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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Americans United for Change

Political leanings: Democratic/Liberal

Spending target: Unknown

Americans United for Change is a liberal group whose message closely mirrors that of the Obama White House.

A leading advocate of the economic stimulus package in 2009 and the health care law the following year, Americans United for Change sprang from the ashes of Americans United to Protect Social Security — a labor-funded liberal group formed in 2005 to oppose then-President George W. Bush’s Social Security proposal. The group changed its name in 2006.

United for Change is registered under the IRS code as a 501(c)(4) — meaning it does not have to disclose its donors. However, the liberal group MoveOn.org reported that it has given Americans United for Change nearly $800,000 since 2006, including $300,000 in the 2010 campaign cycle, through its political action committee. Other donors include PACs for the Teamsters and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

The group’s leaders include: acting Executive Director Tom McMahon, a former executive director of the Democratic National Committee and former deputy national campaign manager for Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential bid; and Deputy Executive Director Caren Benjamin, a former aide to then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Brad Woodhouse was the group’s executive director, before leaving in 2009 to become the DNC’s director of communications.

With aggressive policy advocacy techniques that include everything from letter-writing campaigns to television commercials to targeted ads on Facebook, Americans United for Change boasts on its website that it “has challenged the far right conservative voices and ideas that for too long have been mistaken for mainstream American values. In the process, we helped create a groundswell for a return to the traditional progressive values that have defined America – economic fairness, opportunity, national and economic security and democratic leadership.”

In 2010, Americans United for Change focused much of its attention on issues such as health care, financial regulation, employee rights and energy. More recently, the group urged Republicans in Congress not to block efforts to raise the debt ceiling; opposed the Republicans’ Cut, Cap and Balance Act; and advocated for Obama’s American Jobs Act.

So what has Americans United for Change got planned for the 2012 campaign? The group did not respond to our written inquiry. But a Washington Post story included comments from the group’s senior strategist, Robert Creamer  — about what Obama will need to do to win in 2012 — that may provide a bit of insight.

Washington Post, Aug. 26: “A successful campaign will heavily focus on the radical, do-nothing Republican Congress. That will resonate with people,” said Robert Creamer, a strategist for the progressive Americans United for Change. “Most [Americans] believe Obama shares their values and their concerns, and where he has failed them is his effectiveness to improve the economy. It seems to me the case the campaign needs to make is that that failure is a consequence of the damage created by Republicans and the refusal of Congress to take the necessary steps that he proposed for the economy.”

In February 2011, we wrote about a radio ad campaign from Americans United for Change that criticized House Republicans who voted to repeal the health care law. We found some of the ad’s claims lacked needed context and oversold some of the law’s benefits.

In April, the group used automated phone calls, radio ads and protests to press its message accusing Republicans of trying to end Medicare while protecting millionaires.

Most recently, the group launched a campaign against Major League Baseball, pressuring it  to drop its agreement to provide a live streaming video platform to conservative pundit Glenn Beck.