Person

Steve Rosenthal

Occupation:

President, The Organizing Group

Labor Strategist

Political Consultant

Former Political Director, AFL-CIO

Steve Rosenthal is a political consultant who works with labor unions, Democratic campaigns, and left-wing organizations. He is an expert in the application of direct voter contact and canvassing, skills he is best known for deploying as the former political director for the AFL-CIO and the former CEO of liberal 527 PAC America Coming Together (ACT).[1]

Former Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairwoman Donna Brazile has called Rosenthal “as mean and vicious as they come” and the “last great hope of the Democratic Party.”[2]

As AFL-CIO political director, Rosenthal was in charge of an election war chest that grew to $30 million each election cycle, and was widely praised for using person-to-person canvassing in congressional districts across the nation to reinforce the union federation’s political influence with its members.[3]

In 2003, he and other prominent Democratic political operatives presented billionaire left-wing philanthropist George Soros with a plan to turn Rosenthal’s canvassing expertise into a massive voter-to-voter contact campaign that could be deployed to defeat President George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election. Eventually spending $142 million donated by Soros, labor unions, and other left-wing funders, ACT hired thousands of canvassers to phone bank and knock on doors in 17 states during the 2004 campaign.[4]

Originally designed to be a permanent political organization, ACT mostly closed up shop in 2005, following criticisms from left-wing allies for the failure to defeat Bush and a change in funding focus by Soros.[5] In 2007, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) ruled that most of ACT’s  donations had violated federal election law, and assessed a $775,000 fine—then the third-largest FEC fine ever.[6]

Rosenthal is currently the founder and president of three political entities: The Organizing Group, the Atlas Project, and the Working for Us PAC.[7]

Early Political Career

Steve Rosenthal is a get-out-the-vote canvassing expert for labor unions, left-wing political organizations and Democratic Party candidates. His political work began in college as a volunteer for the 1972 presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. George McGovern (D-SD), and then a worker in the unsuccessful 1980 Democratic Presidential primary campaign of U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA), a challenge to incumbent Democratic President Jimmy Carter.[8]

From 1981 to 1992, Rosenthal worked for the Communications Workers of America (CWA), a left-wing labor union, starting as an organizer and working his way up to administrative assistant to the CWA president. From 1993 to 1995 he worked in the administration of President Bill Clinton, as a deputy to U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich.[9]

In 1995, Rosenthal was hired by AFL-CIO president John Sweeney to be the union’s political director.[10] Working with a budget that grew to $30 million per election cycle, Rosenthal deployed hundreds of union representatives to Congressional districts across the nation for direct contact with and political mobilization of AFL-CIO members.[11]

When Rosenthal departed from the AFL-CIO in August 2002, his voter mobilization effort was widely praised by labor union officials for reviving the AFL-CIO’s political influence with its membership. According to then–AFSCME president Gerald McEntee, it had become the “best grassroots mobilization program of any political group in the country.”[12]

When asked about Rosenthal’s ground game expertise in 2004, Donna Brazile, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) during 2016-2017, and campaign manager for the 2000 presidential campaign of former Vice President Al Gore, said Rosenthal was “as mean and vicious as they come” and the “last great hope of the Democratic Party.”[13]

America Coming Together (ACT)

Also see America Coming Together (PAC)

In 2003, Rosenthal, Harold Ickes, and EMILY’s List founder Ellen Malcolm presented billionaire left-wing mega-funder George Soros with a plan to defeat then-President George W. Bush with a voter-to-voter contact campaign targeted at battleground states during the 2004 U.S. presidential election.[14]

Their proposal became America Coming Together (ACT), a 527 political action committee with Rosenthal as the CEO. Unlike most presidential elections in the era of widespread television coverage, Rosenthal focused ACT’s efforts on coordinated direct mail, phone calls, and door-to-door canvassing aimed at increasing turnout with Democrats and left-leaning swing voters. With a budget of $142 million, offices in 17 states, and 3000 canvassers, ACT claimed to have made 16 million door-to-door contacts prior to Election Day 2004.[15]

In addition to Soros, ACT was funded by the late Peter Lewis (the founder of Progressive Insurance Company) and by large labor unions such as the Service Employees International Union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.[16]

The effectiveness of Rosenthal’s strategy was called into question following Bush’s reelection victory, which included wins in many of the states targeted by ACT. According to the Nation, a left-wing political magazine, the large cost of the plan and failure to defeat Bush led to critical “finger pointing” directed at ACT by left-wing activists.[17]

ACT was originally designed as a permanent political organization that would continue operations beyond the 2004 election cycle. But Soros altered his funding priorities and ACT laid off most of its staff and closed its regional offices late in the summer of 2005. At that time, Rosenthal announced he would leave to form his own consulting business.[18]

In 2007, the FEC unanimously ruled that most of ACT’s 2004 campaign cycle donations had violated federal election law, and assessed a $775,000 fine, then the third-largest ever imposed by the FEC.[19]

