William McNary




President, USAction

Co-Director, Citizen Action Illinois

Legislative Director, Illinois Public Action (IPA), now Citizen Action/Illinois


Chicago, IL

Contact InfluenceWatch with suggested edits or tips for additional profiles.

William McNary is an Illinois-based left-progressive activist and organizer who currently works as the co-executive director of Citizen Action Illinois, the state-based affiliate of the national left-wing advocacy organization People’s Action. McNary previously worked as president of USAction, the national organization of state level citizen action groups that merged with several other left-leaning groups to become People’s Action.

McNary has been active in Democratic politics and left-progressive organizing for several decades and has sat on boards and advisory committees for dozens of left-of-center organizations, including the NAACP, Health Care for America Now, the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, and the Voter Participation Center. McNary has also been appointed to serve on several state boards and commissions, including an appointment by former Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (D) to serve on the Illinois Task Force for Campaign Finance Reform. 1


William McNary lives in Chicago, Illinois and has spent decades as an activist for the Democratic Party and left-of-center causes. He attended the University of Iowa where he received a degree in journalism and communications. 2 McNary is often praised by left-of-center organizations, such as the Coalition of African American Leaders, as an electrifying and inspirational speaker.” 3

McNary became the founding president of USAction and worked in that role simultaneously with his role as co-director of Citizen Action Illinois. Prior to assuming those roles, he was the legislative director for Citizen Action Illinois. 4

Organizing Activity

McNary frequently travels the country on a speaking circuit consisting of left-of-center organizations and runs leadership training forums, in which he teaches activists how to effectively lobby legislatures in support of left-progressive issues. Groups he has trained have included the AARP, the Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities, the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs and the NAACP. McNary also once spoke to the African American Civil Society before the United Nations. McNary has also lobbied on behalf of dozens of groups and boards to which he belongs on issues including the Affordable Care Act, environmentalist regulations, utility regulations, public education funding, and campaign finance regulations. 5

For over seven election cycles, McNary was a co-director for the Rainbow/Push Coalition, which focuses on get-out-the-vote efforts among left-of-center voters. He also sits on the board of directors for the Voter Participation Center, previously known as Women’s Voices Women’s Vote, which focused on voter engagement efforts among unmarried women and ethnic minority communities. 6

In 2011, McNary appeared on video at a protest against an appearance by former U.S. Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), who was then the Chair of the U.S. House Budget Committee, at the Economic Club of Chicago. McNary condemned Rep. Ryan’s work on the budget committee for implementing right-of-center healthcare and tax policy. McNary stated in the video that the federal budget needed to balance “on the backs on the wealthy.” 7

2008 Presidential Campaign

During the 2008 presidential campaign, McNary was a staunch supporter of then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) during his primary campaign against then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY). McNary worked as a Democratic National Convention floor whip and Obama delegate for the Illinois delegation at the 2008 party convention. He also worked as a surrogate speaker for the Obama campaign. 8

During the 2008 campaign, McNary came to the defense of Women’s Voices Women’s Vote (WVWV). In May 2008, just days before the Democratic primary election, the NAACP filed a complaint with the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office stating that WVWV engaged in a voter contact campaign that provided confusing information on registration deadlines that would suppress voter turnout in African American communities. Automated calls from the organization stated that individuals would be receiving a voter registration form, implying that it was an official election communication and neglecting the fact that individuals could register to vote through North Carolina’s one-stop early voting process. The NAACP alleged that the campaign was an attempt to confuse African American voters and suppress voter participation, while WVWV claimed the campaign was only targeting unmarried women and did not know how many African Americans were targeted. 9

In response to the allegations made by the NAACP against WVWV, McNary wrote an article in the HuffPost defending the organization and denying any wrongdoing on its part. McNary cited his strong support for Obama in the primaries and experience working with the NAACP for decades. While stating that there was no coordinated effort to suppress votes, McNary also said that the staff of WVWV was making every effort to fix the situation. 10

Governmental Appointments

McNary has been appointed to several governmental boards by Democratic politicians in Illinois. He was the Vice Chairman of Consumer Affairs for former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s (D) transition team and was appointed by the Illinois State Senate President to be the Consumer Representative to the Illinois Department on Aging’s Senior Pharmaceutical Review Committee. 11 McNary was also appointed by former Gov. Pat Quinn (D-IL) to work on the Illinois Campaign Reform Task Force. He has also been appointed to other boards by the Illinois Treasurer and Attorney General. 12

Affiliated Groups and Board Memberships

McNary’s activism also includes work on the boards and committees of many other left-leaning organizations. McNary sits as the legislative chair of A Better Illinois and as a founding member of pro-Affordable Care Act Group Health Care for America Now. McNary has also sat on the  boras of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, the Voter Participation Center,13 the Health and Medicine Policy Research Group, the Fannie Lou Hamer Project, Public Campaign, and the Illinois Tax Accountability Project. He has also been active in union organizing and is a member of national labor union Unite Here. McNary worked as president of his local union for two years and was formerly the parent representative on the Local School Council of the Chicago Public Schools. 14


  1. “About.” Citizen Action Illinois. Accessed February 4, 2021.
  2. “William McNary.” Huffington Post. Accessed February 4, 2021.
  3. “William McNary Co Director Citizen Action Illinois.” Coalition of African American Leaders Chicago. Accessed February 4, 2021.
  4. “William McNary Co Director Citizen Action Illinois.” Coalition of African American Leaders Chicago. Accessed February 4, 2021.
  5. “William McNary.” Huffington Post. Accessed February 4, 2021.
  6. “William McNary Co Director Citizen Action Illinois.” Coalition of African American Leaders Chicago. Accessed February 4, 2021.
  7. “Rep. Paul Ryan Met By The Always Passionate William McNary In Chicago.” YouTube Video. May 16, 2011. Accessed February 4, 2021.
  8. “William McNary Co Director Citizen Action Illinois.” Coalition of African American Leaders Chicago. Accessed February 4, 2021.
  9. Sturgis, Sue. “N.C. NAACP files formal vote-suppression complaint against Women’s Voices, alerts U.S. DOJ of concerns.” Facing South. May 3, 2008. Accessed February 4, 2021.
  10. McNary, William. “Women’s Voices, Women Vote.” Huffington Post. May 1, 2008. Accessed February 4, 2021.
  11. “William McNary.” Huffington Post. Accessed February 4, 2021.
  12. “William McNary Co Director Citizen Action Illinois.” Coalition of African American Leaders Chicago. Accessed February 4, 2021.
  13. “William McNary Co Director Citizen Action Illinois.” Coalition of African American Leaders Chicago. Accessed February 4, 2021.
  14. “William McNary.” Huffington Post. Accessed February 4, 2021.
  See an error? Let us know!