The Can Kicks Back

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The Can Kicks Back (TCKB) describes itself as a "non-partisan, Millennial-driven campaign to fix the national debt and reclaim our American Dream."[1]

"The Can Kicks Back" video

According to the Washington Post, The Can Kicks Back is a "group of young deficit hawks making it their mission to warn the Millennial Generation about the dangers of an out-of-control deficit."[2] The group is the champion of stunts and videos, like handing out bags of empty tin cans to reporters[3] and teaching Alan Simpson to dance Gangnam style (see video). Simpson and Erskine Bowles of the Simpson-Bowles Commission are on the group's board, and it has the same goal as the campaign to Fix the Debt (a "grand bargain" by July 4; see below for more).

Kick the Can guy200px.jpg

TCKB has been fiscally sponsored by the Concerned Youth of America, a 501(c)(3) organization.[1] According to GuideStar,[4] Concerned Youth for America's "exempt status was automatically revoked by the IRS on February 22, 2012 for failure to file a Form 990... for 3 consecutive years."[4] Financial information about the group is not available as of January 23, 2013. As of February 2013, it appears now to be part of the "Fix the Debt" campaign, putting Fix the Debt's logo on its website and videos.

The Can Kicks Back traced back extinct organizations Lead...or Leave and Third Way

Jonathan Cowan, president of the Third Way organization is one of the major organizers and advisors for The Can Kicks Back. Cowan's increasing presence in the organization is significant given his past history as an advisor for Lead...or Leave, an extinct organization that was aimed at recruiting Generation X'ers as their main driving force for government involvement.[5] The group believed that by the time baby-boomers had reached the age of 65 in the year 2011, they will "start gobbling up pensions and health care benefits, a shock wave will blast people from their homes, rapidly plummet millions into poverty, and threaten the economic security and financial stability of our entire nation."[5]

In reality, Lead...or Leave ended up as a failed "conservative effort to gin up youth rebellion against Social Security and Medicare."[5] Founded in 1992 by Cowan and Rob Nelson, Lead...or Leave attracted media attention when it unsuccessfully tried to "get congressional candidates to pledge not to run again if the fiscal 1996 budget deficit ended up being more than half the size of the 1992 deficit."[5] In 1995, the Lead...the Leave dismembered, as it was later revealed the organization lacked the grassroots support and funding that it claimed to have on paper. As Eric Laursen of the Huffington Post writes,

"As it turned out, much of their "organizing" within the Gen X community had been a matter of smoke and mirrors. What they called "the largest grassroots college/twentysomething organization in the country," with over 1 million members and chapters at 115 colleges and in every state, actually had no paying members and manufactured that membership figure by counting every student at colleges "where it had at least one local, unelected representative," according to a report in The American Prospect."[5]

Ties to Pete Peterson's "Fix the Debt"

The Campaign to Fix the Debt is the latest incarnation of a decades-long effort by former Nixon man turned Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson to slash earned benefit programs such as Social Security and Medicare under the guise of fixing the nation's "debt problem."

The Can Kicks Back is a partner organization in the Fix the Debt Campaign.[6] The Can Kicks Back is not listed on the Peter G. Peterson Foundation website as a current project. From materials put out by the group, it appears to be not only a partner but a project of the Peterson-funded Fix the Debt campaign. TCKB shares office space with NAF and NAF's Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB),[7] but Fix the Debt references it as an independent group, as can be seen from this Facebook post:


The Peter G. Peterson Foundation gave NAF $2,050,000 from 2009 to 2011.[8]

Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson also both have known ties to Peter Peterson.[9]

This article is part of the Center for Media and Democracy's investigation of Pete Peterson's Campaign to "Fix the Debt." Please visit our main SourceWatch page on Fix the Debt.

About Fix the Debt
The Campaign to Fix the Debt is the latest incarnation of a decades-long effort by former Nixon man turned Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson to slash earned benefit programs such as Social Security and Medicare under the guise of fixing the nation's "debt problem." Through a special report and new interactive wiki resource, the Center for Media and Democracy -- in partnership with the Nation magazine -- exposes the funding, the leaders, the partner groups, and the phony state "chapters" of this astroturf supergroup. Learn more at and in the Nation magazine.


"Three-A-Week" Recruitment Challenge

The "Three-A-Week" Recruitment Challenge is a grassroots recruitment project launched by TCKB aimed at increasing "supporters" of their group by asking TCKB members to recruit three new supporters each week, who then recruit three more recruiters, etc., with President Obama's second inauguration as the deadline. The top recruiters are rewarded with prizes determined by TCKB.[10] The group was also endorsed by Senator Alan Simpson, who made a video as a part of the "Three-A-Week" challenge imploring young Americans to use social media as a tool to encourage their peers to join The Can Kicks Back. The video featured Alan Simpson doing a viral dance move known as "Gangnam Style."[11]


Advisory Board

Founding Team

  • Brandon Aitchison
  • Michael Eisenstadt
  • Jake Parent[13]


  • Ryan Schoenike: Executive Director
  • Nick Troiano: Field Director[13]


  • Joshua Boone: Legal Advisor
  • Tierra Warren: Finance Advisor[13]

Resources and Articles

Featured SourceWatch Articles on Fix the Debt

External Resources

External Articles


  1. 1.0 1.1 "About The Can Kicks Back", The Can Kicks Back, Accessed January 16, 2013.
  2. Suzy Khimm, Meet the millennial deficit hawks, Washington Post, November 12, 2012.
  3. Jeremy Duda, Just got a bag of empty soda cans from Fix The Debt delivered to me at work to urge feds to "stop kicking the can down the road." Cute., tweet,, January 15, 2013.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "GuideStar", Guide Star Non-Profit Database, Accessed January 23, 2013.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Eric Laursen, 'Third Way's Jon Cowan: Once Again, Ginning Up Faux Youth Outrage," The Huffington Post, September 4, 2012.
  6. "Partners", Fix the Debt, Accessed January 25, 2013.
  7. Paul Blumenthal and Christina Wilkie, Fix The Debt Campaign's Bipartisan Veneer Masks Conservative Backing, Huffington Post, December 3, 2012.
  8. Peter G. Peterson Foundation, New America Foundation/Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, organizational website, accessed January 2013.
  9. Public Accountability Initiative, "Peter G Peterson Interlocks: People in Common Orgs" LittleSis, Accessed January 17, 2012.
  10. "Three-A-Week Recruitment Challenge", The Can Kicks Back, Accessed January 18, 2013.
  11. "Video: Take the 'Three-A-Week' Challenge", YouTube, Accessed January 20, 2013.
  12. The Can Kicks Back, "Advisory Board", group website, accessed January 16, 2013.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 The Can Kicks Back, "TCKB Team", group website, accessed January 16, 2013.