The North Carolina Progress and Sustainability Partnership

One thing I think we can all take away from this primary election is the pivotal role that PACs play in the selection of our leaders. Whether you consider them a conduit for corporate manipulation or an essential tool for collective bargaining, they represent a powerful element of our system, and simply cannot be dismissed or ignored.

In a recent discussion, captsfufp made some observations:

But I'm interested in other thoughts about how to built an infrastructure to support candidates who have truly progressive and outsider ideas (with the caveat that there's not necessarily anything wrong with moderate, "insider" ideas...I have more than a few of them myself sometimes!). Or it'll just be the same old song again and again.

that set me to thinking about how maybe we could not only play the game, but maybe even help the rules to evolve some.

First of all, I think we should examine the root basic function of such an organization: the collection and disbursement of money. Just as in our individual domestic lives, the collection part is by far the most difficult of these two activities, and you can use my pitiful little checkbook as "exhibit A" to prove this.

So how would you go about convincing a large number of progressives to part with their hard-earned money to support an "entity" as opposed to a specific individual or well-defined issue? Let's just assume that many of us could not do both (at least not vigorously), so these prospective donors would need to feel certain that if they chose the entity, their hopes and desires would be represented well. You can dial it down to "perceived value" if you want to look at it from a marketing standpoint.

But frankly, clever words and pleasing images ain't gonna get it with this crowd. They need to be confident in the proper application of their assistance, and they need to be involved. Which brings me to the next (and possibly much more important) trait, which is integrity.

In this day and age, where we are assaulted constantly by dubious organizations spewing unbelievable claims about their products and/or services, our natural reaction is disbelief and doubt. Trust doesn't come easy these days, which is one reason why progressives tend to shy away from generalizations and ambiguity; they are often the foes of transparency and truth, and we've learned to mistrust them.

So how do you instill trust and guarantee integrity?That part is actually simple: you involve everybody in the process, and keep them involved. So instead of an organization which is operated by a few to represent the many, you have an organization that is actually operated by the many. Maybe have a duly elected executive committee (10 people?) that can disburse small amounts to individuals or organizations to help them educate (print flyers, etc.), but all larger disbursements are voted on by all contributors or "members", if you will.

Each member gets one vote on each proposal; that's it. If you contribute $50 (or whatever) to the PAC, you are now a member with a vote. If you are an influential elected official, journalist, pundit or wag, and have also met the membership requirement, you get one vote; that's it. If you got in on the ground floor, have been instrumental in forwarding the wishes of the vast majority of members, you get one vote; that's it. If (for some strange reason) you are a bloodthirsty multi-national corporation, hell-bent on enslaving poverty-stricken children and razing the rainforests, and you contributed eleventy-million dollars to the PAC, you get one vote; that's it.

As far as the actual voting is concerned, I guess it could be handled via e-mail or a secured online system. Whatever. My point is that there is absolutely no reason why everybody can't take part in the decisions. Would you have to vote? You could and you should, because I think it would provide an unbelievable platform for education on the issues, but no, you wouldn't have to vote. For many, simply the faith in the Democratic process would suffice to keep them confident.

A note about the title of the diary and the imaginary PAC: it's just something that popped into my head. And yes, I'm very fond of the term "sustainable". It's not just an infatuation; I'm deeply in love with the word, and would marry it and raise a sustainable little fam...sorry, I went off on a totally unsustainable tangent there.

See, it's more than just an environmental term, it helps bring focus to progressive ideals about the future: Allowing a regressive tax system to be imposed or to remain in place is not sustainable; standing by while counterproductive unfunded mandates and geographic economic disparity undermine the effectiveness and fairness of our education system is not sustainable; leaving our energy policy and environmental stewardship in the hands of a small select group of people is not sustainable; allowing the free market to be the primary determinant in when and where progress is needed is not sustainable.

I could go on, but the bottom line is: the things that need to be done will not get done by themselves, and we must find the power and determination to bring about the change we so desperately need. As individual voices, we haven't a chance. Together, anything is possible.

The sole and basic source of our strength is the solidarity of workers, peasants and the intelligentsia, the solidarity of the nation, the solidarity of people who seek to live in dignity, truth, and in harmony with their conscience.

Lech Walesa

Comments

A good start to a long conversation

You've hit one of the important paradoxes squarely on the head.

you have an organization that is actually operated by the many.

