Organizing for America

OFA and the DNC: ACORN 2.0

If elections were like football games, this would be your two minute warning.  All of the passion, energy and renewed interest in politics that propelled the tea party movement of 2009 opens the door to a new level of involvement. As patriot groups around the country prepare for the November 2010 elections, a quiet force has been building behind the scenes.

Investigative reporter Carol Greenberg's work inside Obama's Organizing for America has already helped expose the OFA's connection to ACORN and its network of top Democrat party insiders. Greenberg's latest article explains the OFA plan to deploy rapid response teams to Ohio ahead of the elections.

Any liberal discussion of Ohio includes the sentiment that “Ohio is ground zero for the left.” Long a playground for groups like ACORN, they conducted voter experiments, filed lawsuits against the state and their voter fraud shenanigans led to a civil RICO suit brought by the Buckeye Institute. ACORN's settlement of the case required that it surrender its business license in the state.

Unfortunately for conservatives, the awareness of ACORN's network of organizations and mob like behavior come at a time when he same political workeasily be done by Obama's permanent campaign. A campaign that was absorbed into the Democratic National Committee after it ceased being Obama for America.

Obama's ACORN cronies designed a system that could be substantial from any number of leftist organizations, including the DNC.

“Apparently, ACORN and Project Vote were 'smack dab' in the middle of another one of Obama’s voter registration drives. According to ACORN reports, ACORN was Catalist’s first client. Let me be clear, the ACORN VBASE, is the archetype of the Obama campaign. ACORN’s technology combined with union money elected a president.”

Draft slides of a 2006 Project Vote PowerPoint show that Project Vote's method could produce the desired results to sway an election.

 

Critics of Project Vote and ACORN underestimate their effectiveness in contacting voters to move them on an issue or to the polls.

Other slides detail their plans to turn this Voter Mobilization Network over to the leftist friends (including the DNC).

The left may scoff at whether this connection exists, but Karyn Gillette, then development director of Project Vote, also gave me a copy of the 2004 DNC donor list to work from. Karyn Gillette came to Project Vote from Ohio where she was employed by Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner.

“According to a court filing in Ohio alleging ACORN violated state Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) law, 'Project Vote, regularly advises Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner (hereinafter “Secretary Brunner”) on election strategy, and recently issuing a news release claiming credit for Secretary Brunner’s directive restricting challenges to suspected unlawful voter registrations.'

"Maurice Thompson, the attorney handling the Ohio RICO action, told me late yesterday, 'Evidence of collusion amongst ACORN, Project Vote, the Obama Campaign and Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner comes as no surprise to us -- these supposedly separate entities appear to have been co-mingling funds, trading political tips, and helping each other gain power for years now.'"

Here is a screen shot of the email Gillette sent to ACORN.org email addresses containing the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Though a number of news outlets like the New York Times had copies of the DNC donor list,  it was never made public, until today.

Click here to view the DNC major donor list ACORN used to fundraise for its voter registration drives.

The OFA's organizing machine can track millions of calls and mobilize countless volunteers and it would behoove the right to take notice. Twitter and Facebook may spread the message and connect folks but there is a serious need for some good old fashion grassroots door knocking. If conservatives are going to win in November there must be a combination of new and old organizing. In 2004 Ohio surprised the nation by going red for Bush. As many others have noted, there was initially a

...lack of outreach among African American communities. Karl Rove proved in 2004 with black voters in Ohio that persons should not assume that African Americans will consistently vote progressive."

Organizing for America has stopped the game clock with the unveiling of Vote 2010. November is the goal and they have the ball. Kickoff events are scheduled around the country for June 5th. Inviting emails with subjects like “What are you doing Saturday?” are making the rounds.

Conservatives, what are you doing this Saturday? If you want to win in November, it should be attending one of those kickoff parties. OFA, it's the new ACORN. Learn who they are and how they operate. Click here to find an event near you or to sign up for their updates. If the OFA can continue to organize to pass Obama's agenda and maintain the Congressional majorities, and all of the momentum of the past year and a half will be lost.

 

How ACORN Paved the Way for the Obama Regime and Socialized Health care

As patriots from across America prepare to descend on Washington, DC to protest the government takeover of health care, the Obama administration is touting the impending vote in the House of Representatives as “historic.” Progressive organizations have been preparing for the moment for decades and not even the outcry of millions of Americans will stop them from pushing their radical agenda through.

 

Ironically, the past week has been filled with numerous stories of how ACORN is disbanding across the country. News outlets from Politico to the New York Times run stories detailing the demise of ACORN. Of course, some are skeptical about whether ACORN is truly going away:

"In an age of lawlessness, rules for some out of government favor, and special privileges for special classes, racketeers and criminals need only change their suit and their hat and live another day to rob, steal, cheat, and engage in human trafficking... "

Conveniently for the Obama administration the “demise” of ACORN could not have come at a better time. As pictures of empty ACORN offices fill the news, Obama pushes forward with an ACORN planned and approved agenda.

