Dan Smith Principal
Dan Smith, the former Staff Director of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and founder and former president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, joined The Sheridan Group in June of 2012 as a Principal.
One of our nation’s most successful experts at developing organizations and changing public policy, Dan brings an invaluable wealth of knowledge and real-world experience – both inside and outside of government - on what is required for nonprofits to achieve results. Dan comes to The Sheridan Group with a forthright commitment to use his unique skills to “help the good do better” at a time when strengthening the public interest advocacy community and accelerating change is imperative.
Dan’s most recent record of accomplishment as Staff Director of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), under the leadership of Senator Harkin, is unmatched.
The committee has jurisdiction over a broad and diverse portfolio of issues that touch the daily lives of all Americans: access to quality health care and education; drug safety; safe and healthy work environments, fair pay and the right to organize; and securing retirement savings and pensions for all Americans. Dan played a key role in the passage of a number of landmark pieces of legislation including the first update of the nation’s food safety laws in more than 70 years with The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010 and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, an integral component of the historic Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, reforming access to health care and the nation’s student loan program. In 2011, Dan led the staff level efforts culminating in the successful bipartisan HELP Committee mark up of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also known as “No Child Left Behind.”) With his long career in the US Senate, including serving as Chief of Staff to Senator Tom Harkin, Staff Director of the Senate Agriculture Committee and most recently as Staff Director of the HELP Committee, Dan brings deep expertise in the inner workings of Congress.
Dan has an equally impressive record outside of government as well. Dan successfully pioneered the concept of creating and effectively deploying a strong 501(c)(4) in the health non-profit arena as president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society. Over the span of ten years, Dan used his political expertise and organizational development skills to turn around a large nonprofit’s advocacy efforts and position it to win legislatively at the local, state, and federal levels – even against well-resourced opponents including the tobacco industry. During his tenure, the Society and ACS CAN partnered with other organizations to help make 28 states and the District of Columbia smoke-free. In 2007, for the first time in our nation’s history, US cancer deaths went down. Over the past 15 years, cancer death rates have dropped 11.4% among women and 19.2% among men.
Moreover, while at ACS CAN, Dan founded One Voice Against Cancer, a coalition of more than 40 cancer organizations. In partnership with The Sheridan Group, OVAC successfully fought for billions of dollars in funding for cancer research, prevention, and early detection.
Dan has significant political experience, delegate tracking for Al Gore’s 1988 presidential campaign, running a congressional race in his home state of Iowa, working to successfully re-elect Senator Harkin in 1990 and leading his re-election campaign in 1996. Dan also led the delegate selection process for Senator Harkin’s 1992 presidential campaign and later went on to run the successful Iowa general election campaign operation for the Clinton-Gore ticket.
A native of rural Iowa, Dan grew up as the youngest of six boys on a fourth generation family farm. He graduated with highest distinction from the University of Iowa in 1983. He was elected Phi Beta Kappa his junior year of college. He paid his way through Georgetown University Law Center by owning and operating a lucrative hay bailing business during the summers in Iowa. Dan received his law degree in 1986 and practiced with the Minneapolis law firm Leonard, Street and Deinard. In 2004, Dan completed the Executive Development Program at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.