Move America Forward

Move America Forward

Move America Forward is a conservative political action group based in California that grew out of the campaign to recall California Governor Gray Davis. Move America Forward seeks to advance many conservative causes by lobbying of politicians at the local, state, and federal levels, through media campaigns[1] and with grass-roots activism. Their tactics are often confrontational and have sparked controversy.



Move America Forward was established in May 2004 by Republican political consultant Sal Russo, former Republican assemblyman Howard Kaloogian and former conservative Republican KSFO 560 AM talk show host Melanie Morgan, both of whom now serve as Move America Forward's co-chairmen. Both Russo and Kaloogian served in key roles in the successful Recall Gray Davis Committee that prompted the 2003 gubernatorial California recall election of California's Democratic governor — Kaloogian as chairman of the recall campaign, Russo as chief strategist.[2] In November 2003, one month after the recall election, Russo told the Los Angeles Daily News of the 120,000 recall supporters in his database. "We took on the political establishment and won, and they feel empowered, ... They want to be involved. ... We'll change the name to something like 'Move America Forward,'" and go national, he predicted. A week later, the domain name was registered to Russo's public relations firm, Russo Marsh & Rogers.[3] Both Kaloogian and Russo continued on with Move America Forward in essentially the same roles as in the Recall Gray Davis Committee.[4]

Russo Marsh & Rogers is Sacramento-based political public relations firm, with strong ties to the Republican Party. Russo, a principal in Russo Marsh & Rogers, worked on the political campaigns of Ronald Reagan, Alfonse M. D'Amato, George Pataki, Jack Kemp, and Orrin Hatch.

Howard Kaloogian and Sal Russo launched the Tea Party Express in the summer of 2009 as a project of their other political action committee, Our Country Deserves Better PAC.[5] It has been reported that Russo's PR firm tied to the founding of Move America Forward, Russo Marsh + Rogers, has been a financial beneficiary of Tea Party Express' success: Zachary Roth at TPMmuckraker reported that in the period between July and November 2009, more than 75% of the money spent by the PAC—or about $1 million out of $1.3 million spent—went to Russo, Marsh or King Media Group, which has close ties to Russo.[6]


Move America Forward describes itself as "...a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization committed to supporting America’s efforts to defeat terrorism and supporting the brave men and women of our Armed Forces."[4]

In August 2005 Move America Forward's "You Don't Speak for Me, Cindy!" campaign countering the protest of Cindy Sheehan sparked much press coverage. Observers and the press have noted that some pro-Bush activists in the MAF entourage were aggressively confrontational and verbally abusive, calling the anti-war protesters "communists", and saying they are "aiding and abetting the enemy".[7]

In April 2006 controversy erupted again when Kaloogian's campaign website posted a picture on his website that he claimed depicted a peaceful Baghdad neighborhood, and the claims that the Iraq conflict was going well. Quickly, however, internet watchdogs correctly identified the picture as coming from Istanbul, Turkey, and the picture was removed. Kaloogian later said using the photo was "a stupid mistake".[8]

However, Move America Forward's agenda has been described in the press and public as going beyond simple support of the troops to political support of the war. A 2006 Sacramento Bee article describes its actions as partisan and restricted to the political arena.[9] In 2007 an Oakland Tribune headline described Move America Forward as "Supporters of the Iraq War" and "a group that supports the war."[10]

The policies they promote include the removal of the United Nations headquarters from the United States, keeping the Guantanamo Bay detention camp open[11], the closing of the U.S.-Mexico border and the deportation of illegal aliens back to their countries of origin. MAF is known for vocally opposing politicians and political action groups and even media that it deems to be too liberal. At the same time, they advocate for conservative candidates and appointees.

Prominent Move America Forward campaigns have included the closing of the US-Mexico border (the MAF's "Secure Our Borders" campaign) and the ending of amnesty programs to illegal immigrants (through, support of John R. Bolton—an outspoken critic of the United Nations—to serve as the US representative to the United Nations, and restricting the distribution of the Michael Moore film Fahrenheit 911. In August 2005, Move America Forward sponsored a You don't speak for me, Cindy! tour to counter Cindy Sheehan's protest at President Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch (and the vigils in support of Sheehan that were held around the country). The organization also protested William Ayers when he made a speech at St. Mary's College in Moraga, California and has protested against the Lafayette hillside memorial.

