Non-profit

Rock the Vote

Logo of Rock the Vote . (link)
Location:

WASHINGTON, DC

Tax ID:

02-0767157

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2017):

Revenue: $997,625
Expenses: $1,328,606
Assets: $833,137

Executive Director:

Carolyn DeWitt

Type:

Nonprofit

Formation:

1990

Executive Director's Salary:

$140,000

Rock the Vote is a left-progressive-aligned organization in the United States whose stated mission is to engage and “build the political power of young people.” The group claims to be nonpartisan,[1] but has produced videos throughout the years using celebrities who largely endorse a left-of-center agenda, including abortion rights, liberalizing criminal justice policy, and marijuana legalization. [2]

Founded by music executives in 1990, Rock the Vote encouraged young people to register to vote by initially partnering with MTV and using celebrities to spread the message that “Censorship is Un-American.” [3]

Rock the Vote has continued to use celebrities throughout the years, and has advocated for health care policy increasing the role of government[4] as well as left-liberal policy changes to the U.S. voting system. [5]

History

Rock the Vote was co-founded in 1990 by music executives, including Jeff Ayeroff, to mobilize young people in response to official censorship of rap and hip-hop artists. Partnering with MTV, Rock the Vote touted the message that “Censorship is Un-American,” and attempted to motivate young people to register to vote, in hopes that young voters would have the same interests as the music industry. [6]

According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, in 2000, after ten years of Rock the Vote programming, the turn out for young voters was 9% less than it had been for the 1992 presidential election. [7]

Agenda

While Rock the Vote claims that it is a “trusted and effective nonpartisan” organization,[8] it has largely supported a left-progressive agenda. In 2014, ahead of the midterm elections, Rock the Vote released an advertisement featuring celebrities that encouraged young people to vote for left-progressive agenda items including abortion rights, liberalized criminal justice policy, and marijuana legalization. [9]

After Hillary Clinton lost the Presidential election in 2016, Rock the Vote’s President, Carolyn DeWitt, issued a statement claiming that the U.S. is “moving steadily in a progressive direction.” DeWitt went on to blame on the election results on “archaic and confusing election laws,” voter suppression, and “politics overall.” [10] In 2019, Rock the Vote circulated a petition in support of abolishing the Electoral College in favor of a popular vote system. [11]

In 2009, Rock the Vote launched a multimedia campaign focused on supporting the Obama administration’s efforts to enact government-run health care, including a 30 second television ad with celebrities encouraging young people to “demand health care now.” The ad intended to educate young voters about health care reform. In conjunction with this ad, the campaign encouraged people to demanding health care reform by signing a “Yes We Care.” [12]

In 2004, Rock the Vote created a campaign to promote public awareness of voting to young voters, and focused its campaign on the issue of a military draft. Rock the Vote sent out 660,000 emails containing a mock draft card, mock-signed by then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The draft card read “You are hereby ordered for induction into the Armed Forces of the United States, and to report to a polling place near you.” Ed Gillespie, then-chairman of the Republican National Committee, sent a cease and desist order to Rock the Vote. Despite the “draft scare” having credibility at this time, executives at Rock the Vote and MTV both claimed that they designed their campaigns for the sole purpose of grabbing “the attention of fickle younger viewers and have no partisan motivation.” [13]

Financial Troubles

In 2006, facing $700,000 in debt, Rock the Vote was left without a president, and had its staff cut down to two people. The chairman of the board at the time, music attorney Fred Goldring, cited a lack of donations. Former president Jehmu Greene claimed that members of the board were using Rock the Vote events to promote their own interests, incurring large and unnecessary expenses. [14]

Rock the Vote has also been sued multiple times, including in a case brought by Los Angeles County in 2006, after Rock the Vote failed to deliver on a $320,000 anti-discrimination public education campaign. [15]

People

Senior Staff

Carolyn DeWitt is the President and Executive Director of Rock the Vote. DeWitt formerly served as the chief of staff for Pivot, a political consulting firm, and as a project manager at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. [16]

Jasmine Jones is Rock the Vote’s Organizing Director. She is a political operative, and former director of alumni support for the Virginia Progressive Leadership Project. [17]

Rasheed Varner is Rock the Vote’s Data and Research Associate. Varner formerly worked for the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the Center for Technology and Civic Life, and the Women Donors Network (WDN). [18]

Stephanie Shaw is the Director of Corporate Partnerships, and oversees Rock the Vote’s Democracy Day Initiative. Shaw formerly worked as the corporate affairs manager at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and has worked with Freedom for Immigrants, the New Leaders Council, and the ACLU. [19]

