The National Committee for an Effective Congress (NCEC) is one of the longest-standing progressive organizations in the United States. Since our founding in 1948, the NCEC has been at the forefront of many of the battles to protect American democracy.

Founded by Eleanor Roosevelt

In the summer of 1948, Eleanor Roosevelt together with Maurice Rosenblatt and Senator Harley M. Kilgore (D-WV) decided to create the NCEC. The idea was prompted by a visit from Senator James E. Murray (D-MT) to New York to raise money for his upcoming election. His opponent was well-financed by the Anaconda Copper Company—a company known for leveling forests, buying out local newspapers, bribing the legislature, murdering union organizers, and exporting their earnings out of the community [1]. The NCEC was founded to counter the corrupting influence of corporate money in politics by supporting the underfunded progressive opposition.

[1] Richard L. Nostrand and Lawrence E. Estaville. Homelands: A Geography of Culture and Place across America. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001), 227.

Fighting McCarthyism

In the 1950s, Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) stoked national hysteria, famously accusing thousands of Americans of disloyalty and claiming that the government and military had been infiltrated by a communist menace. To oppose the senator’s aggressive and paranoid abuse of power, NCEC co-founder Maurice Rosenblatt and several other members of the committee spearheaded a group of researchers who compiled the “McCarthy Clearing House” to aid Members of Congress and others who sought to counter McCarthy’s activities. [1]

The Clearing House contained thousands of documents including transcripts of interviews and speeches, political and legal analysis, travel logs, depositions, biographical information, handwritten notes, and press clippings regarding the unscrupulous activities of Senator McCarthy and his committee. Using this material, the “…NCEC helped devise the censure document, which was eventually read in the Senate by Senator Ralph Flanders (R-VT)”. [2]

[1] Griffith, Robert. The Politics of Fear: Joseph McCarthy and the Senate. 2nd ed. Amherst: The U of Massachusetts Press, 1970. Web.
[2] Scates, Shelby. Maurice Rosenblatt and the Fall of Joseph McCarthy. University of Washington Press, 2006. pp 135

Campaign Finance Reform

Starting in the late 1960s, the NCEC worked to limit money in politics. The NCEC authored the Campaign Broadcast Reform Act (S. 2876, 1969) which passed in both chambers of Congress but was vetoed by then President Richard Nixon. Despite early setbacks, the NCEC continued to work on and support various legislative actions in support of campaign finance reform. In 1971, the NCEC worked towards a legislative compromise that would see campaign finance reform finally passed into law with the Federal Election Campaign Act (S. 956, 1971).

The First Political Data Shop

In the late 1970s, the NCEC started working to build a first-of-its-kind data operation. With an early focus on data-driven campaign planning, the NCEC helped to elect several hundred progressive progressive candidates to office.

While the initial project was managed on paper ledgers, it quickly outgrew its modest origins. By the early 1980s, the NCEC ran its data operation on a Prime Computer minicomputer. After-hours, the Prime was available to the NAACP and other progressive organizations who connected via modem to run jobs remotely. And by the late ’80s, much of the data operation was run on IBM compatible workstations using FoxPro.

The NCEC has continued to innovate and improve its data operation throughout the years. Currently we work on Linux virtual machines using Python and Jupyter Notebook.

Many well-known candidates used NCEC data for their campaigns throughout their careers:

Senator Paul Wellstone, D-MN

“The NCEC was the first to endorse my candidacy. Their precise precinct electoral targeting and voter profile analysis focused the use of my scarce resources with maximum impact. With NCEC, I won!”

Senator Edward Kennedy, D-MA

“NCEC has provided invaluable technical assistance to my reelection effort. Their expertise has made a major difference not only in my race, but in countless races across the country. Without a doubt, the NCEC has led the fight for progressive candidates and won many of the most important battles.”

Vice President Al Gore

“For over 40 years, the NCEC has been in the vanguard of progressive politics in America, providing candidates for the House and Senate with state‑of‑the‑art campaign technology, financial support, and expert consultation and guidance. While other political committees serve as fundraisers for candidates, the NCEC often serves as the very nucleus of a campaign overall strategy. NCEC’s precinct‑by‑precinct electoral and demographic targeting strategies and media market analysis ensure that a campaign’s limited resources are allocated with maximum cost‑effectiveness and impact.”

Helping Candidates who Support Arms Control

In the early 1980s as the arms race between the United States and Russia reached a crescendo, the NCEC joined with several progressive organizations to support congressional candidates who supported a nuclear weapons freeze. In 1982, the NCEC teamed up with organizations like the Council for a Livable World, and Friends of Earth provide funds and campaign assistance to congressional candidates who supported an arms freeze. All told, the organization contributed more than $2 million in funds and services toward this effort.

Helping Retake the House in 2006

In 2006, the NCEC worked to identify key swing districts and contributed more than $732,000 worth of political data, analysis, and targeting to support House and Senate candidates. This effort aided Democrats in retaking the House of Representatives for the first time since 1994. In 2008, the NCEC helped the Democrats bolster their majorities in Congress, contributing an additional $704,000 worth of data to Democratic candidates.

The NCEC Revitalized

Following the Democratic sweep of 2008, long-time director Russell Hemenway temporarily suspended the NCEC’s activities. During this time, without donor contributions, the Committee was unable to work directly with or contribute to candidates and campaigns. On January 30, 2014, Russ passed away at 88 and is dearly missed.

Shortly before his passing, Russ understood that it was crucial to resume operations and worked closely with longtime staff on a plan to revitalize the Committee. After working to restore its operational status, the Committee was relaunched in 2015 and once again provides data and analysis to progressive candidates at no cost to their campaigns.

Project Down-ballot

In 2017 the NCEC started Project Down-ballot to bring our data and assistance to candidates running in state legislative races all over the country. Since 2010, the Democratic Party has lost nearly 1,000 seats at the state and local level. District by district the progressive movement must end the radical-right’s control of our government at all levels.

At this time, we have made contributions to the following candidates (focusing on elections that take place in 2017):

VA-100 Willie Randall
VA-12 Chris Hurst
VA-13 Danica Roem
VA-50 Lee Carter
VA-32 David Reid
VA-34 Kathleen Murphy
VA-18 Will King
VA-42 Kathy Tran
VA-10 Wendy Gooditis
VA-31 Elizabeth Guzman
VA-64 Rebecca Colaw
VA-13 Danica Roem
VA-73 Debra Rodman
FL-40 Annette Taddeo
NJ-02 Colin Bell
NJ-07 Troy Singleton
NJ-16 Laurie Poppe