Nick Penniman, Executive Director
Nick is the former executive director of the Huffington Post Investigative Fund, which he founded with Arianna Huffington in 2009. Staffed by a newsroom of veteran journalists from mainstream newspapers and magazines, the team focused most of its energy on uncovering stories behind the financial crises that precipitated the Great Recession. The Investigative Fund was favorably profiled in media publications like the American Journalism Review and the Columbia Journalism Review and later merged with the Center for Public Integrity, the largest nonprofit investigative reporting group in the nation’s capital.
Prior to that, Nick launched the American News Project, an experiment in online video muckraking, and served as the Washington director of the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy, a foundation headed by broadcaster Bill Moyers. He has also been publisher of The Washington Monthly magazine, where he oversaw a redesign of the magazine; the executive editor of TomPaine.com, where he editorially focused the operation on shaping elite opinion about public-interest issues; the associate editor of the American Prospect, where he wrote extensively about the nonprofit sector and government reform; editor of the Lincoln Journal, a weekly newspaper; and associate editor at the Missouri Historical Society. In the late 1990s he ran a national grassroots group called the Alliance for Democracy, which focused on the role of money in politics and of large corporations in economic globalization.
He has served on multiple nonprofit boards and advisory boards, including the Homeless Empowerment Project, which publishes Spare Change News, and the Roosevelt Institute. He has appeared regularly on MSNBC and blogs frequently on the Huffington Post. His most recent essay about money in politics was published by the journal Democracy.
Kahlil Byrd, Chief Investment Officer
Kahlil is a political entrepreneur and an expert at building and managing large, disruptive, technology-based advocacy and political organizations. For the past decade, Kahlil has focused on building long-term strategy, securing substantial investments and achieving political reform at state and national levels.
Most recently, Kahlil was president of StudentsFirst, a multi-million dollar national reform effort focused on changing the nation’s legislative and policy landscape for public education. Working with founder Michelle Rhee and the board, Kahlil was responsible for StudentsFirst’s long-term strategy, operations, budget and effort to develop an optimal culture focused on growth.
Prior to StudentsFirst, Kahlil was chief executive officer of Americans Elect, a national start-up with the twofold mission of re-imagining, through technology, the U.S. presidential primary system and placing a bi-partisan presidential ticket on all 50 state ballots. Kahlil and his team raised more than $40 million, oversaw more than 150 paid staff, 5,000 contractors and 3,000 volunteers nationwide. AmericansElect.org is the winner of the 2012 People’s Choice Award at South by Southwest, one of the country’s largest interactive technology conferences; the Campaigns & Elections 2012 CampaignTech Innovator Award; and two 2012 CLIO Awards for content and interactive excellence.
Kahlil was a Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations and in 2006-2007 served as an International Affairs Fellow focused on international media. He is a graduate of Morehouse College and Harvard’s Kennedy School.
David Simpson, Managing Director
David brings over twenty years of leadership in both the business and nonprofit sectors to Fund for the Republic. He has a proven track record in start-ups, strategic planning, communications, management and event production.
Before joining Fund for the Republic, David worked as a consultant with Fletcher Group, Inc. His clients included The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Futures without Violence, and The Atlantic Committee of the United States. As National Operations Director for Dancing Classrooms, an arts education nonprofit, David was responsible for all elements of managing and growing an international network of over thirty sites. Before moving to Washington D.C. in 2009, David was the founder and Executive Director of Commonwealth Center for Change (C3), a nonprofit in Northampton, MA. While at C3, David developed a wide array of strategic partnerships to strengthen the arts community.
In 1991, David and his brother founded the Haymarket Café, the iconic Northampton, MA restaurant. By combining unrivalled customer service, solid business sense and a commitment to the local community, David developed the Haymarket Café into the successful, enduring business that it remains today.
Leigh Beasley, Communications Manager
Leigh joined Fund for the Republic from leading global public relations and communications firm Burson-Marsteller, where she managed public relations programs for some of the world’s most recognized brands. She has worked on behalf of Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, Ford Motor Company, Intel Corporation and many others, communicating with policymakers, media, opinion leaders, employees and consumers. Before joining Burson-Marsteller, Leigh worked for Moore Communications Group, where she helped execute a public affairs campaign on behalf of VISIT FLORIDA®, the state’s tourism marketing corporation. In educating state legislators on the economic importance of tourism marketing, the campaign helped secure an additional $2.2 million in public funding for VISIT FLORIDA in 2008, when state budgets were cut more than 10 percent. It also led industry efforts to secure a Governor veto of $9.9 million in proposed budget cuts in 2009.
Leigh also served as a public information specialist in the Office of the Florida Attorney General, where she coordinated communications efforts with national and statewide media. She graduated from Florida State University with a B.S. in communications.
Cindy Burnette, Executive Assistant
Cindy recently joined Fund for the Republic as an executive assistant, where she provides administrative support and assists with prospect cultivation and donor stewardship activities. She previously worked at Americans Elect and later at StudentsFirst.
