Press Release

Join Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's and Democracy Initiative for an Ice Cream Social

The event will support Yes! On Citizens' Election Fund efforts in Howard County, MD
Thursday, September 29, 2016



For Immediate Release Contact:     Monisha Som, 202-448-0219

September 27, 2016

Democracy Initiative and Ben Cohen to Host Ice Cream Social in Columbia, Maryland The event will support the Yes! On Citizens' Election Fund effort to get big money out of Howard County


The Democracy Initiative, a coalition of organizations dedicated to diminishing the influence of corporate and special interests on government, in partnership with Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s, will be hosting an Ice Cream Social to support the Yes! On Citizens Election Fund efforts to put people back in charge of our democracy in Howard County, Maryland. The event will be held Thursday, Sept. 29 from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the home of K-16 educator and grassroots organizer Dr. Lillian Norris-Holmes and is endorsed by more than 10 other pro-democracy organizations.

The ice cream social is an opportunity for Howard County community members to learn more about the Howard County Ballot Initiative, which aims to shift power back to county residents through small-donor public financing. This program gives limited matching funds to candidates who seek small donations and reject large and special interest contributions.

“Far too often corporate and special interest money influences the outcome of our elections, ultimately affecting the issues discussed and the policies made. But this Ballot Initiative can help combat the role big money plays in our local government by giving a voice to the people who know their community best—the residents of Howard County,” said Wendy Fields, executive director of the Democracy Initiative. “We hope the Ice Cream Social will be a fun way to help residents learn more about what’s happening locally so that they can make the right decision come Election Day.”

The event will feature ice cream courtesy of Ben & Jerry’s. Event attendees are encouraged to bring a dollar bill to help stamp big money out of politics and bring voters in.


WHAT: Yes! On Citizens Election Fund Ice Cream Social

WHO: Democracy Initiative and Ben Cohen

WHEN: Thursday, September 29, 2016, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

WHERE: Dr. Lillian Norris-Holmes’ Home (RSVP for directions:


Endorsing Organizations:

  • Progressive Maryland

  • Maryland PIRG

  • Maryland League of Conservation Voters

  • Howard County Citizen’s Association

  • Communications Workers of America

  • The Peoples Voice

  • Common Cause Maryland


  • Citizen’s Climate Lobby, Howard County

  • Food & Water Action Fund

  • Free Speech for People

  • Sierra Club




The Democracy Initiative is a coalition of 59 organizations that represents 30 million members – men, women, young and old. We are activists from unions, civil rights organizations, environmental nonprofits, immigrants’ and women’s rights groups; from the LGBTQ and good government communities. We speak in a clear unified voice for democracy and fairness. Our members are committed to the vision that every voice and voter should be heard and counted regardless of the size of their wallet or the ZIP code where they live. And, we know that by working together to reform our democracy so that it is truly of and by the people, this vision will become a reality.

DI Chair Larry Cohen Agrees with Senator Reid on Need to Fix Senate

Statement by Larry Cohen, Chair of the Board, Democracy Initiative
Thursday, September 1, 2016

 In response to the comments made by Senator Harry Reid who said that if Democrats win the White House and the Senate they should consider changing Senate rules to allow the majority to proceed to act, DI Chair Larry Cohen stated:

"Senator Reid is saying aloud what most Americans already know, the current gridlock must end. The Senate needs to do its job and consider the real issues that Americans care about."

"Over the last eight years, President Obama and his policies faced unprecedented levels of obstruction. The Republican minority routinely blocked legislation supported by the American people including the Voting Rights Advancement Act, the DREAM Act, the DISCLOSE Act, the American Jobs Act, Employee Free Choice Act, the Repeal Big Oil Tax Subsidies Act to name a few.  We can no longer allow abuse of the rules to keep the Senate from debating and voting on key issues and it will be important to consider common sense changes to the Senate rules."

DI Statement in Response to Arrests of Advocates Calling for Changes to the Voting Rights Act

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Statement by Wendy Fields, Executive Director, Democracy Initiative

In response to arrest of advocates calling for restoration of the Voting Rights Act


We at the Democracy Initative congratulate Cornell Brooks and Stephen Green on their bold act of leadership to restore voting rights. We also applaud the young people who participated in this peaceful protest to strengthen our democracy for future generations. 

