Comments At YearlyKos Session: Connecting Major Donors to the Netroots

Following are my opening remarks from the Thursday, August 2,2007 YearlyKos session titled, Connecting Major Donors to the Netroots:
Welcome to the opening of the 2007 YearlyKos. And welcome to this early morning session titled Connecting Major Donors to the Netroots.
I am Dave Johnson. I blog at Seeing the Forest and a few other places, and I am a Fellow at the Commonweal Institute.
Let me briefly introduce our topic this morning before we let loose and turn it over to our speakers.
We are all in this together. We all want to fix this country.
Progressive donors want to support political change and they have and have done it well. But in the last several years they have been frustrated to find themselves supporting an increasingly ineffective establishment of well-intentioned organizations eating up gobs of money while getting less and less done. And to make matters worse there is the dysfunctional political campaign system – with hundreds of millions of dollars literally going up in the air for commercials…

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YearlyKos – Liveblogging Presidential Leadership Forum

This is in the large ballroom. There are Draft Gore 2008 brochure cards on every chair.
Gina Cooper just came to the podium to announce the Presidential Leadership Forum. Introducing NY Times Magazine’sMatt Bai.
Matt – Not used to so much appreciation from blogs. This forum today reflects Gina’s singular vision. This is an historic event – first time netroots together in a room with the candidates from a political party for President. Also the first time blogosphere joining with traditional media, honored to be here today to represent that.
Introduces candidates as they come on the stage. Big cheering. Huge cheer for Barack Obama.
Now introducing moderators. Joan Carter, McJoan of DailyKos, Dr.Jeffrey Feldman of FrameShop. Also will be questions from audience.
Bai: Acknowledge it is Obama’s birthday, crowd is singing “Happy Birthday”
Three segments, Domestic Policy, Foreign Policy, Philosophy.
Joan – To Richardson. In previous debate you said your model Supreme COurt would be White – who was anti-abortion. Have you given any more thought to that answers, what would you like the Supreme Court to look like.
Richardson: I screwed up. I believe that the legacy of any Pres, most iprotant is Supreme Court. My court would have diversity, legal scholars, interpret the Constitution, go one step further, I would ask do you believe it is settled law in civil rights, privacy, Roe vs Wade? If they don’t, they’re out.
I admit that mistake. We have to recover tfrom the things this court is doing, make sure future court reflects values of the people and president.
Joan – to Dodd: Will you tell us what circumstances would be extreme enough circumstances to accept another Bush court nominee.
Dodd: Bush is trampling the Constitution. Would be a mistake to accept any more Supreme Court nominations before the next election. I believed Roberts when he said he would not make big canges. My mistake.
Joan – for Sen. Clinton – Battle scars from previous attempt at health care. What are those scars, what are you going to do differently.
H: I am proud of the effort I led in 93, 94. Disgrace that we have so many uninsured, underinsured. We up here are all in favor of universal health care. We need more than a plan, we need a strategy that health care is an American value worth fighting for, need to put together a coalition of affected groups, willing and able to withstand the incredible blowback that we will get. My highest domestinc priority.
Matt: Sen Obama, budget deficits. Wold it be a top priority for you? Even if you have to trim your proposals.
Obama: We are coming out of the most irresponsible admin. We have to stop digging the hole. #1stop spending billions on Iraq. Not renew Bush tax cuts. Institute Paygo – no new spending/tax cuts without paying for it.
We have to make investments in the American people at the same time as we dig out of this deficit. I am not going to short change children, health care. We have to make siome investments because over long term will generate tax revenue. Medicare and Medcate biggest budget issue – universal health care saves tremendous amount for fed government.
Are we making investments that pay off for our long-term growth…
Bai to Sen Edwards – once you open the floodgates and allow certain deficits how do you stop Congress from spending more and more and more.
Edwards: I think big changes are needed, not small changes. I believe this room is filled with people who are about change. Basic question has to be answered. Who will be about change? Who is candidate for change. I don’t think insurance oil other cmpanies are going to voluntarily give away power. I think this is a very fundamental question – if you want change and serious change, who will be best candidate to do that. Someone who has fought these people their entire lives. We have to take their pwer from them with your help.
Big cheers, people standing.
Richards – these are fine speeches, but I have balanced budgets. Iraq money to health care. Const. Amendment to balance budget (crowd booing and hissing), get rid of corporate welfare (crowd cheers). Bai stops him – out of time.
Audience qs – For Dodd – handful of companies own all the news companies, media consolidation threatens democracy.
Dodd – Asked Justice Dept to look into Murdoch buying Dow Jones. Stand up when things get tough – stand up to Bill O’Reilly (crowd cheers) Can’t tolerate this kind of behavior. Denying us free access to information. Thank the Lord for DailyKos. Sources of information consolidated and controlled by too few entities. He will do what he can to break this up.
