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Template:TOCnestleft Demos is a non-partisan public policy research and advocacy organization founded in 2000. Headquartered in New York City, Demos works with advocates and policymakers around the country in pursuit of four overarching goals:

  • a more equitable economy with widely shared prosperity and opportunity;
  • a vibrant and inclusive democracy with high levels of voting and civic engagement;
  • an empowered public sector that works for the common good;
  • and responsible U.S. engagement in an interdependent world.[1]

A multi-issue national organization, Demos combines research, policy development, and advocacy to influence public debates and catalyze change. We publish books, reports, and briefing papers that illuminate critical problems and advance innovative solutions; work at both the national and state level with advocates and policymakers to promote reforms; help to build the capacity and skills of key progressive constituencies; project our values into the media by promoting Demos Fellows and staff in print, broadcast, and Internet venues; and host public events that showcase new ideas and leading progressive voices.


Demos began as a vision of Charles Halpern--then the president of the Nathan Cummings Foundation and a veteran non-profit entrepreneur[2].

He was troubled by the narrow conversation about America's future. On the eve of the 21st century, it seemed that America no longer had the imagination to tackle its largest problems and build a more just society.
Halpern set out to challenge the status quo with a new institution. He envisioned a dynamic hub for creative scholars and cutting-edge practitioners--an organization that combined ideas and action to chart a new set of priorities for America.

Founders, Barack Obama connection

Demos was founded in 1999 by "social entrepeneur" Charles Halpern who recruited such heavyweights as David Callahan, Rob Fersh, Stephen Heintz, Sara Horowitz, Arnie Miller, David Skaggs, Linda Tarr-Whelan and a then obscure State Senator from Illinois named Barack Obama to help him[3].

By 1999, Halpern had assembled a talented working group to develop Demos. Among them were David Callahan, a fellow at the Century Foundation; Rob Fersh, a long-time policy advocate; Stephen Heintz, Vice-President of the East-West Institute; Sara Horowitz, founder of Working Today; Arnie Miller, a leading executive recruiter; Barack Obama, then a state senator from Illinois; David Skaggs, a congressman from Colorado; and Linda Tarr-Whelan, an internationally recognized expert on women and economic development. This working group would eventually form the core of Demos' staff and Board of Trustees.

Partner Organization of ProsperUS

Demos is listed as a "Partner Organization" of ProsperUS,[4] a coalition of leftist groups formed during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic to demand massive government spending, including Joe Biden's "Build Back Better" spending bill.[5],[6],[7]

Demos/ACORN/Project Vote

Demos has worked extremely closely with ACORN and its voter registration wing Project Vote on several projects.

Rapoport defending ACORN, October 14, 2008
2005 report on Demos/ACORN/Project Vote motor registration project

In 2008 Demos Fellow Lorraine Minnite served on the Project Vote board of directors[8].

Demos President Miles Rapoport was one of ACORN's most ardent defenders when the organization was accused of widespread voter registration fraud during the 2008 election.

Relationship to Institute for Policy Studies

Demos has very strong relationship to the radical washington DC based "think tank" the Institute for Policy Studies.


Demos is listed, on the Institute for Policy Studies website as partner organization of IPS[9].

Demos founder Charles Halpern became involved with the Institute for Policy Studies in the 1960s through the law firm he worked for Arnold & Porter. The firm handled IPS's legal work and partner Thurman Porter had been an IPS trustee before disagreeing with IPS over their militant anti-Vietnam War stance.

Halpern became corporate secretary to IPS, keeping minutes and records. he began to attend IPS seminars and parties at the Institute and at the home of founder Marcus Raskin, where he met radicals like Paul Goodman and Ivan Ilich.

When Raskin and several other activists were arrested for conspiring to obstruct the military draft, Halpern helped with the defense. Halpern flew with Raskin to a meeting with the other defendants and their lawyers at the Greenwich Village home of radical lawyer and secret Communist Party USA member Leonard Boudin.

Halpern served as Raskin's informal legal adviser, assuming that Arnold & Porter would represent him. They refused, out of loyalty to Lyndon Johnson[10].

10th anniversary

On Tuesday, May 11th, 2010, Demos honored TARP Oversight Committee Chair Elizabeth Warren, PBS Host Tavis Smiley and AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Shuler at its 10th anniversary celebration in New York City.[11]

Transforming America awards, 2012

Awardees were;[12]

  • Sheila Bair, Senior Advisor at Pew Charitable Trusts and former Chairman of the FDIC
  • Leo Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers
  • Ai-jen Poo, Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance

Honorary chairs;[13]


Current Board of Trustees as at 2 Dec. 2009.[14]

Trustees on leave

  • Ernest Tollerson - Director, Policy $ Media Relations Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Past Trustees

  • Ernest Tollerson - Director, Policy and Media Relations, Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Demos Fellows

Current Fellows as at 2 Dec. 2009.[15]

  • David Callahan - International Program Director; also Demos Co-Founder & Senior Fellow

Affiliate staff

Building Movement Project staff as at 2 Dec. 2009.[16]

Business for Shared Prosperity staff as at 2 Dec. 2009.[17]