Press Release

Democracy Initiative on DACA Ruling: “We have a dream, and Dreamers are part of it”

Thursday, June 18, 2020

For Immediate Release:

Democracy Initiative on DACA Ruling:
"We have a dream, and Dreamers are part of it"

The following statement is from Wendy Fields, Executive Director of the Democracy Initiative.

“For the second time this week, we’re delighted to celebrate a Supreme Court decision which affirms the rights of vulnerable citizens and expands our democracy.

“We have a dream, and Dreamers are part of it. The United States is a multi-racial, multicultural society, stronger and more secure because people from every corner of the globe contribute their skills, culture and ideas. The Dreamers who grew up here, went to school here, and served in our military belong here.

“Today’s decision turns on specific legal issues, but let’s be clear: The winds of change are stronger than ever. Sixty-one percent of Americans agree that immigrants who came here as children deserve to stay. The courts, Congress and the president must follow this mandate.”

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The Democracy Initiative is a coalition of 75 organizations with a collective 45 million members fighting for workers, civil rights, social justice and the environment. DI partner organizations are united in their commitment to realizing the promise of American democracy where all people have an equal seat at the governance table.

Democracy Initiative Celebrates Historic Supreme Court Ruling

Monday, June 15, 2020

For Immediate Release:

Democracy Initiative Celebrates Historic Supreme Court Ruling:
LGBTQ People Are Included in Our Nation's Civil Rights Laws

The following statement is from Wendy Fields, Executive Director of the Democracy Initiative.

“We’re overjoyed to celebrate today with LGBTQ people and all Americans. Validating the tireless efforts of advocates and activists, the Supreme Court has ruled that no one can be fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Period.

“The right to secure employment is a bedrock civil right. At a time when our country is often divided, today’s sweeping 6-to-3 decision expands American democracy. Liberals and conservatives on the Court agree: LGBTQ people are included in our nation’s civil rights laws and have the same right to earn a living as anyone else.

“Sadly, Donald Zarda and Aimee Stephens, two of the plaintiffs in the cases decided today, are no longer alive to see the result of their courage and hard work. Their legacy will live on, along with the work of plaintiff Gerald Bostock. Our thanks go to all of them, for taking a stand and making our country a better place.”

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The Democracy Initiative is a coalition of 75 organizations with a collective 45 million members fighting for workers, civil rights, social justice and the environment. DI partner organizations are united in their commitment to realizing the promise of American democracy where all people have an equal seat at the governance table.

Words Alone Are Not Enough, Says Democracy Initiative

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

For Immediate Release:

Words Alone Are Not Enough, Says Democracy Initiative:
Time for Corporate America to Join
Nationwide Fight for Fair Elections

The following statement is from Wendy Fields, Executive Director of the Democracy Initiative

Ms. Fields will speak at a virtual “Vote for Our Lives” rally on Tuesday, June 9 at 7 pm ET, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rev. William Barber and labor leader Delores Huerta

“At this moment of crisis, we’re seeing corporate America sharing advertisements and social media messages supporting “Black Lives Matter.” But words alone are not enough; we need to seize the opportunity for change and take concrete action. Right now, that means actively supporting the call for Congress to fully fund safe and equitable elections amid the pandemic.

“As a Black woman, I live with the painful reality that the brutal knee of racism can take away the breath of life, the basic right to vote and the bread and butter that feeds my family. The 75 partner organizations of the Democracy Initiative know how important voting and fair elections are to combatting the structural and strategic racism that has been used for decades by the wealthy and powerful who defend their positions of privilege by actively demonizing people of color and stoking fear in white communities.

“Now is the time to reject any scheme to divide us, and instead focus on aggressive efforts to overcome voter suppression, renew our democratic institutions and expand civic participation.

“Our bold, audacious goal is to move to a culture of 75 percent participation by eligible voters. The HEROES Act, passed by the U.S. House and now before the U.S. Senate, includes $3.6 billion to support local and state elections.

“If you really want change, if you really want to end polarization and begin to undo racism, it must start with expanded vote-by-mail and safe in-person voting options as part of a fully-funded safe, accessible and equitable election in 2020.

