Howard Dean to help lead Hillary Clinton’s new organization

Howard Dean
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean addresses a crowded recital hall at Williams College. Photo by Scott Stafford/The Berkshire Eagle

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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Jasper Craven

About Jasper

Jasper Craven is VTDigger’s political reporter. A Vermont native, he first discovered his love for journalism at the Caledonian Record. He double-majored in print journalism and political science at Boston University, and worked in the Boston Globe’s Metro and Investigative units. While at the Globe he collaborated on Shadow Campus, a three-part investigative series focused on greed and mismanagement in Boston’s off-campus student housing market. The series was a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize.
He also spent two years at MuckRock, a news sited dedicated to investigation and analysis of government documents. 

Craven covered Vermont’s U.S. Congressional delegation for the Times Argus in the summer of 2014, and worked as a Metro reporter for the Chicago Tribune before joining the staff of VTDigger.

Email: [email protected]

Follow Jasper on Twitter @Jasper_Craven

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  • Pete Novick

    Here’s an excellent article discussing what the Democratic Party generally and the HRC campaign specifically got totally wrong in the 2016 election:

    “What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S. Working Class,” by Joan C. Williams.


    Professor Williams is Distinguished Professor of Law and Founding Director of the Center of WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.


    Beginning in the 1980’s, the private sector began an effort that continues to this day to reduce the proportion of the cost of selling goods and services attributed to labor. This takes many forms, including driving down salaries and wages, outsourcing, union busting, sending jobs overseas, transferring jobs to right-to-work states, increasing the ratio of part-time to full-time employees, not translating workplace productivity gains into wage increases, shifting more health care costs to employees, ending defined benefit pensions, reducing employer contributions to defined contribution pensions and switching to once-a-year lump sum contributions, forcing employees to work unpaid overtime, classifying employees as independent contractors to avoid paying benefits and workingman’s compensation contributions, increasing the number of unpaid internships, hiring new workers through temp agencies, requiring employees to sign non-compete agreements, offering only one-off bonuses and other rewards instead of annual pay raises, ending employer-funded health care for retirees, and layoffs, not only during recessions, but also after mergers and acquisitions. Non-cyclical layoffs have become a permanent feature of the new economy.

    American workers are hurting.

    Unless and until the Democratic Party is willing to take on the private sector, on their own turf, then it will continue to be the minority party for a generation or more.


    • Paul Drayman

      I agree with the ethical principles that the above comment promotes. The problem is, it will not fly as a majority movement on a national basis in this country in the foreseeable future.

  • Michael Taub

    The arrow still points to the right…..

  • chrisdarling

    This is all about maintaining corporate control of the Democratic Party. Given that Howard Dean is now a lobbyist for the drug companies and opposes Medicare for All, he is the perfect choice to lead this group.

  • Paul Drayman

    I have been and I am still a Clinton supporter, but it seems that most young people, the intended focus of this new organization, have grown up with so much anti-Hillary rhetoric (some of it being of her own making) and much misinformation about her that I would be surprised if they will be enthusiastic about an organization and movement that has her name so boldly attached to it. I am, though, happy to see this effort go forward and I will support it.

  • chris wilmot

    this is abusing not for profit status in order to hide political donations.
    There is nothing democratic about that.

  • Peter Chick

    Howard Dean = Kiss of death. This is a sure sign of despiration.

  • Clancy DeSmet

    Neither of these two are progressive. So sad.

  • Paula Sayles

    Keep mentioning that donor class, Howard. That’s going to pull those Millennials in like bees to honey.

    Could the party establishment be anymore clueless? Or are they being intentionally obtuse because they can’t let go of the money?

  • Tom Anderson

    I am not surprised at all. The Democratic Party has nothing new to offer, no concerted, thoughtful and strategic plan to counter Trump and what is left of the Republican Party. They will continue to fight over the scraps of power while the country fails. The Clinton machine is not done. They were out of touch, unable to truly comprehend the playing field, executing badly, fumbling the ball on the 1/2 yard line and then blaming everything and everyone else. They failed to speak to and get engaged the folks that are going to be hurt the most by the current administration. http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/332970-voter-turnout-dipped-in-2016-led-by-decline-among-blacks

    Tone deaf, power hungry, focused on big money and special interests – the American people’s best long term interests are not being served by either party – all the long term politicians are suspect and need to walk away – I think enough damage has been done. “Just follow the money”, right? When I look at the total spent on lobbying (2016 – $3.15 billion, https://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/) I just know, intuitively, that the system is not working, that the average American’s best interest is not being served. For instance, the Pharma lobby, over the last decade has spent over $880 million on opioid policy https://www.publicintegrity.org/2016/09/18/20203/pharma-lobbying-held-deep-influence-over-opioid-policies. We now have the most severe crisis with heroin and opioids which is costing us dearly in many ways. What interest is being served?

    The dynasty of power, be it the Clinton, Bush – the long term folks that have become so wealthy by leveraging their access and power, needs to end. Howard – step away from the buffet, you have been there too long.


    • Paul Drayman

      I agree with your first paragraph. I disagree with those, however, who are disdainful of long term politicians. Call them dynasties if you will, but they are the experienced lawmakers, the deal makers, and can work across party lines to get things done. I’d take a Clinton or dare I say Bush for for decades compared to 4 months of this Destruction Derby we have now. Yes, we do need new blood, too !

  • Sean McLaughlin

    Donor class. That’s all you need to know. lol 20% for the organization, 30% in Dean’s offshore account, 30% for Hillary’s offshore account… lmao So thankful I’m not on Hillary’s campaign list and Bernie didn’t give in on turning his over! Yet another attempt by the establishment to fight progressive policies while trying to claim they’re progressive, yet keeping lobbyist money in politics. #MAOA (Make America an Oligarchy Again)

  • Sean McLaughlin

    Donor class. That’s all you need to know. lol 20% for the organization, 30% in Dean’s offshore account, 30% for Hillary’s offshore account… lmao So thankful I’m not on Hillary’s campaign list and Bernie didn’t give in on turning his over! Yet another attempt by the establishment to fight progressive policies while trying to claim they’re progressive, yet keeping lobbyist money in politics. (Make America an Oligarchy Again)

  • Kai Mikkel Førlie

    They’re perfect for each other.

  • Beth Aaron

    More of the same corrupt politics from DNC that was never properly investigated by media for multi-state voter suppression. From the Nevada Caucus to the sheer arrogance of HC calling a win in CA, the day before it held its primary, to 80,000 voters purged in Brooklyn to Arizona voters for Sanders demanding hearings because of voter suprression to the DNC convention ( I attended) in PA, to the murder of Seth Rich… This is more of the growing cancer that has become a national disgrace. The American Dream of corporate consumer capitalism, while this very machine with NO shut off switch eats up a dying earth, screaming for relief, serves the same masters who control media, congress, and make the two sets of laws, one for them, one for the commons. Hillary and her team are adept at obfuscating and pontificating but their interests are keeping power in the hands of those who use it so violently… No THANKS… I’ll never support war hawks who have never felt remorse about war on nations where women, children, elderly and innocents are murdered because the US wants regime change. Tulsi Gabbard and a handful of others in Congress speak truth to power. Dean is just another pawn..