Inside Groundswell: Read the Memos of the New Right-Wing Strategy Group Planning a “30 Front War”

Ginni Thomas, Allen West, and a crew of conservative journalists and activists have formed a hush-hush coalition to battle progressives—and Karl Rove.

By David Corn | Thu Jul. 25, 2013 9:53 AM PDT

Been hearing the phrase “politics over public safety” deployed against Obama lately by prominent conservatives? Meet Groundswell.

Believing they are losing the messaging war with progressives, a group of prominent conservatives in Washington—including the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and journalists from Breitbart News and the Washington Examiner—has been meeting privately since early this year to concoct talking points, coordinate messaging, and hatch plans for “a 30 front war seeking to fundamentally transform the nation,” according to documents obtained by Mother Jones.

MoJo’s full coverage of Groundswell.

Dubbed Groundswell, this coalition convenes weekly in the offices of Judicial Watch, the conservative legal watchdog group. During these hush-hush sessions and through a Google group, the members of Groundswell—including aides to congressional Republicans—cook up battle plans for their ongoing fights against the Obama administration, congressional Democrats, progressive outfits, and the Republican establishment and “clueless” GOP congressional leaders. They devise strategies for killing immigration reform, hyping the Benghazi controversy, and countering the impression that the GOP exploits racism. And the Groundswell gang is mounting a behind-the-scenes organized effort to eradicate the outsize influence of GOP über-strategist/pundit Karl Rove within Republican and conservative ranks. (For more on Groundswell’s “two front war” against Rove—a major clash on the right—click here [6].)

One of the influential conservatives guiding the group is Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, a columnist for the Daily Caller and a tea party consultant and lobbyist. Other Groundswell members include John Bolton, the former UN ambassador; Frank Gaffney, the president of the Center for Security Policy; Ken Blackwell and Jerry Boykin of the Family Research Council; Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch; Gayle Trotter, a fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum; Catherine Engelbrecht and Anita MonCrief of True the Vote; Allen West, the former GOP House member; Sue Myrick, also a former House GOPer; Diana Banister of the influential Shirley and Banister PR firm [7]; and Max Pappas, a top aide to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Among the conveners listed in an invitation to a May 8 meeting of Groundswell were Stephen Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart News Network; Dan Bongino, a former Secret Service agent who resoundingly lost a Maryland Senate race last year (and is now running for a House seat); Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society; Sandy Rios, a Fox News contributor; Lori Roman, a former executive director of the American Legislative Exchange Council; and Austin Ruse, the head of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. Conservative journalists and commentators participating in Groundswell have included Breitbart News reporters Matthew Boyle and Mike Flynn, Washington Examiner executive editor Mark Tapscott, and National Review contributor Michael James Barton.

Groundswell has collaborated with conservative GOPers on Capitol Hill, including Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Cruz and Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), a leading tea partier. At its weekly meetings, the group aims to strengthen the right’s messaging by crafting Twitter hashtags; plotting strategy on in-the-headlines issues such as voter ID, immigration reform, and the sequester; promoting politically useful scandals; and developing “action items.”

A certain amount of secrecy cloaks Groundswell’s efforts. Though members have been encouraged to zap out [8]tweets with a #GSW hashtag [9], a message circulated to members of its Google group noted that the role of certain advocates should be kept “off of the Google group for OPSEC [operational security] reasons.” This “will avoid any potential for bad press for someone if a communication item is leaked,” the message explained. (The Groundswell documents were provided to Mother Jones by a source who had access to its Google group page and who has asked not to be identified.)

“We want to protect the strategic collaboration occurring at Groundswell and build on it. Please be careful about bringing guests and clear them ahead of time.”

Washington is full of coalitions that meet to coordinate messaging and strategy. For two decades, conservative strategist Grover Norquist [10], who heads Americans for Tax Reform, has held his now-famous Wednesday morning meetings for a broad spectrum of Republicans, including conservatives opposed to gay rights and abortion rights and those who favor them, as well as GOPers on different sides of the immigration reform debate. Groundswell, which meets at the same time as Norquist’s group, appears to be a more ideologically pure version of the Norquist confab, and its emergence—given the prominent role of Ginni Thomas and the participation of journalists—prompts several intriguing questions. 

Critics have contended [11] that Thomas’ work as a lobbyist opposing Obamacare posed a conflict of interest for her husband, who would rule on the constitutionality of the health care reform initiative. (Clarence Thomas joined the Supreme Court minority that favored striking down the law.) And Common Cause has maintained [12] that Justice Thomas had a conflict of interest when he participated in the Citizens United case because his wife at the time was running a conservative nonprofit fighting the “tyranny” of President Barack Obama that would benefit from removing limits on such groups’ spending and fundraising. With her involvement in Groundswell—which zeroes in on contentious issues that come before the high court, including voting rights, abortion, and gay marriage—Ginni Thomas continues to be intricately associated with matters on which her husband may have to render a decision. Ginni Thomas did not respond to requests for comment.

The participation of journalists in coordinating messaging with ideological advocates and political partisans raises another set of issues. Conservatives expressed outrage when news broke in 2009 about Journolist, a private email list where several hundred progressive-minded reporters, commentators, and academics exchanged ideas and sometimes bickered. (I was on Journolist, mainly as a lurker [13].) The late Andrew Breitbart once offered $100,000 [14] for the full Journolist archives and denounced it as “the epitome of progressive and liberal collusion that conservatives, Tea Partiers, moderates and many independents have long suspected and feared exists at the heart of contemporary American political journalism.” The Groundswell documents show conservative journalists, including several with Breitbart News, colluding on high-level messaging with leading partisans of the conservative movement.
How Groundswellers Win “Brownie Points”
Notes prepared after a Groundswell meeting held on March 27 detailed the group’s mission and origins [9]:

Groundswell evolved out of conversations among conservative leaders after the November elections. This is the eighth meeting. Now others are asking to be included. Growth needs to be strategic; it should be made up of senior level people willing to collaborate. It is important to keep a balance of social conservatives, national security conservatives, and constitutional conservatives. Outreach has occurred to incorporate groups with extensive reach: Heritage, Heritage Action, FreedomWorks, AFP [Americans for Prosperity], FRC [Family Research Council] and the NRA, among others…Our country is in peril. This is a critical moment needing critical leadership. We want to protect the strategic collaboration occurring at Groundswell and build on it. Please be careful about bringing guests and clear them ahead of time.

The memo declared that the goal was not to merely ponder, but to be proactive:

What Groundswell is not is a room of note takers. The goal of Groundswell is to sync messages and develop action from reports and information exchanged. Going forward there should be an action item accompanying each report.