“Corporations have thousands and thousands of lobbyists in Washington and spend millions to influence elections. On behalf of our Board of Directors and the 45 million members represented by our coalition, I am urging every one of them to call, write and Tweet the U.S. Senate to immediately provide $3.6 billion for safe, fair and equitable voting. The last thing we need is soothing platitudes and hollow rhetoric. We need to put our money where our values are and take real action to remove obstacles to voting.”

 

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The Democracy Initiative is a coalition of 75 organizations with a collective 45 million members fighting for workers, civil rights, social justice and the environment. DI partner organizations are united in their commitment to realizing the promise of American democracy where all people have an equal seat at the governance table.

Everyone Should Be Able to Vote by Mail, Especially in a Pandemic

Monday, May 4, 2020

For Immediate Release:

Contact: Jennifer Lamson
206-369-3122

Statement of Wendy Fields, Executive Director
National Vote At Home Institute Press Briefing

Everyone Should Be Able to Vote by Mail, Especially in a Pandemic

Washington, DC – In remarks delivered as part of a virtual press conference convened by National Vote At Home Institute (NVAHI) to share the ​latest research​ on how vote by mail programs impact historically disenfranchised voting communities, Wendy Fields said:

“We start from the premise that a fully participatory election strengthens our democracy and our communities. Every voter must have access to the ballot and have their vote counted. During this pandemic, voters and election workers must be protected.  No individual can be left behind in the 2020 Elections regardless of zip code, class or status. Government is making life and death decisions that affect all of us. Voting gives us a voice in those decisions. There is no better time for all states to join Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Utah who have 21st century voting that includes Vote by Mail.

I speak on behalf of the Democracy Initiative’s 72 partners – labor unions, civil rights organizations, environmental, immigration and other social justice groups – who have been fighting for Vote by Mail for years – including LGBTQ Task Force and League of Women Voters who are also speaking today. Many of our collective 45 million members are essential workers and advocates on the front lines of the pandemic crisis.  They are Black, Brown and White, immigrants, people with disabilities, LGBTQ individuals. Many of them, along with their families, are among the 34 million unemployed, and vulnerable to the most devastating consequences of COVID-19.

Yet, even while they are fighting for their people on the front lines, I hear from our leaders at the local and state level, especially leaders of color, every day. They demand access and equity in voting. Thousands of them are volunteer poll monitors and supporters of election clerks. They want to do their civic duty safely.

Our leaders see voters in Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Utah voting safely and securely at home, mailing ballots back with pre-paid postage, or dropping them in a convenient neighborhood ballot box and they say:  We want that too.

I welcome the new research presented here today by the National Vote at Home Institute. I am not at all surprised to learn that voting by mail, when there is planning and strong infrastructure, is popular and increases voter participation across all demographics. It is a common-sense reform that reduces lines and cuts down on crowded polling places, which in turn helps to keep in-person voters and election workers safe for those that need that option.

Recent independent polling from the Pew Research Center shows that 70% of Americans believe that any voter should be able to vote by mail if they want to. This is not partisan issue. This is about finding the political will to do the right thing.

Governors must move quickly to work with state and local elections officials to make the necessary changes. But state and local governments cannot be expected to fund this election on their already maxed out budgets from dealing with the health and economic crisis. It is the federal government’s responsibility to make safeguarding the election part of the public-health crisis funding. So far, Congress has only appropriated $400 million – nowhere near enough.

This nation has a long and ugly history of trying to keep people of color from exercising their political power by voting and a history of low turnout elections. Corporations are receiving trillions of our hard-earned tax dollars while an American icon like the US Postal Service suffers the fall-out from COVID-19 and partisan political games. But let’s remember, government stands to get a report card this November.  Imagine what that report card would look like if 75% of Americans voted.

Let’s rise together in this moment and call on Congress to fund safe voting, expand vote by mail including prepaid postage, and support the Post Office so our trusted postal workers can carry our ballots in November. Our democracy depends on it.

 

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The Democracy Initiative is a coalition of 72 organizations with a collective 45 million members fighting for workers, civil rights, social justice and the environment. DI partner organizations are united in their commitment to realizing the promise of American democracy where all people have an equal seat at the governance table.

