The Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) is a left-wing 501(c)(3) organization involved in voter mobilization and policy development. The center’s stated mission is “to create equity, opportunity and a dynamic democracy in partnership with high-impact base-building organizations, organizing alliances, and progressive unions.”
The group has numerous state- and local-level partner organizations and is active in approximately thirty states. In the 2016 election cycle, CPD and its 501(c)(4) affiliate Center for Popular Democracy Action sought $7 million in contributions for work in concert with the left-wing Working Families Organization on voter contact and activation for progressive candidates.
Center for Popular Democracy is a “recommended organization” endorsed by the progressive donor consortium Democracy Alliance. Center for Popular Democracy has received millions in funding from various progressive foundations, including the Wyss Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Surdna Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the Public Welfare Foundation. Despite supporting restrictions on anonymous conservative political speech, CPD has taken over $3 million in anonymized contributions from the donor-advised Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund.
CPD has three co-directors: Andrew Friedman, Ana Maria Archila, and Brian Kettering.
Andrew Friedman, a graduate of Columbia College and the New York University School of Law, is a longtime veteran of left-of-center politics. He founded Make the Road New York, another left-of-center group focused on worker and immigrant rights, in 1997. CPD compensated Friedman $189,115 in 2014, including $153,500 in base pay.
Ana Maria Archila is another longtime left-of-center activist. She joined CPD in 2013 after serving as the executive director of Make the Road New York and the Latin American Integration Center.
Brian Kettering led the Leadership Center for the Common Good until the group merged with CPD in 2013. Kettering worked for the now-defunct ACORN from 1995 until 2010. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Kettering denied ACORN engaged in voter fraud tactics and accused Republicans of attacking the group to suppress voters.
Center for Popular Democracy was founded in 2012, merging with the Leadership Center for the Common Good in 2014. It has taken the lead for liberal organizing on local policies through its arm Local Progress, demanded extremely loose monetary policy from the Federal Reserve, and advocated for a broad and aggressive progressive-left agenda.
Center for Popular Democracy’s most prominent campaign is Local Progress, an effort to pool policy ideas and activism from municipal councilors in America’s most liberal cities and spread them to more cities. The group is closely tied to the key players in the Democratic coalition: The Local Progress Board includes officials from the AFL-CIO and SEIU. Local Progress’s board is chaired by Councilor Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn), the chairman of the New York City Council’s Progressive Caucus and powerful Rules Committee.
The group seeks to use its organization of municipal policy to influence state and federal regulation. Local Progress published a platform in 2016 that sought to influence the campaign of Hillary Clinton for President, emphasizing gun control, advancing left-wing labor and employment regulation, reversing school choice, and demanding environmentalist energy policy.
Local Progress’s strategies include forcing businesses to push states to adopt the group’s preferred policies rather than face patchworks of inconsistent rules. Local Progress chair Lander described the strategy: “Eventually that should be a national law or a CFPB regulation. That’s not going to happen until a lot of cities and states do it […] And if there’s a competition for who can do the strongest law, eventually it’ll make sense for businesses to say ‘we should have a national law.’”
Since the election of President Donald Trump, Local Progress has taken a key role in coordinating opposition to the Administration’s immigration restriction policies. In March 2017, Local Progress gathered representatives of 30 “sanctuary cities” that refuse to provide certain information on illegal immigrants to federal authorities to plan defiance of the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement policies.
Center for Popular Democracy led the effort to pass so-called “fair workweek” legislation in Seattle, Washington. The ordinance mandates larger retail and food establishments post worker schedules two weeks in advance, provide at least 10 hours between shifts and offer additional hours to employees before adding new workers. Portland, Oregon, passed a nonbinding resolution calling on businesses to review their scheduling practices. The laws, based on a law first passed in San Francisco under heavy influence of organized labor unions, have been criticized for reducing workplace flexibility for part-time employees and reducing employment.
CPD has also engaged in progressive and labor union campaigns to push minimum wage increases. In November 2016, Colorado voters voted for a plan to boost the state’s minimum wage to $12 per hour, plus yearly wage inflation adjustments. CPD spent the most money of the progressive groups supporting the campaign, reportedly more than $1 million.