 

In July of last year ACORN honored the work of Senator Charles Schumer, Rep. Luis Gutierrez and Rep. Maxine Waters at their 39th Anniversary celebration. The invitation email stated:

"P.S. ACORN’s grassroots leadership believes we are experiencing a once-in-a-generation opportunity and must not squander this moment. Your generosity is needed now more than ever. Thanks."

ACORN's socialist agenda has always included some form of universal health care and like many of its “campaigns” this is not the first time ACORN has pushed for national change. The group, which was founded in Arkansas 40 years ago, maintained friendly relations with Bill Clinton when he was Governor of Arkansas and then President. The result of this relationship was HillaryCare. Americans fought back and ACORN was forced to back down. However, ACORN was not defeated and began to put a set of conditions in place that in the right political climate, would ensure victory. Michelle Malkin explains a 2008 ACORN memo on why Obamacare is so important:

“Why do they want Obamacare? An internal ACORN memo I obtained from August 2008 makes the motives clear. 'Over our 38 years, health care organizing has never been a major focus either nationally or locally for ACORN,' wrote ACORN Philadelphia region director Craig Robbins. 'But increasingly, ACORN offices around the country are doing work on health care.' The goal: 'Building ACORN Power.' The memo outlines the ACORN/HCAN partnership and strategy of opposing any programs that rely on “unregulated private insurance” – and then parlaying political victory on government-run health care 'to move our ACORN agenda (or at least part of it) with key electeds that we might otherwise not be able to pull off.'

The objective, in other words, is to piggyback and exploit Obamacare to improve and protect their political health.”

ACORN's famous liberal experiments were never outwardly dubbed as socialist action items but within the ranks of employees we knew that what made ACORN great was “fighting capitalism.” By never using certain words with members and outsiders, ACORN painted a picture of the poor rising out of poverty and demanding their fair share. In 2006 ACORN partnered with SEIU on several healthcare campaigns across the country

In California, home of Maxine Waters, ACORN's healthcare campaign in San Francisco mirrors the same tactics used by Obama to pass Obamacare.

“Health: Last year (’05) we saved health clinics. This year we provided the field experience to win a form of universal healthcare. David Sharples staffed the leadership on the campaign with leader Gisselle Quesada. Using the tax program to survey people on health needs, we were able to build a quick base, identify members who could put a face on the problem, and move numerous members on multiple fronts to move the key supervisor and win the campaign.”

According to the 2006 report, ACORN has been working with hospitals to introduce "universal healthcare" at the local levels and that success was the precursor to Obamacare.

 

The excerpts above are from a 2006 report available here.

The report goes on to state that even ACORN's non-profit affiliate Project Vote was somehow involved in healthcare

"Our issue-based GOTV program targeted some 686,796 people for an average of three contacts each. For example, Project Vote’s GOTV workers knocked on 396,273 doors in Ohio alone. Similar to our Voter Registration work, canvassers relate participation in the elections to salient issues in low- and moderate-income communities, such as healthcare..."

Critics on the left will state that it is a coincidence that ACORN and Obama's old employer Project Vote are both advocating for government run healthcare, but all of the evidence suggests that Obama and Congress are settling debts with their old friends.

Before the ACORN embezzlement scandal and the prostitution videos ACORN was more open about its influence on Capitol Hill. The aforementioned 2006 report has another tidbit about the ACORN political machine:

Immediately after the 2006 mid-term elections when the Democrats took control of Congress members were made aware of who put them there. ACORN used its organizing and voter registration arms to set the stage for Obamacare. Newbies like Democrats Sherrod Brown and Claire Mccaskill were just as beholden to ACORN as long standing members of Congress from ACORN districts. The excerpt and screen shot can also be found in the 2006 report:

"Furthermore, we are working to make sure that key leaders in Congress fully understand the role that ACORN played in the 2006 elections: we are working collaboratively with the political department to ensure that the impact of our political work is widely known and appreciated."

According to insiders, before the 2008 election ACORN and SEIU were so confident that Obama would win that a meeting in Santa Fe, New Mexico had an agenda that included a session entitled: Emerging Strategies III: Healthcare – Regime Change Priority with Richard Kirsch, Executive Director HCAN: Health Care for America Now

Regime Change?  A quick look at Wikipedia gives us an inkling as to what ACORN and SEIU are up to:

"In politics, a regime is the form of government: the set of rules, cultural or social norms, etc. that regulate the operation of government and its interactions with society. For instance, the United States has one of the oldest regimes still active in the world, dating to the ratification of its Constitution in 1789.

The term is also used to distinguish what is actually being enforced from what is considered legitimate. Enforcement of an unconstitutional statute would be a regime but not a law."

IIf one follows the money, one name (not surprisingly) emerges: George Soros. The Soros backed Democracy Alliance has pumped untold millions into groups that include ACORN and the architect of Obama's permanent campaign (Organizing for America), Harold Ickes's Catalist. The Democracy Alliance vision includes changing America through initiatives like health care.

With leftist billionaires lining up to ensure a permanent majority, the march towards socialism has been a well funded one.