Cointon – need more media competition, make sure architecture of internet stays open (cheers) if we need new laws I hope wel will be able to take a look at those, this admin won’t afford laws already on books. Need to do more.
Q from Bai for Kucinich – is there a govt program that you feel has outlived its usefulness.
Kucinich – programs that perpetuate the nuclear power industry. There is a candidate who believes in universal single payer not for profit health care. Am people already paying for universal standard of care but not getting it. Use the money we are spending to give us all heath care by taking profit out of it.
Audience Q for Edwards – current admin has consolidated powers of exec branch. What will you do to restore balance, and faith in our system of government,
Edwards – I will close Guantanamo first day. WIll not engage in or condone torture, no secret prisons, this is not who we are. We need a transparent government., This govt belongs to you. We can start reforming Washington and Dem Party today. I don’t, Obama doesn’t take money from lobbyists, why don’t we all swear to take no more money from Washington lobbyists. End this system.
(Crowd on feet cheering)
Matt Q for Gravel – Your campaign supports fair tax, eliminate IRS and income tax, replace with 23% sales tax. (boos and hisses)
Gravel – you have been cheering all these statements about what they’re going to do, but you heard it before and will hear it again. They tell you the problem in a dramatic way so you think they know the answers. They are good people but they exist in a system that doesn’t work. Don’t worry about fair tax, it won’t pass. Elected officials think about how does this affect my election, and the people with money.
The only answer is for you to realize that the answer is with you to acquire lawmaking powers.
Foreign policy – Joan – everyone wants us out of Iraq. Kucinich says we have the power now.
Hillary – voted against last funding. We have to keep the pressure on. 3-point plan, I will get us out. Do it in a careful responsible way. Making current Pentagon come before congress and tell us the plans they are making to move the troops out. We must engage in more intense diplomatic effort.
Kucinich -Chney should be imeached for lying. (Crowd cheers) It is a fact that we gave Bush 97 million seven weeks ago. He can use that to bring the troops home. Dems in Congress have not kept faith with people who voted to end war.
Bai – feasability of immediate withdrawal – to Dodd
Dodd – important that Dems stand up. Policy has been a failure. (Didn’t answer question)
Richardson – get out, leave no residual forces. Need an all-Muslim force to keep peace.
Bai – if you take them ot how do you protect against same kind of genocide in Darfur.
Richardson -we need to deauthorize this war.
Gravel – they do have the votes, just keep having cloture votes, all times of day. They don’t want to do it. Bring them all home, we are not an imperialist power.
Bai – terrorism, Sen Obama, Do you believe we bear any measure of responsibility for anti-Americanism that led to 9/11.
Obama – no excuse for 9/11. They weren’t from Iraq. We absolutely have acted in a way that has inflamed anti-American sentiment. We invaded, unleashed chaos.
End out occupation and focus on the terrorists who killed 3000 Americana. We have not finished the job in Afghanistan. It makes no sense for President to talk tough and wiretap while he doesn’t deal with the serious problem.
Bai – did American foreign policy contributed.
Obama – no excuse for 9/11 but we have had a pattern in the past for acting in ways, oil, etc. If we had donated schools, engage our opponents as well as our friends, we will ahve a change in the way America is perceived. If we lead with our values or ideas.
Edwards – George Bush has not made us safer. Used a bumper-sticker phrase to justify every bad thing he has done. We shouldnot accept Bush’s way of framing the discussion.
Bai to Clinton – what is right construct, what is your construct more accurate than war on terror –
Hillary – There is a lot of anti-Bush feeling, not as much anti-Bush. We have made some progress in becomming safer, our first responders. But Bush policies have unleashed so much alienation and andger that we are facing more terrorists. It is a global war against terrorists, not terror. We need to use every tool at our disposal, military force last not first resort.
be as analytical about it as possible. Complicated long-term struggle where we protect and promote American values.
Kucinich – country better served if before we got into Iraq more analysis,neocon mindset of peace through strength, unilaterism… I am talking about a new doctrine, strength through peace, diplomacy,international law. Shift your thinking away fromthis neocon doctrine.
Audience – Obama, Americans worried about China. Next superpower. How do we reconcile China as a menace and trade partner.
Obama – China a competitor does not have to be an enemy unless we make it an enemy. Get our own house in order, if they are our banker and we are the borrower… we must put pressure on them human rights, trade – China is manipulating their currency. We believe in fair trade, that goes both ways, not getting it out of China. Most important thing is to engage in the world. Africa – saying Chinese presence is as great as the US absence, building hospitals, railways… We are neglecting opportunities around the world that China is taking advantage of.
Q to Dodd – Aericans travel abroad
Dodd – tragedy of ads in DC after 9/11 looking for people who speak Arabic. I was in peace corps. Nedd that. Others can get to know who we are. Triple peace corps. Missing shared experience as Americans.
Joan asks Edwards about Pakistan – Musharref – what happens if he is overthrown. Are we trading communism for terrorism. If these folks are going to be our partners in the war on terror, are we doing the same thing?
