Neera Tanden: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

(Center for American Progress) Neera Tanden

Neera Tanden is the president of the Center for American Progress, an influential left-leaning think tank. The Center for American Progress has been in the public eye recently, ever since its website, ThinkProgress, suggested that Bernie Sanders was a hypocrite for attacking the wealthy. The site pointed out that Sanders himself is a wealthy man. On Saturday, Bernie Sanders fired back at the Center for American Progress. In a letter obtained by the New York Times, Sanders accused the think tank of working to “smear” him and other Democratic 2020 candidates.

A New York Times article argues that the “bad blood” between Neera Tanden and the Bernie Sanders campaign goes back over a decade. The Times reports that back in 2008, when Tanden was working for Hillary Clinton, she accompanied Clinton to an interview at the Center for American Progress. At that time, the Center for American Progress’s website was run by Faiz Shakir, the man who now runs Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. According to the New York Times, that 2008 meeting ended with Tanden “slugging” Shakir in the chest after he asked Hillary Clinton an uncomfortable question about the Iraq War.

The Center for American Progress has often been accused of being too close to Hillary Clinton and to centrists in the Democratic Party. Here’s what you need to know about Neera Tanden:


1. Sanders Said the Center for American Progress Has Also ‘Smeared’ Elizabeth Warren & Cory Booker

Bernie Sanders sent a scathing letter to board members of the Center for American Progress on April 13. The letter claimed that the Center for American Progress is playing a “destructive role” in what he called “the critical mission to defeat Donald Trump.” Sanders said the CAP has engaged in “personal attacks” against him : hesaid the group had published an article criticizing his “appearance” and his income from a book, and he also claimed the group had “dishonestly” attacked him for hypocrisy for his position on income inequality in America.

But Sanders also said that CAP had “smeared” Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, who are also seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination. Sanders wrote that CAP had “unfairly targeted” Elizabeth Warren by writing an article in 2017 which, he said, “echoed Donald Trump’s bad faith claims that she was being a hypocrite about her ancestry.” Sanders said that CAP had also published an article in October 2018 which said she was “hurting” Native American people. Finally, Sanders said that CAP had attacked Cory Booker for “moving in a progressive direction” and backing a prescription drug importation bill.


2. Sanders Said Neera Tanden ‘Belittles Progressive Ideas’ & Said the Center for American Progress May Be Influenced by Corporate Money

Sanders’ letter singles out the president of the Center for American Progress, Neera Tanden, for criticism. He writes, “Center for American Progress leader Neera Tanden repeatedly calls for unity while simultaneously maligning my staff and supporters and belittling progressive ideas.” Sanders added, “I and other Democratic candidates are running campaigns based on principles and ideas and not engaging in mudslinging or personal attacks on each other. Meanwhile the Center for American Progress is using its resources to smear Senator Booker, Senator Warren, and myself, among others.”

Sanders implied that CAP may be influenced by its corporate donors. He wrote, “I worry that the corporate money CAP receives is inordinately and inappropriately influencing the role it is playing in the progressive movement.”


3. Tanden Worked on Hillary Clinton’s First Presidential Campaign & Worked for the Bill Clinton White House

Tanden got her start in politics working for the 1988 presidential campaign of Michael Dukakis. Years later, she worked in the Bill Clinton White House, where she served as associate director for domestic policy; she also served as senior policy adviser to then-first lady Hillary Clinton. Later, Tanden went to work for Hillary Clinton, serving as legislative director and deputy campaign manager for Hillary Clinton’s senate campaign. She went on to serve as policy director for Hillary Clinton’s first presidential campaign.

Tanden later worked as director of domestic policy for the Obama-Biden presidential campaign. During the Obama administration, Tanden was senior adviser for health reform at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, working on provisions of the Affordable Care Act.


4. Tanden Is a Child of Immigrants & Her Family Was on Welfare for Years of Her Childhood

Tanden was born in Massachusetts to parents who had immigrated from India. When Tanden was five, her parents divorced, leaving her mother to raise Neera and her brother, Raj. The family was on welfare for nearly two years and received food stamps until Neera’s mother got a job as a travel agent, allowing her to put Neera and Raj through school.

Tanden told the Times of India that she is grateful for the help her family received from the government. But she also said that her immigrant mother instilled in her the value of hard work and giving back to the community.

Tanden went on to earn a BA from UCLA and a law degree from Yale.


5. Tanden & Her Husband Have Two Children

Tanden met her husband, an artist named Ben Edwards, while they were both working on the 1988 Michael Dukakis campaign. Tanden has described Edwards as her “better half” and writes about her pride in his work. The couple married in 1999. They have two children, Alina and Jaden.