- Founded to provide a “philosophical home within the Democratic Party for the progressive community”
- Co-founded and led mostly by activists from failed 2004 presidential campaign of Cleveland Congressman Dennis Kucinich, a leader of the radical Progressive Caucus
- Helped install Howard Dean as head of Democratic National Committee
Progressive Democrats of America (PDA), founded in July 2004, is clear about its mission: “We dedicate ourselves to beginning the long, patriotic, nonviolent, and ultimately unstoppable process of transforming the Democratic Party." PDA reflects the far left wing of the Democratic Party and boasts that it helped install Howard Dean as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
"We believe that the greatest need of our nation," says PDA's Progressive Plan to Change America, "is to redirect the resources of our government from destruction to creation, from war to peace, from military spending to social spending, from sickness to health, from selfish desires to universal needs. The future of humanity and our planet are at stake."
The core of activists who founded and currently run Progressive Democrats of America came from the failed 2004 presidential campaign of Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, a leader of the radical Progressive Caucus. PDA's co-founder and National Director is Tim Carpenter, who in 2004 was Deputy National Campaign Manager for Kucinich’s presidential run. Carpenter describes himself as "a social and political activist who, for more than 30 years, has worked for causes such as nuclear disarmament, peace and justice, abolishing the death penalty, defending the homeless, and fighting for clean elections and campaign finance reform."
PDA's Political Director is Kevin Spidel, who was National Field Director for the 2004 Kucinich campaign. Prior to that, he worked as Western Field Coordinator and "grassroots trainer" for Amnesty International. Spidel was co-founder of the leftist group Progressive Vote, which merged with PDA in fall 2004.
"The far right has the Christian Coalition, Rush Limbaugh, Heritage [Foundation] and Carol [sic] Rove. Now we have the PDA!" wrote Spidel. "Without the Progressive Democrats of America, we simply will not have an organized grassroots lobby to effectively counter the powerful and well funded right wing, which currently has the political strength to privatize Social Security, dismantle Medicaid and Medicare, and dramatically reduce funding for affordable housing, education, and job programs."
PDA's Press and Media Team Coordinator is David Swanson, who was Press Secretary for the 2004 Kucinich campaign. He worked for three years as Communications Coordinator for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). Since May 2004 Swanson has been Media Coordinator for the International Labor Communications Association (ILCA), an organization of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). He also serves on the Executive Council of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, TNG-CWA.
PDA's Promotions and House Party Coordinator is Judith Shattuck, who "studied grassroots organization at the University of Chicago with Saul Alinsky during a year-long seminar in the 60s" and managed the Kucinich presidential campaign's office in Washington State. Other PDA staff from the Kucinich Washington State campaign include its online newsletter Editor Rita Weinstein and its Information Technology Coordinator Nancy Ging.
Aaron Rubin, PDA's Rapid Response Action Coordinator, has worked with the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and with the 2004 TrueMajorityAction propaganda campaign of Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, as coordinator of its "PantsOnFire" stunts to grab media attention during the presidential campaign.
Progressive Democrats of America’s short official list of "Alliances, Partners and Friends" prominently features "Frank Llewellyn, National Director, Democratic Socialists of America [DSA],” which is the principal American affiliate of the Socialist International. Congress's Progressive Caucus, of which Rep. Kucinich is a leader, had its own pages on DSA's website until 1999, when conservative press reports prompted both groups to conceal their connections with one another.
Other names on this list include Jeff Cohen, the founder of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR); Jodie Evans, co-founder of Code Pink for Peace and Board member of the Rainforest Action Network; Tom Hayden, who co-founded Students for a Democratic Society and is a former California State Senator; and Rep. Barbara Lee, who cast the lone congressional vote opposing the post-9/11 U.S. war against the Taliban and who, in the 1980s, collaborated with the Marxist dictatorship in Granada against the United States, while working in the office of then-Congressman Ron Dellums.
Several of PDA's closest allies are Hollywood actors. Actor Ed Asner, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America and an outspoken advocate for socialism, has been an active supporter and fundraiser for PDA. Another is David Clennon, whose career includes a role in the leftwing TV series thirtysomething, which introduced the term "Politically Correct" to most Americans. Clennon is best known for playing Joshua Nankin in the anti-CIA TV series The Agency. Another is James Cromwell, best known for his roles as the crooked police captain in L.A. Confidential and as President Bob Fowler in the Tom Clancy nuclear terrorism movie The Sum of All Fears. PDA's Honorary Chairwoman and "Acting President" is actress Mimi Kennedy, best known for playing the hippie mother of Dharma on the television sitcom Dharma and Greg. She was active in the Kucinich campaign in Hollywood and was a charter member of Artists United to Win Without War, among many other leftist causes.
On July 29, 2004, PDA National Director Tim Carpenter was a moderator at a gathering of approximately 1,000 progressives at Roxbury Community College in Massachusetts. This conference, "Beyond Boston: Building the Progressive Wing of the Democratic Party," featured among its invited speakers former Democratic Congressman Tom Andrews (who founded Win Without War), Medea Benjamin, Rep. John Conyers, former Vermont Governor and failed Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean, Tom Hayden, Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., Rev. Jesse Jackson (Sr.), Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Rep. Barbara Lee, and James Zogby (head of the Arab American Institute). The organization Muslims for Kucinich described this gathering as "the first-ever Progressive Democratic Convention."
PDA sharply criticized DNC Chairman Howard Dean for telling an American Civil Liberties Union gathering in Minneapolis on April 20, 2005 that, with regard to U.S. forces in Iraq, "Now that we're there, we're there and we can't get out. The President has created an enormous security problem for the United States where none existed before. But I hope the President is incredibly successful with his policy now that he's there." PDA's Tim Carpenter urged Dean to reverse his statement and call for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. To this end, Carpenter announced that PDA would work with United for Peace and Justice to flood congressional offices with telephone calls during the week following Memorial Day 2005.
In December 2004 PDA also joined forces with Rep. John Conyers, Jesse Jackson and other progressives in challenging the Ohio vote count that, by a margin of more than 100,000 votes, re-elected Republican President George W. Bush.
PDA is a member organization of the United for Peace and Justice anti-war coalition.
PDA is an organizational supporter of the Free Gaza Movement (FGM). Another noteworthy FGM backer is Code Pink, whose co-founders, Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans, both sit on the PDA board. In a September 7, 2010 Resolution, PDA declared:
"We ... hereby affirm our support and endorsement of the U.S. aid ship The Audacity of Hope, due to set sail for Gaza in October of this year, as an expression of our insistence that Israel meet its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and end its occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands. As peace and justice advocates, PDA considers it our obligation not only to criticize immoral and illegal acts, but to back up that criticism with action."
PDA's advisory board currently includes such notables as Medea Benjamin, John Conyers, Jodie Evans, Raul Grijalva, Tom Hayden, Dennis Kucinich, Barbara Lee, Jim McGovern, and Quentin Young.