CEF Staff


Sheryl Cohen

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

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 previous 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.

Owen Reilly

Owen Reilly


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.

Claire Shanklin

Claire Shanklin

Claire Shanklin joined the American Continental Group’s research team in August 2017. She works on a broad range of policy areas, including intellectual property, trade, education, and appropriations. Claire also helps organize fly-ins and events for ACG’s clients and the coalitions.

Prior to joining the ACG, Claire was a Federal Advocacy intern at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). As an undergraduate student, Claire interned with New York State Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. She also served as a Research Analyst at The Potomac Advocates.

In May 2017, Claire graduated summa cum laude from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Geneseo with Bachelors in Political Science and a minor in Economics.


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