Press questions nonprofit status

Malcolm Maclachlan wrote in the Capitol Weekly that Move America Forward "has been criticized for running such advocacy ads while maintaining a 501(c)(3) nonprofit tax status. However, several political watchdogs noted that the group adheres to the letter of the law. For instance, the group does not give to candidates or directly call for people to vote for anyone."[1]

On September 9, 2006 the Sacramento Bee ran an article detailing a number of issues with Move American Forward's activities that might affect its nonprofit status.[9] Chief among these were concerns public donations to MAF may be indirectly or directly subsidizing partisan activity prohibited nonprofit organizations by law. Milbourn cited as evidence the statement by Melanie Morgan that the Bush administration is running "one of the most inept communications departments I've seen. ... That's one of the reasons we started Move America Forward ... This administration is unable to articulate clearly why we went to Iraq, why we are there and why we're winning the war."[9] He also noted that Move America Forward shares its office with Russo's PR firm, that one of Russo's private clients is the government of Kurdistan in northern Iraq and that his firm is running a campaign encouraging investment there. Milbourn says the Center for Media and Democracy has questioned whether the contract poses a conflict for Russo, given Move America Forward's promotion of the war.[9] Russo is also director of the 'The Campaign Store, Inc.' which provides for a fee the processing of packages to troops and the accounting of contributions received.[12]

In its 2007 IRS filing Move America Forward says it has not "attempted to influence national, state, or local legislation, including any attempt to influence public opinion on a legislation matter or referendum."[12]

National and political views

Move America Forward has referred to those politicians who wish to pull all troops out of Iraq as "cheese-eating surrender monkey[s]." The organization later stated that the term was also intended as an insult to France.[13]

Move America Forward's leader Melanie Morgan and her supporters regularly characterize those who challenge them or oppose the war as "communists" or "far-left." She also routinely invokes free speech and free press — despite Move America Forward's stated aim of "restrict[ing] liberal and activist media".[14] After having appeared once, Producers for PBS's The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer claimed she would never be on the program again.[15]


For 2006 Move America Forward had raised about $1.2 million, mostly from small, undisclosed donors, according to Russo. Most of the money, $693,456, had been spent on television and radio spots and rallies, tax records show. About $113,000 funded programs directly benefiting soldiers, such as mailing them cookies, coffee and beef jerky.[9] It reported nearly 1.38 million in gross receipts in 2007.[12]


  1. ^ a b Maclachlan, Malcolm (2006-04-06). "Kaloogian rides Move America Forward into the public eye". Capitol Weekly. 
  2. ^ "Calif. Gov. Davis Faces Recall Effort". CNN. 2003-06-17. 
  3. ^ Marsetta, Diane (2004). "Moving America One Step Forward And Two Steps Back". PR – Center for Media and Democracy. Retrieved 2008-02-28. 
  4. ^ a b "About Us". Move America Forward. Retrieved 2008-02-28. 
  5. ^ Elliott, Justin (2010-09-15). "What you need to know about the Tea Party Express". Salon. 
  6. ^ Roth, Zachary (2010-01-11). "Yet More Tea Party Spending Went To GOP Consultants". Talking Points Memo. 
  7. ^ Bennett, William (2005-08-24). "War protesters face off with war supporters". North County Times/The Californian. 
  8. ^ Marinucci, Carla (2006-03-30). "Candidate admits 'stupid' Web error". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  9. ^ a b c d e Milbourn, Todd (2006-09-09). "Iraq war backers proudly pugnacious". Sacramento Bee. 
  10. ^ Supporters of the Iraq War descend on Lafayette memorial Katherine Tam, CONTRA COSTA TIMES Oakland Tribune, March 8, 2007.
  11. ^ Save Gitmo Move America Forward.
  12. ^ a b c IRS Form 990, Move America Forward 2007
  13. ^ "'Surrender monkeys' protest Pelosi, Reid (Move America Forward ridicules Pelosi)". 2007-05-18. 
  14. ^ Morgan, Melanie (2007-05-20). "Shooting at the truth". 
  15. ^ Romenesko, Jim (2007-05-17). "Right-wing talker Morgan isn't welcome back on "NewsHour"". Poynter Online. 

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