Democracy Initiative Welcomes New Board Members

Tuesday, April 21, 2020


Contact:

Jennifer Lamson, Deputy Director
jlamson@democracyinitiative.org

WASHINGTON, DC - The Democracy Initiative is thrilled to welcome three inspiring and visionary leaders to our Board of Directors: K. Sabeel Rahman, President of Demos; Virginia Kase, CEO of the League of Women Voters of the United States; and Ray Curry, Secretary-Treasurer of the United Auto Workers. These leaders join co-chairs Karen Hobert Flynn, President of Common Cause and Tefere Gebre, Executive Vice President, AFL-CIO, and existing board members Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the NAACP, Erich Pica, President of Friends of the Earth, and Gustavo Torres, Executive Director of CASA

DI Executive Director Wendy Fields welcomed the new board members with this statement:

“Sabeel, Virginia, and Ray are experienced, proven leaders who practice the race-class analysis and the bottom-up approach to organizing that is crucial to our work. Each of them understands what it takes to organize and mobilize people for a democracy that works for all - especially Black, Brown and vulnerable communities who have been, and continue to be, the target of voter suppression and disenfranchisement. 

Organizationally, we are delighted to have Demos, the League of Women Voters and the United Auto Workers stepping up their engagement with the DI and joining our group of anchor partners who help to lead and shape the DI’s work. The thought leadership and policy expertise of Demos, the historic leadership role and organizing infrastructure of the League, and the front-line workers’ experience and organizing savvy of the UAW will make the DI stronger at a time when the need for solidarity and collective action on behalf of our democracy has never been greater.”

K. Sabeel Rahman

“Our democracy is in crisis—and for Black and brown communities in particular, the reality is that our political institutions have consistently failed to reflect and respond to our communities for decades. In this moment of extreme political and economic turmoil, it is critical to reinvent our democratic institutions in ways that put racial equity and inclusive democratic participation and accountability at the core. The Democracy Initiative is crucial to building the coalition, the ideas, and the strategies we need to make democracy a reality.”

K. Sabeel Rahman is the President of Demos, a dynamic think-and-do tank that powers the movement for a just, inclusive, multiracial democracy. Sabeel is also an Associate Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School and the co-author most recently of Civic Power (Cambridge University Press, 2019), which looks at how to build a more inclusive and empowered bottom-up democracy.His first book, Democracy Against Domination (Oxford University Press, 2017), won the Dahl Prize for scholarship on the subject of democracy. His academic research focuses on issues of democracy, economic power, law, and inequality. He has worked extensively with a range of think tanks, advocacy organizations, and foundations to develop novel approaches to addressing these issues in practice. His popular writings have appeared in venues like The Atlantic, The New Republic, The Boston Review, Dissent, and The Washington Post. He earned his law degree and doctorate at Harvard University, and his Masters degrees at the University of Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.

Virginia Kase

“As the head of an organization focused on empowering voters and defending democracy, I’m honored to join the board of directors of the Democracy Initiative. In the face of the COVID-19 crisis, it’s is more important than ever that we stand together to ensure that all voters are able to fully and safely participate in 2020 elections, especially communities of color, people with disabilities, Native Americans, low-wage earners, and other underrepresented communities. The Democracy Initiative draws strength from the diversity of organizations uniting to face this uniquely challenging time. Together as leaders, we will work to protect and preserve our most sacred democratic values of freedom and equality.”

Virginia Kase is the CEO of the League of Women Voters of the United States where she is leading the organization through transformation and growth, focused on building power centered around issues of voting rights and democracy reform. Prior to joining the League in 2018, she served as COO of CASA, an organization at the forefront of the immigrant rights movement. Earlier in her career, Virginia spent eight years serving as the National Technical Assistance and Training Manager at the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise (CNE) in Washington, DC addressing issues of urban violence, economic, racial and social inequality.

Virginia has more than 20 years’ experience working in the non-profit sector and is a passionate activist and advocate for social justice. She has appeared on various television news programs, published multiple opinion pieces for The Hill newspaper, and been quoted in news articles including The New York Times, Time Magazine, and Glamour.

Ray Curry

“I am honored to be part of this broad coalition and the efforts to advance democracy initiatives for every voice to be heard across the nation.”

