MoveOn Civic Action, also known by the name of its website MoveOn.org, describes itself as “the largest independent, progressive, digitally-connected organizing group in the United States.” MoveOn operates as a centralized forum for petitions written by its left-of-center membership, advertises those petitions, coordinates issue advocacy and protests, and gathers donations from its members and from large-scale progressive donors like George Soros, which it uses to support left-wing causes and candidates.
MoveOn partners with other progressive organizations, allowing the organizations to use its petition platform and increase their email list. Goups that have recently partnered with MoveOn to distribute petitions include #Not1More, which is aimed at ending deportation of illegal immigrants, and labor union advocacy group Family Values at Work.
MoveOn was founded by liberals wishing to “move on” from the Monica Lewinsky scandal and subsequent impeachment of President Bill Clinton on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. In 1998, Joan Blades and Wes Boyd, spouses and co-founders of the San Francisco Bay area software company Berkeley Systems, created a single-sentence online petition saying it was time to “move on” from the scandal to address the “pressing issues facing the nation.” As the petition circulated by email, the couple also launched MoveOn.org where people could sign the petition electronically.
In only a week, MoveOn registered 100,000 supporters and MoveOn considers the people who first signed the petition its first members, whether they paid dues or not. From there, MoveOn expanded its operations, starting a PAC shortly after sending its first petition to take donations and support left-wing candidates.
As MoveOn continued to expand, it eventually split into two associated organizations for tax reasons: MoveOn Civic Action, the group’s 501(c)(4) lobbying arm, and MoveOn Political Action, the group’s PAC.
MoveOn pioneered advocacy in the digital age, being the first liberal advocacy group to use the Internet to run phone banks, and being at the forefront of organizing activists and raising large amounts of money from small donors online, a grassroots-based activity that would later fuel the presidential campaign of anti-establishment socialist Bernie Sanders in 2016. The organization credits itself with forcing the Democratic Party to oppose the Iraq war, helping Democrats retake Congress in 2006, and helping to pass the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.
In more recent years, MoveOn has supported the rise of U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont). MoveOn endorsed Sanders in the Democratic primary for President in 2016 against his opponent and eventual victor of the primary, Hillary Clinton. This was only the second time in the group’s history that it endorsed a candidate in the presidential primary, having snubbed Hillary Clinton previously by endorsing her 2008 opponent Barack Obama.
After the election of Republican Donald Trump to the White House in 2016, MoveOn organized protests across the country to continually reject what it called “Donald Trump’s bigotry, xenophobia, and misogyny.” Some of these protests turned violent.
MoveOn.org Civic action is a 501(c)(4) “focusing on education and advocacy, providing civic engagement tools to the public, and building the progressive movement by encouraging and supporting the development of more grassroots leaders.”
MoveOn Civic Action is home to MoveOn Petitions, where everyone from regular citizens to progressive organizations to members of Congress post public petitions.
MoveOn helped advance the disingenuous “war on women” attacks leveled at Republicans who did not accept left-wing social policy. Recent petitions have included efforts to persuade Senate Republicans to vote against repealing and replacing Obamacare, to revoke security clearance for President Trump’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner, to have Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) veto legislation against sanctuary cities, and to hire a special prosecutor to investigate President Trump’s alleged connections to the Russian government.
MoveOn receives and has received large donations, including $2.5 million from George Soros in 2003. Other large donations at that time include $2.5 million from the late Progressive Insurance chairman Peter B. Lewis, nearly $1 million from Stephen Bing of Shangri-La Entertainment, $100,000 from Lewis Cullman, heir to the Benson & Hedges tobacco fortune, and $101,000 from George Soros’s son Jonathan Soros.
MoveOn publishes a list of donors annually who gave $5,000 or more to MoveOn Civic Action. Below is MoveOn’s list of 2016 donors who donated $5,000 or more to Civic Action, alphabetized by last name or organization name:
- Marz Attar / One Foundation ($50,000)
- Belinda Badcock ($10,000)
- Paul Bettner ($5,000)
- Jean-Louis Bourgeois ($5,000)
- Nancy Burnett ($5,000)
- William Connell ($5,000)
- Matt Damon ($5,000)
- Alan Davis ($10,000)
- Marian Dines ($7,000)
- Sanford and Linda Gallanter ($10,000)
- John Gehan ($5,000)
- Amy Graham ($5,000)
- Barbarina Heyerdahl ($20,000)
- Jeremy Mindich ($10,000)
- Open Society Policy Center ($24,995)
- Berniece and Charles Patterson ($5,000)
- Ploughshares Fund ($475,000)
- Tides Foundation ($25,000)
- Ken Werner and Noreen Bagley ($10,700)
Below is MoveOn’s list of 2015 donors who donated $5,000 or more to Civic Acton, alphabetized by last name or organization name:
- Cari Tuna ($375,000)
- Center for Community Change ($10,000)
- Communications Workers of America ($50,000)
- DEMOS A Network for Ideas and Action ($5,000)
- J Street ($250,000)
- Matt Damon ($5,000)
- Naral Pro-Choice America Foundation ($10,000)
- Norman Kaplan ($5,200)
- Open Society Policy Center ($150,000)
- Ploughshares Fund ($325,000)
- Sandor Straus ($10,000)
- Service Employees International Union ($10,000)
Below are some of MoveOn’s most notable employees:
Anna Galland is the executive director of MoveOn Civic Action, where she helped launch SignOn.org, which eventually became MoveOn Petitions, the organization’s online petition tool. Before organizing at MoveOn, Anna Galland worked for the Oregon Bus Project, a progressive organizing group in Oregon.
Ben Wikler is MoveOn’s Washington director and a former executive vice president at Change.org, a separate, for-profit left-wing petition site. Wikler formerly worked as a producer for “The Al Franken Show” before the comedian was elected to the U.S. Senate, and was a press secretary for U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).
Nick Berning is MoveOn’s chief communications officer. He formerly worked communications at the environmentalist activist group Friends of the Earth as well as progressive advocacy organization People for the American Way.