Washington, D.C. — Democracy Forward celebrates its five years of impact this week as it continues to expand the reach of its work into states and local communities. An effective force in combating Trump-era harms, Democracy Forward has nearly doubled in size since Trump left office, deepening its bench of top talent to address the rise of legal extremism at this pivotal time for the country.
“Democracy Forward’s early success stopping harmful and unlawful activity pursued by the Trump Administration prepared us for the long road ahead as both far-right lawmakers emboldened by the MAGA-base pursue a range of anti-democratic policies, and a host of other extreme actors seek to use the courts to roll back the rights of people,” said Skye Perryman, President and CEO of Democracy Forward. “The vast majority of the American people believe in the promise and potential of democracy. With a roster of clients and partners who make up the very fabric of our country, our work ensures that people and communities have all the legal tools available to stop extremism and build for a just and inclusive future, ” Perryman continued.
Democracy Forward’s staff was joined at the celebration by leaders and advocates who have been central to the organization’s work.
“The threats to our freedom, to our liberty, to free and fair elections, to teach our children and raise our children, and to have an honest accounting in our society of what we have done right and what we have done wrong, are greater now than they were when Donald Trump took office. And the work of Democracy Forward is more urgent and more necessary now than it ever was before,” said Marc Elias, who chairs the Board of Democracy Forward and is also a founding partner of the Elias Law Group.
Democracy Forward Work At-A-Glance
Across a range of critical issues, Democracy Forward has been racking up legal wins working with 260 clients and partners across 26 states, positively impacting the lives of millions. Since its founding, the organization has brought more than 650 legal cases, demands, investigations, and actions.
During the Trump Administration, Democracy Forward’s legal work contributed to the reversal or disruption of more than 40 harmful and unlawful policies and practices. Democracy Forward’s work contributed to the disbanding of a number of Trump-era unlawful government advisory groups (including the Pence-Kobach Voter Commission), achieved reversal of the rollback of healthier school nutrition standards for 30 million children, compelled the collection of equal pay data that the administration unlawfully halted, restored millions in evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention funding for cities and counties, assisted in preserving critical provisions of the Affordable Care Act, and secured a first-of-its-kind court ruling that a Trump administration official had been unlawfully appointed, among other victories.
Since Trump left office, Democracy Forward has been at the center of a number of high-stakes legal battles in both federal and state courts and expanded its work in the federal regulatory process. Continuing to rely on its signature innovative approach, Democracy Forward’s expanded work includes:
- its suit against Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s retaliatory defunding of the state legislature on behalf of state workers, which led to a public rebuke of the Governor’s actions by members of his own party;
- its suit against Wisconsin’s Office of Special Counsel resulting in an order preventing its secretive taxpayer-funded investigators from deleting public records regarding sham efforts to undermine the results of the 2020 election;
- representing social workers and community advocates in the first challenge to an abortion ban following the leaked opinion in Dobbs and deploying arguments that do not depend on Roe v. Wade;
- its success in blocking public officials in Mississippi from appropriating public funds to private schools in violation of the state constitution; and
- conducting a number of public-records investigations, including investigating ten State Attorneys General and their relationships with right-wing media, efforts to censor the freedom to read in Florida, Texas, Idaho, and more, and the State of Texas’s refusal to timely release a critical maternal mortality report.
Democracy Forward has also been central to bringing the voice of the American people into the courts when extreme State Attorneys General, right-wing legal organizations, or special interest groups seek to use the courts to roll back the implementation of lawful, positive policies. Its work has included:
- fighting for access to critical emergency care for pregnant people in Idaho and Texas, on behalf of the American College of Emergency Physicians and other leading medical groups,
- representing the American Medical Association and other leading organizations in the United States Supreme Court on a critical brief cited by the Court’s majority in upholding federal vaccination standards for healthcare workers in organizations that receive Medicare and Medicaid funds,
- representing a group of scholars in defense of the SEC’s approval of NASDAQ’s board diversity disclosure rule in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit,
- representing coalition of interested organizations to defend the $15 minimum wage for federal contractors, and
- representing legal scholars on briefs defending the lawfulness of President Biden’s student debt relief plan in the United States Supreme Court.
To ensure that the government hears from those who have the most at stake, Democracy Forward’s expanded operations include a robust regulatory support practice in which the organization represents organizations and communities on submissions to federal agencies to underscore the importance of lawful, people-centered policies.
Democracy Forward Team
In June 2021, Democracy Forward named founding litigation team member and then General Counsel for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Skye Perryman, as its President and CEO to lead the organization’s expansion. Perryman has made a number of strategic hires to broaden the organization’s impact, including tapping Joe Gaeta, who most recently served as the Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Department of Justice Office of Legislative Affairs and before that served as a senior advisor to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) where he played a critical part in exposing the role of special interests in influencing the federal judiciary, as its inaugural Director or Engagement and Oversight, along with Gwen Moore (D-WI) alum, Tatiana Calderón, to serve as the Director of Policy and Public Affairs. Democracy Forward has expanded its already strong litigation team with the addition of Will Bardwell (formerly of the Southern Poverty Law Center), Rachel Fried (formerly of the Civil Litigation Clinic at Georgetown University Law Center); Madeline Gitomer (formerly of Hogan Lovells), Sarah Goetz (formerly of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State), JoAnn Kintz (formerly a trial attorney in the Environment and Natural Resources Section of the U.S. Department of Justice), Brooke Menschel (formerly the Director of Civil Rights and Law Reform at Brooklyn Defender Services), and Maher Mahmood (formerly Hennepin County Minnesota attorney). Last month, Breanne Palmer joined the Democracy Forward team from the Leadership Conference for Civil Rights as its Senior Policy Advisor. Read more about Democracy Forward’s full team here.
Democracy Forward will continue to lay the groundwork for a vibrant future–one where our government represents and works for all people. Watch the video here.