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Our Staff


Erik Altieri

Director of Communications

Erik is the Director of Communications for the Agenda Project. He previously served as the Communications Director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and was Manager of NORML PAC. He administered NORML's social networks that reach well over one million individuals. Mr. Altieri was one of National NORML's registered lobbyists and has lobbied--and helped write and run grassroots campaigns in support of --federal and state bills regarding marijuana reform. Erik was also one of the group’s primary spokesmen to the media and has been quoted or has appeared in countless print, radio and televised media outlets. Erik graduated from American University and currently lives in Alexandria, Virginia, where he spends his time obsessing over politics and hardwired to his newsfeed and CNN.

Kathryn DeSimone

Director of Fundraising

Kathryn is the Director of Fundraising at the Agenda Project. She first discovered her passion for politics at nine years old, watching the results of the 2000 presidential election from her living room couch. Kathryn graduated from the New York University campus in Greenwich Village, where she received her B.A. in Economics. She was also a student in the inaugural class at New York University's satellite campus in Washington, D.C where she interned in the Economic Policy Office at the United States Department of Treasury. After working on numerous House and Senate campaigns, Kathryn transitioned to legislative work at the United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. At the Agenda Project, Kathryn is dedicated to making sure that the ideas of the Progressive Movement translate to effective public policy. 


Hannah Hendler

Director of Marketing,
Practical Progress Editor

Hannah serves as Director of Marketing for the Agenda Project and its brands. She is also Managing Editor of Practical Progress--the Agenda Project Action Fund’s actually brief briefing on the most Important news from the Progressive Movement. A proud Pacific Northwest native, Hannah first came to the East Coast to study at NYU where she graduated with a BA in History and Classics. Since then, she has worked as a research assistant on numerous book projects and served on the editorial boards of historical journals, all while perfecting her favorite yoga pose: the Bird of Paradise. Hannah has been actively involved in progressive issues since she was a child attending labor union rallies with her parents. 

Ron Len

Ron Len

Video Editor

Ron Len is a film editor with 20 years of experience in a wide variety of genres. He has been recognized as an outstanding editor in his field in both long and short form work. Ron’s work ranges from feature films and documentaries to short films and television commercials. All told, he has edited films that have appeared at over 100 film festivals around the world, garnering numerous Best Feature and Grand Jury awards. Some of those films include "He Said, She Said", directed by Doug Liman, "Queenie in Love", directed by Amos Kollek, "Just Like You Imagined?" directed by David Frankel, "Who I Am", directed by Jesse Peretz, "Jailbait", written and directed by Brett C. Leonard, "War Eagle, Arkansas", directed by Robert Milazzo and "Particles of Truth", directed by Jennifer Elster.  Ron is also recognized as a contributing member to the Avid Technology Film and Video editing website. He enjoys bananas and watching footage of other people enjoying the great outdoors. 

Erica Payne

Founder and President

Erica is the Founder and President of the Agenda Project and the Agenda Project Action Fund, where she focuses on identifying and amplifying the diverse set of issues that most clearly differentiate the progressive and conservative worldviews. Prior to founding the Agenda Project, Erica led The Tesseract Group, a boutique marketing and communications firm focused on expanding the intellectual and communications infrastructure of the progressive movement.  In this role, Erica worked with the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law and the Roosevelt Institute among others.  Prior to this, Erica co-founded The Democracy Alliance, a donor collaborative whose partners have invested over $100 million in progressive organizations. Her early career included serving as Deputy National Finance Director for the Democratic National Committee during the 1996 presidential re-election campaign and as a consultant to a number of campaigns and political organizations. Erica is the author of the Practical Progressive: How to Build a 21st Century Political Movement.  She is the co-editor of Make Markets Be Markets, a definitive volume on financial reform.  She holds a BA in Communications from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1991) and an MBA from Wharton School of Business at UPenn (2000).


Abby Scribner

Practical Progress Writer-at-Large

Abby Scribner graduated from Kenyon College in 2013 with a double degree in English and Modern Languages (Russian and Spanish). She studies contemporary global literature from a postcolonial and feminist perspective, and she is especially interested in the intersections between literature and politics. Abby was involved in the nonprofit and social justice scene in Chicago for a year before recently moving to New York City. A Midwest native, she looks forward to practicing her new East Coast scowl.