Recent Activities

The Atlas Project

As of 2018, Rosenthal was president of the Atlas Project, a campaign consulting partnership he co-founded that provides issue research, communications assistance and voter targeting information to Democratic political organizations, and provides a platform for the partner organizations to share that information with each other. [20] [21]

From the 2008 federal election cycle through early November 2018,  the Atlas Project was paid more than $2.8 million for work assisting more than a dozen political campaigns for Democrats, labor unions, and left-wing political organizations, including the Democratic National Committee, the NextGen Climate Action Committee, MoveOn.org Political Action, and the Service Employees International Union.[22]

Working For Us PAC

Rosenthal is president of Working for Us PAC, a political committee that provided more than $4.7 million in independent expenditures to influence the outcome of federal elections in favor of Democrats during the four federal election cycles from 2010-2016. [23] The PAC spent more than $2.8 million was spent during the 2016 election cycle on behalf of then-U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) in her unsuccessful effort to win a Democratic primary election for one of Maryland’s U.S. Senate seats, and $208,000 was spent in 2012 to support President Barack Obama’s reelection.[24]

Major donors to Working For Us PAC have included the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, MoveOn.org Political Action, the United Steelworkers, and the Service Employees International Union.[25]

The Organizing Group

The Organizing Group (TOG)  is a for-profit political consulting firm founded by Rosenthal, who also serves as its president.[26] The firm leverages Rosenthal’s network of labor union and other left-leaning contacts to provide consulting, field organizing, voter outreach, and other services to left-of-center political organizations, candidates, and unions.[27]

Jenna Fullmer, chief operating officer for TOG, began working for it in 2007 after various campaign jobs in Democratic Party politics and fundraising. Fullmer is listed as managing the “activities of several independent expenditure committees,” which includes the Working for Us PAC.[28] During the 2016 federal election cycle, TOG was paid $100,000 by Working for Us PAC for “planning and campaign strategy” and “strategic services.”[29]