Federal Reserve System Changes
CPD has also agitated against the Federal Reserve’s efforts to prevent inflation through its “Fed Up” campaign. Campaign activists met with Fed officials in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in August 2016 to demand Fed officials slow interest rate increases and restrict the independence of regional Federal Reserve Banks. CPD sued the federal government in October 2016 to demand more transparency into how the regional banks select their presidents.
The “Fed Up” campaign won what appeared to be its biggest victory when then-Democratic Presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton endorsed CPD’s proposal to bar bankers from serving on Federal Reserve regional bank boards. CPD and Clinton had been in talks with Clinton’s campaign to advance the left-wing regulatory agenda.
Race Relations and Policing
Center for Popular Democracy also plays in the debates surrounding policing reform and the Black Lives Matter movement. CPD was involved in a 2015 Democracy Alliance-associated conference kickoff dinner strategizing on how progressives could fund the efforts of anti-police activists.
A Center policy advocate sits on an eight-member inter-organizational “Movement for Black Lives policy leadership team,” which released a policy manifesto in August 2016. The manifesto addressed policy areas far outside those of policing reform including demanding reparations for slavery and the reinstitution of the Franklin D. Roosevelt-era Glass-Steagall banking regulation.
A Center for Popular Democracy deputy director proposed seizing revenues from a future decriminalized or legalized marijuana industry and redistributing them as reparations. Marbre Shahly-Butts told a policy conference of the liberal state policy development group State Innovation Exchange: “The idea is we that have extracted literally millions of dollars from communities, we have destroyed families. Mass incarceration has led to the destruction of communities across the country. We can track which communities, like we have that data. And so if we’re going to be decriminalizing things like marijuana, all of the profit from that should go back to the folks we’ve extracted it from,” reportedly to widespread applause from principally Democratic state and municipal legislators.
Brett Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearings
During the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in September 2018, CPD co-executive director Ana Maria Archila and another staffer “cornered Arizona [S]enator Jeff Flake, who had just announced he was going to vote yes on moving Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination out of the Judiciary Committee and onto the Senate floor for a full debate. The women wouldn’t let Flake leave until they had yelled at him, face to face, for several minutes.” 
In a fundraising email, CPD wrote: 
“Last week, you saw protestors interrupting the Kavanaugh hearings, trying to slow it down and show the Judiciary Committee how much they/we care. Those protests were organized by the Women’s March and the Center for Popular Democracy and other groups.”
“Be A Hero” Campaign (2018)
On October 3, 2018, a handful of activists wearing T-shirts featuring “Be A Hero” harassed and shouted at Republican Sen. David Perdue (Georgia) and his wife as they traveled through Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. The “Be A Hero” campaign is a project of the Center for Popular Democracy, encouraging voters to vote for Democrats in the November 2018 midterm elections.
CPD reported more than $12.2 million in total revenue in 2014. The group spent $7.3 million that year. The group reported $3.05 million in total revenue in 2013, with $2.87 million in expenses.
The Center receives substantial contributions from labor unions. In 2015, annual reports filed with the Department of Labor showed that unions spent $987,938 in expenditures to CPD and its 501(c)(4) Center for Popular Democracy Action. The top union contributor in that year was the National Education Association, which contributed $148,900 to CPD and $422,000 to CPD Action Fund.
The Tides Foundation donated $15,000 to CPD in 2014 on two separate occassions. Tides gave the center $70,000 in 2013. The Marguerite Casey Foundation granted CPD $350,000 in 2015 to bolster the Fed Up project. The Open Philanthropy Project granted CPD $1 million for 2016 to aid the same campaign.
The Ford Foundation gave $2.48 million through four separate donations during 2015 and 2016. An October 2015 Ford Foundation blog post boasts of CPD’s work on the Fed Up Initiative. The Bauman Family Foundation granted CPD $130,000 between 2012 and 2016.
The Mertz Gilmore Foundation granted CPD $40,000 in 2016 to, “support the Peabody Organizing Projects.” CPD’s Missouri ally, Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, asked the now-bankrupt Peabody Energy, a coal company, for reparations to communities supposedly harmed by the company’s energy-producing practices.
Ahead of the 2016 presidential election, numerous musicians collaborated to produce 30 songs in 30 days in opposition to then-candidate Donald Trump. Money raised by this project, launched by Dave Eggers and Jordan Kurland, will flow to CPD, which was reportedly chosen because of CPD’s advocacy of automatic voter registration.