Mission, Vision and Theory of Change


Publication: 2013-02-14


National Priorities Project opens the federal budget door for people to understand how and where their tax dollars are spent, and how and when they can influence budget decisions. Clear budget information - put into the hands of individuals and community organizations, policy makers and the media - empowers all Americans to influence our national priorities. By analyzing and interpreting budget information, the work of NPP strengthens movements, ensures a more just and equitable national budget, and brings us closer to the promise of democracy.

Most of us in the United States don't know where or how our federal tax dollars are spent. Many factors have distanced us from the personal and societal impact of federal spending, and barriers have prevented us from having influence over the creation and oversight of our national budget. The federal budgeting process should be open and participatory, with elected officials fully accountable to their constituents. Making this a reality is crucial for a healthy and robust democracy.


Name:Owen Ambur


Name:National Priorities Project



  • GREG SPEETERNational Priorities Project's founder, Greg Speeter, has passed away. The staff and board of NPP join you in mourning the loss of our mentor, dear friend, and extraordinary visionary. We also join you in celebrating his exquisite and joyous life. Greg's passing leaves a tremendous chasm. We are comforted to know that his dreams live on with NPP's staff, board, and advisors, our national partners and all of you -- working together to fulfill his legacy. Greg's memorial was held on March 3, 2012 at 11am at the Haydenville Congregational Church. To read the full text of A Splendid Torch, Jo Comerford's celebration of Greg's life, click here. The family has requested donations be made to National Priorities Project in lieu of flowers.


  • Robin ClaremontDirector of Development and Communications -- Robin joined NPP with more than a decade's worth of experience in non-profit fundraising, strategic communications, and marketing. Previously, Robin was Development & Communications Manager at The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, where she led foundation relations, grantwriting, media relations, and publications. She also spent several years at the Environmental Leadership Program, managing its national fellowship program and organizational outreach. Robin has been a foundation relations and communications consultant for other non-profits and serves on the Board of Advisors of Gardening the Community. She holds a Bachelors Degree in Environmental Studies from Mount Holyoke College.

  • Jo ComerfordExecutive Director -- Jo joined National Priorities Project staff in 2008 bringing with her two decades of work as a community organizer, and a strong background in strategic planning and nonprofit administration. Most recently, Jo served as Director of Programs at The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. Prior to The Food Bank, Jo directed the American Friends Service Committee's western Massachusetts office. Jo travels extensively for NPP, offering budget talks and facilitating participatory workshops, including as a speaker at a 2012 Tedx and 2013 Ignite. She is a frequent media contributor with pieces appearing in outlets such as The Nation, TomDispatch, The Huffington Post,, Mother Jones and Dollars and Sense. Jo holds an MSW from Hunter College School of Social Work and is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Smith College School of Social Work.

  • Kris ElinevskyDirector of Administration and Finance -- Kris has been with NPP since 1997. She holds a Bachelors Degree in Psychology from the University of California at San Diego and a Masters Degree in Public Administration for Non-Profit Management from the University of San Francisco. She has worked in education, activist and non-profit settings for over 30 years.

  • Chris HellmanSenior Research Analyst -- Chris joined NPP after serving as a military policy analyst for the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation where his work focused on national security spending, military planning and policy, base closures, major weapons systems, trends in the defense industry, global military spending, and homeland security. Prior to joining the Center, Chris spent six years as a Senior Research Analyst at the Center for Defense Information. He also worked for two years as a military budget specialist at Physicians for Social Responsibility. Previously, Chris spent ten years on Capitol Hill as a congressional staffer working on national security and foreign policy issues. He is a frequent media commentator on military planning, policy, and budgetary issues and is the author of numerous reports and articles. He holds a Bachelors Degree from Middlebury College in Vermont

  • Mattea KramerDirector of Research -- Mattea Kramer leads National Priorities Project's research program, covering such topics as the federal budget process, federal spending and tax policy, federal health care programs, Social Security, military and homeland security funding, and debt and deficit. Mattea is the lead author of NPP's book A People's Guide to the Federal Budget, and she serves as a regular commentator for media outlets across the country. Her writing has been published in outlets such as the Washington Post, the Nation, the Christian Science Monitor, Mother Jones, Al Jazeera, and CBS News. She holds a Bachelors Degree in Economics from Amherst College and a Masters Degree in Public Policy from Harvard.

  • Jason LeveilleWeb Developer -- Jason joined NPP with more than a decade of software engineering experience. He's worked for both startups and nonprofits, and that diverse experience keeps him nimble and responsive. Jason loves writing software and building tools that make people happy and efficient. He was a high school computer teacher for 8 years before becoming a full-time software developer. That experience, as well as his experience with nonprofits, has taught him that his true passion is doing work that pushes society in a positive direction. He holds a BS in Education from Thomas College and an MSCS in Computer Science from Hood College.