At the March 27 meeting [9], Groundswell participants discussed one multipurpose theme they had been deploying for weeks to bash the president on a variety of fronts, including immigration reform and the sequester: Obama places “politics over public safety.” In a display of Groundswell’s message-syncing, members of the group repeatedly flogged this phrase in public. Frank Gaffney penned a Washington Times op-ed [15] titled “Putting Politics Over Public Safety.” Tom Fitton headlined a Judicial Watch weekly update [16] “Politics over Public Safety: More Illegal Alien Criminals Released by Obama Administration.” Peter List, editor of LaborUnionReport.com, authored a RedState.com post [17] called “Obama’s Machiavellian Sequestration Pain Game: Putting Politics Over Public Safety.” Matthew Boyle used the phrase [18] in an immigration-related article for Breitbart. And Dan Bongino promoted Boyle’s story on Twitter by tweeting [19], “Politics over public safety?” In a message to Groundswellers, Ginni Thomas awarded “brownie points” to Fitton, Gaffney, and other members for promoting the “politics over public safety” riff.

“If we lose on immigration, we lose on every other issue. They key to defeating this bill is Sen. Rubio.”

There was much more on the agenda for the March 27 meeting [9] than a single talking point. The group routinely addresses an ambitious to-do list for its campaign against the left. At that session, Groundswellers discussed several immigration-related “action items.” These included attempting to link the pending reform bill to Obamacare and collecting health care reform horror stories to provide to Cruz, a leading opponent of the Senate immigration reform bill. (Cruz has repeatedly compared [20] the legislation to the health care reform law.)

Groundswell members saw immigration as a life-or-death issue. “If we lose on immigration,” the post-meeting memo noted, “we lose on every other issue. The key to defeating this bill is Sen. Rubio. He can gracefully remove himself from the ‘gang of 8′ and still save face…The messaging on this issue has to be ‘we can’t trust Obama’ to enforce immigration laws after the amnesty.” 

The group also reviewed how best to oppose the confirmation of Tom Perez [21], Obama’s nominee for labor secretary. Groundswellers claimed that Perez, then a senior Justice Department official, supported “Muslim Brotherhood organizations and Shariah.” (One Groundswell memo maintained that Perez “is extremely antagonistic toward whites.”) A third agenda item that Wednesday morning was beating back the effort to end the Boy Scouts of America’s ban on gay Scouts. And there was yet another issue for the Groundswell members to stoke: “John Kerry has family ties to Iran that opens the doors to blackmail and other national security risks. Kerry’s son in law is an Iranian American with extensive family still in Iran.” The post-meeting memo suggested Twitter hashtags to push: #CantTrustObama, #PoliticsOverPublicSafety, #SequesterLies.

“We’re Failing the Propaganda Battle”
The Groundswellers feel that they too often lose the political narrative to their progressive rivals. One memo that circulated among members declared, “We must reclaim the language and put ‘a face’ on our messages; tell stories. Write articles on 4th grade level!” 

A Groundswell memo noted, “Terms like, ‘GOP,’ ‘Tea Party,’ ‘Conservative’ communicate ‘racism.’” They proposed an alternative: “Fredrick Douglas Republican.”

Notes from a February 28 Groundswell gathering [22] reflected both their collective sense of pessimism and desire for aggressive tactics:We are failing the propaganda battle with minorities. Terms like, ‘GOP,’ ‘Tea Party,’ ‘Conservative’ communicate ‘racism.’” The Groundswellers proposed an alternative: “Fredrick Douglas Republican,” a phrase, the memo noted, that “changes minds.” (His name is actually spelled “Frederick Douglass.”) The meeting notes also stated that an “active radical left is dedicated to destroy [sic] those who oppose them” with “vicious and unprecedented tactics. We are in a real war; most conservatives are not prepared to fight.” 

The notes from the March 20 meeting [23] summed up Groundswell griping: “Conservatives are so busy dealing with issues like immigration, gay marriage and boy scouts there is little time left to focus on other issues. These are the very issues the Left wants to avoid but we need to magnify. R’s cannot beat Obama at his own game but need to go on the offense and define the issues.” The group’s proposed offensive would include hyping the Fast and Furious [24] gun-trafficking controversy, slamming Obama’s record, and touting Benghazi as a full-fledged scandal. “The problem,” the memo noted, “is Speaker Boehner and [Rep.] Mike Rogers (Intelligence Community) are refusing to deal” with the Benghazi issue. It added, “Leaders can and should be shamed into doing the right thing.”

Another problem for right-wingers, this memo pointed out, was that though “a group of freshmen and sophomore representatives in Congress…are willing and ready to stand up” for conservative causes, “no one is willing to step up and become that leader.” Reflecting the dim view held by Groundswell members of House GOPers, the memo maintained that too many Republican lawmakers were co-opted by power and reluctant to challenge House Republican leaders: “The Speaker holds the control in the House. He controls committees, chairmanships, meeting rooms, etc. Conservatives sell out rationalizing their compromises will position them to advance their agenda through committee work. In reality they are being bought.” Boehner, according to his memo, was too frightened to confront Obama head-on regarding budget issues because he “believes that Newt lost his speakership due to the government shutdown.”

Venting about weak and squishy GOP leaders was a regular feature of Groundswell gatherings. One action item put it bluntly [25]:

GAP of REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP: how do we tell them they are failing their base; will lose in 2014 unless they fight for principles (as opposed to show disdain for them and accommodate Obama; O is dividing Rs and they seem clueless: IDEAS NEEDED!

A week later, Newt Gingrich was scheduled to address the group [26] on the “lack of Republican Leadership right now, and Rove.” For 10 minutes.

At the March 27 meeting, Groundswellers once more voiced their anger with the GOP establishment and Rove—ideological sellouts, they believed, who undercut conservative candidates in order to back Republicans deemed more electable. They discussed the efforts among conservatives to respond to the Republican Party’s recently released autopsy [27] (PDF) of the 2012 elections, which called on the party to be more inclusive of minorities and less severe on social issues.

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, the post-meeting memo huffed, “is sending messages to the party…If we were all gay illegal aliens, the party likes us. He is preparing the way for a change on social issues by giving a warning, ‘don’t go Old Testament’ and advising the party to consider what Rove said about the next nominees could speak favorably of homosexual marriage in the campaign.” The memo summed up Groundswell’s preferred solution to GOP woes: “embrace the libertarian and conservative wing of the party.”
“I’m Going to Need Help Pushing Back”
Shortly after its creation, Groundswell started bolstering interactions between right-wing advocates and conservative members of the Senate and the House. On March 5, Gaston Mooney, a staffer for the Senate Republican Steering Committee, posted a message [28] to Groundswell’s Google group asking for questions that could be posed to Gina McCarthy, Obama’s nominee to lead the EPA, during confirmation hearings or in meetings between her and individual senators. (She was confirmed as EPA chief this month.)