The need for complete transparency and involvement is clear, but that ideal often runs into the buzz saw of group-grope which can undermine velocity and action. That said, MoveOn seems to have figured out how to have it all.

Are you talking about a North Carolina version of that model?

For awhile I had fantasies about something called ActBlue, but then I discovered (duh) that there was already an ActBlue. Grate minds.

Keep it going, Steve. You never know where this might lead.

It would be N.C. specific,

Are you talking about a North Carolina version of that model?

and any out-of-state targets would have to meet an extremely high standard to be considered. Meaning, the end result of any success would have to directly benefit our state, as opposed to improving N.C. by bringing progress to the region (or the nation). There are more than enough in-state issues that need addressing, and I believe the tighter focus could produce more tangible results.

I do see some major differences between what I'm thinking about and MoveOn. First (and foremost) is I don't believe in PACs giving to PACs. Frankly, it separates (even more) the intial donor and the action taking place, and there's quite enough of that already going on. Secondly, MoveOn seeks (additional) donations for specific issues, which (I believe) results in more money going to issues which have an emotional flavor than those that aren't so sexy, even if the latter is actually more important.

These are personal opinions though, and may not be shared by all.

The need for complete transparency and involvement is clear, but that ideal often runs into the buzz saw of group-grope which can undermine velocity and action.

Right, which is where this "executive committee" comes into play. They would (unanimously) decide which issues, organizations or candidates have the need for assistance and hold the promise of progress, and these would then be voted on by all. If the votes are overwhelmingly "for" the action (75%?), the proposed funding goes forward. Anything less and the money stays put, to be spent on something else 75% can agree on. Or something along those lines.

I have a basic distrust of "executive committees"

which is really funny, because in my real life, I sit on about 4 of them. heh. I guess I distrust them because I know how they work. :)

I think that may be the thing that has tripped up the PDNC. I'm guessing, because I still have yet to get a response to any of my emails to them.

I love the idea; I'm am by nature a devil's advocate, so bear with me.

You want to get 75% participation from people who donate to this, group - but it's often difficult to get that kind of response from people.

I once made a donation to FAIR Wisconsin, for a specific issue at a specific time. I can't get off their list. I get mail from them, email, etc. It's not that I don't approve of their cause, I just don't have time for it, and I'm not in Wisconsin. You'd need a "voting opt-in" when folks donated so that they wouldn't be bothered whenever an issue came up that they didn't want to be bothered with - AND they wouldn't be counted in your total as you tried to reach your 75%. Make sense?

I don't think an executive committee should have the "total agreement" clause. That's a great way to get nothing done. We barely agree on anything here - if we did, the posts would all just say, "Yeah, me too!", and they don't. You might go with the same super majority with the Exec. Committee as well. I personally like consensus rather than majority rules, but when you want progress, sometimes you can be held up by one person (like - me - for instance, who likes to argue.)

How do you decide who's on the Exec Committee? What is the criteria?

I love the idea, I just wanted to post my thoughts as a contrarian, a pisces who sees things both ways, and someone who deals with exec committees way too much.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi
Pointing at Naked Emperors

It's simple, actually

(that usually means it's not :), but not this time).

You want to get 75% participation from people who donate to this, group - but it's often difficult to get that kind of response from people.

I'm talking about a 75% majority of the people who choose to vote. As I said above, members wouldn't be required/compelled to vote each time (or ever). They could rely on the wisdom of their fellow members. Either have regularly-scheduled voting periods or e-mail notifications of pending votes, and allow a 48 hr window for someone to take part.

How do you decide who's on the Exec Committee? What is the criteria?

From above:

Maybe have a duly elected executive committee

They would (theoretically) be chosen by the majority (or a plurality), serve 6 months, 12 months, whatever. And I guess a super-majority agreement between them would be okay, but I figured if there was any dissent ammong them, whatever issue was being contemplated might have flaws that other issues didn't. Sort of "running the gauntlet" before being presented to the entire membership, as it were. But you're right, one person who made it to the executive committee might be teched in the head, and want to disagree about anything that was looked at.

Another difference re MoveOn

2) This contribution is not made from the general treasury funds of a corporation, labor organization or national bank. 3) This contribution is not made from the treasury of an entity or person who is a federal contractor. 4) The funds I am donating are not being provided to me by another person or entity for the purpose of making this contribution.