Board of Directors

Co-Chair Amanda Brown Lierman is the managing director of Supermajority. Lierman is the former political and organizing director of the Democratic National Committee, the former Campaign Director of For Our Future, and the For Our Future Action Fund, and the former Executive Director of the National Women’s Business Council. Lierman worked as an organizer for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2007, before working for the Obama transition team. Lierman formerly served in the White House Office of Political Affairs, and at the U.S. Department of Energy. [20]

Chris Melody Fields Figueredo is the treasurer of the board. Figueredo is the executive director of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center Foundation, former associate director of voting rights at ReThink Media, former manager of legal mobilization and strategic campaigns at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and a former outreach director for Common Cause. Figueredo was formerly a campaign organizer and worked as the Iowa deputy political director for John Edwards’s 2008 presidential campaign, after serving as a field organizer for his 2004 presidential campaign. [21]

DeRay McKesson is an activist and organizer. McKesson is a prominent voice in the Black Lives Matter Movement, the co-founder of Campaign Zero, and works on the planning team at OurStates.org. McKesson hosts the weekly podcast Pod Save The People and formerly taught in New York City through Teach For America. [22]

Frank Smith is co-chair of the board. Smith is a senior political advisor for Democracy Alliance,[23] a political consultant for the Blue Impact Network, and a former Assistant District Attorney in Boston. Smith has been involved with multiple political campaigns, including two presidential elections. [24] Smith is the former executive director of the Barbra Streisand Foundation. [25]

Jeff Ayeroff co-founded Rock the Vote in 1990 as a response to the Parental Advisory labels (PAL) affixed to albums that featured explicit language. Ayeroff served as the Senior VP of Marketing and Creative Services at A&M Records, after serving as the Senior VP of Warner Records. [26]

Jesse Moore is the founder and principal consultant at Common Thread Strategies. Moore is a former Associate Director of Public Engagement and speechwriter at the White House after serving in management positions on President Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns. Moore served as Communications Director of Human Services at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and as a public affairs official at the Administration for Children and Families. [27] Moore is the former vice president for civic engagement at Rock the Vote. [28]

Lara Bergthold serves as secretary of the board, and serves as chairperson of the boards of both Campaign for America’s Future, and People for the American Way. Bergthold has been the Executive Director of the Lear Family Foundation since 1997. She also served as National Deputy Political Director for former Secretary of State John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. [29]

Michael Skolnik is a left-wing activist and co-founder of the media campaign firm Soze Agency. Skolnik is a board member for a number of left-wing Black Lives Matter organizations, including the Trayvon Martin Foundation, PolicyLink, the Gathering for Justice (affiliated with the Women’s March), and Drug Policy Alliance. [30]

Wayne Jordan is the co-founder of the Akonadi Foundation, where he sits as secretary-treasurer of the board. Jordan sits on the boards of SPUR, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Color of Change, ACLU Investment Committee, and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Jordan has hosted fundraisers for the political campaigns of President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), among others. [31]

Other members of the board include Russell Glass. [32]