“If we were all gay illegal aliens, the party likes us. [RNC chair Reince Priebus] is preparing the way for a change on social issues by giving a warning, ‘don’t go Old Testament.’

At an April 3 meeting [29], Groundswell members were encouraged to send Paul Teller, executive director of the Republican Study Committee, the caucus of House conservatives, “feasible asks in exchange for raised debt ceiling.” The post-meeting memo noted, “House conservatives want clear consensus on what the conservative grassroots want to see negotiated.” Here was a chance for Groundswellers to shape the next debt ceiling showdown.

In Groundswell’s first months, one of the most active members in its Google group was Danielle Cutrona, chief counsel to Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions. She frequently placed information—speeches, articles, press releases—on Groundswell’s Google group. In February, she posted opposition research material [30] regarding a judicial appointment and asked members to distribute it: “Any help is much appreciated.” In another message to Groundswell, she requested assistance in opposing the pro-immigration reform GOP establishment. “I’m going to need help pushing back,” [31] she wrote.

On one occasion [32], Cutrona promoted a column [33] from the conservative site RedState.com. Headlined “Who is Going to Put an End to the McCain/Graham Circus?” this RedState.com post excoriated Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham as “Benedict Arnolds” for retreating on their opposition to Chuck Hagel’s nomination as defense secretary and for “their treachery on the issue of illegal immigration.” Cutrona, who occasionally used her official Senate email to communicate with Groundswell members, was encouraging this band of conservatives to spread the word that two party colleagues of her boss were ideological traitors. A spokesman for Sessions says that this blog post did not reflect Cutrona’s views and “was simply one of scores of diverse news and opinion pieces she emailed on immigration.”

“Even If the Idea Isn’t Perfect, I Can Help Massage It”
Several conservative journalists have enthusiastically participated in Groundswell’s deliberations. In March, Mark Tapscott, the executive editor of the conservative Washington Examiner, sent his most recent column [34] to group members [35]. It focused on a theme that Groundswellers had resolved to hype: President Obama is a divider. And after a meeting that month, Tapscott wrote to the group [36], “Enjoyed hearing from all of you who spoke earlier today. It’s amazing how much we are accomplishing on so many fronts.” But Tapscott tells Mother Jones that after attending one or two meetings at the invitation of Ginni Thomas, he decided to stop participating: “The implication of attending is that you’re participating in their planning, and, as a journalist, I don’t think that’s appropriate. Other journalists may think differently.”

At another Groundswell gathering, according to the minutes [9], the members decided to ask Breitbart‘s Stephen Bannon to arrange for his media organization “to get senators on the record regarding their support [or non-support]” of the filibuster that GOP Sens. Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz were threatening to mount against the gun control bill. This suggested that the Groundswellers thought they could task Breitbart News to pursue a story that would be strategically useful for the group. (Breitbart News was already covering the possible filibuster.)

“It’s amazing how much we are accomplishing on so many fronts,” the Washington Examiner‘s Mark Tapscott wrote to fellow Groundswell members.

Groundswell has forged a particularly close relationship with Breitbart. Matthew Boyle, one of Breitbart‘s more prominent reporters, has attended Groundswell meetings, used the group as a source for tips and a mechanism to promote his stories, and joined in its efforts to whip up coordinated bullet points to be deployed by conservative advocacy shops. In February, he tried to enlist the group [37] to push a story [38] he had written the year before at the Daily Caller, in which he maintained the Justice Department was in cahoots with the liberal group Media Matters to smear conservative whistleblowers and journalists. In a long note addressed to all Groundswellers—written at a time when reporter Bob Woodward was making (what turned out to be inflated) claims about the Obama White House intimidating foes—Boyle said, “Figured this might be a good time to bring this story back up and see if there’s a way to drive it.”

Boyle said he was hoping to prompt congressional Republicans to launch an investigation. He contended he had only revealed the “tip of the iceberg” and shared his suspicion that many government agencies (State, the CIA, the Pentagon, the EPA, and more) were conspiring with “far left wing groups” to undermine conservatives in the media: “I think we can get at the heart of the Obama admin’s weaknesses here.” He explained: “Any evidence obtained would be more proof of collusion between the administration and the media and far left groups, while at the same time serving as evidence of whatever ridiculously moronic big government policies they’re pushing are.” 

The following month, Boyle sent a message to Groundswell members [39] seeking tips and offering to help shape stories Groundswellers wanted to disseminate: “I’m saying we can get pieces out fast on Breitbart. Whenever you have an idea, email or call me with a pitch and I’ll do my best to get the story out there. Keep us on offense, them on defense. Even if the idea isn’t perfect, I can help massage it to get there.”

A high-priority cause for Groundswellers is voter identification efforts—what progressives would call voter suppression—and when Groundswellers developed a thread on their Google group page exploring the best way to pitch the right’s voter identification endeavors as a major voting rights case was pending in the Supreme Court, the coalition’s friendly journalists joined right in. Dan Bongino, the ex-Secret Service agent and 2012 Senate candidate, kicked off the discussion [40]: “We need to reframe this. This narrative of the Left has already taken hold in MD. The words ‘Voter ID’ are already lost & equated with racism. Maybe a ‘free and fair elections initiative’ with a heavy emphasis on avoiding ANY voter disenfranchisement combined with an identification requirement which includes a broader range of documents.”

Sheryl Kaufman, communications director for Rep. Jim Bridenstine, chimed in: “‘OBAMAGRATION’—I love it!! Communicates the similarity with Obamacare.”

In response, Tapscott suggested, “How about ‘Election Integrity’?” And Gaffney weighed in: “I like it.” Fitton noted that Judicial Watch had an “Election Integrity Project.” Boyle proposed, “Fair and equal elections,” explaining, “Terms ‘fair’ and ‘equal’ connect with most people. It’s why the left uses them.” Then came True the Vote’s Anita MonCrief: “We do a lot under the Election Integrity Banner. Does not resonate with the people. Voter Rights may be better. We really have been trying to get the messaging right.”