Earlier this week, Cornell William Brooks, Democracy Initiative board member and NAACP National President and CEO, and Stephen Green, National Director for the NAACP Youth and College Division, were arrested after a six-hour peaceful protest at the Roanoke office of Representative Bob Goodlatte.


Brooks and Green were joined by members of the Roanoke NAACP and youth council. Together, they urged Rep. Goodlatte to take action to restore the Voting Rights Act, which President Lyndon B. Johnson originally signed into law 51 years ago this week. Alarmingly, the past few years have seen a coordinated attempt to dismantle the landmark protections that the Voting Rights Act established and suppress voter turnout. As the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Goodlatte has blocked hearings on legislation to combat this surge in voter discrimination.


Our democracy only works when the voice of each person is heard and counted equally, which is why it is so critical that our elected officials restore and protect the Voting Rights Act.


Wendy Fields is the Executive Director of the Democracy Initiative. Prior to joining the Democracy Initiative, Wendy was the Vice President for Campaigns and Strategic Partnerships at Common Cause, where she focused on linking economic inequality and racial inequality to the democracy agenda. Previously, she spent more than 20 years at the United Auto Workers International Union where she devoted her time to organizing and coalition building.


Statement by Wendy Fields, Executive Director, Democracy Initiative

In response to federal appeals court striking down North Carolina’s Voter ID law
Friday, July 29, 2016

Contact: Beth Kanter (773) 551-7044,                                                      

Today’s ruling by the federal appeals court striking down North Carolina’s racially-motivated voter identification law is reason for every Tar Heel to applaud this significant victory for democracy. And we applaud the entire team of plaintiffs in their forceful and effective take-down of this offensive law.

The supporters of this restrictive law had only one goal in mind: to silence the voices of people of color. We cannot and will not allow that to happen. Not in North Carolina, not in any state in our democratic union.

With this decision, North Carolina will continue to wipe away the discriminatory vestiges of its past and points to a brighter future for North Carolina where everyone can exercise their constitutional rights and participate in our democracy.

This decision is yet another example that the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice; sometimes it takes the courts to reinforce that bend.

Wendy Fields is the Executive Director of the Democracy Initiative. Prior to joining the Democracy Initiative, Wendy was the Vice President for Campaigns and Strategic Partnerships at Common Cause, where she focused on linking economic inequality and racial inequality to the democracy agenda. Previously, she spent more than 20 years at the United Auto Workers International Union where she devoted her time to organizing and coalition building.


DI Statement in response to Introduction of Reform Package

Friday, July 15, 2016

Statement by Larry Cohen, Chair, Democracy Initiative

In response to introduction of legislative package to improve political system


The introduction in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives of a comprehensive set of campaign finance reform and voter registration policies is an important victory for both the American people and our democracy.


A democracy only works when the voice of each person is heard and counted equally. Today, that fundamental value of political equity is under siege from twin forces that are inextricably linked – the rise in systemic voter suppression and disenfranchisement and the massive influx of big money in our political system.


We cannot achieve success on the country’s most pressing issues – civil rights, climate change, women’s and worker’s rights and racial and economic inequality – unless we address these weaknesses and strengthen the fundamental pillars of our democracy.


That is why the Democracy Initiative many of its 59 member organizations and other partners worked to ensure that voter suppression and disenfranchisement and money in politics to be addressed simultaneously in this package of policies – because we can only strengthen our democracy and make it work for all Americans by addressing both.


Larry Cohen is chair of the Democracy Initiative and the immediate past president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA). 


# # #

Democracy Initiative Board


Larry Cohen, Chair

Cornell William Brooks, NAACP President & CEO

Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director

Tefere Gebre, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President

Annie Leonard, Greenpeace USA Executive Director

Karen Hobert-Flynn, Common Cause President

Wendy Fields, Democracy Initiative Executive Director | Advancement Project | AFL-CIO | AFSCME | Alliance for Justice | Amalgamated Transit Union | American Family Voices | American Federation of Teachers | American Postal Workers Union | Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Bend the Arc | Campaign for American's Future | CASA | Center for Community Change | Center for Environmental Health | Center for Popular Democracy | Clean Water Action | Common Cause | CWA | Democracy Matters | Demos | Every Voice | Fair Elections Legal Network | Food and Water Watch | Free Speech for People | Friends of the Earth | Greenpeace | Jobs with Justice | Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law | League of Conservation Voters | | NAACP | NAACP Legal Defense Fund | NAACP National Voter Fund | National Action Network | National Council of La Raza | National Coalition on Black Civic Participation | National Education Association | National LGBTQ Task Force | National People's Action | Natural Resources Defense Council | Our | People For the American Way | Progressive Majority | Project Vote | Public Citizen | ReThink Media | Rural Coalition | SEIU | Sierra Club | SiX | Story of Stuff | U.S. PIRG | UAW | United States Student Association | US Action | Voices for Progress