Ray Curry was elected UAW secretary-treasurer at the UAW 37th Constitutional Convention in June 2018. He was first elected director of UAW Region 8 in June 2014 after having served four years as the region’s assistant director.

As Region 8 director, Curry was instrumental in securing new labor agreements with various heavy truck, aerospace, and independent parts suppliers. In July 2015, under his leadership, the region successfully organized their first gaming bargaining unit of table dealers at the Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore, Maryland and in June 2018, the region won an election for representation of table dealers at MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, bringing 1,250 new members into the union.

Curry joined UAW Local 5285 in July 1992. His first involvement was on the local’s civil rights committee. From 1998 to 2004, he served in numerous leadership positions. In October 2004, UAW President Ron Gettelfinger appointed him as an International Representative.

A military veteran, Curry served three years on active duty in the U.S. Army and five years in the U.S. Army Reserve. He is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration / Finance and holds a Master of Business Administration, MBA, degree from the University of Alabama.

He is the recipient of numerous awards including the A. Philip Randolph Leon Lynch Lifetime Achievement Award. Curry is also a member of the NAACP National Board of Directors and numerous community organizations.

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DI Statement on The Senate Impeachment Vote

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

2005
Donald Trump: And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.
Billy Bush: Whatever you want.
Donald Trump: Grab 'em by the pussy. You can do anything.

Today
President Donald Trump: I have an Article 2 where I have the right to do whatever I want as president ...
McConnell Senate: Whatever you want.

A broken, dysfunctional United States Senate, under the leadership of “grim reaper” Mitch McConnell, is telling Donald Trump they will not check his presidential power — power he and his White House see as absolute and accountable to no one. Just like Billy Bush on the Access Hollywood tape, today the US Senate is telling Donald Trump: when you’re president, you can do whatever you want.

The right of all Americans to have a voice in government decisions is the essence of our democracy and it is what we at Democracy Initiative fight for every day. There is little argument against the basic facts of the case: President Trump openly asked a foreign government to interfere in our 2020 elections. For this, he was impeached by the House. But in Mitch McConnell’s broken Senate, they rigged the trial, refusing to allow witnesses so the American people could see for themselves and have the facts to make their own decision about Trump’s behavior. Now, despite a number of Republican Senators having called it “improper” “inappropriate” and “wrong,” all but Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) voted to ensure that POTUS will face no consequences for this betrayal.

Our democracy is based on a system of checks and balances designed to protect the people, not politicians and presidents. This is one more instance of how the power of the people is under daily assault, leaving our government in the clutches of behemoth corporate interests who put profits before people and exploit their workers. They have stolen our government to make it work only for them.

But the people are rising up. Over the last few years, a democracy movement of millions of hardworking people across the country have been taking collective action and fighting back. Democracy reforms to fight voter suppression and blunt corporate influence in elections have passed in states and localities across the country. The US House last year passed, the For the People Act (HR 1,) the most far-reaching political reform in a generation. That bill is languishing in McConnell’s legislative graveyard along with numerous other House-passed policies addressing climate change, immigration, gun control and prescription drugs — to the delight of powerful corporations.

Government by the privileged elite should not be the law of the land. Today, we the people have the opportunity to ramp up a collective effort to make our voices heard. We are ready to have those tough community discussions about ensuring clean air, clean water, family wage, equal education, affordable healthcare, a fair justice system, and a Senate that passes policy. Let’s join together now to get our country back on track so that in 2021 the people can govern. The first step is ramping up voter engagement in 2020. Democracy Initiative partners have set the bar high, challenging ourselves to reach 75% participation. The stakes are too high to do any less. We have won tough fights before — like the Voting Rights Act and LGBTQ marriage equality — when these same forces blocked our path. We can do it again.

Media inquires; Jennifer Lamson, 206-369-3122, jlamson@democracyinitiative.org.

Launched in 2013, the Democracy Initiative is a coalition of 72 civil rights, environmental, labor, and civic organizations, representing 45 million members, working toward a bright future in which all Americans participate fully and freely in the democratic process.