Minutes later, Breitbart‘s Mike Flynn tried to change the conversation [41], noting that Boyle earlier in the week had reported that Obama’s daughters had been vacationing in the Bahamas while the White House had suspended tours due to the sequester. “The Obama White House has never been so exposed to public criticism as they are right now, because of their decision to cancel WH tours,” Flynn wrote. “Everything should be focused on that front.” He declared, “We have to be willing to march to the sound of the guns.” (Earlier in the week, Boyle had posted his story on the Obama daughters on Groundswell’s Google group page, noting, “I think this fits in nicely with that politics over public safety theme…Enjoy.”) Ignoring Flynn’s missive, Engelbrecht, the president of True the Vote, wrote, “We bill ourselves as an Election Integrity Initiative and have found it strikes the right tone.”

In a response to a request for comment regarding his participation in Groundswell’s message-making, Flynn emailed, “We have reporters covering lots of meetings in DC, as I’m sure you do as well. As you know, it provides critical background to know what’s happening on the Hill.” In a subsequent email, Flynn insisted, “[N]either Boyle nor I have spent 1 minute on any messaging. We haven’t spent any time creating talking points.” Flynn added, “[W]e are journalists with a point of view. We are open about that. We attend meetings of conservatives. Where we are allowed, we attend meetings of leftist activists.” Boyle did not respond to requests for comment.
“We All Lament the Difficulty We Have Persuading Americans”
In between the weekly meetings, Groundswellers keep on scheming, frequently using their Google group to share ideas and need-to-know information. The material is often routine: a John Bolton op-ed [42], a press release opposing [43] the nomination of the EPA administrator, a call to rally support [44] for a Rand Paul filibuster. Often the material reveals the group’s ideological excesses, such as a PowerPoint supposedly proving that John Brennan, the Obama national security adviser who has become CIA chief, is soft on radical Islam. In one post, Ginni Thomas encouraged Groundswell members to watch Agenda: Grinding America Down, a documentary [45] that claims that progressives (including Obama) seek “a brave new world” based on the “failed policies and ideologies of communism” and that an evil left is purposefully “destroying the greatest country in all of world history.” MonCrief posted an email noting that the bombs that exploded at the Boston Marathon were “similar to Bill Ayers’ Weather Underground nail bomb.”

But Groundswellers constantly brainstorm via their Google group in search of a magic talking point, or a silver bullet of messaging. On April 24, Keli Carender, the national grassroots coordinator of Tea Party Patriots, posted a message to the Google group, writing, “We should have a unified name for the immigration bill so that as the other side is calling it ‘reform,’ we present a unified front against that notion. If we’re all calling it different things, their ‘reform’ message will win. We only combat the idea that it is reform if we hammer back with one different phrase/name.” She tossed out a few ideas: “Schumer-Rubio bill,” “anti-security bill,” and “amnesty bill.” Sheryl Kaufman, the communications director for Rep. Jim Bridenstine, chimed in that she was fond of a phrase derived by MonCreif: “‘OBAMAGRATION’—I love it!! Communicates the similarity with Obamacare.”

When Campaign for America’s Future, a progressive group, sent out an email regarding the sequester headlined “Don’t let Republicans destroy the economy,” Carender sent a message to Groundswell members via the Google group: “What about a ‘stick with sequester’ (or similar) mantra from our side?” Responding to Carender’s note, Peter List of LaborUnionReport.com wrote, “Most Americans don’t understand sequesters. We need to be more clever than the Left on this…Something amusing and easy for LIVs [low-information voters] to understand. Maybe a tie in to Humpty Dumpty (the economy) and all King Obama’s men (‘tax increases’) not being able to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. (I’m open to anything…and just made that up.)”

At another point, List emailed Ginni Thomas an idea for an anti-Obama ad [46] that he thought could go viral:

A 15 sec internet [YouTube ad] featuring ethnically diverse children on a merry-go-round [soft music]…
Nuclear explosion.
Two bullet points on the facts.
Call to action:
Tell President Obama & Congress not to cut our nation’s defense.

Thomas posted the note for all in Groundswell to see. “Brilliant idea,” she commented. “…Taker?”

Several months after Groundswell kicked off, Steven Sutton, vice president of development for the conservative Leadership Institute and a former chief of staff to several House GOPers, proposed a “strategic message development project” for the outfit. “What is needed,” he wrote [47], “is an umbrella thematic message under which each specific issue can be magnified and maximized. For those familiar with it, this is an extension and development of the Leesburg Grid [48] (which the Left has co-opted and now uses extensively, and the Right has ignored and allowed to fall into disuse.)” 

Sutton suggested using four main themes: Obama and liberal policies fail; Obama and liberal policies make things worse; there is a lack of leadership in the White House; and Obama “puts politics ahead of people/our country/America.” These themes, he contended, “are best used sequentially, rather than randomly/haphazardly/isolated…The most important thing is to think thematically and drive these messages.” Sutton went on:

Issues matter. Details matter. Substance matters. But theme matters more. Substance matters only as it helps to reinforce the themes.

We all lament the difficulty we have persuading Americans. After all, we have the facts, figures, and data to prove our points. Why can’t we persuade? There are many tactics we can use to help persuade (telling stories, finding victims, tempering tone). But these tactics pale in comparison to the importance of providing a context…a theme…to help people organize their thoughts and opinions.

Groundswell has set itself up as the theme lab for the true-red activists of the conservative movement. Fearing that some hydra of the left has long been running wild, vanquishing the right, and bringing the nation closer to utter ruin, the members of Groundswell have birthed a hydra of their own.

Additional reporting by Kate Sheppard [49].


Source URL: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/07/groundswell-rightwing-group-ginni-thomas