Edwards – Pakistan somewhat unstable. We do need to put pressure on Musharraf – he said to me our children are educated in Maddrassas taught to hate America – it would make all the diffrerence if they could get a public school education. America is spending so much in Iraq, why not lead an effort to make education available to children around the world, that will hep. Soft power matters. Create an undercurrent that drives people toward us instead of away fromus.
Economic leverage over Musharref. Diplomatic, ratchet up, shouldbe done. Be careful, Saudi arms deal, another perfect example of a foreign policy of convenience, they are not helping in Iraq or helping stop terrorism, and could create an arms race in Middle East.
Richardson – Was sent to region to talk to Taliban. Problem is Bush policy to Musharraf is appeasement, we are not going to push you because it will hurt you domestically. We have to push him. He is not a democract, want to stay in power, abuses human rights. American policy should stand for democracy and human rights. You go after those safe havens or we will.
Q from Pontificator – will you hire an official White House blogger?
Hands – All raise hands. Edwards says it will be Elizabeth Edwards. Gravel says it cold be a toolof the president him or her self.
Joan – for Gravel – are all elected officials in Alaska corrupt?
Gravel – no their not and it is a source of great embarrassment for the state. Politicians walk in the mud because of the way the system is structured because you have to raise money. Money is the corrupting agent of politics. Media controlled by 5 corporations telling us the ones who raised the most – the most corrupt – are the ones who should be elected.
Bai – would candidates commit to visit all 50 states?
Obama – the only way change can hapen is if you make it. Must have a 50 percent plus one strategy, eke out a victory even if the Supreme Court overturns it. If we are going to pass health care, etc. we have got to expand the voter base.
Kucinich says not much difference between two parties. Americans ready for new approach in world community.
Hillary – 50-state strategy is exactly right. We will go in to as many places as possible building on the work Howard has done, and try to have a conversation with everyone.
Richardson – Gov Dean’s strategy has been increasingly important in Dems winning. Making a diff in Governors. Need verifiable paper ballots. Need same day registration. Stop the abuse of Rep party to suppress minority voters from going to polls. Need nominee who talks about bringing country together.
Edwards- everywhere in Ameiica eople believe system is rigged against them, know who has the power and know it is not them. Need to quit worrying about political strategy and be the party that stands for real change, real reform. Never take a dime from a DC lobbyist. Need grassroots movement for reform.
Hillary asked about not taking lobbyist money – she says that is certainly a position that John as taken. I don’t let it influence me. (Crowd boos) I have been on the front lines of the change we need. I wish it were as simple as saying this. It is going to take a grassroots movement. That is why I am here today. Thank the blogosphere, wish you were here in 93 and 94 when we tried to get health care. Look at my record, core principles have not changed.
Dodd – Need public financing (crowd is on feet)
Hilalry – we’re all for public financing
Obama – I am happy that Dodd is on board for pub financing
Dodd – I;ve been for it for 15 years
Obama – Insurance and drug companies have spent a billion dollars, they are not spending htat just because it is in the public interest. They are spending that because they have an agenda. (-I- stood up to cheer, stopped typing, missed some of what he said next)
We can take concrete steps right now, long term goal pub financing but there are things we can do right now.
Edwards – how many people in this room have a lobbyist working for you. You are NOT represented by lobbyist money.
Kucinish – Headge funds & Edwards
Edwards – I will have never take a dime from a lobbyist need to raise money from nurses … (missed)
Audience Q – after 9/11 changed structure of our government, Dept of Homeland Security. DOn’t believe we are safer. Steps have been taken,lots left to be done. Bush lost war in Iraq, perception in world that America is abully, selfish, took rights from people, spying on Americans, made a terrible example to world. Don’t promote American values, undermine heart and soul of what America is supposed to be about.
Richards – yes, restructure homeland security, appoint people who know what they are doing, put FEMA under president, review 9/11 overreactions. Return habaes corpus, get rid of torutre, respect Geneva Convenstions.
Dodd – I will use executive orders to do away with all the damage that has been done to the Constitution. More dangerous than what was done with Homeland Security.
Obama- what are we going to do with Exec branch, not just Homeland Security. I will appoint an Atty Gen who doesn’t just assume the Constitution is a convenience. Aggressive ethics bill, no lobbying after serving in White House. Revolving door has to stop.
Hillary – We (Edwards) have a vigorous agreement – at home we are safer because of first responders… missed part of it. Talking about signing statements, incompetence, got to clean that up. Duty of President is to be prepared to keep America safe.
Says no company that employs a lobbyist – no execs etc. can give us money. Constitutional Amendment.
Kucinish – are we safe is key issue in this election. Missile strikes in OPakistan killing civilians makes us not safer – strength through peace.
Richardson – My Vice President will be a member of the Exec Branch.
Bai – appreciate your coming here.. crowdon feet.

