Leavey was born to an American soldier stationed in Pisa, Italy, grew up mostly in New York, and attended Trinity University in Washington and got a master"s in American History from Pennsylvania State University.
Leavey came to Washington, District of Columbia in 1993, living in a small apartment in Crystal City. Though she did not have a regular job and had very little money, she managed to become quite well connected within District of Columbia politics. She was a consultant to Howard Dean during his presidential campaign and worked with Senators Tom Harkin and Harry Reid.
She was known for having the insider gossip before others, and for having a rare understanding of the personalities and complex rules that govern the Senate.
She started a monthly breakfast to connect journalists with figures in liberal politics including John Podesta, Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid. She was known for baking cookies for everyone from leading politicians to her postal worker
Though having few economic resources, Maria still managed to support her autistic younger brother, Andrew, who lives in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania. Leavey died of an undiagnosed heart condition that was hereditary in her family.
Had she had health insurance and access to regular medical checkups, she would likely have been treated and survived.
Her death is often cited by progressive activists as a wake-up call about the lack of resources flowing to dedicated activists who are outside the think tank sphere. The irony is that conservative groups, whose leaders are often stereotyped as stingy and heartless, tend to provide far better conditions for their troops than progressive organizations do. The right may or may not have more money, but it has used what it has to provide a living for the people who build its institutions, which have thrived as a result.
Maria deserved much better -- and so do the many like her who accept low wages to uphold their ideals.
Being able to pay the rent, get health insurance and even take a vacation would not corrupt them. — Joe Conason writing at salon.com
Maria wasn"t the type of person who would demand something for herself.
She just sacrificed rather than put her allies in an uncomfortable situation. This was the case even with health insurance.
She had many invaluable skills, but getting progressives to value her wasn"t one of them.
lieutenant is the disrespect towards people like Maria, a willingness to toss our best allies aside like unnecessary conveniences, that is our biggest moral flaw. I don"t know if the new progressive movement matters, or if we"re going to succeed. But what is very clear is that what we are doing is built on the willingness of people to sacrifice their lives and their time to work for change.
Our priorities are really messed up. When our organizations and groups allow people like Maria to die for their lack of health care, while at the same time funneling hundreds of millions of dollars into television commercials, it"s really bad. If it continues, we will fail.
lieutenant"s that simple.
— Matt Stoller writing at MyDD.