Links:
[1] http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/07/groundswell-rightwing-group-ginni-thomas
[2] http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/07/groundswell-ginni-thomas-war-karl-rove
[3] http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/07/ginni-thomas-groundswell-conflict-interest
[4] http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/07/groundswell-right-wing-strategy-group-members-photos
[5] http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/07/groundswell-secret-tape-boehner-issa-benghazi
[6] http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/07/groundswell-declares-war-karl-rove
[7] http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/meet-craig-shirley-and-diana-banister-the-rights-pitch-perfect-conservatives/2013/07/21/63cea20e-dffe-11e2-b94a-452948b95ca8_story.html
[8] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739843-redacted-gs-mtg-notes-3-27-2013-google-groups
[9] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739869-redacted-groundswell-mtg-notes-3-27-2013-google
[10] http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2004/01/grover-norquist-soul-new-machine
[11] http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/washington-whispers/2012/07/02/new-financial-forms-show-clarence-thomass-wife-continued-to-lobby-against-healthcare-in-2011
[12] http://www.commoncause.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=dkLNK1MQIwG&b=4773617&ct=9039331
[13] http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2010/07/journolist-daily-caller-sarah-palin
[14] http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Journalism/2010/06/29/Reward—100-000-for-Full-JournoList-Archive–Source-Fully-Protected
[15] http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/mar/5/putting-politics-over-public-safety/
[16] http://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/weekly-updates/politics-over-public-safety/
[17] http://www.redstate.com/tag/putting-politics-over-public-safety/
[18] http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2013/06/26/Immigration-agents-ask-public-lawmakers-to-oppose-bill-on-eve-of-expected-vote
[19] https://twitter.com/dbongino/status/350043418094870528
[20] http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2013/06/24/sen_ted_cruz_compares_senate_immigration_bill_to_obamacare.html
[21] http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/03/tom-perez-justice-department-trayvon-martin
[22] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739816-redacted-gs-notes-and-action-items-from-meeting
[23] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739865-redacted-groundswell-mtg-notes-3-20-2012-google
[24] http://features.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2012/09/20/the-fast-and-furious-gun-walking-scandal/
[25] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739889-redacted-groundswell-notes-and-action-items-from
[26] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739852-redacted-fwd-country-club-republicans-link-with
[27] http://growthopp.gop.com/rnc_growth_opportunity_book_2013.pdf
[28] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739855-redacted-epa-nominee-questions-google-groups
[29] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739871-redacted-groundswell-mtg-note-april-3-2013-new
[30] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739790-information-action-item-google-groups-2-27
[31] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739525-information-google-groups-2-14
[32] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739831-redacted-who-is-going-to-put-an-end-to-the
[33] http://www.redstate.com/2013/02/27/who-is-going-to-put-an-end-to-the-mccaingraham-circus/
[34] http://washingtonexaminer.com/mark-tapscott-one-dinner-does-not-a-great-divider-unmake/article/2523601
[35] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739833-redacted-links-fr-mark-tapscott-obamacare-hhs-co
[36] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739821-redacted-links-fr-mark-tapscott-obamacare-hhs-co
[37] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739828-redacted-information-opportunity-obama
[38] http://dailycaller.com/2012/09/18/emails-reveal-justice-dept-regularly-enlists-media-matters-to-spin-press/
[39] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739827-redacted-we-can-get-information-out-fast-at
[40] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739867-redacted-13-re-groundswellgroup-fwd-obama-takes
[41] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739798-redacted-11-re-groundswellgroup-fwd-obama-takes
[42] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739774-redacted-ambassador-boltons-op-ed-on-president
[43] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739758-information-cei-press-release-mccarthy-redacted
[44] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739830-redacted-action-rand-paul-filibuster-now-google
[45] http://[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SH8LkIqu1c8
[46] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739609-re-groundswellgroup-fwd-idea-on-sequestration
[47] http://www.motherjones.com/documents/739611-sutton-redraft-for-041013
[48] http://www.yourpatriot.com/Leesburg_Diagram.aspx
[49] http://www.motherjones.com/authors/kate-sheppard

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/07/groundswell-rightwing-group

Andy Kohut goes deep on impact of the GOP’s ‘staunch conservatism’

By Eric Black, MinnPost.com,  03/22/13

Excerpt

Republicans’ image with the wider public is now dominated by the behavior and views of “a bloc of doctrinaire, across-the-board conservatives [that] has become a dominant force on the right.” …The Republican Party has moved further from the center of national public opinion than any party has since the McGovern era when the Democrats were viewed by Middle America as the party of “acid, abortion and amnesty.” The public now perceives the Republicans as “the more extreme party, the side unwilling to compromise or negotiate seriously to tackle the economic turmoil that challenges the nation,” Kohut says….

“The numbers prove it: The GOP is estranged from America.” Andy Kohut, Pew Research Center…“The Republican Party’s ratings now stand at a 20-year low, with just 33 percent of the public holding a favorable view of the party and 58 percent judging it unfavorable…

Republicans’ image with the wider public is now dominated by the behavior and views of “a bloc of doctrinaire, across-the-board conservatives [that] has become a dominant force on the right.” The party’s base, which constitutes about 45 percent of all Republicans, holds “extremely conservative positions on nearly all issues: the size and role of government, foreign policy, social issues, and moral concerns,” writes Kohut. “They stand with the tea party on taxes and spending and with Christian conservatives on key social questions, such as abortion rights and same-sex marriage.”

This group, whom Kohut dubs “staunch conservatives,” are “demographically and politically distinct from the national electorate. Ninety-two percent are white. They tend to be male, married, Protestant, well off and at least 50 years old.”

One of the unifying elements of staunch conservatism is the emotional intensity of their dislike for Pres. Obama…the role of Fox News on the right is much more powerful than the role of liberal news sources on the left: …the impact of staunch conservatism on the Republican Party for the foreseeable future… Three: “they also help keep the party out of the White House. Quite simply, the Republican Party has to appeal to a broader cross section of the electorate to succeed in presidential elections.”

Full text

Republicans’ image with the wider public is now dominated by the behavior and views of “a bloc of doctrinaire, across-the-board conservatives [that] has become a dominant force on the right.”

Writing for the Washington Post’s Outlook section, Andy Kohut of the Pew Research Center makes a case that you won’t find too shocking but to which he brings a depth and breadth based on years’ worth of polling data. Namely: The Republican Party has moved further from the center of national public opinion than any party has since the McGovern era when the Democrats were viewed by Middle America as the party of “acid, abortion and amnesty.”

The public now perceives the Republicans as “the more extreme party, the side unwilling to compromise or negotiate seriously to tackle the economic turmoil that challenges the nation,” Kohut says.

Kohut is no longer president of Pew and perhaps this piece suggests that he is planning to adopt a less neutral, scholarly, pollsterly tone. The headline on the piece reads “The numbers prove it: The GOP is estranged from America.”

“Estranged” is a strong word, but, as the headline suggests, every statement is rooted in polling data. Kohut writes:

“The Republican Party’s ratings now stand at a 20-year low, with just 33 percent of the public holding a favorable view of the party and 58 percent judging it unfavorably, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. Although the Democrats are better regarded (47 percent favorable and 46 percent unfavorable), the GOP’s problems are its own, not a mirror image of renewed Democratic strength.”

Republicans’ image with the wider public is now dominated by the behavior and views of “a bloc of doctrinaire, across-the-board conservatives [that] has become a dominant force on the right.” The party’s base, which constitutes about 45 percent of all Republicans, holds “extremely conservative positions on nearly all issues: the size and role of government, foreign policy, social issues, and moral concerns,” writes Kohut. “They stand with the tea party on taxes and spending and with Christian conservatives on key social questions, such as abortion rights and same-sex marriage.”

