Lisa Graves is a left-of-center activist who previously served as executive director at the Center For Media and Democracy (CMD) from 2009-2017, where she continues as a senior research fellow. Graves is currently president of the private consulting company True North Research and a co-director at DocumentedInvestigations.org.
Under Graves, CMD published a number of websites attacking right-of-center organizations and their supporters. Graves takes personal credit for the center’s most prominent campaign, known as “ALEC Exposed,”  which seeks to undermine the advocacy agenda of the center-right American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  In 2013, it was revealed that Graves’ accepted over $500,000 in anonymous contributions despite the fact that she and her organization condemn right-leaning non-profits that take money from similar sources.
Prior to joining CMD, Graves held a variety of positions in left-of-center policy creation and politics. She worked in the Bill Clinton administration’s U.S. Justice Department and helped President Clinton vet judicial nominees, craft gun control policies, and implement an 8 million-person government-funded healthcare program.
During President George W. Bush’s first term, Graves worked for Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and helped the Democratic leadership defeat many of President Bush’s judicial nominations. Then, during President Bush’s 2nd term, Graves worked for two left-of-center organizations, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for National Security Studies.  In both of these positions she publicly opposed and lobbied against many of President Bush’s national security policies.
Center For Media and Democracy
From July 2009 through November 2017 Graves served as executive director at the Center For Media and Democracy (CMD), a left-of-center think tank. She currently serves as a senior research fellow at the Center.
Under Graves’ leadership, CMD published exposés attacking conservative, libertarian, and pro-business organizations through a variety of websites including ExposedbyCMD.org, PRWatch.org, SourceWatch.org, and banksterusa.org.
Graves’ CMD created a number of campaigns attacking conservative advocacy organizations and their financial supporters; these include ALEC Exposed, Koch Exposed, the State Policy Network Portal. Graves has also led CMD to create the radical environmentalist campaigns CoalSwarm and FrackSwarm, which provide information against American domestic energy producers.
Graves takes credit for personally launching CMD’s “ALEC Exposed” campaign, a joint project with left-wing magazine The Nation that attacks the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) state legislative agenda.
In 2012 Graves spoke at a rally against ALEC attacking the group’s model legislation including Florida’s “stand your ground” self-defense law and Arizona’s border security and voter registration laws. In 2013, Graves testified against ALEC before Congress, chastising the group for supporting self-defense laws.
Graves also attacked ALEC’s business supporters, including Wal-Mart, Kraft Foods, and Koch Industries. In her 2013 congressional testimony, Graves acknowledged that under her leadership CMD launched a corporate campaign to pressure businesses not to support ALEC. She proudly touts that these efforts along with the efforts of other liberal organizations like Color of Change caused a number of ALEC supporters to cut ties with the organization.
In 2012, Graves wrote an editorial entitled “Super PACs Are Ruining Our Democracy.” In a 2013 article, Graves was labeled “the Dark Money Diviner” and she criticized the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision for allowing corporations to give large amounts of cash to political organization, without disclosing their identity.
In 2013 the conservative Wisconsin Reporter called attention to the fact that CMD took two anonymous donations worth $520,000 from a donor-advised fund, the same type of anonymized funding that Graves had previously condemned. Graves argued that her organization’s anonymous donations were acceptable because she herself wasn’t aware of who the donor was. A Capital Times reporter questioned Graves’ assertion that she didn’t know who provided 30 percent of her organization’s annual budget over two years; Graves said she would swear “on a stack of Bibles–or all religious texts” that she was unaware of the money’s source. Michael Saltsman of the center-right Employment Policies Institute noted that CMD was following a double standard and that Graves’ “own organization wouldn’t accept a similar excuse from the groups it has targeted with smear campaigns.”
In 2017, Graves labeled President Donald Trump “deeply deceitful and deceptive.” She opposed many of President Trump’s cabinet nominations, including those of Jeff Sessions for Attorney General and Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. In an article entitled “Trump May Not Last A Year, His Supreme Court Shouldn’t Last Generations,” Graves opposed President Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S Supreme Court.
Federal Government Career
Department of Justice
In 1995, Graves took a trial attorney position at the Department of Justice during the administration of President Bill Clinton. She remained at the DOJ until 2001 and in that time served under Democratic Attorney General Janet Reno and briefly under her Bush administration successor John Ashcroft. Graves held numerous jobs within the department. Her last and highest ranking position was that of Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the DOJ’s policy department.
Graves also served on the DOJ’s Gun Working Group. She co-authored a DOJ report to the president that called for new gun control laws such as bans on large capacity firearm magazines and certain types of rifles, an expansion of background check requirements, and the implementation of new gun purchase restrictions.
Graves also claims to have prepared congressional testimony and speeches for Attorney General Janet Reno and helped the Clinton Administration implement a government funded healthcare program for 8 million individuals.
U.S. Senate Staffer
During President George W. Bush’s first term (2002-2005) Graves was chief counsel on the Judiciary Committee for the “very liberal” senior Democrat, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont). In this role, Graves claims to have been a leading Democratic strategist on judicial nominations coordinating the committee Democrats’ efforts with the Democratic leadership.
During President Bush’s first term, Democrats used filibusters to prevent final votes on 10 of 34 of Bush’s nominees to federal appeals courts and at least 20 of Bush’s nominations did not receive up or down votes for federal judgeships. The Democrats’ ability to stall these nominations was described by the Associated Press as one of the most contentious issues of Bush’s first term.
Civil Liberties Strategist
From February 2005 through November 2006 Graves worked as a senior legislative analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). In this post, Graves led the ACLU’s opposition to Congress’ reauthorization of the Patriot Act. Graves specifically touts that she helped put together a filibuster of the bill supported by her former boss, Senator Leahy, and then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada).
In 2007 Graves became deputy director at the liberal Center for National Security Studies, which was created by liberal activist Robert Borosage and is now run as part of the Center for American Progress, a left-of-center think tank.  In this position, Graves opposed a number of the Bush administration’s national security policies,  testifying before a Congressional committee opposing President Bush’s efforts to modernize the government’s foreign communications monitoring efforts.
According to federal lobbying disclosures, Graves lobbied Congress on behalf of the ACLU from 2005-2008 and for the National Security Archive Fund from 2008 to 2009.
The ACLU’s lobbying disclosure in 2006 indicated that the organization’s lobbyists, including Graves, lobbied the White House and other executive offices on a number of left-wing issue items including immigration and deportation proposals, abortion funding, welfare reauthorization, and terrorism related issues, including the designation of specific terrorist organizations.
Also see True North Research (For-Profit)
Comments on Dark Money
In a 2019 report conducted on behalf of the left-wing legal group, the American Constitution Society (ACS), Graves accused conservative donors of attempting to “capture” the courts, writing that “Defenders of democracy must be vigilant to expose these dark money assaults and demand action to restore transparency and accountability in our campaign finance system to secure fair elections and fair courts.”  In April 2020, Graves claimed that conservative “dark money” groups were behind protests against COVID-19 lockdowns, writing in the New York Times that “America is now facing three calamities: a deadly contagion, a capricious president and a well-funded right-wing infrastructure willing to devalue human life in pursuit of its political agenda.”  In October 2020, Graves called the confirmation process of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett “illegitimate,” citing the “dark money that’s been swirling around this effort to pack this court.”