Lydia Bassaly

Junior Associate

Lydia was born and raised in Cairo, Egypt and moved to Atlanta, Georgia eleven years ago. She graduated from Georgia State University with a degree in Public Policy, concentrating in Nonprofit Leadership and minoring in Psychology in 2014. After graduating, Lydia returned to Egypt to film a documentary on issues Egyptians face on a daily basis, along with volunteering at an orphanage. She joined the AP team as a Fundraising Junior Associate, and is passionate about economic equality, the Progressive Movement, and educating others on public policy. When not working, she enjoys hiking, playing her guitar and philosophical conversations with friends. 


DeVeria Flowers

Director of Finance and Operations 

Originally from Hampton, VA, DeVeria came to the DMV area fourteen years ago and is currently in the process of relocating to Charlotte, NC.  In her rare spare time, she likes to travel and loves to listen to a wide variety of music for relaxation.  Since coming to the DMV area, she has become extensively involved in the progressive political movement.  She has joined Agenda Project as the Director of Finance and Operations and is working to expand our capabilities so that we can be a major contender in the ever expanding Progressive Movement.


Erika Kalkofen

Junior Associate

Erika grew up part California girl and part DC native. Moving at a young age influenced her love for travel and ultimately her decision to head south for a degree in International Relations at the University of South Carolina. She continued her journey by studying abroad in China and Japan, which exposed her to what, exactly, international citizens thought of the American democratic process. These mostly negative views motivated her to get involved and, more importantly, get her generation involved. She joined USC’s Congressional Advisory Board, which presented student’s views, concerns, and potential solutions to relevant government representatives and organizations. Now, she hopes to continue these efforts together with the Agenda Project. She plans to join the Peace Corps and dreams of eventually becoming UN Secretary General. 

Andrew Leyder

Junior Associate

Andy is originally from Michigan, moved to DC at the end of 2014. He graduated from Albion College with a B.A in Political Science and Sociology with a concentration in Business Management and Public Policy. He spent a semester in Durban, South Africa conducting research on post-Apartheid education system. He also spent two summer interning with the Canadian government, interning in the House of Commons in Ottawa and the Canadian Embassy in Washington DC.  He has a passion for public policy and economics in both the United States and Canada.  Andy got into politics at a very young age, at the age of 8 he decided to run for mayor of his town. Although he did not win he found his passion for politics and policy. He hopes to go off to graduate school in the future to obtain a Masters in Public Policy. 

Morris B. Pearl

Board Chairperson

Morris B. Pearl is a board member of the Agenda Project and the Managing Director of Top Wonks, the Agenda Project’s initiative to amplify the voices of the country’s preeminent policy experts among lawmakers and the media. Mr. Pearl previously spent most of his career in the capital markets, on both the sell side and the buy side, being a go to guy when innovations in structured finance required innovations in computer software engineering to make them work.  Mr. Pearl started out on the sell side, back before mortgages were considered “credit” products, and then moved to BlackRock where he worked on projects for governments, regulators, and central banks assessing the cost of the banking crisis and subsequent bailouts to the taxpayers of several different countries.


Karl Sandrich

Junior Associate

Karl Sandrich was born and raised in Santa Barbara, California and attended Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. While at college he studied Philosophy and Religion, focusing on Continental Philosophy and wrote his thesis on the Philosophy of Sports. After graduating in 2012 he moved back to California where he taught high school following in the footsteps of his parents, both of whom are teachers. He then moved to the Bay Area where he ran fundraising campaigns for various progressive groups. He has long been interested in policy debates and the pitched battles that come from them. Additionally, he was trounced in his second grade student council election and thus follows politics to discover where his campaign went wrong all those years ago.


Justin Strekal

Deputy Director of Communications

Justin serves as the Deputy Director Communications at the Agenda Project. He has worked on Democratic campaigns for over 8 years and in 13 different states, and most recently served as Campaign Manager for Congressman Mark Takano. Shifting his focus out of electoral politics, Justin is ready to tackle some of the most pertinent issues facing our country today--most notably, the influence of money in politics. Justin saw first-hand the direct effect of dark money in the American political system working on multiple congressional campaigns in 2012 and ‘14. Moving forward, he is working towards a political system that is immune to loopholes and secrecy. As proud as one can be as a Cleveland native, he moved to the DC area in late 2014 and thoroughly enjoys public transportation and other pleasures that a well-organized society can produce.