Bill Samuels has a lifetime of experience as a successful businessman and CEO, high tech entrepreneur, innovative political thinker and activist.
Raised in Rochester and Canandaigua, Bill’s family and political roots are deeply anchored in upstate New York. His great-grandparents were from Fulton, NY, where his great-grandfather ran for mayor, and his father Howard founded a plastics company, Kordite, in Victor, just outside of Rochester. With products like Baggies and Hefty Trash Bags, Kordite (now Patciv) is still a major employer in upstate NY and today is one of the largest plastics companies in the United States.
As an undergraduate at MIT, Bill earned degrees in political science, economics and engineering, before attending Harvard Law School to get his JD. Upon graduating, Bill made the decision to engage in socially responsible businesses, turning down a job on Wall Street to start an education company dedicated to training entry level workers who lacked the skills to get and keep a job.
In 1966 delegates revolt at the party bosses choice for lieutenant governor and nominated Howard Samuels.
Bill working the phones for his dad.
While growing his small business into an innovative international corporation, Bill became active in the movement against the Vietnam War, raising money to finance the 1971 Vietnam Veterans Against the War March on Washington, one of the pivotal moments in the anti-war movement.
As a socially-responsible entrepreneur and business owner, Bill became one of the founders of the Council on Economic Priorities (CEP). For over 30 years, CEP was the premiere public interest organization focusing on companies’ policies on the environment, women & minority advancement, corporate disclosure of information, labor relations, family benefits, and worker rights. CEP publically rated companies on their behavior so investors and others could be well-informed about a business’ corporate practices.
After building his education company to a worldwide enterprise with operations in Brazil, Europe, Mexico and Asia, Bill took the company public before moving on to other entrepreneurial ventures. He built ACTV, a cutting-edge interactive education and media company. Working with investors such as the Washington Post, the company developed some of the core intellectual property for interactive television and the web including two of the first fifty patents issued on the internet, before being sold to an affiliate of Liberty Media in 2002.
Bill is currently partners with his brother, Howard Samuels, to run the Hills Treatment Center in Los Angeles, a facility dedicated to helping people overcome addiction, and he serves as chairman of Resonant Software, Inc., a provider of groundbreaking productivity software to financial services businesses.
Marie and Bill Samuels with Victoria Kennedy, Senator Kennedy,
and Bill’s sister, Jacqui Samuels
While developing these businesses, Bill has remained involved in progressive politics, fundraising for Democratic candidates and speaking out on key issues. In 2000, he helped finance the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of New York’s notoriously gerrymandered redistricting plan. In 2001, he led a civil rights lawsuit against the Gramercy Park Trust.
The Gramercy Park suit was brought on behalf of fourth and fifth graders from nearby Washington Irving School, who had been brought into the park by the National Arts Club. The children were ejected by a representative of the Trust, leading Bill to launch the lawsuit and ultimately win a significant financial settlement for the students due to the derogatory way they had been treated.
In the 2004 Presidential campaign, many Democrats were outraged by the “swiftboating” and lies of the Republican Party against John Kerry. Bill, who had known Kerry since his anti-war activities in the 1970’s, responded with action, producing the documentary Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry. The documentary set the record straight on Kerry, rebutting the baseless Swiftboat attacks against the Senator.
After the 2004 elections, Bill turned his attention to state politics, working with Eliot Spitzer to raise money to help the Democratic Party regain the State Senate. He also funded the launch of The Albany Project, a political blog, and founded the Blue Tiger Democrats, an innovative grassroots organization designed to reconnect the Party to its communities.
Designed to be the civic engagement arm of the Democratic Party, Blue Tiger Democrats organized “Welcome Home” programs to help returning Vets readjust to civilian life in Erie and Niagara counties, held computer training to seniors at the Tilden Democratic Club in New York City, and provided similar services in New York and Michigan, reconnecting the Party to its base. This has had a lasting impact in Michigan, where the state Democratic Party has built out their Blue Tiger initiative, making civic engagement a core part of their grassroots campaign.
In the 2008 elections, Bill served as Finance Chairman for the New York Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, leading to Democrats gaining control of the State Senate for the first time in decades. In this role, Bill developed a deep understanding of the structural problems in the legislature that prevent good people from running for office, and ultimately corrupt so many of the people who do choose to run.
Bill with his wife Marie with the President.
Despite his best hopes for the new majority, Bill was deeply disappointed when the Senate Democratic Conference failed to make the dramatic reforms necessary to allow Albany to function effectively. His disappointment turned to outrage when the Democrats, led by John Sampson and Malcolm Smith, desperate to hold onto the perks of the majority at any cost, cynically re-accepted Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate back onto their side of the aisle following their failed June 2009 coup.
Bill resigned and launched the New Roosevelt Initiative, whose mission was to oust Pedro Espada from office.
Bill was the first to endorse Gustavo Rivera in a crowded field more than two months before the primary. New Roosevelt opened an office in the Bronx, built from scratch a field operation, executed a targeted mail operation directed at Bronx Primary voters, and conducted polling and get out the votes effort.
Primary Day 2010 was a huge success. Bill had led New Roosevelt Initiative to oust the traitors in the failed June 2009 coup defeating State Senators Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate. Bronx and Queens voters joined Bill in sending a clear message to Albany lawmakers to end corrupt practices of Albany.
With its success, the New Roosevelt Initiative was closed.
Bill’s father, Howard Samuels, was a leader in New York state politics for many years, serving as Undersecretary of Commerce and Director of the Small Business Administration for President Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1966, Howard Samuels, ran for Lieutenant Governor as a pro-business, reform Democrat against the political machine. With his experience as a CEO and entrepreneur, Bill is now working against that same kind of machine for much the same reasons as his dad.
Bill is one of 10 children — eight sisters and one brother — and is married to Marie Samuels and has a 18-year-old daughter, Kitty.
He currently is Chairman of EffectiveNY and serves on Mayor de Blasio’s Fund to Advance New York City and Letitia James’ Fund for Public Advocacy.