Person

Sonal Shah

Sonal Shah is a former Democratic Party operative and current president of the Asian American Foundation. [1]   She was the national policy director of the 2020 Pete Buttigieg presidential campaign. Shah also worked as the Director of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation within the Obama administration. [2] She has previously worked for Goldman Sachs and the Google Foundation, one of the charitable arms of the search engine company. [3]

Early Life

Sonal Shah was born on May 20, 1968, in Mumbai, India. Her family immigrated to the United States when she was 4 and settled in Houston, Texas. [4] She received a bachelor of arts in economics from the University of Chicago in 1990 and a master of arts in economics from Duke University in 1994. [5]

Career

The Asian American Foundation

As of August 2021, Sonal Shah is president of the Asian American Foundation (TAAF). Under her leadership, TAAF has provided funding to left-of-center Asian American focused organizations. [6] In 2020, TAAF provided $1 million in funding to Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), Stop AAPI Hate, and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. [7]

Buttigieg Campaign

As the national policy director of Pete Buttigieg’s 2020 presidential campaign, Sonal Shah was criticized for engaging actively in seeking campaign donations, a task typically delegated to staff in charge of campaign contributions. [8] Shah’s ties to Goldman Sachs and Google, coupled with her position as a high-level, policy-determining member of the campaign, called into question her role in personally soliciting donations from Democratic Party-aligned super donors. Critics claimed that her actions while on the Buttigieg campaign “wipe[d] out the line between policymaking and solicitation of campaign contributions” that previously existed within campaigns. [9]

Obama Administration

In 2009, the Obama administration appointed Shah as Director of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation within the White House. The office was created at the time of Shah’s appointment, receiving a $50 million budget in 2010. [10] Shah directed the office between 2009 and 2011.

The office was tasked with finding ways to make policy decisions across various agencies on a more evidence-driven basis, increasing the impact of federal spending, and providing capital funding to strengthen nonprofit organizations. [11] The grantmaking arm of the office, the Social Innovation Fund, was designed to require recipients to find a two-to-one private contribution match for each dollar provided by the federal government. By the end of 2016, the office issued $295 million in federal grants to organizations selected by the Obama administration. [12]

References

  1. “The Asian American Foundation Launches to Improve AAPI Advocacy, Power, and Representation Across American Society” CISION. May 3, 2021. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-asian-american-foundation-launches-to-improve-aapi-advocacy-power-and-representation-across-american-society-301282069.html ^
  2. Potts, Monica.  “Social Innovation Comes to Pennsylvania Avenue” Stanford Social Innovation Review. Spring 2017. Accessed August 14, 2021. https://ssir.org/articles/entry/social_innovation_comes_to_pennsylvania_avenue# ^
  3. Grim, Ryan. “Pete Buttigieg’s Policy Director has been traveling the country for months to meet with ‘investors’ in his campaign” The Intercept. February 10, 2020. Accessed August 14, 2021. https://theintercept.com/2020/02/10/pete-buttigieg-fundraisers-sonal-shah/ ^
  4. “Sonal Shah” Peoplepill.com https://peoplepill.com/people/sonal-shah ^
  5. “Sonal Shah” LinkedIn. https://www.linkedin.com/in/srshah68/ ^
  6. “The Asian American Foundation Launches to Improve AAPI Advocacy, Power, and Representation Across American Society” CISION. May 3, 2021. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-asian-american-foundation-launches-to-improve-aapi-advocacy-power-and-representation-across-american-society-301282069.html ^
  7. “The Asian American Foundation Launches to Improve AAPI Advocacy, Power, and Representation Across American Society” CISION. May 3, 2021. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-asian-american-foundation-launches-to-improve-aapi-advocacy-power-and-representation-across-american-society-301282069.html ^
  8. Grim, Ryan. “Pete Buttigieg’s Policy Director has been traveling the country for months to meet with ‘investors’ in his campaign” The Intercept. February 10, 2020. Accessed August 14, 2021. https://theintercept.com/2020/02/10/pete-buttigieg-fundraisers-sonal-shah/ ^
  9.  Grim, Ryan. “Pete Buttigieg’s Policy Director has been traveling the country for months to meet with ‘investors’ in his campaign” The Intercept. February 10, 2020. Accessed August 14, 2021. https://theintercept.com/2020/02/10/pete-buttigieg-fundraisers-sonal-shah/ ^
  10. “White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation” Harvard Family Research Project. Spring 2010. Accessed August 14, 2021. https://archive.globalfrp.org/evaluation/the-evaluation-exchange/issue-archive/current-issue-scaling-impact/white-house-office-of-social-innovation-and-civic-participation ^
  11. Potts, Monica.  “Social Innovation Comes to Pennsylvania Avenue” Stanford Social Innovation Review. Spring 2017. Accessed August 14, 2021. https://ssir.org/articles/entry/social_innovation_comes_to_pennsylvania_avenue# ^
  12. Potts, Monica.  “Social Innovation Comes to Pennsylvania Avenue” Stanford Social Innovation Review. Spring 2017. Accessed August 14, 2021. https://ssir.org/articles/entry/social_innovation_comes_to_pennsylvania_avenue# ^
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