- Longtime executive director of the (now defunct) community organization ACORN
- Helped establish the pro-socialist New Party in the early 1990s
- Former board member of the Progressive States Network.
- Former senior fellow at the Center for American Progress
See also: ACORN New Party Progressive States Network Center for American Progress
A graduate of Harvard University, Steven Kest began working as an organizer for the now-defunct community group ACORN in 1975. He later served as ACORN's national campaign director before ultimately becoming executive director, a post he held from 1990 through 2009.
In the very early 1990s, Kest was present at the initial strategic meetings—held in Joel Rogers's Wisconsin home—where the founding agendas of the pro-socialist New Party were first spelled out. To view a list of others who were also present at that meeting, and a list of additional key founders of the New Party, click here.
In a 2003 City Journal article, Manhattan Institute senior fellow Sol Stern quoted Kest as having said, vis a vis welfare-reform initiatives designed to move people off the welfare rolls and into paying jobs:
"There’s an emerging consensus that for those who can work, it should be encouraged. [But work] should come with adequate supports, such as day care and transportation, to get people out of poverty.... We also still believe that, for a lot of people, it’s not right to force them to work. There should be some type of income support for those who still won’t be able to join the work force."
"In other words," Stern summarized, Kest's prescription was for "perpetual dependency."
Under Kest’s guidance, ACORN was a resolute advocate of raising the minimum wage. In 2012, Kest lauded ACORN's "minimum-wage campaign" as an initiative that had "increase[d] the living standards of people who are poor by putting more money in their pockets," while simultaneously "tak[ing] money out of other people's pockets"—namely, those of "stock shareholders" and "people who run corporations." "We picked some very powerful pockets," Kest boasted.
When ACORN dissolved amid massive scandal in early 2010, Kest became a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress (CAP). He shared this honor with self-described “communist” and 9/11 truther Van Jones, also a senior fellow at CAP.
That same year, Kest sat on the board of directors of the Progressive States Network. Other board members at the time included Wes Boyd, David Brock, Robert McChesney, and John Podesta.
In November 2010, Kest spoke at a CAP-sponsored event on “the history and the future of community organizing” with John Atlas, president of the National Housing Institute. Soon after that event, Kest’s name disappeared from the list of “experts” on the CAP website.
In October 2012, Kest participated in a National Radio Project program, sponsored by Demos, on “The Life, Death and Rebirth of ACORN.” During the program, he stated that ACORN’s “major accomplishment” had been “to organize poor people so that they would have more power in America, in the economy and in the electoral system.” Kest noted, for instance, that in 2008 ACORN had “registered over a million new low-income voters, almost all of them of color.” It was ACORN's effectiveness, said Kest, that ultimately caused “those who had the power” to become “pissed off enough to go after us.”
For additional information on Steven Kest, click here.