This group, whom Kohut dubs “staunch conservatives,” are “demographically and politically distinct from the national electorate. Ninety-two percent are white. They tend to be male, married, Protestant, well off and at least 50 years old.”

One of the unifying elements of staunch conservatism is the emotional intensity of their dislike for Pres. Obama, Kohut says. “For example, a fall 2011 national survey found 63 percent of conservative Republicans reporting that Obama made them angry, compared with 29 percent of the public overall.”

The Pew organization has been a leader in tracking the nexus that connects politics with the news media. Looking back at that data, Kohut concludes that the role of Fox News on the right is much more powerful than the role of liberal news sources on the left:

“The politicization of news consumption is certainly not new; it’s been apparent in more than 20 years of data collected by the Pew Research Center. What is new is a bloc of voters who rely more on conservative media than on the general news media to comprehend the world. Pew found that 54 percent of staunch conservatives report that they regularly watch Fox News, compared with 44 percent who read a newspaper and 30 percent who watch network news regularly. Newspapers and/or television networks top all other news sources for other blocs of voters, both on the right and on the left. Neither CNN, NPR or the New York Times has an audience close to that size among other voting blocs… Conservative Republicans make up as much as 50 percent of the audiences for Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’ Reilly. There is nothing like this on the left. MSNBC’s ‘Hardball’ and ‘The Rachel Maddow Show’ attract significantly fewer liberal Democrats.”

Kohut also concludes three curious somewhat contradictory things about the impact of staunch conservatism on the Republican Party for the foreseeable future. One: They will complicate the big plan of Republican leaders to soften negative images of the party. Two: The staunch conservatives sustain conservative Republicans ability to remain in many offices, especially in Congress, but  Three: “they also help keep the party out of the White House. Quite simply, the Republican Party has to appeal to a broader cross section of the electorate to succeed in presidential elections.”

http://www.minnpost.com/eric-black-ink/2013/03/andy-kohut-goes-deep-impact-gops-staunch-conservatism?utm_source=MinnPost+e-mail+newsletters&utm_campaign=059c51e115-3_23_2013_Daily_Newsletter3_22_2013&utm_medium=email

The Persistence of Racial Resentment

By THOMAS B. EDSALL, February 6, 2013

Excerpt

Although there was plenty of discussion during the 2012 presidential campaign about the Hispanic vote and how intense black turnout would be, the press was preoccupied with the white vote: the white working class, white women and upscale whites.

Largely missing from daily news stories were references to research on how racial attitudes have changed under Obama, the nation’s first black president. In fact, there has been an interesting exploration of this subject among academics…Despite how controversial it has been to talk about race, researchers have gathered a substantial amount of information on the opinions of white American voters…the evidence strongly suggests that party attachments have become increasingly polarized by both racial attitudes and race as a result of Obama’s rise to prominence within the Democratic Party…At the moment, the population of the United States (314 million) is heading towards a majority-minority status in 2042. The American electorate, on the other hand (126 million) is currently 72 percent white, based on the voters who cast ballots last November …the shifts…within the right wing of the Republican Party. Many voters voicing stronger anti-black affect were already Republican… Some Republican strategists believe the party’s deepening conservatism is scaring away voters…

what Time Magazine recently described as the Republican “brand identity that has emerged from the stars of the conservative media ecosystem: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, and others.”

It is not so much Latino and black voters that the Republican Party needs. To win the White House again, it must assuage the social conscience of mainstream, moderate white voters among whom an ethos of tolerance has become normal. These voters are concerned with fairness and diversity, even as they stand to the right of center. It is there that the upcoming political battles – on the gamut of issues from race to rights – will be fought.

Full text

Although there was plenty of discussion during the 2012 presidential campaign about the Hispanic vote and how intense black turnout would be, the press was preoccupied with the white vote: the white working class, white women and upscale whites.

Largely missing from daily news stories were references to research on how racial attitudes have changed under Obama, the nation’s first black president. In fact, there has been an interesting exploration of this subject among academics, but before getting to that, let’s look back at some election results.

In the 16 presidential elections between 1952 and 2012, only one Democratic candidate, Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, won a majority of the white vote. There have been nine Democratic presidential nominees who received a smaller percentage of the white vote than Obama did in 2008 (43 percent) and four who received less white support than Obama did in 2012 (39 percent).

In 2012, Obama won 39 percent of the white electorate. Four decades earlier, in 1972, George McGovern received a record-setting low of the ballots cast by whites, 31 percent. In 1968, Hubert Humphrey won 36 percent of the white vote; in 1980, Jimmy Carter got 33 percent; in 1984, Walter Mondale took 35 percent of the ballots cast by whites. As far back as 1956, Adlai Stevenson tied Obama’s 39 percent, and in 1952, Stevenson received 40 percent – both times running against Dwight D. Eisenhower. Two Democratic nominees from Massachusetts, Michael Dukakis in 1988 (40 percent) and John Kerry in 2004 (41 percent), got white margins only slightly higher than Obama’s in 2012 – and worse than Obama’s 43 percent in 2008. In other words, Obama’s track record with white voters is not very different from that of other Democratic candidates.

Ballots cast for House candidates provide another measure of white partisanship. These contests have been tracked in exit polls from 1980 onward. Between 1980 and 1992, the white vote for Democratic House candidates averaged 49.6 percent. It dropped sharply in 1994 when Newt Gingrich orchestrated the Republican take-over of the House, averaging just 42.7 percent from 1994 through 2004. White support for Democrats rose to an average of 46.7 percent in 2006 and 2008 as public disapproval of George W. Bush and of Republicans in Congress sharply increased.

In the aftermath of Obama’s election, white support for Congressional Democrats collapsed to its lowest level in the history of House exit polling, 38 percent in 2010 -  at once driving and driven by the emerging Tea Party. In 2012, white Democratic support for House candidates remained weak at 39 percent.

Despite how controversial it has been to talk about race, researchers have gathered a substantial amount of information on the opinions of white American voters.

The political scientists Michael Tesler of Brown University and David O. Sears of UCLA have published several studies on this theme and they have also written a book, “Obama’s Race: The 2008 Election and the Dream of a Post-Racial America,” that analyzes changes in racial attitudes since Obama became the Democratic nominee in 2008.

In their  2010 paper, “President Obama and the Growing Polarization of Partisan Attachments by Racial Attitudes and Race,” Tesler and Sears argue that the evidence strongly suggests that party attachments have become increasingly polarized by both racial attitudes and race as a result of Obama’s rise to prominence within the Democratic Party.

Specifically, Tesler and Sears found that voters high on a racial-resentment scale moved one notch toward intensification of partisanship within the Republican Party on a seven-point scale from strong Democrat through independent to strong Republican.

