Former Cincinnati Councilwoman Yvette Simpson’s management of a Democratic political action committee was criticized over the weekend in a Politico article.
Five unnamed former Democracy for America staffers, in the Politico piece published Sunday, blamed Simpson’s leadership for the shutdown this month of the Democracy for America political action committee. The piece also cited internal memos and Slack messages in which employees accused Simpson of not making an effort to raise money.
In a Dec. 7 tweet, Simpson announced her resignation as executive director of Democracy for America. The tweet cited no other reason than “now is the time to turn the page and start writing the next one.”
As the organization faced serious financial difficulties, “staff faced a related problem: Its CEO, Yvette Simpson, was vacationing at a vineyard in California,” Politico’s Daniel Lippman wrote.
Jim Dean defends Yvette Simpson
Simpson in November went to Napa Valley for a multi-day sommelier course, according to Politico. A sommelier is a wine expert.
“Is this heaven? No, but it’s pretty close,” Simpson posted on Instagram on Nov. 27 with a photo of the Napa Valley hillsides.
Democracy for America, founded in 2004 by former Vermont governor and Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean, is running out of money and will cease operations this month, Politico reported. The non-profit association related to Democracy for America will remain active.
The organization supported Democratic candidates and issues across the country.
Simpson has led the organization since 2019. At that time Jim Dean, Howard Dean’s brother, stepped down as president.
Jim Dean told The Enquirer that he resigned in part because Simpson was available. He also said that the demise of Democracy for America was not Simpson’s fault. The organization had gone through similar financial times before his tenure.
“We’ve never, in the 18 years of our existence, ever had cash,” Jim Dean said. “There was never a huge cushion. I’m a little surprised that it seemed to get lost in the staff, because some of these people had been there for a while and had been there when we were short on cash. It wasn’t the first time. what happened”.
The five former Democracy for America staffers told Politico that while Simpson had plenty of political skills, he struggled to raise funds. According to Politico, a memo signed by Democracy for America’s 10 non-executive staff members to Simpson days before her resignation accused her of making no effort to meet with donors before the November election.
In 2018, the organization raised $6.9 million, according to OpenSecrets.org. This midterm election cycle, Democracy for America raised a little more than half that amount, $3.6 million.
From town hall to national commentator
The Enquirer contacted Simpson, who called the allegations “baseless.” She declined further comment.
In an interview with The Enquirer, Jim Dean praised Simpson’s leadership and saw no problem with her not spending as much time raising money in late October and early November. She said that in the weeks leading up to the election, she was campaigning with candidates across the country. One problem Democracy for America and other similar organizations face, especially around election time, is fundraising fatigue, he said, and donors are bombarded with requests.
“In late October and November, you better be campaigning with these candidates like Yvette is,” he said. “You won’t be able to raise funds. … This is not the time to be calling anybody for money. People are trying to get votes.”
The Enquirer also reached out to Howard Dean by email Monday, but did not hear back.
Since leaving Cincinnati City Council in 2018, Simpson has become a national political figure. He is a regular political commentator for ABC News. She also nearly became mayor of Cincinnati in 2017, coming in first in the primary, but ultimately lost to John Cranley in the general election.
In his Dec. 7 resignation letter, Simpson spoke about the national campaigns and numbers the organization worked with.
“To be part of the legacy of an amazing and impactful organization that has meant so much to our nation and to follow the leadership of some of the best activists in the progressive movement has been an honor and a privilege.”