WASHINGTON -- Former Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.) a beloved progressive whom activists and party officials had pushed to consider a gubernatorial run in Virginia, will instead head one of Washington D.C.'s premiere Democratic-leaning advocacy organizations.
The Center for American Progress Action Fund, the advocacy arm of the liberal think tank, announced on Thursday that Perriello would become its next President and CEO. Joining him in the group's top ranks will be Tara McGuinness, a well-travelled party operative who will take on the dual titles of Senior Vice President of the Action Fund and Senior Vice President of Communications at CAP.
The announcement caps off a major period of transition for the influential think-tank and advocacy organization. CAP's founder, John Podesta, recently stepped down from the post of president and was replaced by Neera Tanden, a former top adviser to Presidents Clinton and Obama. Jennifer Palmieri, who headed CAP's Action Fund, recently left to take on a communications position inside the Obama White House. Her former job, which included the title of Senior Vice President of Communications at CAP, will be split between Perriello and McGuinness.
"I am excited for this opportunity to join an institution that fosters the combination of big ideas and concrete action needed to face today’s economic, environmental, and security challenges," Perriello said in a statement. "This is a critical moment for our country to return to values of basic fairness and opportunity that are bigger than any election cycle."
A favorite of both progressives and President Barack Obama, Perriello won a tight race in a Republican-leaning congressional district during the 2008 elections. Once in Congress, he quite notably opted against tailoring his votes to his district's demographics, arguing that a populist defense of a progressive agenda would keep his supporters in the fold. When he lost his reelection bid by a relatively narrow margin in 2010, it was assumed that he would jump back into electoral politics either in 2012 or in 2013, when the Virginian governorship opens up. Instead, he's choosing to remain outside -- but still involved in -- that arena.
Over the past few years, CAP's Action Fund has evolved into one of the more influential partisan-policy hybrid institutions inside the beltway. Made up of a well-read blog (Think Progress), an active Twitter account, and a crew of officials tasked with Hill and grassroots outreach, it has helped build what is often described as a "permanent campaign infrastructure" for progressive causes.
In elevating Perriello and McGuinness to top posts, the organization is signaling a further commitment to expanding and modernizing these operations. Both are well steeped in the world of advocacy, think tanks, progressive politics, and modern political media.
Prior to serving his term in Congress, Perriello helped launch and manage a half dozen non-profit organizations, including Avaaz, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, Faith in Public Life, and DarfurGenocide.org. McGuinness, meanwhile, has been a behind-the-scenes force in several policy and partisan related efforts. After working with Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, she helped run Progressive Accountability, a 2008-focused independent research shop that paved the way for similar organizations to flourish in this election cycle. She also has experience on the Hill, having worked for Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and as a press secretary on Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) presidential campaign.
"This is an incredible team capable of creating and driving a new generation of progressive ideas," said Podesta, now chairman of the Center for American Progress Action Fund Board of Directors.