To measure racial resentment, which Tesler and Sears describe as “subtle hostility towards African-Americans,” the authors used data from the American National Election Studies and the General Social Survey, an extensive collection of polling data maintained at the University of Chicago.

In the case of A.N.E.S. data, Tesler and Sears write:

The scale was constructed from how strongly respondents agreed or disagreed with the following assertions: 1) Irish, Italian, Jewish and many other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up. Blacks should do the same without any special favors. 2) Generations of slavery and discrimination have created conditions that make it difficult for blacks to work their way out of the lower class. 3) Over the past few years, blacks have gotten less than they deserve. 4) It’s really a matter of some people not trying hard enough; if blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as whites.

The General Social Survey included questions asking respondents to rate competing causes of racial discrimination and inequality:

The scale was constructed from responses to the following 4 items: 1) Irish, Italian, Jewish and many other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up. Blacks should do the same without any special favors. 2) A 3-category variable indicating whether respondents said lack of motivation is or is not a reason for racial inequality. 3) A 3-category variable indicating whether respondents said discrimination is or is not a reason for racial inequality. 4) A three-category variable indicating whether respondents rated whites more, less or equally hardworking than blacks on 7 point stereotype scales.

Supporting the Tesler-Sears findings, Josh Pasek, a professor in the communication studies department at the University of Michigan, Jon A. Krosnick, a political scientist at Stanford, and Trevor Tompson, the director of the Associated Press-National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, use responses from three different surveys in their analysis of “The Impact of Anti-Black Racism on Approval of Barack Obama’s Job Performance and on Voting in the 2012 Presidential Election.”

Pasek and his collaborators found a statistically significant increase from 2008 to 2012 in “explicit anti-black attitudes” – a measure based on questions very similar those used by Tesler and Sears for their racial-resentment scale. The percentage of voters with explicit anti-black attitudes rose from 47.6 in 2008 and 47.3 percent in 2010 to 50.9 percent in 2012.

Crucially, Pasek found that Republicans drove the change: “People who identified themselves as Republicans in 2012 expressed anti-Black attitudes more often than did Republican identifiers in 2008.”

In 2008, Pasek and his collaborators note, the proportion of people expressing anti-Black attitudes was 31 percent among Democrats, 49 percent among independents, and 71 percent among Republicans. By 2012, the numbers had gone up. “The proportion of people expressing anti-Black attitudes,” they write, “was 32 percent among Democrats, 48 percent among independents, and 79 percent among Republicans.”

At the moment, the population of the United States (314 million) is heading towards a majority-minority status in 2042.

The American electorate, on the other hand (126 million) is currently 72 percent white, based on the voters who cast ballots last November.

Obama’s ascendency to the presidency means that, on race, the Rubicon has been crossed (2008) and re-crossed (2012).

What are we to make of these developments? Is the country more or less racist? How can the percentage of people holding anti-black attitudes have increased from 2006 to 2008 at a time when Obama performed better among white voters than the two previous white Democratic nominees, and then again from 2008 to 2012 when Obama won a second term?

In fact, the shifts described by Tesler and Pasek are an integral aspect of the intensifying conservatism within the right wing of the Republican Party. Many voters voicing stronger anti-black affect were already Republican. Thus, in 2012, shifts in their attitudes, while they contributed to a 4 percentage point reduction in Obama’s white support, did not result in a Romney victory.

Some Republican strategists believe the party’s deepening conservatism is scaring away voters.

“We have a choice: we can become a shrinking regional party of middle-aged and older white men, or we can fight to become a national governing party,” John Weaver, a consultant to the 2008 McCain campaign, said after Obama’s re-election. Mark McKinnon, an adviser to former President George W. Bush, made a similar point: “The party needs more tolerance, more diversity and a deeper appreciation for the concerns of the middle class.”

Not only is the right risking marginalization as its views on race have become more extreme, it is veering out of the mainstream on contraception and abortion, positions that fueled an 11 point gender gap in 2012 and a 13 point gap in 2008.

Given that a majority of the electorate will remain white for a number of years, the hurdle that the Republican Party faces is building the party’s white margins by 2 to 3 points. For Romney to have won, he needed 62 percent of the white vote, not the 59 percent he got.

Working directly against this goal is what Time Magazine recently described as the Republican “brand identity that has emerged from the stars of the conservative media ecosystem: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, and others.”

It is not so much Latino and black voters that the Republican Party needs. To win the White House again, it must assuage the social conscience of mainstream, moderate white voters among whom an ethos of tolerance has become normal. These voters are concerned with fairness and diversity, even as they stand to the right of center. It is there that the upcoming political battles – on the gamut of issues from race to rights – will be fought.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/06/the-persistence-of-racial-

The Massive New Liberal Plan to Remake American Politics

Revealed: The Massive New Liberal Plan to Remake American Politics

A month after President Obama won reelection, America’s most powerful liberal groups met to plan their next moves. Here’s what they talked about.

By Andy Kroll | Wed Jan. 9, 2013


It was the kind of meeting that conspiratorial conservative bloggers dream about.

A month after President Barack Obama won reelection, top brass from three dozen of the most powerful groups in liberal politics met at the headquarters of the National Education Association (NEA) [1], a few blocks north of the White House. Brought together by the Sierra Club [2], Greenpeace [3], Communication Workers of America (CWA) [4], and the NAACP [5], the meeting was invite-only and off-the-record. Despite all the Democratic wins in November, a sense of outrage filled the room as labor officials, environmentalists, civil rights activists, immigration reformers, and a panoply of other progressive leaders discussed the challenges facing the left and what to do to beat back the deep-pocketed conservative movement.

At the end of the day, many of the attendees closed with a pledge of money and staff resources to build a national, coordinated campaign around three goals: getting big money out of politics, expanding the voting rolls while fighting voter ID laws, and rewriting Senate rules to curb the use of the filibuster to block legislation. The groups in attendance pledged a total of millions of dollars and dozens of organizers to form a united front on these issues—potentially, a coalition of a kind rarely seen in liberal politics, where squabbling is common and a stay-in-your-lane attitude often prevails. “It was so exciting,” says Michael Brune, the Sierra Club’s executive director. “We weren’t just wringing our hands about the Koch brothers. We were saying, ‘I’ll put in this amount of dollars and this many organizers.’”

The liberal activists have dubbed this effort the Democracy Initiative. The campaign, Brune says, has since been attracting other members—and also interest from foundations looking to give money—because many groups on the left believe they can’t accomplish their own goals without winning reforms on the Initiative’s three issues. “This isn’t an optional activity for us,” Brune tells me. “It is mission critical.”

