ProgressNow—whose mission is to promote a politically progressive agenda and to challenge “conservative propaganda”—was initially inspired by the 2002 mid-term elections when, according to its first executive director, attorney Michael Huttner, “progressives, broadly defined, got their butts kicked so badly.” The following year, three key alliances resolved to do whatever they could to improve Democratic fortunes.
The first alliance—which included media consultant Mark Eddy and Internet millionaire Jared Polis—sought to develop what Huttner has called “a press operation that didn't just exist in election years,” but rather could be “an ongoing operation that had the flexibility to go after issues 24/7, year-round.” The second alliance—distinguished by the likes of 2002 Colorado gubernatorial nominee Rollie Heath, former Colorado lieutenant governor Gail Schoettler, and philanthropist Linda Shoemaker—aimed to take the research of liberal think tanks and simplify it so the press and the general public could better understand it. And the third alliance—which included NewsGator chief executive officer J.B. Holston and Mobius Venture Capital co-founder Brad Feld—recognized the need for Democrats to use online technologies, including blogging, to advance their progressive agendas. These conversations eventually led to the creation of the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Progressive Network (RMPN) in September 2003, to serve as a counterbalance to the conservative, Colorado-based Independence Institute. Huttner, with technical assistance from Holston, initially ran the start-up from the back of his law office. In January 2005, RMPN was relaunched as ProgressNow (PN).
Today PN is composed of approximately 20 state partners, or chapters, dedicated to “creating true, lasting change in our states.” These partners serve as multi-issue advocacy organizations that “promote progressive ideas and causes” and “counter the right wing” on a year-round basis through traditional media, cutting-edge new media, and targeted email campaigns. Each PN state partner organization employs a full-time staff of experts in media communications, online campaigns, publicity campaigns, and new media. They mobilize citizens through their extensive email lists, media events, social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter, and the production of hot-topic YouTube videos. PN boasts that with the help of its state partners, it has “generated thousands of news stories in local, state, and national press.”
The 2010 book The Blueprint: How Democrats Won Colorado, and Why Republicans Everywhere Should Care, characterized PN as the “crown jewel” of the effort by progressive investors to turn the traditionally Republican state into a Democratic stronghold. By late 2012, PN had compiled an email list of more than 2.4 million supporters.