Sheryl Cohen, Executive Director

Sheryl V. Cohen joined the American Continental Group in 2008. She is a veteran Senate staffer with nearly two decades of management, strategic planning, political, communications and fundraising experience. She has an extensive and diverse universe of contacts with members of the Senate and House and their staffs, as well as throughout the field of politics and campaigns.

Ms. Cohen served as Chief of Staff to United States Senator Christopher J. Dodd from 1999 to 2008, with the exception of the time she spent from January 2007-January 2008 managing his presidential campaign effort. During her tenure as Chief of Staff, her responsibilities included the Senator’s Chairmanship of the Committee on Banking with its broad jurisdiction over financial institutions, as well as his involvement in education, health, and other important issues before the Senate. She managed a staff of seventy-five and was responsible for the development and strategic execution of all policy, communications, and office management. She oversaw a budget of nearly six million dollars, all hiring and staff management, and the integration of competing Washington, Connecticut, and political responsibilities.

As Campaign Manager of the Dodd for President Campaign, she recruited a staff of over one hundred and thirty, built strategic ground operations in multiple states, created and managed departments in research, communications, policy, technology, political, field, fundraising and administration. The campaign raised nearly sixteen million dollars from a diverse national network ranging from leadership in the fields of business, finance and technology to extensive grassroots on-line support.

From 1995 – 1999 Ms. Cohen served as Senator Dodd’s Political Director during his tenure as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee (1995-1996) and as the Finance Director for his 1998 six million dollar reelection campaign.

Ms. Cohen also served as the Finance Director for Senator Joe Lieberman’s successful 1994 Senate campaign and prior to that was his liaison on women’s and children’s issues and grassroots organizing in the state of Connecticut.

She is a graduate of the University of Connecticut and attended the Georgetown University Graduate School of Foreign Service.

Sarah Abernathy, Deputy Executive Director

Sarah Abernathy joined American Continental Group in 2016 primarily to serve as Deputy Director of CEF. She has close to 30 years of experience working on education and budget issues in both Congress and in the Administration, including at the Department of Education, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Department of Health and Human Services.

For the last 18 years Sarah worked on the Democratic staff of the House Budget Committee, most recently serving as Senior Policy Coordinator focusing on budget issues relating to education, social services, and job training as well as environmental issues. She helped lead and manage the staff to develop goals and policy, including budget legislation. As the education staffer, she was responsible for collaborating with a range of stakeholders including the Administration, the advocacy community, the Congressional Budget Office, and Members to Congress to create and analyze budget options and craft strategies for their successful adoption. She developed special expertise in student financial aid policy, appropriations analysis, and budget process. Before her stint with the Budget Committee she spent 6 years as a legislative assistant for two Democratic House members.

From 1994-1998 Sarah worked at the U.S. Department of Education in the Planning and Evaluation Service where she focused on rehabilitation services and adult and vocational education issues. She also wrote a report on improving low-performing schools and staffed the Under Secretary’s waiver request board. During that time, she was detailed to the Office of Management and Budget’s education branch where she supervised policy and budgets for special education and vocational rehabilitation. She was also detailed to the Health and Human Services’ regional office in San Francisco where she worked on child care and Head Start programs.

Sarah graduated from Williams College and also earned a Master’s in Public Affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.

Julie Philp, Principal

Julie Philp has 14 years of experience working on and with Capitol Hill in a variety of issue areas. Prior to joining American Continental Group, she served as Director of Federal Affairs at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, representing more than half a dozen Fortune 500 companies, and as a consultant at the American Capitol Group, specializing in health care policy.

During her time on Capitol Hill, she served as Legislative Director for Congressman John Campbell, where she handled tax, budget, immigration, education, and transportation. Julie was hired by Campbell to build his legislative office following his special election in December of 2005. She worked with the California Congressional offices on education, tax, and health care policy during the passage of the Deficit Reduction Act and on immigration policy during the debate of immigration reform. Julie drafted an amendment to the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act for Campbell, and successfully shepherded the language to passage just ten days after Campbell was sworn into the House of Representatives.

