Tell me more about the Accountability Now PAC

The Accountability Now PAC announced its arrival today:

"We need members of Congress to leave the bubble of Washington, D.C. and stand with their constituents," said Jane Hamsher, founder of Firedoglake.com and co-founder of Accountability Now. "We need members of Congress to ask the tough questions about continued Wall Street bailouts that reward the donor class, two wars without seeming end, the ceaseless assault on our civil liberties, and other issues that separate the citizenry from the DC cocoon."

"Accountability Now is an organization built around a single guiding principle: challenging the institutional power structures that make it so easy, so consequence-free for Congress to open up the government coffers for looting by corporate America while people across the country are losing their jobs and their basic constitutional rights while unable to afford basic health care," said Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com and co-founder of Accountability Now. "Accountability Now believes that members of Congress in both parties need to hear from their constituents, and that nothing focuses the mind of a politician on listening to citizens better than a primary."

"Accountability Now PAC will recruit, coordinate, and support primary challenges against vulnerable Congressional incumbents who have become more responsive to corporate America than to their constituents," said Accountability Now's new Executive Director, Jeff Hauser. "By empowering the grassroots, Accountability Now will help create the political space needed to enable President Obama to make good on the many progressive policies he campaigned on - such as getting out of Iraq, ensuring access to affordable health care for every man, woman and child, restoring our constitutional liberties and ending torture."

In 2007, grassroots activists banded together to oust Al Wynn out of office, and it shook House Democrats to their core. Similarly, we learned in 2006 how even a primary challenge that does not win could change behavior, as Jane Harman has been more accountable to the concerns of her constituents after a tough primary race against Marcy Winograd.

Out of these recent lessons, diverse and politically powerful groups have decided to support Accountability Now's efforts, such as MoveOn, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), DailyKos, ColorOfChange.org, and Democracy for America, 21st Century Democrats and BlogPAC.

On principle, I agree with the goals of this PAC. Like some guy once said, "the system in Washington is rigged and our government is broken. It's rigged by greedy corporate powers to protect corporate profits. [...] We cannot replace a group of corporate Republicans with a group of corporate Democrats [...]"

However, I won't get excited about the Accountability Now PAC until I learn more about the criteria it will use to determine which Democratic incumbents are "bad enough" to be primaried, and which primary challengers are "good enough" to be endorsed.

To my knowledge, Democracy for America was the only organization in the Accountability Now PAC that helped Ed Fallon in last year's primary in Iowa's third district (a D+1 district represented by Blue Dog Leonard Boswell).

How would someone thinking about a primary challenge know whether he or she is likely to get full support, like Donna Edwards in MD-04, or almost nothing, like Fallon?

Speaking of Democracy for America, they have announced the 2009 schedule for their acclaimed two-day training academy. I've never attended one of these, but I have heard great things about the program. My fellow Iowa blogger noneed4thneed has signed up for this weekend's DFA academy in Des Moines.

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Save Soapblox!

From the diaries - Todd

You know how some politicians are fond of saying "you can't solve a problem by just throwing money at it." Well, here is a problem you can solve by throwing money at it. Send in a contribution to save Soapblox now!.

Goal Thermometer

More in the extended entry.

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Firing On All Cylinders

Ealier Jerome mentioned Obama's lack-of-blog-outreach problem, and I wanted to add a little color to the discussion of why such outreach is crucial.

As noted, Obama's team has really nailed down the field/finance side of what internet tools and strategy can do. Volunteers are empowered to knock on more doors. Fundraising goals got scaled up. All the quantifiable metrics of a traditional campaign have improved.

But as an example of the other half of what the internet can do, roughly "communications/policy/research" in campaign shorthand, look back at the fight a few years ago to save Social Security.

In order to sell private accounts as an attractive policy solution, George Bush and the Republican machine first needed to convince the American public that Social Security had a huge problem that needed fixing. So they started telling the public that Social Security was in crisis and insolvent. If we didn't do something now, they told us, we'd all be eating cat food by Christmas. And they were looking to raise $100 million to fund the effort (click that link and check out the post's author).

At first, Bush's scheme started to catch on - traditional media outlets like the Washington Post, and even some Democrats, started internalizing and repeating the talking point that something was wrong with Social Security. The situation was dire: if Republicans succeeded in that first crucial step - convincing Americans that Social Security was broken - they would have an open door to introduce a convenient privitization "solution."

But the Democrats drew a line in the sand. In his book "The Good Fight," Harry Reid talks about the various pieces needed to save Social Security: pushes for intra-party discipline, outreach to allies, and a country-wide tour touting the benefits of the program.

Sites like talkingpointsmemo.com and MyDD led the charge to beat back the lies about Social Security. BlogPac's "There Is No Crisis" was born. When traditional media outlets adapted the right-wing talking points about insolvency, blogs went after them to speak objectively and give the facts. Democratic surrogates took to the airwaves and reminded Americans of Social Security's history and its solvent economics. And when certain Democrats wavered on privitization, Air America hosts like Sam Seder and Al Franken encouraged listeners to call their Congressmen and push for a commitment against the scheme. At that moment, we were firing on all cylinders, together, as a movement.

It worked. The Republican plan to convince Americans that Social Security was a problem in need a privitization failed. The biggest Republican legislative priority had lost, but only when Democratic insiders and outsiders worked together. If elected Democrats and their allies, both online and off, share a strategy and a message, we can win.

So how might the lessons of that fight apply to John McCain and this election? How could progressive allies help bat down phony conventional wisdom?

Update [2008-8-21 5:57:58 by Josh Orton]: As pointed out, I was remiss in shorthanding the huge work our allies at Americans United and organized labor (outside groups?) did to mobilize people and help with pushback during the Social Security fight. Blogs and other online allies were not the only players. Certainly adds to the notion of "all cylinders."

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BlogPAC Entrepreneur Contest

As a progressive entrepreneur (the48er.com), I got pretty excited a few weeks ago when I saw Chris's posts here and elsewhere about the BlogPAC progressive entrepreneur contest. I applied and was glad to see that the announcement of who'd won had been delayed until today -- August 14 -- so that those evaluating the applications would have more time to do so. But now today's slipping away, and so far I've seen no word about who won. I'm pretty sure that I've checked all the logical spots on the Net -- but nothing.

Has anyone else seen or heard anything in these regards?

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Who wants $5,000?

Earlier this week, Blogpac announced a series of $5,000 grants to support entrepreneurs who develop proposals for building progressive infrastructure.  Having spent a bit of time discussing liberal entrepreneurship on this blog, I was very excited to read the announcement.  This kind of effort is exactly what I want to see more of from progressive organizations, and three cheers to Blogpac for leading the way!

I will probably be sending in my own submission to this contest, and for the moment I'm holding my own hand close to the vest.  But in the spirit of friendly competition and encouraging other budding entrepreneurs, and in hopes of flooding the panel of judges with good ideas, this diary is dedicated to helping others develop proposals for the contest.  Follow me across the flip...

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