  • Sondra MorinIndividual Gifts Officer -- Sondra is a native New Englander and joins NPP with seven years of fundraising and marketing experience in Chicago. She managed the annual fund and membership programs for both the Chicago Academy of Sciences' Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture, on behalf of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. While in Chicago, she received extensive training in nonprofit management from such esteemed institutions as Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, the Illinois Business Council, and the Donors Forum of Chicago. Her specialties include individual giving programs, social media and database management, and copywriting for nonprofits. Sondra is a strong arts and women's health advocate, and is a poet by creative craft. She holds a Bachelors Degree in English from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

  • Becky SwegerDirector of Data and Technology -- Becky hails from Pennsylvania and spent 15 years doing a wide range of technology jobs in Philadelphia. She comes to NPP from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where she served as a technical liaison between the student body and the IT department. She also spent a few years on Wharton's Learning Lab team, developing web-based games and simulations used in the classroom. Prior to Wharton, Becky was a founding member of Cooper University Hospital's Business Intelligence division. With the goal of liberating the organization's data and making it useful, she designed and implemented Cooper's first data marts and oversaw their rollout to users throughout the health system. Becky loves blogging and is passionate about technology that empowers people. She holds a Bachelors Degree in English from James Madison University and a Masters Degree in Information Systems from Drexel University.

  • Samantha DanaResearch Associate -- Samantha is a recent recipient of a Bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of Massachusetts. Her work focused on women and the environment in the modern Middle East. A native of Nevada, Sam has worked previously both on political campaigns and for select state-level ballot measures.

  • Andrew FieldhouseBudgetary and Economic Consultant -- Andrew works as a Federal Budget Policy Analyst for the Economic Policy Institute and The Century Foundation. He previously worked as an Assistant Budget Analyst and Research Assistant with the House Budget Committee. His primary areas of research and interest are federal tax policy, public economics, macroeconomics, and public investment. He coauthored Investing in America's Economy: A Budget Blueprint for Economic Recovery and Fiscal Responsibility, a long-term progressive budget proposal by Our Fiscal Security, a partnership of Demos, EPI, and TCF. Andrew has also worked with the Congressional Progressive Caucus in developing, scoring, and modeling their budget resolution alternatives for fiscal years 2012 and 2013. Andrew provides frequent commentary on federal budget debates and the impact of fiscal policy on the economic recovery. He has appeared as a guest on CNN, PBS Nightly Business Report, C-SPAN, CNBC, Fox News, Fox Business News, the BBC, and Al Jazeera English. He holds a Bachelors Degree in Economics and Political Science from Swarthmore College.

  • Anders FremstadResearch Associate -- Anders completed his undergraduate degree at Georgetown University and is currently pursuing a PhD in Economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

  • Sheila HeadyOutreach Assistant -- Sheila is a recent graduate of University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where she completed a double major in Music and Political Science. Before joining NPP, she was the outreach director for WMUA 91.1 FM, the student-run radio station at UMass.

  • Osman KeshawarzResearch Associate

  • Max-Edouard MondesirResearch Associate -- Max-Edouard is from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. After completing a Bachelors of Science in Electrical and Electronics Engineering, he received a Fulbright scholarship to attend the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he completed a Masters in Economics. His areas of interest are development economics, econometrics and quantitative economics, and project impact evaluation.

  • Abby RuskDevelopment Assistant -- Abby is an Ada Comstock scholar at Smith College studying Sociology. She is a graduate of Harold Washington College in Media Studies where she was editor-in-chief of The Herald. Abby hails from Texas by way of Chicago.

  • National Priorities Project BOARD OF DIRECTORS

  • Laura BerryLaura Berry is the Executive Director of the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility. She began her career as a chemical engineer prior to a 17-year career on Wall Street in socially-responsible investing that included handling accounts for religious orders. After leaving Wall Street, she served as the director of the New London Development Corporation's Community Development Initiative. At the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven she served as Vice President for Development and, later, Senior Vice President for Philanthropic Services. Laura has a B.S. from Michigan Technology University and an M.S. from the University of Michigan. She obtained a Certified Financial Planner designation from Quinnipiac University.

