March 1, 2011

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America Coming Together (ACT) organized the Democratic Party's Government Union wing, which is represented by such leftist labor unions as the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and AFSCME. ACT was one of the 33 "progressive" member organizations constituting the America Votes coalition. It was also a member group of the so-called Democrat Shadow Party, a nationwide network of non-profit activist groups pursuing leftist agendas and campaigning aggressively for Democrat political candidates.

The original President of ACT was Ellen Malcolm. The Chief Executive Officer was Steven Rosenthal. The Treasurer (and also a Board Member) was Carl Pope. The Assistant Treasurer was Brian Foucart. Other Board Members included Ellen Malcolm (also an Assistant Treasurer), Anne Bartley, Hillary Clinton, Gina Glantz, Rob Glaser, Jonathan Lewis, Rob McKay, Minyon Moore, Cecile Richards, Jonathan T. Soros, and Antonio Villaraigosa.

During the 2004 election, ACT ran what its website called "the largest voter contact program in history," with over 1,400 full-time paid canvassers -- many of whom were discovered to be felons convicted of violent crimes -- as well as thousands of volunteers working from 55 offices, contacting voters door-to-door and by phone.

To ensure that the voters it mobilized would cast their ballots only for Democrats, ACT canvassers focused on "swing" voters (which it defined as "pre-retirement women" and "younger voters," who ACT believed were less likely to be politically informed than other demographic groups), as well as what it called "Democratic base voters" -- such as blacks and Hispanics -- "who vote Democratic but need extra contact to persuade them to vote."

ACT used intrusive, high-pressure tactics to register and mobilize such voters, both by phone and by door-to-door canvassing. Not only did its canvassers register voters, but they compiled extensive personal dossiers on the latter -- including such private information as their drivers' license numbers and social security numbers -- information which could be retrieved on demand through the canvassers' hand-held Palm Pilots.

On June 23, 2004, the Associated Press revealed that an undetermined number of ACT's fulltime canvassers were felons, convicted for crimes ranging from drug dealing to burglary, assault, and sex offenses.

In a January 11, 2005 column in The Almanac of American Politics, political analyst Charlie Cook credited ACT with bringing Democrats to the brink of success in the 2004 presidential race: "[D]emocrats, chiefly through America Coming Together, mounted what was not only the most sophisticated get-out-the-vote operation in the party's history, but it was probably the best field work by a factor of at least 10. Merging the latest in technology with old-fashioned shoe-leather, Democrats not only met but surpassed their vote total targets in key states such as Ohio and Florida. With voter turnout unexpectedly climbing from 105 million in 2000 to 119 million in 2004 … [Democrat voter mobilization efforts were] not quite good enough to win, but it was awfully close."

The original idea for ACT appears to have come from union activist and Democrat strategist Gina Glantz -- a New Left veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement of 1964. Following the sweeping Republican victory in the November 2002 mid-term elections, Glantz convened a meeting of hard left activists at a DC restaurant to discuss strategy for the upcoming presidential race. Glantz was then an official for the SEIU. (She would later become a key strategist for the Howard Dean presidential campaign of 2004). Present at the 2002 meeting were ex-Clinton Deputy Chief of Staff Harold Ickes, SEIU president Andrew Stern, ex-AFL-CIO political director Steven Rosenthal, Sierra Club head Carl Pope; and EMILY's List founder Ellen R. Malcolm.

IRS filings list July 17, 2003 as ACT's official launch date. The New York Times announced the group's public debut on August 8, 2003, naming as its co-founders along with Glantz, Ellen Malcolm, Andrew Stern, Carl Pope, and Cecile Richards.

Over the next two years, ACT opened more than 90 offices in 17 states from which it deployed more than 25,000 paid canvassers and volunteers "to knock on doors, stuff envelopes and make phone calls urging voters to defeat President Bush and support Democratic or 'progressive' candidates ..." 

In March 2005 Harold McEwan Ickes became President of ACT, replacing Ellen Malcolm, who remained an ACT Board member but began to devote the bulk of her energies to the task of running EMILY's List, the organization she founded in 1985.

ACT ceased operations later in 2005. This was largely due to the fact that George Soros, angry that his massive donations to ACT in 2004 had failed to result in the defeat of George W. Bush in the presidential election, stopped funding the organization.

In August 2007, reported that the Federal Election Commission (FEC) was fining ACT some $775,000 for having used unregulated soft money to help John Kerry and other Democratic candidates in 2004. The FEC determined that most of the $137 million ACT had raised for its get-out-the-vote effort that year, was derived from contributions that violated federal limits. The settlement was the third largest enforcement penalty in the FEC’s 33-year history.


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