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New Leaders Council Honors Young Innovators In Politics And Tech

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Friday, March 1 2013

The San Francisco chapter of the Democratic leaning New Leaders Council feted four of their under-40-year-old peers Thursday night for their contributions to progressive causes in the past year.

The New Leadership Council (NLC) is a national volunteer-led organization that prepares young Democrats to lead organizations in the fields of advocacy and politics. NLC Chairman Chris Kelly and San Francisco chapter Co-Directors Kate Maeder and Keith Yetter on Thursday night honored four Bay Area winners of the "40 Under 40" awards, which bestows recognition on 40 leaders around the country.

TechPresident readers will be familiar with three of the four local honorees. Colin Mutchler was honored by the San Francisco chapter for media leadership for his work as co-founder of Louder, the crowdsourced ad-buying program. Former techPresident contributor Sarah Granger received the Silicon Valley chapter's nomination for media leadership for her work in training advocacy groups and political campaigns to use media and online tech tools effectively. Granger's focus, through the Women’s Campaign Consortium, and the Women’s Campaign Fund, has been on pro-choice women candidates. She has advised Reps. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Esty, (D-Conn.), Lois Frankel (D-Fla.), and Pennsylvania's Attorney General Kathleen Kane among many others.

Billy Parrish, co-founder of the crowd-funding solar investment firm Mosaic, also won a 40 Under 40 award from NLC's San Francisco chapter. His company made techPresident's pages this January when it raised more than $300,000 in 24 hours to fund its first projects. Parrish is also the co-author of the book "Making Good: Finding Meaning, Money & Community in a Changing World."

Angela Chan, a senior staff attorney for the Asian Law Caucus, won an award in the advocacy category for her work in the field of immigration policy; Alexandra Acker-Lyons, a political consultant who focuses on funding of voter registration projects, won a national advocacy award. She recently moved from Washington, D.C. to Mountain View, California.

A group of about 100 gathered in the offices of the crowd-funding company Rally in downtown San Francisco Thursday evening to celebrate the Bay Area winners, as well as to hear California Secretary of State Debra Bowen speak. Though she is best-known nationally for the serious subject matter of de-certifying faulty voting machines and other election-integrity issues, she quipped her way through the brief talk Thursday night.

Bowen thanked the winners for their work, and for their earnestness despite the dysfunction of national politicos. She also took the opportunity to skewer some of her own generation of politicians, presumably implying that the winners that evening would have more of a clue. Bowen is known for her interest in technology. She recalled the reaction from one of her peers in 1993 when she sponsored a bill in her first year in the California Assembly to make state legislative information available to the public online "for free."

"I had various responses, including one from a senator from somewhere in this area who said: ‘No-one will use it,’" Bowen said. "I said something like: 'It’s not for you and I, it’s for kids in the second grade now.' I didn’t have any idea what was going to happen, but I know that if you keep pushing in accordance with your principles that you will come up with amazing things that will completely change the world.”

For his part, Mutchler said of his project: "I hope that over the coming years that we, as a culture, and as networks of people who are working on things that are important, are able to use the power of this emerging technology of the networks to really go beyond where we’ve been before, and replace the powers of the big companies, and big politics, so regular people can actually have the conversations that we really do want to have that are [currently] obstructed."

He pointed to some of the crowd-funded television ad campaigns that Louder placed during the 2012 election cycle. He noted, for example, that none of the presidential candidates debated climate change, despite the millions that had been spent electioneering. To try to inject the subject matter into the conversation, the Energy Action Coalition placed an ad on MTV just before President Obama appeared for an interview on the channel. Another group, unPAC, founded to fight money in politics, aired a moment of silence on a channel in Ohio to give viewers and voters a break from the barrage of campaign advertising, and to make their point.

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