported Democrats (known as the Dean Dozen) on the federal, state, and county levels.

In 2005, Dean turned over control of the organization to his brother, Jim Dean, when he became DNC Chair.

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.

In 2007, DFA became the first carbon-neutral political action committee in the United States.[7]


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.[8] Candidates wishing for an endorsement may apply on the organization's website.

Notable past DFA endorsements have included:

Political positions

Democracy for America's status on various social and economic issues places the organization firmly on the left of the American political spectrum. Although they often endorse and advocate for Democratic Party candidates, DFA opposes the official Democratic Party on issues such as same-sex marriage, which they favor legalizing. Their support of a system of public health care in the United States is also to the left of many national and state Democratic lawmakers.

DFA's liberal policies have led them to oppose established Democrats whose policies contradict their own. In 2006, the group supported Ned Lamont over incumbent Sen. Joseph Lieberman in Connecticut's primary and general elections.[9] Lamont eventually won the primary election, but lost the general election to Lieberman, who ran as an independent. That year, DFA also supported political newcomer Carol Shea-Porter in her successful Democratic primary and general election victory.[10] in New Hampshire's 1st congressional district. In 2008, the group supported newcomer Donna Edwards in her upset primary victory against former Rep. Albert Wynn of Maryland's 4th congressional district[11]

During the 2008 Minnesota Senate election between Al Franken and Norm Coleman, Democracy for America partnered with the Progressive Campaign Change Committee for the "Donate a Dollar a Day to Make Norm Go Away".[12] Through the campaign, participants give a donation of a dollar a day for every day Norm Coleman continued to contest the results of the election, which he lost to Franken following an official state-wide recount.[13] The campaign has raised more than $150,000 to "help progressive candidates run effective campaigns and win."[14]

In 2010, DFA launched their "Primaries Matter" campaign with the goal of electing better Democrats into office, instead of just any Democrat. In the Pennsylvania Democratic primary, DFA endorsed Joe Sestak in his successful primary challenge to incumbent Senator Arlen Specter, who switched to the Democratic Party in April 2009 after 44 years as an elected Republican. DFA also endorsed Democratic challenger Elaine Marshall in North Carolina's Democratic primary run-off for U.S. Senate. Marshall went on to beat fellow Democrat Cal Cunningham, who was endorsed by national party leaders. DFA got deeply involved in the Democratic run-off in Arkansas as well, backing challenger Lt. Gov. Bill Halter in his race against incumbent Senator Blanche Lincoln. Halter went on to lose, but only by 4% in a state that went overwhelmingly to John McCain in the 2008 presidential election.

Domestic issues

Universal health care has been the focus of most of DFA's activity since the 2008 presidential election. DFA believes that it is a travesty that currently 47 million Americans do not have health care. Over 14,000 lose their health insurance every day, and more than 44,000 Americans die each year. Because of this DFA has concentrated on promoting legislation that is designed to achieve universal coverage, mirroring the advocacy of the group's founder, Howard Dean. The organization launched a website, "Stand with Dr. Dean", to campaign for a reform of the American health care system with the creation of a public option.[15] A petition on the website has gathered more than 400,000 signatures as of November 2009.

DFA has also worked to restrict legislation from being passed that requires voters to present government-issued identification cards, birth certificates, and passports before they are allowed into the voting booth.[16] 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.[17]

DFA favors legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States. 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 2010, DFA worked with the Courage Campaign to push for the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", getting nearly 100,000 members to sign an open letter to President Obama and the nation's Senators.

In response to the Wall Street-driven financial crisis, DFA launched their “Move Your Money Campaign” with The Huffington Post and filmmaker Eugene Jarecki. The idea is to move money out of the big banks and into more community driven financial institutions.[18]

In reaction to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, DFA introduced their "Boycott BP" initiative to get BP to make the clean-up effort in the gulf their #1 priority, rather than their bottom line.[19]

Foreign policy issues

Democracy for America favors the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

Before the invasion in March, 2003, Democracy for America members were outspoken critics of the war. Since then they have continued to fight against the war, with phone calls and letters to congress. In 2006 and 2008, they helped elect a new democratic majority congress, laying the groundwork to demand that American troops are withdrawn from Iraq.

Also in 2008, Democracy for America endorsed outspoken Iraq war critic Barack Obama, who later went on to become the 44th President. In February of 2009, President Obama stated unequivocally that American combat operations in Iraq will end no later than August 31, 2010.

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.[20] 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.[20]

"DFA Night School" is the organization's online training program. Each session is an hour-long interactive conference call and web presentation where trainees participate and ask questions.[21]

Netroots Nation Scholarship competition

DFA also awards scholarships to progressive or liberal bloggers, known as the "Netroots Nation Scholarship".[22] In 2010, DFA sent 60 online activists to Netroots Nation, held in Las Vegas, NV from July 22–25.[23] Other sites for the Netroots Nation Convention have included Austin, TX in 2008 [24] and Pittsburgh, PA in 2009.[25]

Dean Corps

In 2010, DFA will be sending field organizers to progressive campaigns for a program called Dean Corps. Similar to Sen. Russ Feingold's Progressive Patriot corps, organizers will represent 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. The program failed pathetically.

Social networking

"DFA Community" is a political and social networking tool that allows DFA members to meet like-minded people in their area, form groups and organize events. Members typically meet 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.

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Gillespie, Elizabeth (for the AP) (March 18, 2004), Dean promises his group will raise money, recruit candidates, USA Today,, retrieved 2009-07-12 
  2. ^ The Buying of the President 2004: Center for Public Integrity
  3. ^ Clift, Eleanor (January 4, 2002), Howard Who?, Newsweek,, retrieved 2009-07-12 
  4. ^ FEC Amended Statement of Organization, Org. # C00370007, March 18, 2004 available at
  5. ^ Keil, Richard (February 12, 2005), Dean becomes Chairman of Democratic Party,,, retrieved 2009-07-12 
  6. ^ Mercurio, John (May 6, 2004), Democracy (Dean) for America, Morning Grind,, retrieved 2009-07-12 
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ DFA past endorsements
  9. ^ Nichols, John (April 20, 2006), No to Pro-War Democrats, The Nation,, retrieved 2009-07-13 
  10. ^ Alarkon, Walter (November 8, 2006), Shea-Porter Beats Bradley, Concord Monitor,, retrieved 2009-07-13 
  11. ^ Merida, Kevin (February 13, 2008), On an Icy Day A Challenger Wins Her Heated Contest, Washington Post,, retrieved 2009-07-13 
  12. ^ campaign
  13. ^ [2]
  14. ^ [3]
  15. ^ Rubenstein, Sarah (April 14, 2009). "Howard Dean Pushes Public Health-Insurance Option". The Wall Street Journal. 
  16. ^ [4]
  17. ^ [5]
  18. ^ [6]
  19. ^ [7]
  20. ^ a b [8]
  21. ^ [9]
  22. ^ [10]
  23. ^ [11]
  24. ^ [12]
  25. ^ [13]

External links

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