"...George Soros and other wealthy liberals formed a loose-knit group to consider how to fund a political comeback. Their answer: Create a permanent political infrastructure of nonprofits, think tanks, media outlets, leadership schools, and activist groups—a kind of 'vast left-wing conspiracy' to compete with the conservative movement. The group they created –called the Democracy Alliance (DA)..."

Though the fall of ACORN was not anticipated, ACORN like the DA is a taxable nonprofit and its structure allows for such restructuring. Taxable nonprofit?  Matthew Vadum explains:

"Rob Stein explained the group’s legal structure to the Hudson panel:

'It is a taxable nonprofit. Think of it as a corporation that does not make a profit and doesn’t aspire to make a profit. We’re an association of individuals....'

"In other words, the DA has no interest in asking the IRS to register it as tax-exempt or to allow contributions to it to be tax-deductible. Were the DA to request tax-exemption as a 501(c)(4) lobby group or as a 527 political group, it would have to abide by a dizzying array of legal constraints. Members of the Democracy Alliance may want to impose Big Government bureaucracy and red tape on Americans, but the friends of George Soros are too rich to be bothered."

Was ACORN willing to go underground to save Obamacare? Is the Pope Catholic? ACORN's own 5 Year Political Plan describes a structure that is local in nature and prides itself on being that way.

ACORN's temporary fall from grace will allow it to go underground with the tacit support of the White House and use Obamacare to rally its base for a 2012 victory unless the ACORN roots of Obama's socialist agenda are exposed.

 

 

 

 

An Inside Look at Organizing for America Part II: ACORN for America?

Part II of our inside look at Organizing for America was inspired by the investigative work done by Carol Greenberg Thank you Carol for getting involved and driving this story.

Anita MonCrief

From a tiny acorn, a mighty oak can grow. With ACORN's help, Barack Obama "grew" from an ACORN community organizer and instructor, to an ACORN lawyer and ACORN benefactor as a board member of donor organizations, to an ACORN-backed Illinois state senator, to ACORN's favorite United States Senator, to ACORN's candidate for President of the United States in 2008. This article shows how ACORN and its allies helped organize America to make Obama President in this, the computer age.

Barack Obama's meteoric rise from rookie Senator to President had man marveling at the efficiency and breadth of his campaign. Obama's ability to fund raise had seasoned experts playing catch up while his voter registration money machine operated in the background. In 2008, the New York Times explored a seemingly innocent tactic the Democrats were utilizing to elect Obama. The article stated several times that the Republicans had honed this technique and Democrats were just “borrowing the play.”

“For years, Republicans had the landscape to themselves. More recently, however, Democrats, along with such allies as trade unions and progressive groups, have poured millions of dollars into building two formidable databanks. One is managed by the Democratic National Committee and can be used by candidates up and down the ballot. The other is Catalist, a for-profit company headed by Harold M. Ickes, a Democratic political operative, that specializes in providing data for scores of liberal groups supporting the Democratic ticket as well as for the Obama campaign itself.”

Progressive organizations, trade unions and a for profit group run by someone who had been implicated in the radical Teamstergate saga of the 1990's? The crack reporting of The Times glossed over this toxic mix, and the Obama machine kept running.

Harold Ickes' company, Catalist, has been credited with creating this machine:

“Catalist collects and stores millions of pieces of information from public records and commercial sources. In addition to voting rolls and tax information, it also has data about voters' magazine subscriptions and their cars. Campaigns also contribute e-mails, cell-phone numbers and even times when people are likely to be home.

Ickes, 69, said that by using Catalist the Obama campaign is able to generate data as detailed as lists of swing voters who are home in the afternoon in a six-block neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio. The list can even suggest which voters would be receptive to a pitch based on Obama's 'change' theme, and which may be more interested in his health-care or energy policies."

The origin of Catalist is intriguing and appears firmly rooted in the same community organizing spirit that has spread throughout the country.

“Even before I was an elected official, when I ran Project Vote voter registration drive in Illinois, ACORN was smack dab in the middle of it, and we appreciate your work.” -Barack Obama

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now or ACORN spent a number of years perfecting an organizing model that resembled that of Catalist and the Obama Campaign. ACORN's close “affiliate” Project Vote detailed their efforts in a 2007 report:

“The Pilot Technology Project carried out during the summer and fall of 2006 was a first attempt to integrate the potential of high quality enhanced data developed for voter participation programs with on-going grassroots community organizing programs. Building upon the work of Catalist (formerly Data Warehouse LLC), Project Vote deployed an updated version of our online voter management system (VBASE) to enable local community organizations to access a robust voter file with enhanced phone numbers, geographic and demographic information for use in voter mobilization, membership development and organizational capacity building.”

Apparently, ACORN and Project Vote were “smack dab” in the middle of another one of Obama's voter registration drives. According to ACORN reports, ACORN was Catalist's first client. Let me be clear, the ACORN VBASE, is the archetype of the Obama campaign. ACORN's technology combined with union money elected a president.

To understand the importance of Catalist to the Obama Campaign and later Organizing for America I have included the educational screen shot below.

