A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Generation Forward

pg16insertPolitical leanings: Democratic/Pro-O’Malley Super PAC

Spending target: Unknown

Generation Forward is a super PAC supporting Democratic presidential candidate and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Describing itself as “a group of energized, young progressives committed to making America better” and electing “new leadership for the next generation,” Generation Forward was founded by Maryland politico and O’Malley associate Damian O’Doherty. O’Doherty is the cofounder of Kearney O’Doherty Public Affairs, a strategic communications firm he started with former O’Malley communications director Steve Kearney. The spokesman and communications director for Generation Forward is former O’Malley press secretary Ron Boehmer.

Though Generation Forward bills itself as a “multi-candidate” PAC that will be active in campaigns besides the 2016 presidential election, O’Doherty has said that “job one is to advance the Martin O’Malley candidacy as far as possible.” As a super PAC, Generation Forward can raise unlimited amounts of money. The strategic focus for Generation Forward has been to play up O’Malley’s age difference from the other Democratic candidates, appealing to younger, progressive voters.

In the first six months of 2015, Generation Forward had raised just under $290,000, compared with millions raised by other candidates at the midyear reporting deadline. One of the PAC’s leading donors is former lawyer John Coale, a longtime friend of O’Malley, who gave $30,000. Coale, who is married to Fox News host Greta Van Susteren, has supported O’Malley over the years (including an 11th-hour loan of $500,000 to O’Malley’s 2006 campaign for Maryland governor), but has also supported politicians on the other side of the aisle, including Sarah Palin and John McCain, as well as other Democrats like Clinton in the 2008 primaries and John Kerry in 2004. The largest donation ($120,000) to Generation Forward came from the Maryland corporation Retail Systems and Service.

So far, Generation Forward has aired just a few ads in Iowa markets and created online ads that can be seen on its YouTube page. Most of these focus on touting O’Malley’s accomplishments and leadership qualities; one ad, titled “Entertainment vs. Leadership,” intersperses clips of Sanders, Clinton and Donald Trump with parodies of those candidates from “Saturday Night Live.”

As of the end of January, the group had spent $346,940 supporting O’Malley and $20,000 against Sanders, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.