References

  1. “Meet the Team.” The Organizing Group. Accessed November 9, 2018. http://www.organizinginc.com/team.html ^
  2. Gerhart, Ann. “Ground War.” The Washington Post. July 6, 2004. Accessed November 9, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/2004/07/06/ground-war/f3811995-4fc2-4487-a151-7ca97f06185e/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.ec95c71397c9 ^
  3. Greenhouse, Steven. “Political Director of Labor Federation to Quit Post.” New York Times. August 5, 2002. Accessed November 9, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2002/08/05/us/political-director-of-labor-federation-to-quit-post.html ^
  4. Hayes, Chris. “Can the Democrats Win the Ground War at Home?” The Nation. November 30, 2005. Accessed November 6, 2018. https://www.thenation.com/article/can-democrats-win-ground-war-home/; And “America Coming Together: 2004.” OpenSecrets. Accessed November 6, 2018. https://www.opensecrets.org/527s/527cmtedetail_contribs.php?cycle=2004&ein=200094706 ^
  5. Edsall, Thomas B. “Soros-Backed Activist Group Disbands as Interest Fades” Washington Post. August 3, 2005. Accessed November 6, 2018. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/02/AR2005080201849.html; And Hayes, Chris. “Can the Democrats Win the Ground War at Home?” The Nation. November 30, 2005. Accessed November 6, 2018. https://www.thenation.com/article/can-democrats-win-ground-war-home/  ^
  6. Vogel, Kenneth P. “Soros-linked group hit with huge fine.” Politico. August 29, 2007. Accessed November 6, 2018. https://www.politico.com/story/2007/08/soros-linked-group-hit-with-huge-fine-005555  ^
  7. “Meet the Team.” The Organizing Group. Accessed November 9, 2018. http://www.organizinginc.com/team.html ^
  8. Gerhart, Ann. “Ground War.” The Washington Post. July 6, 2004. Accessed November 9, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/2004/07/06/ground-war/f3811995-4fc2-4487-a151-7ca97f06185e/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.ec95c71397c9 ^
  9. “Meet the Team.” The Organizing Group. Accessed November 9, 2018. http://www.organizinginc.com/team.html ^
  10. Gerhart, Ann. “Ground War.” The Washington Post. July 6, 2004. Accessed November 9, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/2004/07/06/ground-war/f3811995-4fc2-4487-a151-7ca97f06185e/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.ec95c71397c9 ^
  11. Greenhouse, Steven. “Political Director of Labor Federation to Quit Post.” New York Times. August 5, 2002. Accessed November 9, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2002/08/05/us/political-director-of-labor-federation-to-quit-post.html ^
  12. Greenhouse, Steven. “Political Director of Labor Federation to Quit Post.” New York Times. August 5, 2002. Accessed November 9, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2002/08/05/us/political-director-of-labor-federation-to-quit-post.html ^
  13. Gerhart, Ann. “Ground War.” The Washington Post. July 6, 2004. Accessed November 9, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/2004/07/06/ground-war/f3811995-4fc2-4487-a151-7ca97f06185e/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.ec95c71397c9 ^
  14. Gerhart, Ann. “Ground War.” The Washington Post. July 6, 2004. Accessed November 9, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/2004/07/06/ground-war/f3811995-4fc2-4487-a151-7ca97f06185e/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.ec95c71397c9 ^
  15. Hayes, Chris. “Can the Democrats Win the Ground War at Home?” The Nation. November 30, 2005. Accessed November 6, 2018. https://www.thenation.com/article/can-democrats-win-ground-war-home/ ^
  16. “America Coming Together: 2004.” OpenSecrets. Accessed November 6, 2018. https://www.opensecrets.org/527s/527cmtedetail_contribs.php?cycle=2004&ein=200094706 ^
  17. Hayes, Chris. “Can the Democrats Win the Ground War at Home?” The Nation. November 30, 2005. Accessed November 6, 2018. https://www.thenation.com/article/can-democrats-win-ground-war-home/ ^
  18. Edsall, Thomas B. “Soros-Backed Activist Group Disbands as Interest Fades” Washington Post. August 3, 2005. Accessed November 6, 2018. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/02/AR2005080201849.html ^
  19. Vogel, Kenneth P. “Soros-linked group hit with huge fine.” Politico. August 29, 2007. Accessed November 6, 2018. https://www.politico.com/story/2007/08/soros-linked-group-hit-with-huge-fine-005555 ^
  20. “CATALIST JOINS FORCES WITH ATLAS PROJECT TOOLKIT.” Catalist. June 4, 2018. Accessed November 6, 2018. https://catalist.us/news-innovation/2018-news/catalist-joins-forces-atlas-project/ ^
  21. “About.” Atlas Project. Accessed November 6, 2018. https://atlasproject.net/#about-us/ ^
  22. “Federal Election Commission: Disbursements 2007-2008: Atlas Project.” Federal Election Commission. Accessed November 9, 2018. https://www.fec.gov/data/disbursements/two_year_transaction_period=2008&data_type=processed&recipient_name=atlas+project&min_date=01%2F01%2F2007&max_date=12%2F31%2F2008; And “Federal Election Commission: Disbursements 2009-2010: Atlas Project.” Federal Election Commission. Accessed November 9, 2018. https://www.fec.gov/data/disbursements/two_year_transaction_period=2010&data_type=processed&recipient_name=atlas+project&min_date=01%2F01%2F2009&max_date=12%2F31%2F2010; And “Federal Election Commission: Disbursements 2011-2012: Atlas Project.” Federal Election Commission. Accessed November 9, 2018. https://www.fec.gov/data/disbursements/two_year_transaction_period=2012&data_type=processed&recipient_name=atlas+project&min_date=01%2F01%2F2011&max_date=12%2F31%2F2012; And “Federal Election Commission: Disbursements 2013-2014: Atlas Project.” Federal Election Commission. Accessed November 9, 2018. https://www.fec.gov/data/disbursements/two_year_transaction_period=2014&data_type=processed&recipient_name=atlas+project&min_date=01%2F01%2F2013&max_date=12%2F31%2F2014; And“Federal Election Commission: Disbursements 2015-2016: Atlas Project.” Federal Election Commission. Accessed November 9, 2018. https://www.fec.gov/data/disbursements/two_year_transaction_period=2016&data_type=processed&recipient_name=atlas+project&min_date=01%2F01%2F2015&max_date=12%2F31%2F2016; And “Federal Election Commission: Disbursements 2017-2018: Atlas Project.” Federal Election Commission. Accessed November 9, 2018. https://www.fec.gov/data/disbursements/two_year_transaction_period=2018&data_type=processed&recipient_name=atlas+project&min_date=01%2F01%2F2017&max_date=11%2F09%2F2018 ^
  23. “Meet the Team.” The Organizing Group. Accessed November 9, 2018. http://www.organizinginc.com/team.html ^
  24. “Independent Expenditures: Working for Us Political Action Committee.” Federal Election Commission. Accessed November 9, 2018. https://www.fec.gov/data/independent-expenditures/data_type=processed&committee_id=C00430876&is_notice=true ^
  25. “Receipts: Working for Us Political Action Committee.” Federal Election Commission. Accessed November 9, 2018. https://www.fec.gov/data/receipts/two_year_transaction_period=2012&data_type=processed&committee_id=C00430876&min_date=01%2F01%2F2011&max_date=12%2F31%2F2012 ^
  26. “Meet the Team.” The Organizing Group. Accessed November 9, 2018. http://www.organizinginc.com/team.html ^
  27. “Approach.” The Organizing Group, Accessed November 9, 2018. http://www.organizinginc.com/approach.html ^
  28. “Meet the Team.” The Organizing Group. Accessed November 9, 2018. http://www.organizinginc.com/team.html ^
  29. “Disbursements: Working for Us Political Action Committee – 2015-2016.”Federal Election Commission. Accessed November 9, 2018. https://www.fec.gov/data/disbursements/two_year_transaction_period=2016&data_type=processed&committee_id=C00430876&min_date=01%2F01%2F2015&max_date=12%2F31%2F2016 ^
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