The writer of the article above sums up the relationship this way:

"Think of MyBo / Party Builder / VAN Votebuilders as being the tool sets and interface for volunteers, staff and field organizers, and Catalist as being the organizer and repository for the data as it flowed in and out of various OFA systems.”

A 2005 Year End ACORN Political Operations PowerPoint further illustrates ACORN's involvement in the creation of the system that powers the President.

 

Matthew Vadum's profile on the OFA offers some background on the major players but the hows and whys have largely gone unnoticed. In addition to a payment made from Obama for America directly to an ACORN affiliate, Project Vote managed to secure the Obama 2nd 2007 donor list. After all, this cross sharing among campaigns, non-profits and unions appears to have been the goal of the ACORN VBASE. A 2007 report the the Beldon Fund regarding a $75,000 grant lays the groundwork.

“The reason that VBASE, a customized database system has such value in the work of Project Vote's field partners, such as ACORN, is because the model of groups like ACORN integrates year-round community organizing with heavy bursts of civic engagement work.”

ACORN insiders describe the Obama presidency as a “once in a generation opportunity” and ACORN was prepared to make it happen. Research uncovered details the concerted effort of a myriad of non-profit, 527's LINK and union organizations skirting campaign finance and IRS codes. While ACORN is not directly involved with the Voter Activation Network, ACORN affiliates/partners are. America Votes, SEIU, State Voices and even the DNC's owned VoteBuilder share information through this alliance.

In 2007, Project Vote was ready to launch their “beta” phase of the VBASE project and targeted a state that had been made friendly by the election of ACORN ally Ohioan Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner:

“The initial beta version of our 2006-07 database was piloted in Ohio by one of our local community partners. This pre-launch was a bug-testing period for the new system, addressing issues of file access, remote support, and appropriate server load.”

Brunner campaign consultant, Karyn Gillette was set to join Project Vote after successful work on the Brunner, Sherrod Brown and ACORN connected Ohioans for a Fair Minimum Wage campaigns. Meanwhile, Obama was running a massive campaign in Ohio and ACORN's partnership with Catalist allowed a for profit business to market their state of the art organizing technology:

"The success of this program is such that Project Vote will be incorporating it into its 2007-08 Voter Participation Program. While we are still wrestling with the details, we are committed to rolling out this sophisticated and robust system to support the civic engagement efforts of our local partners as they pursue voter registration and voter education programs and as they integrate those efforts into their on-going community organizing programs"

The perfect marriage of ACORN and Catalist was made possible by the deep pockets of the unions:

“Michael Podhorzer, Deputy Political Director of the AFL-CIO, has said: 'Catalist is an essential part of the foundation necessary for building progressive political power in our country. The labor movement relies on the state of the art political technology services provided by Catalist and we are proud to be an early subscriber.'

Discover the Networks goes on to explain the motivation behind Catalist:

"Reasoning from the premise that the United States is a nation rife with racism and injustice, Catalist notes its commitment "to using [its] talents and technology to nurture a vibrant, growing, progressive community, and to working with that community towards a more just, equitable and tolerant America.”

Obama has repeatedly denied any real ties to ACORN. If Obama is lying about organizing, could this mean that there is another purpose over at Organizing for America. Over the summer the nation witnessed the President call out this ready brigade to pass health care and stifle dissent. It's time for the mainstream media to focus on what ACORN is really doing.

The "history making" Obama machine was directly engineered by ACORN's voter database experiments. ACORN's sister organization, Project Vote, received tax exempt money to fund a venture with the for-profit Catalist. Catalist, the Voter Activation Network, SEIU and America Votes provided the needed cover that allowed ACORN to operate in the background.

Without regard for tax codes or campaign laws; candidates and groups like America Votes, SEIU, Project Vote and other "progressive organizations" at times share staff, resources and donors. ACORN boasts over 440,000 member families and Obama benefited from the free flowing data between the campaign and ACORN provided by Catalist.  America is now facing a progressive agenda backed by a ready army of paid organizers trained in ACORN tactics, and the name Organizing for America seems to be missing a question mark.

An Inside Look at Obama’s Organizing for America Part I

Blogger and activist Carol Greenberg approached me recently with an exclusive look at her work investigating Organizing for America. I was impressed with Carol's investigative reporting initiative and realized that America needed to see the "Obama Machine" in action. I began working with her on unraveling the truth behind OFA.

I have invited Carol to guest blog at my sites this week for Part I. Carol's courage in standing up for America and the information provided has allowed me to write the stunning Part II that will follow shortly.

Thank you,

Anita MonCrief

 

-By Carol Greenberg

Obama's "permanent campaign" Organizing for America has managed to skirt campaign finance laws while continually providing the unprecedented "opportunity to help the president." Countless emails fill boxes across America with the sender name President Barack Obama.

Organizing for America has kept a high profile and played a key role in the healthcare debate. Obama's managed to turn his extraordinary campaign model into a post-election campaign/organizing website where OFA honed their method of using the internet to reach progressives to push through his increasingly unpopular agenda.

