by Susan Josephs
Four years ago, Laurie Moskowitz, the veteran domestic political organizer, had only dabbled in issues of global poverty and international affairs. But when offered a job at ONE, the prominent anti-poverty advocacy organization co-founded by U2's Bono, she wholeheartedly accepted. “I’ve never been afraid to take a risk,” she says.
Since then, Moskowitz has visited remote African villages “where there’s very little food and no light at night” and successfully applied her decades of expertise as a Democratic political strategist and grassroots organizer to fighting extreme poverty in Africa. As the senior director of ONE’s U.S. campaigns, the Washington, D.C.-based veteran political operative currently spends her days creating and leading complex initiatives such as recently introducing a bill in Congress to provide electricity to 50 million African citizens. With a collaborative management style, she coordinates with ONE’s other departments and partners with like-minded organizations to strategize “how the world will get to the next phase in ending poverty.”
“I don’t think most people understand poverty until they’ve seen it first-hand,” says Moskowitz, who has now traveled to five African countries and feels especially inspired by her meetings with young people. “What drives me is thinking about the children of Africa and how we’re not just providing aid but working in partnership to help them rise to their full potential.”
“I want to get up every morning and do good in the world. That’s why I choose to work in politics.”
Raised in Northern California, Moskowitz grew up in a Reform Jewish household with “Capital ‘D’ democratic values” and where politics were always discussed. “My family believed that you give people a hand, that not everybody is born into the same situation,” she says.
Moskowitz discovered her calling as a political organizer through serving as a chapter president of the youth group BBG, the girls’ branch of BBYO. “That’s where I learned to recruit people, plan events and manage a budget,” she says. “The whole skill set just spoke to me.”
After receiving a political science degree from UC Berkeley, Moskowitz worked on environmental issues for the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group and decided to pursue a career in electoral politics after “we kept losing on issues by one or two votes. I wanted to help elect those one or two people who would pass those bills,” she recalls.
Crediting her success to “good, gut political instincts” and a gift for “using numbers and technology,” Moskowitz was hired to work on Senator Carl Levin’s 1996 campaign and for the Democratic National Committee, where she served in a variety of roles and helped Al Gore win the popular vote in the 2000 presidential election. In 2001, she co-founded the pioneering political consulting agency FieldWorks, which specialized in grassroots strategies and assisted in the successful election of Democratic candidates including Janet Napolitano, who won the 2002 Arizona gubernatorial race.
“We were the only female grassroots folks in the business,” recalls Moskowitz of overcoming an “old boy’s network, where our competitors were all men. But having my own business also allowed me flexibility as a mother. I could bring my babies into the office.”
The mother of Jake, now 13, and Sammy, 11, Moskowitz devotes her spare time to serving on the board of trustees for Green Century Funds, which promotes environmentally sustainable investing, and hosting gourmet kosher dinners with her husband Steve Rabinowitz for “Sips and Suppers,” an annual Washington, DC-based event to fight homelessness and hunger benefitting DC Central Kitchen and Martha’s Table. “At the end of the day, I want to get up every morning and do good in the world,” she says. “That’s why I choose to work in politics.”