Person

Richard Kirsch

Nationality:

American

Occupation:

Political Operative

Residence:

New York

Richard Kirsch is a left-of-center advocacy operative and author currently directing the Proteus Fund’s Our Story Hub project. He is most notable for his prior service as national campaign manager and co-founder of the Health Care for America Now campaign, a liberal advocacy effort that is credited with a leading role in the 2009 passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

Kirsch’s first experience leading left-of-center organizations came when he led Citizen Action of New York for over 20 years. Kirsch is a prolific opinion writer and author and was previously a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.

Citizen Action of New York

From 1985 to 2008, Kirsch was executive director of Citizen Action of New York, an organization dedicated to various left-wing issues including environmentalism and government-controlled “single payer” health care. Citizen Action of New York and other related groups historically and currently receive major funding from labor unions including the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the Communications Workers of America (CWA). The group is also funded by Kirsch’s current employer, the Proteus Action League. [1]

Kirsch led the New York affiliate of Citizen Action while controversy surrounded the national Citizen Action organization. Citizen Action was caught up in the “Teamstergate” scandal where the president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Ron Carey “created an illegal contribution scheme in which the union gave $475,000 to Citizen Action. In return, the election overseer found, Citizen Action and some of its donors gave more than $100,000 to a direct-mail firm that worked for the Carey campaign.” [2] This scandal led Citizen Action to cease national-level operations while leaving the state affiliates in place.

Health Care for America Now

After serving over 20 years leading Citizen Action of New York, Kirsch approached USAction with a proposal to create a large and powerful coalition of liberal groups to form a single-issue campaign to increase government control of health care making it a major issue in the 2008 Presidential election. [3] Kirsch received an early grant of $27 million from Atlantic Philanthropies to initiate the project. [4]

Kirsch’s proposal became the advocacy group Health Care for America Now (HCAN), of which Kirsch became the national campaign manager. HCAN campaigned for major liberal healthcare reform and indirectly for the election of a Democrat to the White House in 2008. HCAN created a proposal of over 800 pages outlining policy goals and a plan to pressure Congress into passing the law. [5]

HCAN spent tens of millions of dollars that it raised from some of the most notable leftist charities, mega-donors, and labor unions (most prominently the Service Employees International Union) during the 2008 election, which ultimately provided the coalition with not only a friendly President in Barack Obama, but also a filibuster proof majority in the United States Senate. [6]

The efforts of HCAN led directly to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, known colloquially as Obamacare. After the law was passed, HCAN turned most of its efforts to defending the law against critics. [7] They conduct this work under their parent organizations. New Venture Fund oversees the HCAN Education Fund while HCAN is an advocacy project of Sixteen Thirty Fund. [8]

Kirsch stepped down as National Campaign Manager of HCAN in 2010 but remained on as an advisor. HCAN paid Kirsch $152,250 in 2009, according to tax records for the organization. [9]

Roosevelt Institute

After the passage of Obamacare, Kirsch stepped down as national campaign manager for Health Care for America Now and became a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, a left-wing think tank, where he wrote articles and publications about various liberal causes with an emphasis on the merits of the Affordable Care Act. [10] Kirsch received a $150,000 grant from Atlantic Philanthropies to write a memorandum entitled Fighting For Our Health: The Epic Battle to Make Health Care a Right in the United States to showcase his work during HCAN’s movement to pass the Affordable Care Act. [11]

Our Story Hub

In 2016, Kirsch became the executive director of Our Story – The Hub for American Narratives (also known as Our Story Hub), which is a communications and messaging training and organizing group that works with left-leaning organizations. Kirsch has led Our Story Hub since 2016 and is credited with leading its Progressive Economic Narrative Project. [12]

Our Story Hub lists an advisory committee consisting of dozens on the most notable left of center groups and labor unions including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the Service Employees International Union, the Economic Policy Institute, the Center for American Progress, and the Center for Popular Democracy. [13]

Our Story Hub is a project of the Proteus Fund, which funds a variety of left-of-center advocacy organizations. The Proteus Fund pays Kirsch an annual salary of nearly $180,000 for his work as the Our Story Hub program director. [14]

References

  1. Proteus fund. IRS Form 990. Accessed June 17, 2019. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/43243004/201803189349304195/IRS990 ^
  2. Greenhouse, Steven. “Link to Teamsters Inquiry Forces a Liberal Group to Close Its National Office.” The New York Times. October 30, 1997. Accessed June 18, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/1997/10/30/us/link-to-teamsters-inquiry-forces-a-liberal-group-to-close-its-national-office.html. ^
  3. Pollack, Harold. “The group that got health reform passed is declaring victory and going home.” Washington Post. January 5, 2014. Accessed October 5, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/01/05/the-group-that-got-health-reform-passed-is-declaring-victory-and-going-home/?utm_term=.18f6e66a21d7 ^
  4. Atlantic Philanthropies. HCAN Evaluation: Executive Summary. September 2019. Accessed July 16, 2019. https://www.atlanticphilanthropies.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/HCAN_Executive_Summary.pdf ^
  5. Pollack, Harold. “The group that got health reform passed is declaring victory and going home.” Washington Post. January 5, 2014. Accessed October 5, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/01/05/the-group-that-got-health-reform-passed-is-declaring-victory-and-going-home/?utm_term=.18f6e66a21d7 ^
  6. Klein, Philip. “How Liberal Activists Passed Obamacare.” Foundation Watch. August 2010. Accessed June 19, 2019. https://capitalresearch.org/app/uploads/2013/07/FW0810.pdf. ^
  7. Klein, Philip. “How Liberal Activists Passed Obamacare.” Foundation Watch. August 2010. Accessed June 19, 2019. https://capitalresearch.org/app/uploads/2013/07/FW0810.pdf. ^
  8. Arabella Advisors. Saving the Social Safety Net: Advocacy Lessons for Funders. Accessed July, 16 2019. https://ncg.org/sites/default/files/resources/Jessica%20Love%20Robinson%20Presentation.pdf ^
  9. Health Care for America Now, IRS Form 990, 2009. Accessed June 17, 2019. http://pdfs.citizenaudit.org/2011_03_EO/35-2332813_990O_201006.pdf ^
  10. “Richard Kirsch”. Roosevelt Institute. Accessed June 17, 2019. http://rooseveltinstitute.org/search/?s=+richard+kirsch ^
  11. “Richard Kirsch Roosevelt Institute Fellowship: Atlantic Philanthropies.” The Atlantic Philanthropies. Accessed July 16, 2019. https://www.atlanticphilanthropies.org/grants/richard-kirsch-roosevelt-institute-fellowship. ^
  12. “2018 Progressive Narrative Project”. MoveOn. Accessed June 17, 2019. https://front.moveon.org/2018-progressive-narrative-project/ ^
  13. “About” Our Story Hub. Accessed June 17, 2018. http://ourstoryhub.org/index.php/home/about/ ^
  14. Proteus fund. IRS Form 990. Accessed June 17, 2019. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/43243004/201803189349304195/IRS990 ^

Connected Organizations

  1. Citizen Action of New York (Non-profit)
    Former Executive Director
  2. Health Care for America Now (HCAN) (Non-profit)
    Former National Campaign Manager
  3. Our Story Hub (Non-profit)
    Executive Director
  4. Roosevelt Institute (Non-profit)
    Former Senior Fellow
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