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…

Meanwhile there is the emerging new progressive movement, the netroots, regular people, grassroots connected and informed by the internet’s power to move information and connect people. The netroots saw the need for change – and went ahead and got it started.
YearlyKos itself is one example – a bunch of volunteers went ahead and did it. The blogs are another example. Regular people across the country from all walks of life who just went ahead and did it. Without pay. With very few resources. And look what they – we accomplished.
It’s the beauty of democracy in action!
But people can only get so much done when they have to choose between helping solve the important problems we face today – and having a car or a family or health insurance — or even health.
Imagine what could be accomplished if the efforts of these hard-working grassroots activists and their emerging organizations and communications channels were fortified with actual resources to reach out past the hyper-informed readers of insider political blogs and out broadly to the general public, backed by market research, media training, media channels and a thriving progressive ecosystem providing advances for writing books, connections, speaking venues with speaking fees, research assistance, and some of the other things our opponents on the right take for granted.
There is a gap between the emerging, effective approaches offered by netroots activists and the donors’ desire to bring about effective political change – leading to a sustainable progressive majority in America.
We’re here today to see what we can do about it.
I’d like to introduce today’s first speaker, Chris Bowers:
Many of you know Chris Bowers from his work at MyDD where he focused on electoral analysis and political infrastructure. Chris currently blogs at OpenLeft. Like me, Chris is a Fellow at the Commonweal Institute.
Rob Stein is one of my personal heroes,
Rob Stein came out of the world of private equity investment. He was senior strategist to Ron Brown, Chairman of the DNC, from 1989 to1992 and Chief of Staff for the Washington Office of the Clinton-Gore Transition. Between 1993 and 95, Rob acted as Chief of Staff, U.S. Department of Commerce. In recent years Rob went around the country giving a presentation on the right’s infrastructure and funding, leading to the founding of the Democracy Alliance.
Lisa Seitz-Gruwell is the Chief Operating Officer at Skyline Public Works, which blends venture capital with political philanthropy by investing in emerging political entrepreneurs who are re-inventing the progressive movement in the United States. She helps Andy and Deborah Rappaport set Skyline’s strategic direction and serves as their political advisor.
Mike Lux is a co-founder with Chris and Matt Stoller of the website OpenLeft. Mike is the co-founder and CEO of Progressive Strategies, L.L.C., a political consulting that is focused on strategic political consulting for non-profits, labor unions, PACs and progressive donors. He is also President of American Family Voices and a Director of Women’s Voices. Women Vote. Before that Mike was Senior Vice President for Political Action at People For the American Way.