During Barack Obama's campaign he used a similar tool and website called "Obama for America." Utilizing the skills he learned at ACORN as a community organizer, Obama was able to acquire the "highest office in the land". In an election night quote from November of 2008, Obama addresses a crowd who voted for "Hope" and "Change."

"This victory alone is not the change we seek — it is only the chance for us to make that change."

— President Barack Obama, Election Night, 2008

And almost immediately after Mr. Obama was elected, the name of his campaign tool "Obama for America" was changed to "Organizing for America." Here is a screen shot:

Interestingly, on Jan. 17, 2009, three days before Mr. Obama is sworn into the Presidency, he announced the switch-over from "Obama for America" to "Organizing for America." And here is a screen shot of Organizing for America, or OFA; in its present state. If you notice, it has Mr. Obama's name on it:

The bottom half of the screen shot is not visible, but trust me: it says "Project of the DNC." For those of you who wish to examine the site, the link is here.

Throughout the ensuing months between Mr. Obama's roll-out of OFA and the present I have taken a peek at the site every once in awhile, out of curiosity to see what he was saying. Frankly I'm not sure if any other man in the Oval Office ever had a web page, but this one is asking visitors to "create an account." Hmmmm... That's really different. So I did. And I signed up for his e-mails. After all, shouldn't we ALL want to be privy to the message our President has to say?

I watched the site, and received his e-mails. And many times was disconcerted, being a Conservative; about WHY he always seemed so successful at overturning any efforts, Congressional votes, etc. that Conservatives brought forward.

One day I received an e-mail alerting me to an "OFA Training Seminar." It was to be a 4-hour session on community organizing, his way. And the seminar was not far from my home. I remember the saying "it is always good to learn the ways of one's enemies" so I decided to attend. Undercover. As one of "them." The opposite side of the table.

We had a ball. There was meet and greet time, we were fed pizza and all the trimmings; unfortunately no beer. There was a video. Papers were passed out, "cheat sheets" of how to approach prospective people to educate them about Mr. Obama's policies and agenda. And also ways to entice them to vote for progressive candidates. We broke up into small groups. We made friends. We rehearsed with one another the spiel we would give in the "community organizing arena." By the end of the evening we were one big happy family. I went home that evening without committing to anything. I figured I would get a follow-up phone call, tell them I wasn't interested, and that would be the end of it. But all the while I kept thinking there just has to be more to this than what I experienced that evening. Mr. Obama was winning "big time" at everything he undertook.

Unexpectedly about a week later I received another "opportunity." An e-mail from OFA inviting me to be part of one of their on-line "webinars" which would teach canvassers how to enter information into OFA website databases. I was intrigued, but vacillated. After all, this would be going deeper into the "belly of the beast." But I ultimately decided I would probably never get another opportunity such as this, so being the brave woman that I am I RSVPed in the affirmative. This was based out of the home, a conference call with a trainer on-line, using one's own computer only as an observation tool. There was no disclaimer ahead of time, I was invited; so I decided while the trainer was moving through the OFA/Votebuilder system I would get some screen shots. Which I did. But don't get any ideas out there anyone. This is a highly secure and password-protected website. And because this was a demonstration, I do not have any access to the website.

The conference call training session was meant to give users an overview of the system, and I was surprised at its design and detail. For example, below is a database of persons contacted and the result of what is called "Member of Congress" commits. In other words, who has agreed or not agreed to contact their Congressperson.

When the "webinar" was over, and I had the time to take a good look at the screen shots, this is when I was stunned. I realized finally this is why the Conservative movement has been taking a hit all these months. I have to give 5 stars to their system. It is highly organized and every call, every contact, every encounter is logged. Every precinct in the country is in the website which allows for detailed study and analysis of canvassing and vote results.

I let it go for a few days. Undecided about the importance of what, if anything I had discovered. Probably just good for a teaching lesson to the Conservatives about how we need to become more organized, just like the premier "Community Organizer in Chief."

I have done a couple of diaries for RedState. A few days later I encountered a diary by Moe Lane, and it was about OFA. Only his opinion was the complete opposite of mine. That post Correcting the Record on Organizing for America is linked here. It's a short post, but all the while I was reading it, the more agitated I became. Moe Lane is a great and respected writer, but after all he had not experienced and seen first hand what I had.

I decided to do a "rebuttal" post. Sorry Moe, but I have to rebut your OFA assessment. That post can be found here. And a couple of weeks later, Moe Lane did another post on OFA. Revisiting Sifry and the OFA withering. This is when I decided that some action needed to be taken to inform others about the formidable group that OFA has become.

First I am going to post a few screen shots from the OFA/Votebuilder/DNC website. Any and all data that may be able to identify someone's identity has been removed.

Here is a screen shot of canvassing results. Notice how all data is carefully logged.

