Howard Dean to help lead Hillary Clinton's new organization

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean will be a top lieutenant in Onward Together, Hillary Clinton's new political group aimed at championing progressive causes and leaders.

In an interview with VTDigger, Dean said two top female media executives would join him and Clinton in steering the group, though he declined to identify them. Dean said he would not serve in a full-time capacity at the organization. He said when he and the media executives presented the idea for the group to Clinton, she "thought it was great."

"I view this group as facilitating the orderly transfer of power from my generation to my children's generation, who I like to call the first global generation," Dean said. "They have been incredibly effective at organizing against Trump on an ad hoc basis, but they don't yet have institutional staying power."

"This group can help validate them with the donor class and my generation, who can help them," Dean added. "We are looking to institutionalize on their terms, not ours."

Dean pointed to the effective demonstrations at airports following Trump's strong immigration order, and the massive mobilization at both the Women's and Climate Marches in Washington.

Dean served as Vermont governor for 11 years and ran unsuccessfully for president in 2004.

Dean said young organizers feel disenchanted by the two political parties. He called the Democratic National Committee — an organization he ran between 2005 to 2009 — a "clunky institution."

Dean initially threw his hat into the ring for the 2016 DNC chair before backing out last December of last year. He ended up endorsing Peter Buttigeig, 35, who is the Democratic mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

Buttigieg is a Harvard-educated Rhodes scholar who served as a Navy intelligence officer in Afghanistan. He is also the first openly gay executive officeholder in Indiana. In high school, Buttigieg won the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Essay Contest for his submission hailing then-Rep. Bernie Sanders' political work.

"It's time my generation stepped aside," Dean told VTDigger shortly before the DNC elections in February. "We can advise and coach, but we need to let the young people get in the DNC and start running it."

In a tweet announcing the group, Clinton said that, since her loss to Trump in November, "I've been reflecting, spending time with family — and, yes, taking walks in the woods."

"More than ever, I believe citizen engagement is vital to our democracy," Clinton added on Twitter. "I'm so inspired by everyone stepping up to organize and lead."

The group will support a number of progressive political groups that have proven potently effective since Trump was elected. Clinton announced an initial slate of five groups her organization would support, which include Indivisible and Swing Left, both of which are organizing in key congressional districts ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

"Each of these five initial groups have proof of concept," Dean said. "They had a great idea and they've executed it with great results, so far."

While Dean was not entirely flattering of the DNC, he contended that if Republicans repealed Obamacare, Democrats would retake the House in 2018, and perhaps the Senate. While leading the DNC, Dean hatched the now infamous "50-state strategy," which pushed resources to state parties and gave Democrats historically strong congressional majorities in 2006.

Dean said his new group "isn't a rival organization" to Democracy for America, a political organization Dean founded in 2004 during his presidential bid. Dean's brother, Jim, now runs the organization, which focuses on fielding and training political candidates.

Dean said DFA is "more centered on candidates than we are." He said Onward Together would raise money for candidates and, from time to time, give advice, but he said it would be chiefly focused on supporting political organizing, from phone-banking to get-out-the-vote efforts.

The group will have access to Clinton's campaign email list of more than 11 million voters , and Dean said an email pitch from Clinton this week raised roughly $200,000 in the five hours after it was sent.

Like Sanders' political group, Our Revolution, Onward Together will operate as a nonprofit 501(c)(4) — a designation that does not require disclosure of donors or spending because of its status as a social welfare organization.

Our Revolution, which has access to Sanders' campaign email list, provides basic disclosure of donors. The group says the average donation in 2016 was $21.94, and that it received more than 140,000 individual contributions in its first six months of existence.

Dean said he imagined fundraising would be strong at Onward Together, saying "we have enough credibility in the donor class."

He brushed off the notion that some grassroots groups wouldn't want money from Clinton or other well-heeled interests, saying "If they don't want the money, they'll tell us."

And while the former governor said he wasn't sure what the organization's disclosure policy would be, he said he "strongly suspects" there would be some form of transparency.

"Unlike the Koch brothers, this end of the political spectrum believes in disclosure," Dean said. "But it's Hillary's 501(c)(4), so you'll have to ask them that."


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