Liveblogging Hillary Breakout Session

I am at the Hillary breakout session, which is occurring before the general session with all the candidates. The rest of the candidates will have their breakout session s following the general session.
This is a medium-sized room – the same room where I just completed my Smoking Politics panel. There are more people here now.
Peter Daou and Hillary have come out now. Peter says when Senator found out about the scheduling mixup she immediately told her staff to find a way that she could do a session with the attendees.
Senator will make opening remarks. You want to meet her, but she wants to eet you so when you have a question please tell us a little about yourself.
Hillary now: Thank you for understanding about working out the time. Thank Peter for terrific job he does.
Her microphone went out, she says “vast right-wing consipiracy”
Thank you for helping us create a new progressive movement in America. Thank you for helping me stand up against the rw noise machine, and giving support to the progressive agenda of the Dem party. I only wish we had this active a blogosphere 15 years ago. We have suffered from the imbalance in the country. Now we are better prepared and more focused on getting our ideas out. Progressive infrastructure. We are beginning to match what I have said for years was the advantage of the other side. When I made that comment about the vast rw conspiracy I wasn’t kidding – except it was right out there in the open.
I really appreciate the individual and collective effor tbeing the front line of the progressive movement.
Second thing – it makes those of us who run for office a little sharper, more on our toes.

