At the request of a commenter last week we’re going to look at groups like MoveOn.org. Political action and advocacy groups that have been popping up like weeds since the 1990’s. It’s hard to find another MoveOn though, it’s not what we’re used to. There have been many attempts to build a conservative MoveOn. The cash is forked over, the banners unfurled, carpets rolled out, the band starts but then the fights break out and everyone goes home. Brave challengers to MoveOn’s influence like The Vanguard and Freedom’s Watch start up like a house a fire, then within 6 months or so they’re questions on Jeopardy.
“I’ll take ancient conservative myths for $40, Alex”
In any analysis of political motives, it’s always best to start with looking where the money comes from. After all, in our American Dollar-ocrasy money and politics are a very old married couple. According to the mythology of the far Right, MoveOn is the puppet of uber-demon George Soros and other “Freedom haters” who constantly plot and plan the enslavement of the US (and the world). However, upon actual investigation MoveOn hasn’t taken a dollar from Soros, or any other big contributor since 2004. They don’t have to, their 7 million member base hands over money all the time. MoveOn never asks for much “Can you give $5 to stop this tragedy” “Do you have $15 to send the Senator this important message?” although only 10% of their member base ever responds to any particular plea. However that’s 700,000 people who hand over $5, $15 or whatever. They don’t need Soros’s money. MoveOn can draw all they need from a loosely affiliated group of some 7.2 million Americans who contribute to separate and discrete actions whenever they feel the need. Fair warning, I've contributed myself.
Still, it’s hard to classify exactly what MoveOn is. It began as an email campaign to censure President Clinton over the Monica Lewinski debacle and “Move On” with the country’s business. Since then it has grown into a powerful collector of petition signatures, an advertiser for progressive causes (sometimes brutally pointed as in the “General Betray-Us” ad in the Times) and a rallying point for progressive and liberal causes. MoveOn recently separated into two groups a PAC (Political Action Commitee) and a policy advocacy group.
There is no secret agenda behind MoveOn.org, because they make no secret of their intentions. In fact they won’t stop shouting their million and one agendas to the rooftops. Emails from MoveOn flood the Internet every day emboldening liberals and progressives all across America. If you don't feel all fired up by the latest missive from MoveOn, hit "Delete", there will be more tommorow.
Can it be compared to the Tea Party or any of it’s 26 different forms? What about Americans for progress or Americans for prosperity? Well it’s no political party or movement, it’s just an advocacy group. And whereas the finances of some of the aforementioned are pretty much “Black bag” operations, MoveOn’s finances and donations are completely public. They’re thrilled to hand over their financial records, because being financed by individuals with small contributions is one of MoveOn’s biggest strength’s. Breitbart’s group never quite got that.
MoveOn is successful because they have a very solid audience not because they are well funded. That audience has been growing over the past 14 years and now it’s reached “PAC” worthy proportions. Still, MoveOn is just one of hundreds of citizen-based interest groups, it looks like a lot of americans are getting interested in politics again.
Obvious examples of this are the Tea Party(s). There are at least 26 separate and distinct chapters, some well funded and some not. Some of these organizations are the result of careful planning and big money and some are just citizens who’ve banded together in a common cause. That can be hard for more conservative groups, they often have difficulty being or cooperating with people who vehemently disagree with them. Whereas Liberals are often immersed in a sea of opposing viewpoints, that’s just part of being liberal. One reason why my father sometimes referred to Democrats as the party of “All-Other.” Not that all Democrats are liberal, or progressive, or even (gasp) socialists.
But MoveOn is more like LeftAction, CommonCause or Credo, a distributer of information and a enabler of political action. Their ability to gather hundreds of thousands of signatures almost overnight is legendary. It’s a new paradigm in political action groups. By the way did you hear that Creedo has started their own mobile phone company? It’s a response to AT&T and Verizon turning over all of our phone records to the NSA after 9/11. That’s a pretty innovative response, but I've been thinking we deserve a discount for giving up our privacy, a big one.
If we’re disappointed that there’s no “Dark Mission” to uncover, well sometimes we are just paranoid. That could be due to our fears being fanned to a fury by “interested parties” in the hope that some small political goal might be achieved. The trouble is with all that fanning sometimes you set the house on fire. The winds certainly have been high in the last few years.
I’m sure there’s some political action groups we could worry about, but probably not the ones that are open, clear about their objectives and are scrupulous about their own financing. We can disagree heartily with their ideals, object strenuously to their rhetoric, but they hardly present a serious hidden agenda danger. I’d rather look at some of the more shadowy groups whose backing is mysterious, objectives cloudy and membership closely guarded, groups like Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity. Of course I’m always a little suspicious of any group that uses “America” as part of their name. I think it always serves us best to determine who are the “interested parties” in any PAC or other political group and then ask what they might be after.
One of the best resources to find “interested parties” in politics, is OpenSecrets.org which is a non-profit that collects and compiles all campaign contributions, PAC funding, and generally all money spent and money accepted for political campaigns. Although outfits like Crossroads GPS doesn’t have to report where the money is coming from, campaigns do have to report accepting it.