  • Dennis BidwellChair -- Dennis P. Bidwell is the principal of Bidwell Advisors, a Massachusetts-based firm providing real estate consulting and fundraising services to non-profit organizations and private real estate owners. The firm specializes in charitable gifts of real estate. Prior to forming Bidwell Advisors in 2001, Dennis was national land protection director at American Farmland Trust. Previously, he worked in Boston as vice president of Leggat McCall Advisors, a real estate consulting and appraisal firm. He served as development officer at National Trust for Historic Preservation, and as program officer at Associated Grantmakers of Massachusetts. A graduate of Dartmouth College, Dennis earned his Masters in Business Administration from Boston University (through the Public and Nonprofit Management Program), and his Masters in Education from Harvard University. Dennis has served on the boards of numerous non-profit organizations, and has assumed leadership roles in various political campaigns.

  • Bill BreitbartTreasurer -- Bill Breitbart is the Director of Housing for Central and Western Massachusetts for the Massachusetts Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC), for which he provides technical assistance and pre-developmental funding to affordable housing organizations. He has spent most of his career as an attorney specializing in affordable housing. Bill served on the NPP board as Clerk 1993-1996 and as Treasurer 1997-1999.

  • Savita FarooquiSavita Farooqui is the Founder and President of SymSoft Solutions (SymSoft), a Sacramento-based web development and systems integration company. SymSoft specializes in creating software solutions for government agencies and non-profit organizations. Under Savita's direction SymSoft has delivered popular, award-winning applications that have been recognized by the White House, the US Department of Labor and the Center for Digital Government. Savita is passionate about open data and has been recognized as a "Champion of Change" by the Executive Office of the President for her work in technology and innovation. She is a member of the California DGS Small Business Advisory Council, PMI Government Forum, IEEE and ACM. She holds an MS in Computer Science from the National Institute of Technology in India.

  • Heidi Garrett-PeltierHeidi Garrett-Peltier is an Assistant Research Professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her research focuses on the employment impacts of public and private investments, particularly in the realm of clean-energy programs. Heidi has written and contributed to a number of reports on the clean energy economy. She has also written about the employment effects of defense spending with co-author Robert Pollin, consulted with the U.S. Department of Energy on federal energy programs and is an active member of the Center for Popular Economics. Heidi holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

  • Doug HallVice Chair -- Doug Hall is the Director of the Economic Analysis and Research Network (EARN), a network of state-based organizations working to improve the well-being of working families. Before joining the Economic Policy Institute in 2009, Doug served as Director of Operations and Research for Connecticut Voices for Children. His areas of expertise include child poverty, state economic development policy, and tax incidence. Doug has written and co-authored numerous reports, including most recently reports on the minimum wage, paid sick days, and income inequality at the state level. Doug holds a Ph.D. from Queen's University in Ontario.

  • Jim HarperJim Harper is the Director of Information Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. He works to adapt law and policy to the unique problems of the information age, in areas such as transparency, privacy, telecommunications, intellectual property, and security. Jim was a founding member of the Department of Homeland Security's Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee and he recently co-edited the book Terrorizing Ourselves: How U.S. Counterterrorism Policy Is Failing and How to Fix It. He has been cited and quoted by numerous print, Internet, and television media outlets, and his scholarly articles have appeared in the Administrative Law Review, the Minnesota Law Review, and the Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly. He wrote the book Identity Crisis: How Identification Is Overused and Misunderstood. Jim is the editor of, a Web-based think tank devoted exclusively to privacy, and he maintains online federal spending resource Jim holds a J.D. from UC Hastings College of Law.

  • Paul Kawika MartinPaul Kawika Martin is Peace Action's organizing and political director and has worked with numerous Environmental, Peace, Animal Rights and Human Rights organizations including Greenpeace and Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR). Paul worked with a Clinton Presidential Commission and spent a year campaigning in twenty countries on Greenpeace ships including the Rainbow Warrior. He is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara.

  • Jen KernClerk -- Jen is currently the Minimum Wage Campaign Coordinator at the National Employment Law Project where she supports campaigns to raise the minimum wage at the local, state and federal levels. Jen's background is in providing technical assistance and support to labor and community organizers for grassroots organizing campaigns around worker justice issues. For 15 years, Jen worked in the national office of ACORN, including ten years as the director of ACORN's Living Wage Resource Center, which served as a clearinghouse for the national living wage movement and provided direct organizing support for the campaigns driving the effort. Immediately before joining NELP, Jen spent a year and a half at American Rights at Work on the campaign to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, working to coordinate workers' rights organizing strategies with state consultants, labor leaders, and allies on the state and national levels.

  • Roz LemieuxRoz Lemieux is the founder and partner of Fission Strategy (web 2.0 and social media strategy) and Executive Director of New Organizing Institute. From 2004-2006, Roz worked for Political Action. Prior to MoveOn, she consulted for progressive candidates. Roz started her career in online organizing in 1999 as web team director at the Feminist Majority Foundation

  • Miriam PembertonMiriam Pemberton is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, writing and speaking on demilitarization issues for its Foreign Policy In Focus project. She leads a group that produces the annual "Unified Security Budget for the United States." Other recent publications include "The Budgets Compared: Military vs. Climate Security." Formerly she was editor, researcher and finally director of the National Commission for Economic Conversion and Disarmament. Miriam holds a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.