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DI Statement on the ten year anniversary of Citizens United decision

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

For Immediate Release
January 21, 2020

 

Statement from Wendy Fields, Executive Director of Democracy Initiative, on the ten year anniversary of the Citizens United v. FEC decision:

Ten years ago, with Citizens United v. FEC, the Supreme Court of the United States told the American people that corporations are people, and opened the flood gates for unlimited, undisclosed corporate money in our elections. 

They have demonstrated they damn well don’t act like people! At least not the kind of people that care about ensuring everyone has a living wage, clean air, clean water, fair criminal justice system and political equity.

We know who they are. Companies like Facebook, fossil fuel companies, private water companies, private prisons, anti-union companies, and predatory banks want to be seen as people, but — like our President — they are nothing more than greedy bullies who lie to the American people while calling themselves good corporate citizens.

These companies put profits before people, buy politicians to ensure they can operate without accountability, and take our hard-earned money in the form of tax breaks and subsidies 365 days a year. The bottom line — enabled by the Supreme Court — is that they have stolen our government to make it work only for them and their wealthy friends. To add insult to injury, when we rise up, they spend millions to ensure we can’t run for office in fair elections, suppress our votes, provide fake news, and refuse to secure our democracy from foreign interference.

The good news is that over the last few years, our democracy movement of millions of hardworking people across the country have been taking collective action and fighting back — and winning. Today the stakes are high. We must take greater risks to win the greater reward of a true democracy that works for everyone. If corporations are people, then we need to change their behavior. To do that, we must increase voter engagement this year and set the bar high — 75% if we are to govern in 2021.

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DI Statement on the 48,000 striking UAW GM Workers

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

We Stand in Solidarity with the 48,000 UAW GM Workers!

United Auto Workers (UAW) members across the country are standing strong as their national fight continues forward. They are sending a clear message: the American people deserve good paying manufacturing jobs. At a time when GM is experiencing huge profits, workers must share in the prosperity they created.

This is what democracy looks like: workers having the courage to stand together for what is morally right. Last year, the CEO of GM was rewarded with almost $22 million. UAW members are standing in powerful solidarity to ensure that workers share in the wealth that results from their labor. UAW members are an economic engine for our nation, and it is time they were rewarded.

Many policy makers talk about good jobs. These workers have the courage to fight and to risk their livelihood to make those jobs a reality—for themselves and for their families and for the next generation of American workers.

The word “democracy” comes from the Ancient Greek words for “people” (demos) and “strength” or “power” (kratia). The word begs the question that this strike and our collective response to it will answer: who has the power, the people or the corporations?

Democracy Initiative Executive Director Wendy Fields gave the following statement: “I spent many years having the privilege to work at the United Auto Workers. I know these workers have the courage they need to win this fight, not just for themselves, but for the standard of living of all working people. In this moment of sky-high income inequality, we cannot let anyone go back to accepting less than they deserve."

This is a fight for good jobs. Jobs in manufacturing created the American middle class and built the backbone of America. That is why the Democracy Initiative pledges to be one with the striking UAW workers! In a democracy, the power of the people can send a loud message to counter the power of corporate greed. It's time to return to democracy—the power of the people—to its rightful place as the foundation of this country.

DI Statement on passage of H.R. 1, the "For The People" Act

Friday, March 8, 2019

For Immediate Release
March 8, 2019

Contact
Myke Bybee: (202) 567-6103
mbybee@democracyinitiative.org


Statement from Wendy Fields, Executive Director, the Democracy Initiative, on the passage of HR1 in the House:

Today’s passage in the House of H.R. 1, the “For the People Act” is an historic moment for our democracy and a victory that belongs to every American, every organizer, and every coalition that has fought for years to strengthen our democracy. H.R. 1 brings us one critical step closer to repairing our political system, revitalizing our democracy, and fulfilling the promise of our country’s ideals.

Make no mistake: today’s victory began at the grassroots. Last November, a sweeping series of state-level democracy reforms made crystal clear that when democracy is on the ballot, it wins.  Today’s vote in the House is a testament to the thousands of Americans who knocked on doors, made calls, and talked to their neighbors about the threats to our democracy.  Despite a deliberate, organized voter suppression campaign, designed to disenfranchise millions of Americans, and bankrolled by special interests and the wealthy few, the American people are demanding democracy.  

