Our History

David Axelrod, founder

At AKPD, we’re proud of our history. And we think when you get to know a little about where we have been, you’ll have a better sense of the unique strategy, discipline and creativity we bring to our work.

David Axelrod began his career as a journalist, and before long he was the Chicago Tribune’s political editor and columnist, the youngest person in the paper’s history to hold those positions.

But Axelrod’s passion was politics. He left the Trib and managed Paul Simon’s upset victory for the U.S. Senate in 1984. Following that race he founded Axelrod and Associates, which later became AKPD Message and Media.

He launched the firm with a mission—to provide superior strategic and communications advice and advertising for Democratic candidates and causes, and to do so with a sense of purpose and passion for ideals that underlie Democratic campaigns.

His expertise as a journalist proved invaluable and he assembled a team of experts to advise candidates on news coverage, fighting campaigns in the papers and on the evening news as a prelude to masterful campaign advertising. John Kupper left a press secretary post on Capitol Hill to join Axelrod in this new venture, and for the past 20 years Kupper has been widely recognized as one of the nation’s experts in crafting and delivering campaign messages.

Axelrod’s vision of a unique approach to political consulting was put to work in dozens of races throughout the country. And as the firm stacked up win after win, the political world began to take notice. Axelrod was dubbed the most successful political consultant “between the coasts.”

As the firm grew, new talent joined the cause. David Plouffe, a successful Executive Director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and manager of Presidential and U.S. Senate campaigns, joined the firm as Senior Strategist and managed Washington, D.C. operations. John Del Cecato, a seasoned press secretary and veteran of battles in New York City and throughout the country, caught Axelrod’s attention and demonstrated a talent for writing and producing ads.

With a powerhouse team and a proven approach, bigger races and bigger wins followed. Governors, Senators and candidates for President looked to AKPD for message and media expertise. And the firm’s clients kept winning.

In 2007 the AKPD team was faced with a daunting challenge. As Americans grew weary with the Bush era, an unprecedented hunger for hope and change swept the nation. Illinois’ brilliant and charismatic junior Senator captured the nation’s attention. Axelrod had an early sense of the profound discontent driving the mood of the nation, and like others, he saw qualities in Senator Obama that fit the needs of the country at this extraordinary moment.

Senator Obama became a candidate, and hired Plouffe as Campaign Manager and Axelrod as Chief Strategist. A campaign was born. Axelrod and Plouffe reached out to Larry Grisolano, a leading California consultant and a veteran of Presidential campaigns, to serve as Senior Strategist, directing all opinion research and paid media for the campaign. Kupper helped with state and national strategy and helped direct message strategy for speakers at the Democratic National Convention. Del Cecato wrote and produced some of the campaign’s most memorable and effective television ads, and helped develop the campaign’s overall message strategy. Del Cecato’s ads captured the unique voice and charisma of the candidate and delivered a sharp compelling message.

The rest of the story is well known.

Barack and Michelle Obama watch election night returns

Barack and Michelle Obama watch election night returns.

The Obamas and Bidens celebrate victory with David Plouffe and David Axelrod

The Obamas and Bidens celebrate victory with David Plouffe and David Axelrod.


Barack Obama thanks David Plouffe, his campaign manager

Barack Obama thanks David Plouffe, his campaign manager.

The TV news makes it official: Barack Obama is elected President

The TV news makes it official: Barack Obama is elected President.