Donald Ross

Photo credit: Bruce Gilbert

Left-Wing Activist

Former Director, NYPIRG

Founder, Malkin & Ross

Founder, M&R Strategic Services

Donald K. Ross is a left-wing environmental activist credited with proposing the model of the Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs) in the 1970s alongside activist Ralph Nader. The PIRGs, state-based policy advocacy groups, operate under the national U.S. Public Interest Research Group (US-PIRG); US-PIRG and numerous other left-wing policy advocacy groups, including the canvassing services group Fund for the Public Interest, are controlled by the umbrella group Public Interest Network.

Personal Life

Donald Ross is married to Helen Klein Ross, a novelist and poet. They have two daughters. In 2010, the couple purchased the historic Connecticut mansion, Holleywood, for $900,000. [1]


New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG)

Ross worked as the founding director of New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) from 1973 to 1982, where he reportedly grew the organization to 180 staffers operating out of 31 offices. [2] Barack Obama, then a student at Columbia University, worked full-time for NYPIRG as a community organizer from February through May 1985. [3] Ross later worked as director of Ralph Nader’s group Citizen Action. [4]

In 1971, Ross co-authored Action For a Change alongside Nader, a book credited as a kind of manual for the then-new network of Public Interest Research Groups they had founded. In More Action For a Change (1987), journalist Kelley Griffin noted that Ross, “a native of the Bronx with a law degree from New York University and three years’ experience in organizing PIRGs nationwide . . . was a natural candidate to heard NYPIRG” as well as its lobbying program in 1973. Ross also aided activists in establishing the Oregon Public Interest Research Group (OSPIRG) in the 1970s, one of the oldest and largest state PIRGs, as well as the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group. [5] [6]

Rockefeller Family Fund

From 1985 to 1999, Ross was chief administrative officer for the Rockefeller Family Fund. [7]

Malkin & Ross

Ross is the co-founder of Malkin & Ross, an Albany, New York-based lobbying and government affairs firm created in 1984. Malkin & Ross lists clients including Food and Water WatchVera Institute of Justice, Sierra Club, and Make the Road New York; it’s first large client was reportedly the New York Trial Lawyers Association. [8] [9] [10]

Arthur N. Malkin, Ross’s business partner and the firm’s co-founder, reportedly worked for Ross as legislative director for NYPIRG beginning in 1979. [11]

M&R Strategic Services

M&R Strategic Services (MRSS) is Ross’s Washington, D.C.-based lobbying and government relations firm and an affiliate of Malkin & Ross. MRSS notes campaigns and left-wing groups it’s consulted for, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), Sierra Club, GLAAD, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Population Connection, Oxfam America, Planned Parenthood,, and Earthrights International. [12] The group also opposed the Trump administration’s decision to undo the creation of several national parks in the final weeks of the Obama administration. [13]

Past MRSS clients also include AARP, Alliance for Justice, Bread for the World, Environmental Defense Fund, Human Rights Campaign, NARAL Pro-Choice America, League of Conservation Voters, National Environmental Trust, the Bauman Family Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and Public Interest Projects (NEO Philanthropy). [14]

In 2018, the Packard Foundation reported a $50,000 grant to MRSS “for public opinion polling and other research on views of science”; in 2018 it reported another $150,000 grant to the firm for the same purpose. [15] [16]

Since 1996, MRSS has donated $41,735 to Democratic Party political candidates, including 2008 presidential candidate Barack Obama and 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. [17]

In the 2018 midterm election, MRSS received $1,335,417 in payments from left-wing PACs and labor unions, including Planned Parenthood Votes, the SEIU, League of Conservation Voters, Win Justice PAC, United We Can, American Nurses Association, and It Starts Today. [18]

Ties to the Professional Left

From 2004 to 2009, Ross was a member of the Greenpeace board of directors; in multiple years he was also board chairman. [19] Ross was also a member of the board of directors for the League of Conservation Voters from 2004-2010. [20]

In July 2014, a report by the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works recorded that Ross was part of “a narrow set of individuals whose careers are part of the fabric of the far-left environmental movement . . . [who] exercise outsized influence regarding the distribution of funds” by groups like “Environmental Grantmakers Association, Democracy Alliance, and others.” [21]


  1. Elaine Louie. “Holleywood Ending.” New York Times. May 14, 2014. Accessed May 29, 2019.
  2. “Donald K. Ross.” LinkedIn. Accessed May 21, 2019.
  3. Donald Critchlow and W.J. Rorabaugh. “Takeover: How the Left’s Quest for Social Justice Corrupted Liberalism.” Intercollegiate Studies Institute. 2013.
  4. “Donald Ross (archived).” Malkin & Ross (Archived Page). Archived August 15, 2018. Accessed May 22, 2019.
  5. Kelley Griffin. More Action for a Change. Dembner Books. 1987.
  6. Dan M. Burt. Abuse of Trust. Regnery Publishing. 1982.
  7. Ken Silverstein. “Rockefeller Foundations Enlist Journalism in ‘Moral’ Crusade Against ExxonMobil.” The Observer. January 6, 2017. Accessed May 22, 2019.
  8. Greg David. “The lowdown on a so-called consumer advocate.” Crain’s. March 1, 2011. Accessed May 22, 2019.
  9. “Client List (archived).” Malkin & Ross (archived page). Archived August 15, 2018. Accessed May 22, 2019.
  10. “Client List (archived).” Malkin & Ross (archived page). Archived July 16, 2015. Accessed May 22, 2019.
  11. Greg David. “The lowdown on a so-called consumer advocate.” Crain’s. March 1, 2011. Accessed May 22, 2019.
  12. “Work.” M&R Strategic Services. Accessed May 22, 2019.
  13. “Protecting National Monuments.” M&R Strategic Services. May 14, 2018. Accessed May 22, 2019.
  14. “Recent Clients (archived).” M&R Strategic Services (Archived Page). Archived March 3, 2009. Accessed May 22, 2019.
  15. “M&R Strategic Services.” Packard Foundation. 2018. Accessed May 22, 2019.
  16. “M&R Strategic Services.” Packard Foundation. 2018. Accessed May 22, 2019.
  17. “M&R Strategic Services.” Center for Responsive Politics. Accessed May 22, 2019.
  18. “Vender: M&R Strategic Services.” Center for Responsive Politics. 2018 Cycle. Accessed May 22, 2019.
  19. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990) (multiple). Greenpeace. 2004-2009. Schedule A, Part VII.
  20. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990) (multiple). League of Conservation Voters. 2004-2010. Schedule A, Part VII.
  21. “How a Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama’s EPA.” U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. July 30, 2014. Accessed May 22, 2019.
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