I really don't care where the money comes from. I know that sounds bad, but I only care where the money goes and who decides where it goes. $5,000 gets you one vote, and $50 gets you one vote. Period. There's no backroom, and no advantages.

Oh how very JimNealian of you.

$5,000 gets you one vote, and $50 gets you one vote.

I can not begin to tell you how much I support this idea.

Oh, definitely

I have no doubt that Jim has influenced my thinking on stuff like this.

You can start by

coming up with some ideas about information processing. Keeping up with the money, making everything absolutely transparent and viewable online (money brought in, money spent, etc.). Also the site itself: member login, some sort of voter verification method, suggestion box (or whatever).

Stuff like that. I'm an idiot when it comes to IT stuff.

All right...

So let's get ten people in a room (or chat room) and come up with a proposal?? It wouldn't be carved in stone, but would be a foundation that would allow people to suggest, critique, and modify...basically like any committee mark-up!

Maybe use an open thread for group brainstorming, get The Ten together (they can wear special robes and stuff...), have them come up with a proposal, open thread it again for mark-up, and go from there.

I nominate Frank, personally, since he's the media guy...

Sustainable requires ...

Balance. Yin/Yang. Even. Steady. Give & Take. Take out/Put back. Back & Forth. Pendulum.

Re-balancing requires moving the center back to the center, which requires shifting the fulcrum ... shifting the "Overton window" they're always yammering on about at dkos.

Am I wrong in thinking that shifting the center is the high purpose of "the people's think tank" ??

In the end, that was a large part of the beauty of the Lt. Gov. race, I think. The one moderate machine-launched candidate barely topped 45% against three amazingly strong progressive & populist Democratic candidates, who have no doubt markedly raised their own name recognition across the state and may yet (hopefully) have a future roll in NC politics. Didn't blueNC help that happen? So it seems to me we have the words and maybe even branding part down.

Now for the money part ... the tv and radio ad part.

How did Larry do it? When did that start to happen for him? When did the actblue and dkos flood of support begin? What generated that buzz about him before the free tv ads from the gas at $1.29 day? Wasn't it the dkos and BlogPAC support what allowed Larry to do that "event".

How did Harry Taylor do it? Was it all about his question to Bush? ... face and name recognition ... and was that what brought the dkos attention, support and dollars?

Is there a formula in here somewhere? ... leverage what you have to get something more or different ... trade up ... dollars, event, news.

"It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit." - Harry Truman

"They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum Then they charged the people a dollar 'n a half just to see 'em. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

Shifting the center

"Am I wrong in thinking that shifting the center is the high purpose of "the people's think tank" ??

That is absolutely one of my personal missions, and it often calls for taking extreme positions from which to dig in my heels and get some leverage to pull.

That said, the machine is a powerful and dangerous force. We know how it can effectively crush outsider candidates.

James

PS I found the formula:

I like my formula better, James.

Mostly because it's the only one I really understand well enough to explain to other people. :)

K. I. S. S.

Keep. It. Simple. Stupid.

"It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit." - Harry Truman

"They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum Then they charged the people a dollar 'n a half just to see 'em. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

Maybe - we could get someone from Moveon

to talk to us about lessons learned, etc., so we don't have to make the same mistakes, trip over similar details, etc. I'm sure it couldn't happen until after November, but, you know - there is a lot to attract someone to NC. I'm sure I can get a round or two of golf comped if I have to. ::shudder::

I'm kidding about the golf - but serious about Moveon. They've made it happen on a national level. I'll bet they can give us some really good ideas on how to get it started at a state level. Why don't we keep working on this build some plans, and get them to tell us about strategies that worked when they were starting, and strategies that didn't?

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi
Pointing at Naked Emperors

question on the donating=vote

What would keep a group or candidate from getting a 1000 of its supporters to give $1 therefore getting a 1000 votes?

"jump in where you can and hang on"
Briscoe Darling to Sheriff Andy

Enroll them as individuals

Well, you'd enroll them as individuals because that's how they'd be signing up.

It's up to their group/candidate to enforce conformity among the membership. This might be easier said than done.

...particularly if individuals are affiliated with more than one group/candidate attempting to use this tactic. What if they are foot soldiers for parties with competing agendas? Somebody's not going to get their $1 worth.

