Center for American Progress

From SourceWatch
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Center for American Progress was begun in 2003 with funding from philanthropists Herbert M. Sandler and Marion O. Sandler[1] It is a Washington, DC-based liberal think tank created and led by President and Chief Executive Officer John D. Podesta, the head of Barack Obama's presidential transition team after the 2008 election and former Chief of Staff for President Bill Clinton.

In 2009 CAP's Progressive Media project emerged as a major communications war room on behalf of Obama's domestic and foreign policy agenda and CAP became a strong advocate for escalation in Afghanistan. Progressive Media is run through the Center for American Project Action Fund, the more political 501(c)4 arm of CAP. It coordindates closely with the Common Purpose Project, an effort to create message discipline among the pro-Obama organizations, with a direct tie to the White House.

CAP is the parent organization of Campus Progress. The Center publishes a daily emailed Progress Report, described by the National Review to be "The most aggressive, most energetic opposition research in politics."

Supporting Escalation of the War in Afghanistan

In March, 2009 CAP strongly supported Barack Obama's escalation of the US wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, issuing a report titled Sustainable Security in Afghanistan by Lawrence J. Korb, Caroline Wadhams, Colin Cookman and Sean Duggan.[2] CAP was also prominent in Americans Against Escalation in Iraq with MoveOn, a coalition that used the Iraq war to attack Republican politicians and candidates in 2007 and 2008.

The report was formally released formally on April 3, 2009, at a CAP forum titled A New Way Forward in Afghanistan featuring the following speakers:

2009 - Messaging for Obama

"The Center for American Progress — which has emerged as perhaps Washington’s most influential idea factory in the age of Obama — is launching a major new war room, to be staffed by nearly a dozen people, that will focus on driving the White House’s message and agenda, I’m told. ... The new war room - which is called Progressive Media - represents a serious ratcheting up of efforts to present a united liberal front in the coming policy wars. The goal of the war room will be to do hard-hitting research that boils down complex policy questions into usable talking points and narratives that play well in the media and build public support for the White House’s policy goals. ... The war room - a joint project of CAP Action Fund and Media Matters Action Network — will be headed by well-known liberal operative Tara McGuinness, who worked on John Kerry’s presidential campaign and was a major player in the anti-war movement during the Bush years."

Jennifer Palmieri is the project’s communications director.[3]

CAP's Position on Health Care Reform

CAP is a lead organization in Health Care for America Now, HCAN. On March 25, 2009 it released its proposal for reform titled Competitive Health Care, written by Peter Harbage and Karen Davenport. CAP opposes single payer health care and is pushing instead the Obama plan.


According to a 2003 article in the New York Times, Podesta's "goal is to build an organization to rethink the very idea of liberalism, a reproduction in mirror image of the conservative think tanks that have dominated the country's political dialogue for a generation."[4]

"Many such left-leaning ventures have been tried over the years and have failed to wield much influence, but Podesta's effort seems different, not only because of his considerable personal stature within the party but also because rage at the Bush administration has galvanized Democrats," Matt Bai reported.[4]

"'The rise of the machinery of ideas on the right has been impressive,' Podesta told the gathering [of Democrats], to nods of assent. 'People have noticed it, and we have talked about it. But we haven't really found the vehicles to compete with what's coming at us.' [4]

"Going back to Barry Goldwater, Podesta said, conservatives 'built up institutions with a lot of influence, a lot of ideas. And they generated a lot of money to get out those ideas. It didn't happen by accident. And I think it's had a substantial effect on why we have a conservative party that controls the White House and the Congress and is making substantial efforts to control the judiciary.[4]

"Podesta laid out his plan for what he likes to call a think tank on steroids. Emulating those conservative institutions, he said, a message-oriented war room will send out a daily briefing to refute the positions and arguments of the right. An aggressive media department will book liberal thinkers on cable TV. There will be an edgy Web site ( and a policy shop to formulate strong positions on foreign and domestic issues. In addition, Podesta explained how he would recruit hundreds of fellows and scholars -- some in residence and others spread around the country -- to research and promote new progressive policy ideas. American Progress is slated to operate with a $10 million budget next year, raised from big donors like the financier George Soros."[4]

"'The question I'm asked most often is, When are we getting our eight words?' Podesta said. Conservatives, he went on, 'have their eight words in a bumper sticker: Less government. Lower taxes. Less welfare. And so on. Where's our eight-word bumper sticker? Well, it's harder for us, because we believe in a lot more things.' The Center for American Progress, Podesta said, was concerned with articulating these principles carefully, over time, rather than rushing out an agenda to help win an election in 2004. 'We're trying to build an idea base for the longer term,' he said, to bring about 'an enduring progressive majority.'"[4]


The Center for American Progress is classified as a 501(c)(3) organization under U.S. Internal Revenue Code. The institute receives approximately $25 million per year in funding from a variety of sources, including individuals, foundations, and corporations. From 2003 to 2007, the center received about $15 million in grants from 58 foundations. Major individual donors include George Soros, Peter Lewis, Steve Bing, and Herbert M. Sandler. The Center receives undisclosed sums from corporate donors.[5]

Wal-Mart is a major funder of the Center for American Progress, having given at least half a million dollars to the organization. [6] Wal-Mart has been a major backer of Pres Obama's health care legislation, which critics contend would disproportionately drive up costs for Wal-Mart's smaller competitors. [7]

Some open government groups, such as the Sunlight Foundation and the Campaign Legal Center, criticize the Center's failure to disclose its contributors, particularly since it is so influential in appointments to the Obama administration.[8]

CAP has also been funded by the Democracy Alliance.

Executive Committee

Accessed October 2012: [9]

  • Neera Tanden, President of the Center for American Progress, Counselor to the Center for American Progress Action Fund
  • Tom Perriello, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, Counselor for Policy to the Center for American Progress
  • John Podesta, Chair
  • Winnie Stachelberg, Executive Vice President, External Affairs
  • Carol Browner, Distinguished Senior Fellow
  • Rudy deLeon, Senior Vice President, National Security & International Policy
  • Tara McGuinness, Executive Director, CAPAF, and Senior Vice President for Communications, CAP

Personnel (2007)




Center for American Progress is funded in part by individuals who are members of the Democracy Alliance.

In 2006, the Center for American Progress was given a three-year, $3,000,000 grant by George Soros' Open Society Institute to be used for "general support". [12]


1333 H St NW
10th Floor
Washington DC 20005
Phone: 202-682-1611
Email: progress AT


  1. Joe Nocera, 'Self-Made Philanthropists", New York Times, March 9, 2008.
  2. Lawrence J. Korb, Caroline Wadhams, Colin Cookman and Sean Duggan, Sustainable Security in Afghanistan: Crafting an Effective and Responsible Strategy for the Forgotten Front, Center for American Progress, March 24, 2009.
  3. Greg Sargent, "Center For American Progress Launching Big War Room To Drive Obama Agenda", The Plum Line, March 10, 2009.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Matt Bai, "Notion Building", New York Times, October 12, 2003.
  5. Charlie Savage, "John Podesta, Shepherd of a Government in Exile", New York Times, November 6, 2008.
  8. Ben Smith and Chris Frates, "Where's transparency of Podesta group?" ,, December 9, 2008.
  9. Center for American Progress Staff, organizational web page, accessed October 1, 2012.
  10. Center for American Progress, Staff, accessed July 2007.
  11. Morton H. Halperin, accessed July 2007.
  12. OSI Grants, Scholarships & Fellowships, accessed December, 2008.

SourceWatch Resources

External links