References

  1. “Home.” Rock the Vote, 2020. Accessed March 22, 2020. https://www.rockthevote.org/. ^
  2. Contrera, Jessica. “Lil Jon and Lena Dunham Team Up to Take On What Madonna and Chuck D Pioneered.” The Washington Post, October 7, 2014. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2014/10/07/lil-jon-and-lena-dunham-team-up-to-take-on-what-madonna-and-chuck-d-pioneered/. ^
  3. “About Us.” Rock the Vote, 2020. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.rockthevote.org/about-rock-the-vote/. ^
  4. “Zach Braff & Donald Faison Kick-off Rock the Vote’s Health Care Campaign.” Rock the Vote, September 9, 2009. https://www.rockthevote.org/health-care-launch/. ^
  5. Hirschauer, John. “Rock the Vote (and Abolish the Electoral College).” National Review, October 22, 2019. Accessed March 20, 2020. https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/rock-the-vote-and-abolish-the-electoral-college/. ^
  6. “About Us.” Rock the Vote, 2020. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.rockthevote.org/about-rock-the-vote/. ^
  7. Duhigg, Charles. “Rock the Vote is Stuck in a Hard Place.” Los Angeles Times, February 6, 2007. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2006-feb-07-fi-rockthevote7-story.html. ^
  8. “Home.” Rock the Vote, 2020. Accessed March 22, 2020. https://www.rockthevote.org/. ^
  9. Contrera, Jessica. “Lil Jon and Lena Dunham Team Up to Take On What Madonna and Chuck D Pioneered.” The Washington Post, October 7, 2014. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2014/10/07/lil-jon-and-lena-dunham-team-up-to-take-on-what-madonna-and-chuck-d-pioneered/. ^
  10. “Rock the Vote Responds to 2016 Presidential Election Results.” Medium, November 9, 2016. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://medium.com/@RockTheVote/rock-the-vote-responds-to-2016-presidential-election-results-fac7a420c815. ^
  11. Hirschauer, John. “Rock the Vote (and Abolish the Electoral College).” National Review, October 22, 2019. Accessed March 20, 2020. https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/rock-the-vote-and-abolish-the-electoral-college/. ^
  12. “Zach Braff & Donald Faison Kick-off Rock the Vote’s Health Care Campaign.” Rock the Vote, September 9, 2009. https://www.rockthevote.org/health-care-launch/. ^
  13. “Rock The Vote, MTV Irk GOP.” Billboard, November 2, 2004. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/65818/rock-the-vote-mtv-irk-gop. ^
  14. Duhigg, Charles. “Rock the Vote is Stuck in a Hard Place.” Los Angeles Times, February 6, 2007. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2006-feb-07-fi-rockthevote7-story.html. ^
  15. Duhigg, Charles. “Rock the Vote is Stuck in a Hard Place.” Los Angeles Times, February 6, 2007. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2006-feb-07-fi-rockthevote7-story.html. ^
  16. “Carolyn DeWitt.” LinkedIn, 2020. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.linkedin.com/in/dewittcarolyn/. ^
  17. “Jasmine Jones.” Rock the Vote, 2019. Accessed March 20, 2020.  https://www.rockthevote.org/team/jasmine-jones/. ^
  18. “Rasheed Varner.” Rock the Vote, 2019. Accessed March 20, 2020. https://www.rockthevote.org/team/rasheed-varner/. ^
  19. “Stephanie Shaw.” LinkedIn, 2020. Accessed March 23, 2020. linkedin.com/in/stephaniedshaw. ^
  20. “Amanda Brown Lierman.” LinkedIn, 2020. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.linkedin.com/in/amandakarynnebrown/. ^
  21. “Chris Melody Fields Figueredo.” LinkedIn, 2020. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.linkedin.com/in/chris-melody-fields/. ^
  22. “About DeRay.” Deray McKesson. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://deray.com/about/. ^
  23. “Frank Smith.” Democracy Alliance. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://democracyalliance.org/people/frank-smith/. ^
  24. “About Us.” Blue Impact Network, 2018. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.blueimpactnetwork.com/about-us. ^
  25. “Speaker Biographies.” Environmental Grantmakers Association, March 1-2, 2016. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://ega.org/sites/default/files/page/attachment/Speaker%20Bios_2.24.pdf. ^
  26. “Jeff Ayeroff.” Rock the Vote, 2019. Accessed March 20, 2020. https://www.rockthevote.org/team/jeff-ayeroff/. ^
  27. “Jesse Moore.” LinkedIn, 2020. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.linkedin.com/in/jesse-moore-43483a12/. ^
  28. “Jesse Moore Joins Rock the Vote as Vice President of Civic Engagement.” Rock the Vote, August 10, 2016. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.rockthevote.org/jesse-moore-joins-rock-the-vote/. ^
  29. “Lara Bergthold.” LinkedIn, 2020. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.linkedin.com/in/lara-bergthold-38a7ba5/. ^
  30. “Michael Skolnik.” LinkedIn, 2020. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-skolnik-4998365/. ^
  31. “Wayne Jordan.” SPUR, 2020. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.spur.org/about/board/wayne-jordan. ^
  32. “About Us.” Rock the Vote, 2019. Accessed March 20, 2020. https://www.rockthevote.org/about-us/. ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Heather Smith
    Former President
  2. Michael Skolnik
    Board Member
  3. Ricki Seidman
    Former Executive Director
  4. Billy Wimsatt
    Consultant

Associated Organizations

  1. Rock the Vote Action (Non-profit)
  See an error? Let us know!

Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: July 1, 2006

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2017 Dec Form 990 $997,625 $1,328,606 $833,137 $171,320 N $987,555 $10,000 $0 $155,932 PDF
    2016 Dec Form 990 $4,210,916 $6,204,786 $1,158,748 $165,950 N $4,148,508 $52,100 $0 $273,704 PDF
    2015 Dec Form 990 $3,227,371 $1,635,093 $3,210,079 $223,411 N $3,226,140 $0 $0 $129,746 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $3,084,244 $2,205,922 $1,596,866 $202,476 N $3,045,665 $26,050 $0 $206,062 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $1,356,883 $1,289,971 $812,422 $296,354 N $1,352,762 $0 $0 $159,384 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $3,068,499 $3,043,722 $692,048 $202,174 N $3,006,293 $0 $0 $159,360 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990 $944,406 $1,521,688 $670,176 $205,079 N $940,902 $0 $0 $156,407 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Rock the Vote

    1875 CONNECTICUT AVENUE NW 10TH FL
    WASHINGTON, DC 20009-6046