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YearlyKos- Dean Announces Election Protection Project

At the YearlyKos Convention tonite Howard Dean announced a national Election Protection Project, working with every single county in the country to get ahead of election problems NOW, rather than just before and after the 2008 election. They will identify problems like providing too few voting machines in precincts as a way to keep the vote count down, etc. From a press release e-mailed to me about the project,

Through its 50 State Strategy, Voting Rights Institute and National Lawyers Council, the DNC is conducting an in-depth nationwide survey to collect critical data on voting practices and procedures at the local level. The goal of the project is to map the often confusing and complex sets of administrative practices and decisions governing election administration in every state. Working with local election boards, the DNC is examining the election mechanics in each state, flagging potential problems and election administration issues that threaten to deprive citizens of their right to register, vote and have their vote counted. Once these issues are identified, the DNC will work to resolve potential problems well in advance of the 2008 election. Election laws, while written on the federal and state level, are often subject to interpretation at the local level. This decentralized process results in varied administration and supervision of the elections themselves, which can be potentially problematic considering that in 2008, there will be at least 13,000 elections run by localities.
[. . .]The goal of this unprecedented project is to protect and ensure our voting rights, by working now to identify and attempt to resolve election administration issues that threaten to deprive citizens of the right to register, vote and have their vote counted.”

YearlyKos Day 1

I woke up about 6 local time (4 my time) so I could get registered and scope out the convention center and the room for my first panel, titled Connecting Major Donors to the Netroots. Right away it’s clear that this pace is vast. YealryKos is in a new convention center attached to a Hyatt hotel, part of the McCormick covention center complex. (The cab driver told me that driving around the perimeter of the whole complex is seven miles. Is this true?)
The registration was set up, but my first panel was upstairs somewhere, and no one I talked to knew how to get there. Eventually I found it, and it really was about a quarter mile from registration. The air condition was not on yet, and it was HOT, even at 7am. But the projector was set up and the room was laid out.
Having a panel at 8am on the first day of a conference is not a recipe for high attendance, so I had located and raised money to hire a camera and operator so we can get this onto the web later. He showed up at 7:30, and got set up, but we could not locate a way to plug into the sound system and the AV person we called never showed up The operator had to use the camera’s microphone so the sound probably won’t be great when you hear it.
The panel started relatively on time and went very well. I will put my opening remarks in a separate post. I found out last night that Joe Trippi could not make it to my second panel, Creating a Culture of Grassroots Giving, and asked Patrick O’Heffernan, Commonweal Institute Senior Fellow, to fill in. He did a great job. Colin Bishop, a fundraiser, also joined at the last minute and did well. That panel went really well.
Walking around YearlyKos this year is very different from last year. Last year it was a mass of faces that few recognized – I described it as the largest gathering of people who knew each other but had never seen each other. This year is was lots and lots of familiar faces. Lots of people saying hi.
Today was really “workshop” day. The real opening of YearlyKos was tonite, with Howard Dean gicing the opening keynote. He was, of course, great. He announced a new voting iitiative by the Democratic Party, working with every single county in America, down the the precinct level, to identify voting problems NOW, for the 2008 election, and starting to solve them now. Right down to which precincts do not get enough voting machines.

YearlyKos

I will be leaving Wednesday for Chicago to attend YearlyKos.
Thursday at 8am I am moderating a session titled Connecting Major Donors to the Netroots. The panelists are:
Chris Bowers
Lisa Seitz Gruwell
Michael Lux
Rob Stein of Democracy Alliance, who will give his famous (in certain circles) presentation on the right’s infrastructure and funding.
At 9:30 I am moderating a session titled Creating a Culture of Grassroots Giving. The panelists are:
Joe Rospars, now of the Obama for America campaign
Joe Trippi, now of the Edwards for President campaign
Shai Sachs of MyDD
I am also a panelist at the following sessions:
Reaching the Public
Think Tank Resources for Bloggers
Smoking Politics