Before joining the California delegation, Julie focused on health care, transportation, and foreign affairs policy as the Senior Legislative Assistant for Congressman Gil Gutknecht. Her first role on Capitol Hill was as the Foreign Affairs Legislative Assistant for Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, joining the office just a month before the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

Julie graduated from the University of North Carolina at-Chapel Hill in 1997 with a degree in Communications. Prior to working on the Hill, she was an English teacher in Miami, Florida, and Annapolis, Maryland.

Molly Ahearn, Principal

Molly Ahearn arrived at ACG on Super Tuesday in March 2016 with over a decade’s worth of government and non-profit experience. Ms. Ahearn was most recently Director of Government Affairs for the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) where she lobbied both the House and Senate, Republicans and Democrats, for the owners of more than 22,000 independent community pharmacies that represent an $81.4 billion healthcare marketplace and employed more than 314,000 individuals.

Prior to NCPA, Ms. Ahearn was Director of Congressional Affairs at the the American Medical Group Association (AMGA) where she represented 430 multi-specialty medical groups that employ over 150,000 physicians who annually treat more than 120 million patients in 49 states.

After graduating from Georgetown University with a Bachelor of Arts in Government and Women’s and Gender Studies, Ms. Ahearn began her career in government with U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer from New York. Over the course of 5 years Ms. Ahearn held a variety of administrative and policy positions with Senator Schumer: from Deputy Scheduler in his Manhattan office to Policy Advisor on the Joint Economic Committee during the Senator’s Chairmanship of the committee. Ms. Ahearn worked on a range of issues including financial services, consumer protection and healthcare though the passage of both the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank Financial Regulatory Reform Act.

Ms. Ahearn also worked in the House of Representatives for Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY-3) where her portfolio included healthcare, social security, elderly/senior issues, financial services, budget, tax, consumer protection, campaign finance reform, trade, telecommunications, labor and agriculture.

In 2012 Ms. Ahearn graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a Master of Arts in Government and a concentration in Political Communications. Through her father, she is a 4th generation Washingtonian. She lives in the District in Northeast with her boyfriend Alec and her dog Mowgli.

Alex Hoffberg, Associate

Alex Hoffberg joined the staff at American Continental Group in March of 2014. He tracks a variety of legislative issues and researches current issues to help craft strategies and talking points for clients. Prior to joining ACG, Alex interned with Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA) and worked on several Democratic political campaigns. He served as a field organizer for both a U.S. Senate campaign and the 2012 presidential campaign, and he was a regional field and political director for a mayoral campaign.

Alex graduated from Villanova University in 2012 with a dual B.A. in Economics and Political Science with a minor in Arab and Islamic Studies.

Owen Reilly, Associate

Owen Reilly joined the staff at American Continental Group in March 2016. He works on a variety of legislative issues, including those related to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.

Prior to joining ACG, Owen developed meaningful experience at both the state and federal level. Most recently, he worked in Senator Richard Durbin’s (D-IL) personal office. He also served as a legislative fellow in the New York State Senate, where he managed a diverse legislative portfolio ranging from healthcare and education to law enforcement and criminal justice initiatives. While in law school, he was a law clerk with Senator Durbin’s Judiciary Committee staff and interned with the New York Attorney General’s Office.

Owen graduated from the State University of New York at Fredonia in 2010 with a dual B.A. in English and Philosophy, and he received his J.D. at Indiana University Maurer School of Law in 2014. He is admitted to the bar in New York.

When Our Students Succeed, Our Nation Succeeds.

Founded in 1969, the Committee for Education Funding (CEF) and its 117 member organizations have worked toward the common goal of achieving adequate federal support for our nation's education system. Nonpartisan and nonprofit, CEF is America's largest education coalition, reflecting the broad spectrum of the education community.