--
relocating from Indianapolis, IN to RTP, NC soon; got any advice for me?

I wouldn't recommend drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me. -- Hunter S. Thompson

--
Garner, NC

I wouldn't recommend drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me. -- Hunter S. Thompson

This is one reason

why I picked (suggested) the amount of $50 as a requirement for membership, as well as the 75% majority thingie. (sorry Linda, your ten bucks probably wouldn't cover the admin costs associated with the kind of communications & other member benefits(?) that we'd probably want, and still be able to provide assistance)

In order for somebody to bundle (or whatever) and build a voting bloc amongst the membership to achieve the thousand votes you're talking about, it would require $50,000 plus a whole lot of coordinatin', making any attempt to subvert the process pointless (especially since there are many other "amiable" PACs out there to funnel money through).

There won't be any anonymous entities in this partnership. Every donor/member will be required to provide (at least) a name and address, and if any mailings come back "return to sender", that member will be looked at closer.

Keep the questions coming...

I agree, Steve.

Different levels of membership? Do you need a coordinator? :) I'm good at that kind of thing. >wink

$50 is a good starting level. I like the idea of having pledging, too, like public radio. Pledge $10 a month - that's painless, and there you go, $120 a year. $20, and it's $240 a year. What do you get? Progressives in office. Sounds good to me.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi
Pointing at Naked Emperors

As far as a "community" is concerned,

I have absolutely no problem with members attaining different levels, according to their donations. silver/gold/platinum, or some other method for members to recognize a larger-than-average contributor.

I actually envisioned an easily accessible page which shows how much each member has donated, but that was more about transparency than recognition of achievement.

But here's the thing: one vote; that's it.

If we provide a messageboard, so that members can share information with each other, a higher status might add credibility to the person advocating. Which sort of goes along with the "learning experience" thing I was talking about before. But it's still just one vote per member.

eta: I'm really starting to sound proprietary with the direction the discussion is going, and I don't really want to do that. The whole idea is about popular decision-making, so just ignore me if I say, "I don't like this". Means next to nothing.

I wouldn't start with a message board.

There are enough places around for progressives to communicate; there's no need to reinvent the wheel.

I like transparency, but if people can see how much money someone else donated, they might not want to donate because the couldn't match that amount. I could never donate $5000, but I might be able to, over the course of a year, come up with $500.

But the different levels of membership might come with different perks, just like they do with the Dem. Party or Public Radio. You get a T-shirt with one, a sweat shirt with another, etc.

I don't know. Just spit-balling.
Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi
Pointing at Naked Emperors

I think you might have to have more than name and address.

You might have to have the same requirements as a political committee does - employer, no federal funds, etc. I'm not sure how it would be organized, but ..... damn! We've got to get this done. This is more than a good idea. This is an important idea.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi
Pointing at Naked Emperors

1000 people giving a $1 each

1000 people giving a dollar each gives each supporter of that group a vote.

"jump in where you can and hang on"
Briscoe Darling to Sheriff Andy

Yeah, so? :)

In the circles I run, that means having a thousand cats to herd...

--
relocating from Indianapolis, IN to RTP, NC soon; got any advice for me?

I wouldn't recommend drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me. -- Hunter S. Thompson

--
Garner, NC

I wouldn't recommend drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me. -- Hunter S. Thompson

I think Linda's idea of using 'MoveOn's method is worth..

looking at. I don't donate to the Democratic party so they can distribute that money to all those corporation types. I give money to MoveOn, VoteVets and a couple others. They target issues that I, and apparently many others, see as important, and they target congressional races that are strategic. And they have been smart enough to do the targeting with other organizations that share the same goals, thus getting more bang for the buck. It would need to have a small focus in the beginning to have effect, unless Bill Gates, or someone like that is going to bankroll your movement. Then again, I doubt any of those big money guys are really keen on 'real democracies'.

ActBlue can help here.

ActBlue can help the group with all of the following ("keeping transparent, keeping up with the money, etc.")

Everything on ActBlue is public, trackable, and posted in real time.


You can start by coming up with some ideas about information processing. Keeping up with the money, making everything absolutely transparent and viewable online (money brought in, money spent, etc.). Also the site itself: member login, some sort of voter verification method, suggestion box (or whatever).