Non-profit

Unlocking America’s Future (UAF)

Website:

unlockingamericasfuture.org/

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(4)

Type:

ESG Activist Group

Spokesperson:

Kyle Herrig

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Unlocking America’s Future (UAF) is an advocacy group devoted to supporting left-of-center environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) corporate-activist standards against right-leaning opponents of those standards. UAF claims that ESG benefits businesses and consumers, helps fight climate change, and keeps the United States competitive with China. 1

UAF often and explicitly uses the term “responsible investing” as a synonym for ESG. 2 3

Background

According to Unlocking America’s Future, the United States business community is sustaining “coordinated attacks” against left-of-center ESG standards. 4 5

UAF asserts that anti-ESG organizations have successfully influenced eight states including Texas, Tennessee, and Oklahoma to enact anti-ESG legislation, such as mandates that state pensions divest from pro-ESG companies. 6

Activity

In February 2024, Unlocking America’s Future announced a media campaign to counter “right-leaning critiques against” ESG. In Arizona, UAF launched ad buys opposing what it calls “responsible investment bans” in reference to a series of proposed laws and regulations intended to limit or ban the influence of ESG on the Arizona government’s investment priorities. 7 8

In December 2023, UAF announced an “eight-figure” campaign to promote ESG, which included research, advertising, responses to current events, and social media engagement. 9

UAF’s earliest activity listed on its website is an ad buy in March 2022 urging Pennsylvania voters to support pro-ESG regulations. Similar advertising campaigns were launched in Arizona, Montana, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. 10

UAF’s website does not list any press releases from between March 2022 and December 2023. 11

Polling

In April 2024, Unlocking America’s Future released a poll conducted by Morning Consult claiming that most Americans support numerous ESG regulations, including legal mandates for corporate disclosures regarding climate impact. 12

In February 2024, UAF and Data for Progress, a project of Tides Advocacy, released a poll claiming that ESG and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s proposed climate-disclosure mandate for corporations was popular across the political spectrum. UAF spokesperson Kyle Herrig commented: “This new polling data reinforces what we already know – Americans see past the divisive, misleading rhetoric pushed by extreme politicians and understand that responsible investing is good for the economy, our climate, and America’s position on the global stage.” 13

Earlier, UAF released polling data indicating that most voters were unfamiliar with ESG but supported its principles, such as corporations considering the environmental impact of their activity and working to improve employee working conditions. 14

Leadership

Kyle Herrig is the spokesperson for Unlocking America’s Future. Herrig is an activist and attorney who sits on the boards of, or as an adviser to, various left-of-center advocacy projects, including many organizations associated with the New Venture Fund, a nonprofit organization created and managed by the philanthropic consultancy group Arabella Advisors. Herrig has been associated with Allied Progress, Restore Public Trust, American Oversight, Accountable.US, and the Congressional Integrity Project, where he is the executive director. 15 16

An advertising campaign launched by UAF in December 2023 was led by Herrig as well as Zac Petkanas, Josh Schwerin, and Erika Gudmundson. 17

Petkanas is the founder and president of Petkanas Strategies, a Democratic consulting firm. Petkanas previously worked as a senior adviser to the Democratic National Committee, worked for former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, and was the vice president of Media Matters for America. 18

Schwerin is the president of Saratoga Strategies, another Democratic consulting firm. Schwerin previously worked for the Priorities USA Super PAC, on Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, and for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. 19

Gudmundson is the founder of Good Comms. She previously worked for former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 2020 presidential campaign, on Clinton’s 2008 and 2016 presidential campaigns, and for the Clinton Foundation. 20