Last Week’s Take Back America Conference – Building Bridges

I attended the Take Back America conference last week, and it was great. I am inspired, and you should be, too.
Two years ago I was at this same conference and it was a very different experience. I felt it was attending a tired, demoralized gathering of people associated with the older, Washington-based, established, celebrity-driven issue-organizations. I left discouraged, wondering when the liberal establishment would start to catch up with the ideas circulating around the blogosphere – especially with the ideas about building “progressive infrastructure” organizations for reaching out to the public and promoting core progressive values and ideas, instead of the focus on issues.
After that conference I wrote,

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Presidential Candidate Forum at YearlyKos

Last year’s YealyKos convention made history. This year’s YearlyKos convention is looking better and better!
YearlyKos Netroots Convention announces unprecedented forum for 2008 presidential candidates and progressive leaders,

Today organizers of the YearlyKos Convention announced an unprecedented forum featuring potential 2008 presidential candidates during the second annual YearlyKos Convention on August 4th in Chicago. Organizers touted the forum as an opportunity to use technology to empower regular citizens and grassroots activists to engage, vet and evaluate America’s potential leaders, both face-to-face and online.
…Organizers are also asking the candidates to spend time in individual, unscripted “citizen dialogues” with convention attendees, encouraging substantive discussions that transcend the competitive nature of most joint appearances on the campaign trail. The events and conference are open to media and blog coverage.

Go read the whole thing.
You can register here. It’s in Chicago, August 2-5.

Blog Hero Award – YearlyKos Staff and Volunteers

I am awarding the coveted – COVETED! – Seeing the Forest Blog Hero Award to the entire YearlyKos staff and volunteers.
This post is an ongoing project. So please send me pictures of anyone I missed! Please let me know names to put with the pictures. Also, the pictures were taken at the end of YearlyKos, so everyone is tired. Please send me a better picture if you would like that posted instead. This post will grow, new pictures will be added, and some day it will be complete.
Here are the winners of the coveted Seeing the Forest Blog Hero Award:



Gina Cooper

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Gov. Warner’s Expensive Party — Brilliant

Friday night Gov. Warner threw a very expensive party for YearlyKos attendees. Some people wonder if it reflects poorly on his judgement, that he lavishly throws money around. I think this may have been a very effective use of marketing dollars and a very sharp strategic move. Think about it this way: if Gov. Warner has now established himself in the front of the pack, and grabbed onto a great big piece of the mindshare of the blogosphere, for only $70,000 (or whatever it cost), then GOOD FOR HIM – it shows he knows how to reach the audiences he needs to reach, when he needs to reach them. It’s called “marketing.” If there’s anything the Democrats need it’s marketing know-how, and if it means we get to eat free sushi, all the better.


Ice sculpture at Governor Warner’s party for YearlyKos attendees

Compare this to the cost and effort that would be required to achieve the same results using other means. How DO you get the attention of the blogoshpere? Do you set up local or regional meetings with bloggers? Think of the travel costs, time and staff that would take. Then there’s the fact that he would have to fight tooth and nail with all the other candidates along that road.
With one well-timed event, Warner established mindshare – he got it done, he’s on our map.
But wait, there’s more!

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YearlyKos – Building Progressive Infrastructure

Following are my prepared remarks to the YearlyKos panel on Building Progressive Infrastructure. Also speaking were Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, Jerome Armstrong and David Sirota: (There’s a snippet of video here. I’ll post a link to a complete video if it becomes available.)
Thank you for inviting me to come to YearlyKos to talk Creating Progressive Infrastructure. I’m Dave Johnson. I blog at seeing the Forest and I’m a Fellow at the Commonweal Institute.
One of the things the bloggers have been pounding on for at least a couple of years is the idea of building Progressive Infrastructure.
For decades you haven’t been able to go anywhere without hearing – over and over – that conservatives are good and liberals and their ideas are bad and stupid and shameful and evil – and a hundred variations on that theme. Have any of you encountered that message?

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