 Another shot, this one of one of their volunteers and his/her territory to be canvassed:  

 

Mr. Obama also has a database of people who are "underinsured" that he can contact and trot out at a moment's notice when he needs a sob story for his Healthcare Reform:

 

Next we have a screen shot of the dreaded "rapid response teams." These are the people Obama's OFA rolls out during a "crisis" to be door-knockers, set up phone banks; etc. These are the same "rapid response teams OFA rolled out for the Scott Brown Massachusetts senate race "crisis" and the Blanche Lincoln Arkansas "crisis":

Have you ever wondered how Obama was able to "toss" Lincoln in October, to get her to "cave" on the Healthcare vote? Here is my final screen shot:

Notice that the "team" had 114% more "vote commits" than hoped for, for a total of over 7,000 phone calls, doors knocked on, and visits to Lincoln's office. This my friends, is why Conservatives are losing in the organizing arena.

If you'll notice at the top of each screen shot, it says "VoteBuilder" somewhere, so I decided to see what I could find out about "VoteBuilder." And it wasn't very difficult.

My research took me to February of 2007. Howard Dean, then Chairman of the DNC, announces the creation of a state-of-the-art voter-file interface. This will be called "Votebuilder." I am including a couple of pertinent excerpts from the announcement below. The link to the full announcement is found here.

Today, the Democratic National Committee announced that it has signed a deal with Voter Activation Network (VAN) to create a nationwide voter file interface for the DNC's national voter file. The new voter file, which has been renamed "VoteBuilder", builds on both the significant enhancements and upgrades Chairman Dean made during the 2006 election cycle and the critical investment in the DNC's voter file made by former Chairman Terry McAuliffe. The new, web-based tool will ensure that from the National Party to the state parties, Democratic candidates have access to the state-of-the-art tools needed to help win elections. VoteBuilder also represents the next step in Chairman Dean's efforts to build and strengthen the infrastructure of the Democratic Party. [sic]

And this quote from Howard Dean specifically:

VoteBuilder will enable users to more easily and effectively sync data automatically, and facilitate the swapping of data between state parties and the DNC, thereby providing state parties and candidates with the most up-to-date and accurate voter data available. As an example, the DNC will be able to create an updated nationwide list of voter contacts on a daily basis.

My state, Ohio, was more than just a battleground state during Election 2008 because of Secretary of State Brunner and the ACORN debacle, so I decided to do some research on those "little nuts."

Anita MonCrief's blog gave me a wealth of information.

ACORN's 501(c)(3) non-profit arm Project Vote needed an effective way of classifying and organizing all their "VR" or "voter registration" cards into a local database. At the time, all their cards were being sent to a central national database entry company to be compiled. According to insiders in ACORN Political Operations, ACORN had learned from the failures of the Clinton adminstrations and decided that a successful "Progressive" agenda required collaboration. ACORN relied heavily on Project Vote, whom often describe themselves as:

"the largest non-partisan voter participation organization in the United States and a leading provider of technical assistance and direct services to the larger civic participation community."

Project Vote proposed the creation of a "List Acquisition and Enhancement Project" which would allow them to build a strategic plan to build and maintain statewide voter files in all states, particularly in states crucial to electing progressive candidates, Ohio being one.

The lists would include voter data, demographics, or "metrics," and consumer data among other things.

Interestingly, Project Vote's ambitions described above are similar to Howard Dean's "pride and joy" VoteBuilder. VoteBuilder was designed by the Voter Activation Network who unsurprisingly list the "usual suspects" as clients.

Part II will reveal reveal the ACORN connection through a variety of "partner" and affiliate organizations created to deceive America about who is really pushing the Obama Agenda.

 

(Click to enlarge)

 

The Political version of "Bringing Coal to Newcastle"

Martha Coakley is so hard up she needs to bring Democrats in from other states to campaign in Massachusetts. Evidently the vaunted machine there has blown a gasket.

I'm John Spears, OFA's state director here in Massachusetts. I don't normally write to you, but I'm reaching out today because we urgently need help from folks like you, who live in neighboring states.In just 7 days, folks here will vote in a special election to pick their next senator. The race is coming down to the wire, and we have to do everything we can to ensure that progressive champion Martha Coakley wins.Unless we all join together in this moment, Ted Kennedy's Senate seat could fall into the hands of Scott Brown, Martha's opponent and a right-wing reactionary who has sworn to defeat health insurance reform -- the late Senator's life's work.But with this special election happening at an unusual time, many voters don't know where or when to vote, and some don't yet realize an election is happening at all.OFA Massachusetts volunteers are going door to door, talking to voters and making sure they know how critical the outcome of their decision will be next Tuesday. But with so little time remaining, we need folks like you from neighboring states to come to Massachusetts and join the campaign. We've set up canvasses across the state. Can you join us in the final days to help elect Martha Coakley? 

 The late Tip O'Neill once said "All politics is local". In his heyday, the Democrats send campaigners to other states; they never needed outside help to take care of their own business.

Sadly, Tip is probably rotating in his grave about now.

The Obama Disconnect: A Belated Response to Micah Sifry

Before the new year, Micah Sifry came out with a provocative, much-discussed piece on the failures of the Obama organizing model in government. At once, the piece is a surprising indictment of the Administration's modus operandi from one of its supporters, but the reasons the indictment came about are not surprising at all. Like 43 similar outfits before it, the Obama White House is essentially a top-down operation.

