Senior Vice President
For more than 20 years, Pete Rafle has specialized in smart, strategic communication, guided by the organization’s mission and driven by its policy and culture-change objectives. Equally comfortable among scientific researchers, constitutional lawyers or grassroots advocates, he is a seasoned translator of complex scientific, legal and legislative issues into language that resonates with non-experts without sacrificing nuance or accuracy. His resume includes campaigns on issues as diverse as climate and energy policy, energy efficiency, sustainable agriculture, wilderness protection, health care access and school discipline.
Pete leads Spitfire’s work for the Pisces Foundation, guiding implementation of the foundation’s overall communication strategy, and also spearheading strategic messaging initiatives related to “superpollutants” – short-lived pollution like methane and hydrofluorocarbons that are many times more potent global warmers and represent a crucial opportunity for short term action to address climate change. He also leads Spitfire’s partnership with the Walton Family Foundation, helping the foundation’s staff and board use its voice to advance its grantmaking strategies around coastal restoration, sustainable fisheries, watershed protection and water management on the Colorado and Mississippi Rivers.
He captains Spitfire’s “Planning to Win” campaign strategy workshops, which provide social-change leaders with a multi-day bootcamp on the fundamentals of effective preparation for multi-faceted sustained advocacy campaigns. Pete is responsible for Spitfire’s current work on the We Are the Arctic Campaign to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, once and for all. Pete led Spitfire’s ongoing work with the Heinz Endowments, helping advocates in western Pennsylvania mount a five-year collaborative effort to secure “the air we need, for the healthy economy we want.” He also oversees Spitfire’s work with coalitions working to restore the Gulf of Mexico from the damage done by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. One of Spitfire’s most seasoned and dynamic trainers, Pete has led workshops to teach advocates the art of strategic communication in more than a dozen U.S. states and as far afield as Genoa, Johannesburg and Jakarta. His reputation as a steady, thoughtful facilitator makes him a top choice for organizations, foundations and coalitions who need help grappling with tough decisions and challenging conversations.
Pete came to Spitfire from the United States Senate, where he was communications director for the Environment and Public Works Committee, providing strategic counsel to Senator Barbara Boxer during her first four years as chairman of the committee. In addition to acting as primary media strategist for the committee’s legislative docket – including toxics and children’s environmental health rules, comprehensive climate change legislation, clean energy job creation, clean air and water bills, and transportation policy – he worked extensively with the Senator’s in-state staff on California environmental and infrastructure issues. He also consulted on a volunteer basis in Washington and in California as part of the Senator’s successful 2010 re-election campaign.
Before heading to Capitol Hill, Pete spent five years as director of advocacy communications at The Wilderness Society, where he led a cooperative integrated communication campaign that was instrumental in defending the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil and gas development, and helped shape TWS’ efforts to incorporate strategic communication in all its program areas and its network of regional offices. At DDB Issues & Advocacy, he worked to develop and implement communication strategies for issues ranging from energy efficiency to sustainable fisheries and fair-trade coffee. From 1992 to 1999, he was communications director for Trout Unlimited, where he helped the grassroots fisheries conservation organization push back ill-conceived congressional attacks on the Clean Water Act and created a television series showcasing the group’s work that aired for several seasons on ESPN. He was also responsible for establishing the organization’s first-ever online presence and served as editor and publisher of Trout Magazine, TU’s quarterly member publication. His resume also includes a stint as senior writer for Thirteen/WNET in New York, one of public broadcasting’s flagship television stations. A graduate of Yale University, Pete also holds a black belt in the Korean martial art of Tae Kwon Do. He and his wife Margo have two children. He’s an avid songwriter, bassist, guitarist, photographer and fly fisherman.