Statement by Larry Cohen, Chair, Democracy Initiative

In response to last night’s Senate filibuster by Sen. Chris Murphy
Thursday, June 16, 2016

Last night’s fearless filibuster - spearheaded by Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) – was a win for democracy. Sen. Murphy and his colleagues used the filibuster as it was intended – to ensure the minority voice is heard.

Too often, senators abuse this rule and hold “silent” filibusters, bringing critical legislation to a screeching halt without ever having to give anyone an explanation. The threat of filibuster can have the same effect – bills and nominations are left hanging out to dry until a senator gets what he or she wants – often on an unrelated project or provision that scores points back home or curries favor with a special interest. This stranglehold on democracy must end.

Three years ago, because of an abuse of the Senate rules, the Senate failed to pass the Manchin-Toomey amendment to expand background checks for certain types of gun sales, despite having a majority of the Senate’s support.

Last night, we saw the stark difference that the democratic process can have when it is used to advance the voice of the people rather than silence it.

Larry Cohen is chair of the Democracy Initiative and the immediate past president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA). He was president of CWA from 2005 until June 2015. He is a leading voice for workers’ rights, fair trade, voting rights and big money out of politics. He is a member of the Democratic National Committee, and chaired the AFL-CIO organizing committee for the past ten years.

The Nation: The Most Important Protest of the 2016 Election

1,400 activists have been arrested at Democracy Awakening and Democracy Spring, but few in the media have covered it.
Friday, May 13, 2016

Covering Democracy Awakening April 16-18, The Nation's Zoë Carpenter and Ari Berman highlighted the importance of the mobilization where thousands of activists, advocates, and organizations rallied for democracy and marched on the Capitol. Hundreds were arrested in one of the largest mass actions in decades to protect voting rights protections, getting big money out of politics, and an up or down vote on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.

Click here to read The Nation article by Zoë Carpenter and Ari Berman.



Democracy Awakening Brings Thousands of Activists and Advocates to Rally in Washington, DC

Democracy Initiative environmental, labor, civil rights, and student organizations are mobilizing thousands to fight for an equal voice in our democracy at U.S. Capitol this weekend
Friday, April 15, 2016

Washington, DC – This weekend, April 16-18, the Democracy Initiative and its endorsing organizations are participating in Democracy Awakening, bringing together thousands of members, activists, and advocates from a wide variety of backgrounds to fight for an equal and influential voice in our democracy as the power of money in politics, attacks on voting rights, and Senate obstruction over the Supreme Court nomination process are disenfranchising voters across the country. Notably, Democracy Awakening participants from various ethnic and racial backgrounds, as well as issue communities of environment, labor, good government and civil rights reflect the modern and diverse coalitions demanding systemic reform in our political process.

“Congress' refusal to take action on voting rights, money in politics, and the pending Supreme Court nomination is systematically undermining our democracy and denying the American people an equal voice in our political process,” said Democracy Initiative Chair Larry Cohen. “This is the time to stand up and fight back. We need solutions for the real problems people face – massive student debt, jobs without real benefits, and equal pay for women. Democracy Awakening is the voice of thousands of Americans in Washington, DC and millions more across the country demanding action.”

More than 200 organizations have joined together to fight back against and out-of-balance system dominated by wealthy special interests that produces outcomes that fail to reflect the needs and concerns of everyday people. That is why thousands are joining for a rally this Sunday and why thousands more are risking arrest on Monday to demand a Congress of Conscience. A full day of workshops, panels, and forums will educate participants on Saturday and explore the convergence of democracy issues.

Democracy Awakening uniquely represents the diverse potential of American democracy with a wide array of constituencies prepared to fight side by side. Young and old, people of color, and those of every economic class are joining together to build a democracy of, by, and for the people.