Indeed, it's easy to dismiss Sifry's ideal of autonomous, almost leaderless political movements as essentially incompatible with the work of government. The contrast between the populism of the Obama campaign and the unmet promises of the Obama Administration is an easy one to make, but I suspect there's a tad of inflated expectations at work, borne of a misunderstanding of the fundamental motives of Obama for America and the community organizing spirit that seem to lay behind it. Sifry is disappointed that the fervor and "bottom up" organizing of the campaign hasn't translated to the White House, but when has the excitement and lofty goals of a campaign ever translated fully into the drudgery of running the federal government? Is such a transference even possible?

Probably not. The job of a campaign is not to transform the ethos of governance. The job of the campaign is to win the campaign. The job of the Administration is to transform the ethos of governance. Whether one leads to the other is entirely extrinsic to the campaign since the White House involves a totally different set of actors, more likely to be experienced government hands like Rahm Emanuel than Alinskyite field organizers. We can discuss what is and is not personally important to Obama as a community organizer all we want. But the imperatives of governance are completely different than those of a campaign, as Obama learned taking office in an economic crisis and George Bush learned after 9/11. 

Rather than buck the tide of conventional "top-down" politics, the campaign's "bottom up" grassroots emphasis was actually top-down perfected for the Internet era -- a logical and sensible response by the campaign to Obama's celebrity. 

In the end, the campaign did not have to make any hard decisions that allowed supporters to organize in new ways. Rather, I would argue, the supporters made the decision on their own, as expressed in the tremendous and early self-organized action for Obama early on, and the campaign would have been brain dead not to play along. (Many campaigns are still blind to this, even today, but the default baseline position for a campaign at the national level is to play along when supporters start doing massive amounts of stuff on their own.) 

The campaign's decision to default to open is expressed in Obama campaign manager David Plouffe's book, The Audacity to Win. At the outset, it wasn't clear that Obama's campaign would be anything other than a traditional exercise. As Plouffe writes early on

We raised $4 million online, a significant amount but far less than our fund-raisers wanted. Our new media team were very careful about how often we asked people for money by e-mail. We wanted our online contributors to have a balanced experience with us, thinking that if they felt part of and connected to the whole campaign, they might be more generous over time. The fund-raisers, who felt the pressure I was putting on them to post a big number, wanted to ask for as much as possible, as often as possible, starting right away. These were some of the tensest disputes I had to navigate throughout the whole campaign, and they left a lingering sore spot that did not heal for over a year. The finance team really believed that the new media team was underperforming financially, and the new media team thought the finance team viewed them and our supporters as an ATM.

Though it's ultimately clear where the campaign came down at the end of the day, Plouffe doesn't really evince bold conviction that the new media guys were right from day one. Here we see the traditional top-down playbook lingering on within the Obama campaign. Now, if Obama the community organizer started out running a fairly traditional campaign catering to the donor class, and in fact, ran a fairly textbook Senate campaign in 2004, what changed in the heat of the campaign? Plouffe doesn't seem to indicate that there was any altruistic, philosophical instinct to buck the finance team's approach, beyond a general sense that what the online people were doing seemed to be working. If there was a sudden epiphany by Axelrod or Plouffe to buy into bottom up, community organizing methods, it was probably a transactional, reflex response to the 20,000 person crowds, the e-mail signups, and the online fundraising. When you have a candidate like Obama, "letting go" and being bottom up is not simply a noble, unconventional, damn-the-consequences move. It's pretty darn profitable, generating more signups, more activity, and more money to feed the top-down parts of the campaign.

Now, what happens when the campaign goes away? What happens when the enthusiasm inevitably ebbs and the hard work of governing begins? The immediate benefits of a bottom-up strategy become less clear. You revert to traditional instincts, where powerful obstacles stand in the way of getting things done -- even amongst your base, and the wielding of massive political machinery cannot be left to amateurs. Either way, the decision to go "bottom up" is a traditional reflex response by smart people who realize they can get more done with bottom-up than with top-down in a campaign. And the reversion to "top-down" is a similarly calculated response to the fact that the financial and organizational benefits of bottom-up do not seem to apply to an Administration. Plouffe admitted this much in his interview with Ari Melber in defending the decision to downgrade New Media in the White House. Now, this may be wrong, short-sighted, or ignoble, but BOTH the bottom-up Obama campaign and the top-down Obama Administration were calculated strategic decisions made in response to specific situations of the moment. Let's not kid ourselves that the community organizing rhetoric was how they actually intended to govern.

Obama camp: Gives up on VA Gov and NY 23.

