Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
—Abraham Lincoln, 1863
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 Institution. 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.
Lee Woodsmall, Program Coordinator
Lee recently graduated from Auburn University with a degree in Political Science and a special focus on Public Law. In the summer of 2012, Lee was an intern with United Republic, a non-profit organization focused on campaign finance reform. During this time, he researched campaign finance law and wrote articles pertaining to money in politics. Lee joined Fund for the Republic to continue the pursuit of sensible, meaningful, and bipartisan campaign finance reform.
Lawrence is the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School, director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, and founder of Rootstrikers, an activist network opposed to corruption in government.
Lessig has authored numerous books, including Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Our Congress — and a Plan to Stop It and One Way Forward: The Outsider’s Guide to Fixing the Republic. He serves on the Board of Creative Commons, MapLight, Brave New Film Foundation, The American Academy, Berlin, AXA Research Fund and iCommons.org, and on the advisory board of the Sunlight Foundation. He is a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Association, and has received numerous awards, including being named one of Scientific American’s Top 50 Visionaries.
Lessig holds a BA in economics and a BS in management from the University of Pennsylvania, an MA in philosophy from Cambridge, and a JD from Yale. Prior to rejoining the Harvard faculty, Lessig was a professor at Stanford Law School and at the University of Chicago. He clerked for Judge Richard Posner on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and Justice Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court.
Gillian is an independent consultant who helps progressive non-profits, corporations, and foundations increase their impact. Her special areas of expertise are strategic planning, outreach and advocacy campaigns, and organizational development. She is a filmmaker and an attorney with thirty years of experience advocating for social justice in the United States and around the world.
In 2010, she completed three years as Campaign Director for 1Sky, which she helped build from inception and grew to become the largest collaborative climate and energy campaigns in the United States. Prior to that, Gillian served as Executive Director of WITNESS, which was co-founded by musician Peter Gabriel and harnesses the power of video to end human rights abuses. Gillian led WITNESS’ rapid expansion during her decade of leadership and helped produce numerous documentary videos for use in campaigns around the world.
Before her 10 years of leadership at WITNESS, Gillian directed a global undercover investigation and global campaign on the Russian mafia’s involvement in trafficking women for forced prostitution, and produced and directed an influential documentary film which was televised internationally and helped spur policy changes worldwide. She is also co-editor and author of Video for Change: A Guide to Advocacy and Activism (2005). Gillian received her BA from Harvard University and a J.D. from Georgetown University, where she was honored as a Public Interest Law Scholar, and is a recipient of numerous awards and honors, including Ashoka, Skoll and Schwab awards for social entrepreneurship.
Trevor Potter is the founding President and General Counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington, D.C. based nonprofit which helped successfully defend the McCain-Feingold law in the lower and Supreme Courts. He is one of the country’s best-known and most experienced campaign and election lawyers, and a former Commissioner (1991-1995) and Chairman (1994) of the Federal Election Commission.
Mr. Potter has been described by the American Bar Association Journal as “hands-down one of the top lawyers in the country on the delicate intersection of politics, law and money”. Mr. Potter has been listed as one of Washington’s Best Lawyers by Washingtonian magazine and was recognized as a “Super Lawyer” by Washington DC Super Lawyers magazine in 2008.
He served as General Counsel to the John McCain 2008 campaign (while on leave of absence from the Legal Center) and also held that position with the McCain 2000 campaign. He has testified before Congress on federal election proposals and campaign finance regulation, and has taught campaign finance law at the University of Virginia School of Law and Oxford University. He is Co-Chair of the Election Law Committee of the American Bar Association’s Administrative Law Section. Mr. Potter is also a member in Caplin & Drysdale’s Washington, D.C. office, where he leads the firm’s Political Activity Law Practice.
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 Council 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.