Established in April 2012, the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) works to “grow the progressive movement infrastructure” and promote “an innovative pro-worker, pro-immigrant, racial and economic justice agenda” that will foster the creation of “an inclusive, equitable society where people of color, immigrants, working families, women, and LGBTQ communities thrive together.” Toward these ends, CPD strives to help people with “intersectional identities” cultivate the “militancy” they will need in order to tear down such “structural barriers” as “white supremacy” and “corporate power.”
On January 1, 2014, CPD merged with the Leadership Center for the Common Good while retaining its original name. A leading backer of that merger was AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, who called CPD “a vitally important addition to the social justice landscape.” Today CPD employs more than 80 staffers in nine U.S. states and Puerto Rico, and it works with more than 50 affiliates and partners in 126 cities and 34 states. Among CPD’s partner organizations are Casa de Maryland and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment.
CPD’s Immigrant Rights program contends that too many newcomers to the U.S. are “exploited, scapegoated, [and] living in fear of detention and deportation [policies] that tear … families and communities apart.” Moreover, the organization advocates open-borders policies that would allow all people “the freedom to move and to migrate” as they wish. It also calls for the defunding of the Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. And it supports former President Barack Obama‘s “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA) and “Deferred Action for Parental Accountability” (DAPA) executive actions, which together have shielded millions of illegals from potential deportation.
CPD’s Racial Justice campaign works to end “white supremacy” and the “discriminatory and oppressive policies that marginalize Black people and other communities of color.” In a related initiative, CPD seeks to “dismantle the criminal justice system that steals childhoods, murders black and brown people, and locks people up for being poor.”
CPD’s Voting Rights program promotes “transformative” policies that would eliminate “restrictive state voter ID laws” while permitting online voter registration and same-day voter registration (on Election Day). Notably, each of these policies would make voter fraud easier to carry out. CPD also favors the restoration of convicted felons’ voting rights, a measure that would strongly favor Democrat candidates.
In June 2013, CPD strongly objected to a Supreme Court ruling which held that a Voting Rights Act provision requiring mainly Southern states to undergo special federal scrutiny before they could amend their election laws, was anachronistic and no longer necessary. CPD has also complained passionately about “corporations exerting an ever-larger influence on who wins elections.” At issue, there, is the Center’s opposition to the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision which nullified a rule that had barred corporations and unions from paying for political ads during the weeks just prior to a political election.
CPD’s Climate Justice campaign is founded on the notion that the greenhouse gases associated with human industrial activity are causing “the greatest man-made disaster the world has ever known,” and that “low-income communities and communities of color” suffer a “disproportionate impact” from that phenomenon.
CPD’s Education Justice initiative aims to “comba[t] … disinvestment in public education”; thus it opposes voucher programs designed to enable low-income (mostly nonwhite) parents to take their children out of failing public schools and send them instead to a private school of their choice. The organization has vocally condemned the so-called “school-to-prison pipeline” that allegedly funnels too many misbehaving nonwhite students into the criminal-justice system. And according to CPD, all young people – “regardless of … immigration status” – must “have access to great public schools, from pre-K to post-secondary.” Moreover, “every family” should have “access to free, high-quality childcare.”
CPD’s Housing Justice program seeks to greatly expand the amount of “affordable housing” available to “communities of color and low-income residents” who face “entrenched residential segregation by race.”
Complaining that the U.S. economy is “controlled by Wall Street and the richest 1%,” CPD calls for substantial increases in the minimum wage earned by hourly workers nationwide. It believes that taxpayer-funded abortion-on-demand should be available to all women. And it states that “we will only be free when the U.S. government ceases to instigate violence in other countries, and corporations no longer reap profits from poverty at home and abroad.”
The members of CPD’s board of directors have had close ties – past and present – to a host of leftist organizations including, among others, Make the Road New York (MRNY) the Latin American Integration Center, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, the Wyss Foundation, ACORN, the AFL-CIO, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, the Kresge Foundation, CAUSA, the Center for Social Inclusion, the Northwest Federation of Community Organizations, the UFW Foundation, the Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, George Soros‘s Open Society Foundations, the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, and the ACLU.
One CPD board member, Brian Kettenring, was trained in community organizing at the Midwest Academy. Another board member, Maya Wiley, is the daughter of the late Sixties radical George Wiley. Ms. Wiley has also served as a senior cabinet member and chief legal adviser for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and as chair of NYC’s Civilian Complaint Review Board.
CPD’s advisory board includes such notables as Deepak Bhargava, Frances Fox Piven, Gara LaMarche, Andrew Stern, and Randi Weingarten. It also consists of individuals with past and present ties to the Center for Community Change, 350.org, the SEIU, the Working Families Party, the AFL-CIO, Demos, the Economic Policy Institute, the National Education Association, the Ford Foundation, People Improving Communities Through Organizing, the Roosevelt Institute, and the United Federation of Teachers.
In 2017, CPD partnered with MRNY in a “Corporate Backers of Hate” campaign to “name and shame” companies that were allegedly “profiting” from President Donald Trump’s “anti-immigrant, anti-worker” platform. The targeted companies were JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, Boeing, Disney, IBM, BlackRock, Uber, and Blackstone.
CPD’s sister organization, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit group called the Center for Popular Democracy Action Fund, announced in May 2017 that it would be spearheading a new $80 million anti-Trump network that would have a presence in 32 states. The aim of this network would be to register and mobilize new voters, fight the enactment of Voter ID laws, and reconfigure voting districts in a way that would benefit Democrats in future election cycles.
CPD’s top funder is George Soros‘s Open Society Foundations. Other leading contributors include the Wyss Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Marguerite Casey Foundation, the Rockefeller Family Fund, the Surdna Foundation, and the Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock.
Further Reading: “Still We Rise! A Platform For Our Freedom” (by CPD); “Soros-Funded Groups Behind Anti-Trump Corporate Targeting Campaign” (by Joe Schoffstall, Washington Free Beacon, 5-10-2017); “New $80M Anti-Trump Network Spearheaded by Soros-Funded Org …” (by Joe Schoffstall, Washington Free Beacon, 5-27-2017); CPD’s website pages on Immigrant Rights, Racial Justice, Voting Rights, Climate Justice, Education Justice, and Housing Justice.