At 12:13 pm EDT 10/31/09 , Barack Obama's personal political arm, Organizing for America, sent this e-mail to their list

President Obama needs our help.On Tuesday, voters in New Jersey will go to the polls to elect their next Governor. They'll face a stark choice between Chris Christie -- who will bring failed Bush-era policies back to New Jersey -- and Governor Jon Corzine, who has fought side-by-side with President Obama.Jon Corzine is the only candidate in the race who will be a strong partner for President Obama and work with him to fix our broken health care system and get our economy back on track.So President Obama is counting on us to call Corzine supporters and make sure they show up at the polls Tuesday. In a tight race like this, calling just two or three voters could make the difference -- and our online tool will make calling quick and easy. Get started now:Call Corzine supporters in New Jersey and turn out the vote. 

One can only infer from the omission of any other Democratic candidates that at the last minute the Obama White House has thrown in the towel on VA Democratic gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds and NY 23 Democratic candidate Bill Owens, and is doubling down solely on trying to salvage the re-election bid of Jon Corzine, who pulled his own "October surprise" against himself Friday suggesting to the NY Times massive toll hikes on the NJ Turnpike were likely after he gets re-elected.  Which he now denies. Sure. 

We'll see if all of Obama's horses and all of Obama's men can put an incompetent Governor in office again.

   

 

Local Obama Organizers Struggle to Keep the Movement Alive

During the election, the groups functionality on My.BarackObama.com was a remarkably efficient way to communicate to Democratic activists on the local level. Republicans wanting to volunteer for McCain-Palin signed a sheet at county victory headquarters, and might or might not get a call back. If you wanted to get plugged into the Obama campaign, all you had to do was sign up to your local group online, and a local organizer would send out regular e-mails with volunteer opportunities, which if printed out would be something like 10 pages long.

Ever since, the group listservs have served as an EKG of sorts for the movement. It's not so surprising that activity is way down from the election. In one Gmail inbox I used to track groups in swing states, MyBO group emails went from 4,200 messages in October to just under 300 in the last 30 days -- a decline of 93%. However, the content too is considerably less upbeat. Here's part of a message I got to my local group summing up recent election results and looking forward to the June Virginia primary:

Let's prove that 2008 wasn't a fluke because of the cult of Obama....the long term demographic trends are in our favor but WE CAN'T BRING CENSUS AND POLLING DATA TO THE BALLOT BOX and declare victory.

...

So far this year there have been several special elections in Virginia and the results haven't been good....WE RECENTLY LOST TWO CITY COUNCIL SEATS IN ALEXANDRIA (voted 72% for Obama) and came close to losing Brian Moran's Delegate seat and Rep. Gerry Connolly's Chairmanship of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors (home of 1 million people).  Because of EXTREMELY LOW TURNOUT these races came down to a handful of votes as the ELECTORATE OF THE "PAST" DECIDED THE WINNER.

On a similar note, PRESIDENT OBAMA NEEDS US to get involved in the upcoming HEALTH CARE REFORM BATTLE.  So, keep in mind that elections might require the most work for the "community organizer" in us, but WE NEED TO STAY ENGAGED IN OUR COMMUNITY TO GET THE RESULTS WE WANT after our candidates get elected.

The all-caps exhortations seem kind of.... forced, no? Like it isn't as easy anymore without Obama on the ballot. As the e-mail accurately notes, there is a partisan realignment of sorts going on in Northern Virginia local elections, with Republicans coming within one percent of capturing the chairmanship of the Fairfax Board of Supervisors, a Republican picking up the supervisor seat of the newly elected chair in a quite Democratic, close-in district, a pickup of two seats on the Alexandria City Council, and the almost inexplicable near-win of Brian Moran's old House of Delegates seat.

Looking forward, the e-mail sounds an ominous note. Northern Virginia was ground zero in the statewide shift to Obama last November, yet the implication is that Democrats have sat on their hands ever since, content in their victory. There is fear that this complacency might threaten the Obama push on health care and other issues.

Another data point is the DNC continuing to lag the RNC in monthly fundraising, despite the incumbent advantage. Remember that the Obama e-mail list has been brought in-house at the DNC, and fundraising returns from THE LIST (a.k.a. "the 13 million") count towards the DNC's bottom line. And yet, the same fearsome fundraising machine that utterly blew the doors off the GOP last year can't keep pace with the RNC's aging direct mail house file.

There is an inherent problem with "organizing" while in power and it's by no means unique to Obama. It's perhaps an early manifestation of the restlessness that gripped the conservative base in the latter Bush years (and the liberal base in the latter Clinton years). No matter what the organizational advantages were that were "banked" during the election, it's very, very difficult to transfer them into a "movement" to defend a power hegemony in Washington, D.C. The Bush people tried this in 2005-06 after building quite the machine during the 2004 re-election, and fell short of their lofty goals. Electoral machines don't transfer that well to non-electoral situations when people aren't in the mood for community organizing.

Nor does the Internet, which I've written quite a bit about, solve this problem. If anything, the same forces that make it easier for movements to form make it easier for them to de-mobilize after the fact, as the next big thing is always just around the corner. The yawning chasm between the burning passions of an election campaign and second-order movements (like Organizing for America is now) is especially apparent in the friction-free market for activism that it is the Internet.

Parting thought: Was Obama '08 simply the biggest flash mob ever assembled, rather than a "movement?"

Full Obama organizer e-mail after the jump.

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