References

  1. “Unlocking America’s Future Launches Multi-Million Dollar Campaign to Protect Responsible Investing (Also Known As ESG).” Unlocking America’s Future. December 18, 2023. Accessed May 31, 2024. https://unlockingamericasfuture.org/unlocking-americas-future-launches-multi-million-dollar-campaign-to-protect-responsible-investing-also-known-as-esg/.
  2. [1] “Unlocking America’s Future Launches Multi-Million Dollar Campaign to Protect Responsible Investing (Also Known As ESG).” Unlocking America’s Future. December 18, 2023. Accessed May 31, 2024. https://unlockingamericasfuture.org/unlocking-americas-future-launches-multi-million-dollar-campaign-to-protect-responsible-investing-also-known-as-esg/.
  3. “Responsible Investment Bans – Bad for Arizona.” YouTube. YouTube. February 22, 2024. Accessed May 31, 2024. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sac86qsBa7w.
  4. “Unlocking America’s Future Launches Multi-Million Dollar Campaign to Protect Responsible Investing (Also Known As ESG).” Unlocking America’s Future. December 18, 2023. Accessed May 31, 2024. https://unlockingamericasfuture.org/unlocking-americas-future-launches-multi-million-dollar-campaign-to-protect-responsible-investing-also-known-as-esg/.
  5. “Unlocking America’s Future Launches Multi-Million Dollar Campaign to Protect Responsible Investing (Also Known As ESG).” Unlocking America’s Future. December 18, 2023. Accessed May 31, 2024. https://unlockingamericasfuture.org/unlocking-americas-future-launches-multi-million-dollar-campaign-to-protect-responsible-investing-also-known-as-esg/.
  6. Bitch, Kate. “Fightback Against Anti-ESG Agenda and Investment Bans in US.” Sustainability Magazine. January 20, 2024. Accessed May 31, 2024. https://sustainabilitymag.com/esg/fightback-against-anti-esg-agenda-and-investment-bans-in-us.
  7. [1] Geman, Ben. “Scoop: Climate advocacy group launches campaign to fight ESG backlash.” Axios. February 22, 2024. Accessed May 31, 2024. https://www.axios.com/2024/02/22/esg-blackrock-uaf-campaign.
  8. Segal, Mark. “Arizona Drops Support for Anti-ESG Measures.” ESG Today. February 14, 2023. Accessed May 31, 2024. https://www.esgtoday.com/arizona-drops-support-for-anti-esg-measures/.
  9. “Unlocking America’s Future Launches Multi-Million Dollar Campaign to Protect Responsible Investing (Also Known As ESG).” Unlocking America’s Future. December 18, 2023. Accessed May 31, 2024. https://unlockingamericasfuture.org/unlocking-americas-future-launches-multi-million-dollar-campaign-to-protect-responsible-investing-also-known-as-esg/.
  10. “NEW ADS: Unlocking America’s Future Launches Ad Campaign in Pennsylvania to Build Support for the SEC’s New Climate Risk Disclosure Rule.” Unlocking America’s Future. March 19, 2022. Accessed May 31, 2024. https://unlockingamericasfuture.org/new-ads-unlocking-americas-future-launches-ad-campaign-in-pennsylvania-to-build-support-for-the-secs-new-climate-risk-disclosure-rule/.
  11.  “Resources.” Unlocking America’s Future. Accessed May 31, 2024. https://unlockingamericasfuture.org/news/.
  12. “Statement: New Polling Shows Voters Strongly Support SEC Climate Risk Disclosure Rule.” Unlocking America’s Future. April 11, 2024. Accessed May 31, 2024. https://unlockingamericasfuture.org/statement-new-polling-shows-voters-strongly-support-sec-climate-risk-disclosure-rule/.
  13. “NEW POLLING: Republicans and Democrats Broadly Support Proposed SEC Climate Disclosure Rule, Responsible Investing (ESG).” Unlocking America’s Future. Unlocking America’s Future. February 2, 2024. Accessed May 31, 2024. https://unlockingamericasfuture.org/new-polling-republicans-and-democrats-broadly-support-proposed-sec-climate-disclosure-rule-responsible-investing-esg/.
  14. “Key Findings.” Unlocking America’s Future. Accessed May 31, 2024. https://unlockingamericasfuture.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/UAF-ESG-Analysis.pdf.
  15.  [1] Bitch, Kate. “Fightback Against Anti-ESG Agenda and Investment Bans in US.” Sustainability Magazine. January 20, 2024. Accessed May 31, 2024. https://sustainabilitymag.com/esg/fightback-against-anti-esg-agenda-and-investment-bans-in-us.
  16. “Kyle Herrig.” LinkedIn. Accessed May 31, 2024. https://www.linkedin.com/in/kyle-herrig/.
  17. Bade, Rachel; Daniels, Eugene; Ross, Garrett; Irvine, Bethany. “Playbook: How long will the Senate stick around?” Politico. December 18, 2023. Accessed May 31, 2024.
  18. “Zac Petkanas.” LinkedIn. Accessed May 31, 2024. https://www.linkedin.com/in/zac-petkanas-622a885/.
  19. “Josh Schwerin.” LinkedIn. Accessed June 1, 2024. https://www.linkedin.com/in/joshschwerin/.
  20. “Erika Gudmundson.” LinkedIn. Accessed June 1, 2024. https://www.linkedin.com/in/erikagudmundson/.
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