This is our democracy: established on the principle of government for the people, by the people. Together with our 68 partner organizations, we commend the House passage of H.R. 1, but we know our work continues. Our 45 million members are Black, white and brown, families and workers struggling to make ends meet; first-time voters, and citizens returning to society after paying their debts. We refuse to be silenced because we know winning on democracy reforms is not just about democracy as an end in itself; it’s about achieving social and economic justice and building a better world for us all. Now we fight community by community, state by state, in the legislature and at the ballot box to strengthen our democracy. This bill is the new floor, not the ceiling—now we turn to the Senate to continue the fight.

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Statement from Tefere Gebre, DI Board Co-Chair and Executive Vice-President of AFL-CIO:

“For many years, special interests have used their influence to disenfranchise communities of color and take away their voice and their right to be part of our democratic process. H.R. 1 is a major step toward reducing the influence of big money in our democracy and restoring equal access to the ballot box for all voters.”

Statement from Karen Hobert Flynn, DI Board Co-Chair and President of Common Cause:

"The For the People Act (HR 1) is an important first step to solidify the people’s voice in our democracy. For the first time the bill brings together pragmatic solutions to strengthen our democracy in one bold, comprehensive package the American people are demanding. One of the best things about the For the People Act is that it is also by the people — the solutions in it modeled on solutions the people have already won locally and proven they work in cities and states coast to coast."

DI Statement on the "For the People Act"

Friday, January 4, 2019

For Immediate Release
January 4, 2019

Contact
Myke Bybee: (202) 567-6103
mbybee@democracyinitiative.org

 

Dear DI Partners and Friends,

Here at the Democracy Initiative (DI), we bring a unique view of national trends and hyperlocal conversations about voting, campaign finance, redistricting, and other core elements of a thriving democracy. Together with our 68 member organizations and 45 million members, we have seen time and again how policy changes to strengthen our democracy unify all of us—black, white, and brown; conservative and liberal.

That’s why we know—reflected in the 116th Congress taking office this week and introducing HR 1 as its first bill—that people in this country are hungrier than ever for a healthy, strong, and fully-functioning democracy. The recent government shutdown is only the latest example of this need. The midterms made this message loud and clear, when bills to make voting more accessible and redistricting less partisan won the day in Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, and more—regardless of who was at the top of the ticket.  

The stakes for HR 1 are terribly high. The proposed historic bill includes many long-sought, critical changes to make our democracy a truly participatory one: where people from all walks of life have maximum access to the time and opportunity they need to cast their votes. The recent government shutdown has shown the need for measures to hold elected leaders accountable. At the same time, the bill outlines vital protections to make our democratic process safe from tampering or threat. There are many foreign and special interests—and elected leaders—who would like to see the whole system wither on the vine.

But as lifelong advocates for democracy, let us be clear: we cannot take too narrow a view of the seismic shifts underway across our country. HR1 is only the beginning of a fight for democracy that demands action at every level of government, 365 days a year. Yes, it is heartening to see a new class in Congress finally stepping up to curb an administration at the edge of chaos. But we must also recognize this moment springs from the actions of the people: the voters from all walks of life who showed us that democracy is the great unifier, regardless of demographic, life experience or issue.

For this reason, the DI is a proud member of the Declaration for American Democracy (DFAD) coalition, where we are working with a diverse coalition to make the most of the “HR1” fight in Congress. Our shared goal is to demonstrate broad public support and political value in strengthening democracy, in order to create demand and push for bold reforms. Many individual DI partners have formally joined the DFAD Coalition and endorsed the ‘Principles.’  We would strongly encourage all of our partners to consider endorsing the DFAD Mission Statement and formally joining the effort!

  • The plan is to proceed quickly to hearings and committee mark-ups, during the first weeks of January.  These hearings, likely to be held in multiple committees of jurisdiction, are opportunities to generate press attention, to provide points of entry for the field and grassroots activists, and to push for the strongest and most meaningful democracy reforms possible.
  • The first Congressional recess is the week of January 21st, MLK Day recess.  During this week, many Members will hold local townhalls or make other public appearances, they will also be available for in-district constituent meetings.