Cindy comes from an arts management and performance background holding positions as executive director, company manager, development coordinator and House manager in various theaters throughout New England, New York and Virginia. Cindy earned a bachelor of arts in music and theater from Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts.
Shirley Hamilton Hartman, Director of Development
Shirley Hamilton Hartman is a nationally renowned consultant with nearly three decades of experience in public affairs, communications/marketing and philanthropy. She has served in leadership roles of national and regional non-profits, institutions of higher education, political and social advocacy campaigns.
Shirley’s expertise includes comprehensive development program evaluation, design and implementation; not-for-profit strategic planning; volunteer leadership engagement; grassroots planning; public affairs, lobbying and the full spectrum of campaign design. She previously served as interim vice president of development for StudentsFirst, where she led a national team in the launch of a $1 billion, five-year campaign to support the organization’s coast-to-coast education reform agenda.
As chief development officer for the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries, Shirley executed annual, capital and endowment campaigns, lobbied for and secured government funding, authored and edited development communications, developed organizational strategy and provided board management including recruitment.
A veteran of New York’s state political process, Shirley has worked for both the Assembly and Senate in communications, policy development and community relations roles. She also has served as a campaign manager for a number of current and former state and ocal elected officials, and served at the political director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC).
Cory Hodson, Fundraising and Development Intern
Cory is a junior at Loyola University Maryland majoring in global studies—a cross disciplinary program focusing on political science, history, economics and sociology. As vice president of student advocacy on Loyola’s Student Government Association, Cory oversees the student senate, executive board policy directors and the transition team from year to year. He is a voting member on university governance bodies, has served on multiple advisory boards and carries students’ sentiments forward to the board of trustees twice a year. Cory is also a student member of NASPA and is being inducted into Loyola’s Chapter of Alpha Sigma Nu, the national Jesuit honor society, this spring. Previously, he was a logistics volunteer and funds cultivator for the Chernobyl Children Project USA, Inc.
Christine Mahler, Operations Manager
Christine comes to the Fund for the Republic from the Atlantic Council, where she managed the board of directors and membership programs, focusing on development, relationship management, communications, and governance issues. While there, she led the effort to reestablish the Council’s individual membership program, including program evaluation, strategic planning, and execution, which resulted in a 150% increase in membership. In addition, she was an instrumental part of their small external relations team, leading efforts in fundraising, government relations, communications, and events.
Christine is a native of Montana and holds a masters degree in international affairs from the George Washington University. She conducted her undergraduate studies at New Mexico State University, graduating with high honors with degrees in German and communication studies.
Kaitlin Murphy, Development Coordinator
Kaitlin joined Fund for the Republic in early 2014 as development coordinator. A consultant with diverse experience in both the private and the nonprofit sectors, Kaitlin specializes in project management, fundraising, event planning, logistics, messaging and thought leadership.
Previously, Kaitlin worked for Americans Elect, a web-based political startup aimed at creating the nation’s first online primary election. In this role, she reported directly to the executive team, providing communications, media and leadership support, as well as tracking organizational progress and strategy. A graduate of Colgate University, Kaitlin holds a Masters Degree in international art crimes and a Bachelors Degree in art history. During the course of her study, she lived in both Venice and Rome.
Laurie Roberts, Program Associate
Laurie recently graduated with honors from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a degree in political science. There, she conducted original quantitative research on the 2012 Senate race, and co-founded the Massachusetts Political Review, the only non-partisan academic journal for the state’s largest public university. In 2012, she was named a Roosevelt Institute Summer Fellow, and interned for the Democracy Alliance, assisting in their mission to advance lasting progressive change. Her work on youth voting rights was recognized as one of the Roosevelt Institute’s “Big Ideas of 2012″ in their Government By and For Millennial America publication. Prior to this, Laurie served as an intern in the White House, where she managed the daily operations and logistics of the White House Office; she was instrumental in conceptualizing and implementing new systems management tools that are still in use today. She has joined Fund for the Republic to help reduce the corrupting influence of money in the U.S. political system, and enact sensible reforms to restore democracy to the American people.
Bill Smith, Consultant
As a founding partner of Civitas Public Affairs Group, Bill Smith has built his career on advancing significant public policy initiatives and winning elections. He has nearly two decades of experience in campaign management, message development, communications strategy, and donor advising.
During his five-year tenure as the national political director at Gill Action, Bill led the development of innovative strategies on issues including marriage equality, safe schools, and non-discrimination measures. He also counseled a network of donors that invested nearly $15 million into targeted campaigns.
Bill has worked extensively as a general consultant, providing critical counsel to Supreme Court justices, members of the U.S. House and Senate, governors, state legislators, and political organizations from across the country. He has also worked for Karl Rove + Company and Wilson Grand Communications.
In addition to his work with elected officials, Bill has worked with Fortune 500 companies, financial institutions, life insurance companies, and property and casualty insurance companies. He has led teams of the nation’s premier pollsters, media consultants, and campaign operatives on both sides of the aisle. A member of the American Association of Political Consultants, Bill has run successful independent expenditure campaigns that have received both Campaigns & Elections and Pollie awards. He is a native of Alabama and lives in Washington, D.C.