Liberal groups have joined forces around issues—and elections—before. Health Care for America Now [6] (HCAN) was a megagroup formed to support Obama’s health care reform bill [7] in 2009. And in 2003, leaders from EMILY’s List, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), AFL-CIO, and Sierra Club formed America Coming Together [8], the most sophisticated get-out-the-vote operation in the history of Democratic politics, to help elect presidential candidate John Kerry. Indeed, progressives have collaborated specifically on voting rights or campaign finance before, too. But the Democracy Initiative may be the first time so many groups teamed up to work on multiple issues not tied to an election. “This is really the first time that a broad spectrum of groups have come together around a big agenda that impacts the state and national level,” says Kim Anderson [9], who runs the NEA’s center for advocacy and outreach and attended the December meeting.

The Democracy Initiative grew out of conversations in recent years among Radford, Brune, CWA president Larry Cohen [10], and NAACP president Ben Jealous [11]. (“We all have a knitting class together,” Brune jokes.) Brune says the four men bemoaned how the dysfunctional political process was making it impossible for their groups to achieve their goals. “We’re not going to have a clean-energy economy,” he says, “if the same companies that are polluting our rivers and oceans are also polluting our elections.”

Greenpeace’s Phil Radford notes that for decades conservatives have aimed to shrink local, state, and federal governments by reforming the rules so they could install like-minded politicians, bureaucrats, and judges. Radford calls it “a 40-plus-year strategy by the Scaifes [12], Exxons [13], Coors [14], and Kochs [15] of the world…to take over the country.”

So last spring Brune, Cohen, Jealous, and Radford called up their friends on the left and, in June, convened the Democracy Initiative’s first meeting. A handful of groups attended, and they began to focus on the triad of money in politics, voting rights, and dysfunction in the Senate.

By December, the Democracy Initiative’s ranks had swelled to 30 to 35 groups, Brune says. (He expects it to be 50 by the end of the winter.) Other attendees at the December meeting included top officials from the League of Conservation Voters, Friends of the Earth, Public Campaign, the AFL-CIO, SEIU, Common Cause, Voto Latino, the Demos think tank, Piper Fund [16], Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, People for the American Way, National People’s Action, National Wildlife Federation, the Center for American Progress, the United Auto Workers, and Color of Change. (A non-editorial employee of Mother Jones also attended.)

According to a schedule of the meeting [17], the attendees focused on opportunities for 2013. On money in politics, Nick Nyhart of Public Campaign, a pro-campaign-finance-reform advocacy group, singled out [18] Kentucky, New York, and North Carolina as potential targets for campaign finance fights. In a recent interview, Nyhart said the Kentucky battle would likely involve trying to oust Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Public Enemy No. 1 for campaign finance reform, who faces reelection in 2014. In New York, Nyhart said, activists [19] are pressuring state lawmakers, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to pass a statewide public financing bill [20] in 2013. And in North Carolina, the fight is more about countering the influence of a single powerful donor, the conservative millionaire Art Pope [21], whose largesse helped install a Republican governor and turn the state legislature entirely red.

On voting rights, a presentation by a Brennan Center for Justice staffer [22] identified California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, and Minnesota as states where efforts to modernize the voter registration system and implement same-day registration could succeed.

But the most pressing issue right now for Democracy Initiative members is Senate rules reform. At the December meeting, attendees heard from Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) on rule changes to curb the spiraling use of filibusters to block legislation. The use of the filibuster has exploded in recent years, and Republicans now block up-or-down votes on nearly everything in the Senate, requiring Democrats to muster 60 votes to conduct even the most routine business. Liberal groups in the Democracy Initiative want to fix that, and they used the December meeting to plan a coordinated push to urge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to rewrite the rules. Democrats have until January 22 [23], when the window closes on easy rules changes, to get the reforms they want.

Other potential targets for Democracy Initiative action include Chevron, which gave $2.5 million [24] to a super-PAC backing House Republican candidates in 2012. Google was mentioned as another target for its continued membership with the generally pro-Republican US Chamber of Commerce. And a 16-member coalition targeting the American Legislative Exchange Council [25], the conservative “bill mill” [26] behind many voter ID, school choice, and anti-union laws, wants to use the Democracy Initiative to recruit members and so expand its efforts identifying lawmakers and corporations who are ALEC members and urging them to cut ties with the group. “We’re going to put the pressure on ALEC even more” in 2013, says Greenpeace’s Radford.

Radford, Brune, Cohen, and others say the Democracy Initiative is no flash in the pan; they’re in it for the long haul, for more than just this election cycle and the one after it. It took four decades [27], these leaders say, for conservatives to shape state and federal legislatures to the degree that they have, and it will take a long stretch to roll back those changes. “The game is rigged against us; the corporate right has done such a good job taking over the Congress and the courts,” Radford says. “We’re saying we need to step back and change the whole game.”


Source URL: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/01/democracy-initiative-campaign-finance-filibuster-sierra-club-greenpeace-naacp

Links:
[1] http://www.nea.org
[2] http://www.sierraclub.org
[3] http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/en/
[4] http://www.cwa-union.org
[5] http://www.naacp.org
[6] http://healthcareforamericanow.org
[7] http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2012/11/obamacares-incredible-high-wire-history
[8] http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/07/harold-ickes-priorities-usa-action-obama?page=2
[9] http://www.nea.org/home/46301.htm
[10] http://www.cwa-union.org/pages/president/
[11] http://www.naacp.org/pages/benjamin-todd-jealous
[12] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/special/clinton/stories/scaifemain050399.htm
[13] http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2005/05/some-it-hot
[14] http://www.philanthropyroundtable.org/topic/excellence_in_philanthropy/taking_the_fizz_out_of_coors
[15] http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/09/exclusive-audio-koch-brothers-seminar-tapes
[16] http://www.proteusfund.org/piper/about-0
[17] https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/552135-democracy-initiative-december-meeting-schedule.html
[18] https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/552137-public-campaign-priorities-map-for-democracy.html
[19] http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/10/sean-eldridge-new-york-campaign-finance-reform
[20] http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/04/cuomo-new-york-public-financing-citizens-united
[21] http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/10/10/111010fa_fact_mayer
[22] https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/552139-brennan-center-voting-rights-opportunities.html
[23] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/01/03/the-date-for-filibuster-reform-january-22-probably/
[24] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/26/chevron-super-pac_n_2023842.html
[25] https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/552138-alec-working-group-fact-sheet.html
[26] http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2002/09/ghostwriting-law
[27] http://prospect.org/article/strategic-plan-liberals