The Organize Florida Education Fund (formerly F.I.R.E., Florida Institute for Reform and Empowerment) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Orlando, Florida. It teaches and trains Central Florida activists to advance left-wing causes throughout the Tampa-Orlando “I-4 corridor.” It also develops issue reports to educate and persuade voters, lawmakers, and the news media.
OFEF works together with its 501(c)4 advocacy sister organization, Organize Florida, to engage Florida’s political system. OFEF was formerly known as F.I.R.E, or the Florida Institute for Reform and Empowerment, but changed its name in January 2017. Organize Florida Education Fund is a state-based partner of The Center for Popular Democracy, a national left-wing community organizing consortium funded by numerous prominent liberal activist donors in the Democracy Alliance.
The Organize Florida Education Fund is a state-based partner of theCenter for Popular Democracy, a national activist network supporting and coordinating activities with 43 partner organizations across 30 states. Other CPD Florida-based partner organizations include the Manufactured Housing Action, the New Florida Majority, and Organize Florida.
CPD’s largest donor is activist billionaire George Soros. Its nationwide network also includes successor organizations to the controversial Association of Community Organizations and Reform Now (ACORN) network, which closed amid controversies in 2010.
The Organize Florida Education Fund claims to be nonpartisan for tax reasons, but its positions and activities are decidedly left-of-center. OFEF community trainings have been advertised by the Orange County Democratic Party, and its core leadership team is identical to its politically active sister organization, Organize Florida. Both OFEF and Organize Florida have the same Director of Political Operations, Tim Heberlein, who previously served as the Vice Chair of the Hillsborough County Democratic Party and the “Beyond Coal” organizing representative for the Sierra Club of Florida.
In April 2016, several news reports cited OFEF members, then called FIRE, protesting outside of then-state Rep. Dana Young’s (R-Tampa) district office to denounce a measure blocking public funding for private medical facilities that perform abortions. The legislation defunded Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics, required annual licensure inspections for abortion clinics, and banned the purchase and sale of fetal remains. The same day (April 28), OFEF protesters also rallied outside the Orlando-area office of state Rep. Bob Cortes (R-Altamonte Springs).
In April 2017, OFEF and the Center for Popular Democracy released an issue report stating that Florida’s energy infrastructure burdens women of color. The report was timed to coincide with the “People’s Climate March” in Washington, D.C., and the Organize Florida co-sponsored Climate March rallies in Tampa, Orlando, Miami, and other cities across Florida. The report blasts Florida lawmakers for the state’s natural gas pipelines and for an energy industry that it claims is unsafe and contributes to climate change. The report also criticizes Florida legislators for failing to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
Stephanie Porta is the executive director of both the Organize Florida Education Fund and Organize Florida. In 2013 and 2014, Porta was recognized by the Orlando Sentinel newspaper as an “up and comer” for the 25 Most Powerful People in Central Florida and was recognized as one of top 50 “Power Brokers” in Central Florida.