  • Lorna PetersonLorna Peterson is Executive Director, Emerita, of Five Colleges, Inc. She has served on a number of community boards including the University of Massachusetts Friends of the Fine Arts Center, Cooley Dickinson Hospital, and the United Way of Hampshire County. In addition to serving as a member of the Board of the National Priorities Project, Lorna is also on the Board of the Abortion Rights Fund of Western Massachusetts and the Foundation Board of Greenfield Community College and serves as chair of Leah Ryan's Fund for Emerging Women Writers. She holds a doctorate in Slavic Languages and Literatures from Yale University and has taught in several women's studies programs at the Five Colleges.

  • Jeff RosenJeff Rosen is the Chief Financial Officer for the Solidago Foundation and its affiliated Foundations, where he oversees all of the financial systems as well as managing the MRI and PRI portfolios. Jeff is a graduate of Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations and holds a Masters in Resource Economics and Policy from the University of Maine, where he worked to pioneer sustainability focused impact assessment techniques. He has worked in the private sector as a serial entrepreneur, developing and selling food sector businesses, and as a chief financial officer for several restaurant chains and food manufacturers. He is an active, founding member of PVGROWS, a local food system collaboration located in Western Massachusetts, where he is part of a group focused on financing the regional food economy. Jeff is an Adjunct Faculty Member in the Antioch University Sustainable MBA program, where he has taught Ecological Economics for Social Entrepreneurs since 2007.

  • Preston SmithPreston Smith is an Associate Professor of Politics at Mount Holyoke College. He teaches American Politics; Black Urban Reform; Racial Stratification and Urban Political Economy; and Black and Latino Politics, in addition to his popular community development course. His research interests in urban studies and postwar black politics are reflected in his many publications and presentations, and he is currently working on a book manuscript entitled, The Quest for Racial Democracy: Black Civic Ideology and Housing Interests in Chicago, 1940-1960. Preston's commitment to urban studies led to his becoming Director of the Community-Based Learning (CBL) program at the Weissman Center for Leadership and the Liberal Arts. He believes that one of the ways to best teach politics is to be politically engaged. He is a member of the Interim National Council of the Labor Party, an independent political party that comes out of the labor movement. The Debs-Jones-Douglass Institute, which is the educational and cultural arm of the Labor Party, sponsors the Free Public Higher Education campaign. Smith is currently the co-chair of the Institute's national campaign, which asserts that higher education is a necessity in today's economy and society and, therefore, should be paid for by the federal government.

  • Ericka TaylorEricka Taylor is the Development Director for The Other 98%, a netroots organization dedicated to ending the corporate control of the U.S. political system. She has spent the bulk of her career working for social justice organizations including ACORN, Tenants and Workers United, and Youth Action. Ericka's work in philanthropy included program work with the Public Welfare Foundation in Washington DC, and she served as the co-chair of the People of Color Caucus of the National Network of Grantmakers. She has served as a member of the Board of Directors or Steering Committees of the National Organizers Alliance, Progressive Technology Project, Youth Education Alliance, and DC Jobs with Justice. Ericka has a B.A. in English from Cornell University and a Masters of Fine Arts in Fiction from Eastern Washington University.

  • John UrschelJohn Urschel is the Director of Leadership Gifts at Mount Holyoke College. John uses his experience as an advisor, educator, and fundraiser to build meaningful philanthropic relationships between donors and nonprofit organizations. He graduated with a B.A. in History from Lewis and Clark College, and holds an MPA in Nonprofit Management & Philanthropy from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. John served as Director of Gift Planning at Amherst College, and has directed non-profits such as Oregon Children's Foundation and the Loomis Communities. He was Development Consultant at the Peace Development Fund and an Adjunct Professor at Bay Path College Graduate School of Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy where he taught courses on fundraising, philanthropy, and donor behavior. He has published works such as "Coming Out of the Green Closet: Wealth Discourse and the Construction of Social Change Philanthropists." John is passionate about Civil Rights and Social Action, Education, and the Arts.

  • Cate WoolnerCate Woolner, anti-nuke activist, peace and justice activist, anti-racism activist, mediator, photographer, Ombuds at Amherst College and Manager of the Gill Montague Community School Partnership, has had the good fortune to have aligned the personal and the political and the professional much of the time. Cate joined the NPP Board in 2005 and later served as Chair for two years. Cate is also an avid reader and news junkie.