The Movement to Fix Democracy Can't Be Stopped

Democracy Awakening inspires Americans hungry for a government that works for all as tens of thousands participate in a tele town hall and sign up to mobilize in Washington
Thursday, March 3, 2016

Washington, DC – Regardless of the outcome of the presidential primary, it is clear voters are demanding a democracy that guarantees all Americans an equal voice. As the polls closed on Super Tuesday, nearly 12,000 activists and advocates joined a tele town hall (click here for recording) with leaders from the labor, environment, and civil rights communities to hear about Democracy Awakening and the Congress of Conscience. The historic event will mobilize thousands, some participating in direct action, to come to Washington, DC April 16th-18th to demand a democracy where every vote is heard and counted, and all Americans have an equal voice.

Speakers on the tele town hall included NAACP President & CEO Cornell William Brooks, Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, Greenpeace USA Executive Director Annie Leonard, Former U.S. Civil Rights Commission Chair Mary Frances Berry, CWA President Chris Shelton, and Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. They touched on the critical solutions to rebalance our democracy – restoring and expanding essential voting rights protections, and curbing the power of wealthy special interests and corporations on elections, and fighting obstruction of the president’s Supreme Court nomination.

“We have Super Tuesday today but that’s not directly solving any problems. I say the only way to do so is to mobilize,” said Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich. “If you look at history, the only way people really can change the structure of power in Washington and in America is through mobilizing, through organizing, through energizing, through showing up and asserting their rights as people – making a ruckus!”

Supported by over 180 groups including a recent endorsement from the AFL-CIO Executive Council and its 12.7 million members, and with more than 10,000 people signed up on the website, the people demanding a democracy that works for all of us will continue regardless of the nominees.

“Together, through Democracy Awakening, we are standing up for the right to vote and we are standing up for the integrity of the vote,” said NAACP President & CEO Cornell William Brooks. “Why? Because we well understand the need to protect citizens’ votes from being stolen before the election and legislators’ votes from being bought and sold after the elections. We have to stand together, to stand with courage.”


Democracy Initiative Responds to Passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

Unexpected passing ignites U.S. Senate battle over President Obama’s anticipated SCOTUS nominee in election year
Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Washington, DC – Following the unexpected passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the Democracy Initiative issued the following statement:

“The President joined the nation in mourning the loss and honoring the life of Justice Antonin Scalia, a dedicated public servant and advocate for the ideals enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. The President was clear that he intends to fulfill his constitutional responsibility to nominate a successor to Justice Scalia. He also called on the Senate to fulfill its responsibility to give the nominee a fair hearing and timely vote.  

“Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Grassley has indicated his willingness to use the process to stop any nominee, announcing, ‘…it only makes sense that we defer to the American people who will elect a new president to select the next Supreme Court Justice.’  What he proposes is an unprecedented dereliction of his responsibility. Each Senator when sworn in takes an oath to ‘support and defend’ the U.S. Constitution that clearly states the Senate should provide ‘advice and consent,’ not ‘refuse to consider.’

“The American people expect and deserve a Senate that will do its job. Since 2010, the Democracy Initiative’s Fix the Senate Now campaign has focused on Senate reforms, such as those made in November 2013, which help to restore the Senate to its traditions as a deliberative body where qualified nominees can receive up-or-down votes. Ensuring that qualified nominees can be judged on their merits and can receive a full and fair hearing and vote should not be a contentious or partisan issue. The U.S. constitution clearly outlines the procedure for replacing a Supreme Court Justice and the roles of the president and Senate. Preemptively disavowing constitutional procedure for political objections undermines the integrity of our democracy.

“This April 17th and 18th in Washington, DC, the Democracy Initiative will be joined by more than 150  civil rights, labor, and environmental organizations along with thousands of activists and advocates, some participating in nonviolent direct action as part of Democracy Awakening and the Congress of Conscience to demand a democracy that works for all Americans. 

“The institutions of our government need to function regardless of who has power – it is bigger than party or politics. That is why this spring, when thousands of Americans come to Washington to demand reform, we will call for the Senate, the nation’s highest deliberative body, to act as the founders intended.” 


The Democracy Initiative (DI) is a network of 60 civil rights, environmental, and labor organizations formed to restore the core principles of democracy and political equality. Originally formed in 2012, the DI represents more than 35 million members nationwide.