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See also: Shadow Party
Officially designated as a "Section 527" committee, America Votes (AV) is a national coalition of grassroots, get-out the-vote organizations. Its task is to work with more than 300 state and national partner groups to "advance progressive policies," "expand access to the ballot," "coordinate issue advocacy and election campaigns," and "protect every American's right to vote." While AV professes a commitment to such nominally non-partisan goals as increasing "voter registration and ... participation in electoral politics," its get-out-the-vote efforts are in fact targeted wholly toward likely Democratic voters -- e.g., swing voters (working women and young people) and Democrat base voters (especially blacks and Hispanics).
AV was the brainchild of several longtime Democratic activists. In November 2002, one of those activists, Gina Glantz -- who was then an official with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) -- called a meeting in Washington, DC which was attended by Steve Rosenthal, Ellen Malcolm, Harold Ickes, Andrew Stern, Carl Pope, and Jim Jordan (campaign manager for Senator John Kerry's upcoming 2004 presidential run). At this gathering, Glantz suggested that pro-Democrat voter-mobilization organizations needed to form an "umbrella group" that could help them avoid any needless duplication of effort or waste of resources. Everyone in attendance approved of this idea; thus was born the concept of America Votes.
In practice, however, AV would not officially get off the ground for another eight months. It was launched on July 15, 2003. Cecile Richards, who was then deputy chief of staff for Nancy Pelosi and a board member of America Coming Together, was selected to head the fledgling coalition.
As of 2004, AV included such national partner groups as 21st Century Democrats, ACORN, the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, America Coming Together, the American Federation of Teachers, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (later known as the American Association for Justice), the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund, Democracy for America, EMILY's List, the Human Rights Campaign, the League of Conservation Voters, the Media Fund, MoveOn.org Political Action, the NAACP National Voter Fund, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the National Education Association, People for the American Way, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the Service Employees International Union, the Sierra Club, and USAction. For a list of AV's other original partner organizations, click here.
In 2006 the AV national coalition was joined by the Campaign for America's Future, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and Progressive Majority, though each of these groups eventually left the coalition.
As of April 2011, AV's national partner organizations included the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, the American Association for Justice, EMILY's List, the Human Rights Campaign, the League of Conservation Voters, the NAACP National Voter Fund, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the National Education Association, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the SEIU, the Sierra Club, USAction, and a number of other groups.
The America Votes coalition itself is a constituent of a larger entity, the "Shadow Party," identified by Discover The Networks as a nationwide network of activist groups whose agendas are ideologically Left, and which are engaged in campaigning for the Democrats.
AV is also a coalition partner in the Advancement Project's Voter Protection initiative.
In the 2006 election cycle, billionaire philanthropist George Soros donated $2.15 million to America Votes; in 2008 and again in 2010, he gave the coalition $1.25 million. Moreover, as of December 2008, AV had received at least $6 million in Democracy Alliance-approved funding commitments from Soros.
Soros's son, Jonathan, has contributed at least $250,000 to AV. Other notable donors include Rob McKay, Robert Glaser, and Andrew Rappaport, all of whom are associates of George Soros. Key organizational donors to AV include the Media Fund, the Human Rights Campaign, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the SEIU, the League of Conservation Voters, the MoveOn.org Voter Fun, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Teachers, the Sierra Club, America Coming Together, and EMILY's List.