Still strip-mining the grassroots

I've been following Greg Bloom's "Strip-Mining the Grassroots" series very closely, and for a while I'd been meaning to post my own experience with Grassroots Campaigns Incorporated. I've finally been motivated to do so by a very unpleasant irony: I found this Powerline blog post on Labor Day:

the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has hired Boston's Grassroots Campaigns to solicit money for the DCCC by promoting, among other things, the need to raise the minimum wage. One problem: Grassroots doesn't pay the canvassers who campaign for minimum wage increases the current minimum wage.

Powerline is referring to this article in the Isthmus, which describes a few GCI canvassers (who are working for the DCCC) who are protesting their awful pay rates.

How very familiar... if anything, I'm surprised it took this long for GCI's dealings to blow up in the Democrats' faces.

I was a director for GCI's DNC canvass in 2004, to "beat Bush." I had three years of experience working on Capitol Hill, including major fundraising for Gephardt. When I heard about what GCI was doing, I thought- "Excellent. instead of asking for big scale money, I'm now going to do grassroots fundrasing." I was offered an AD position in the San Francisco office on the spot in the interview. But even after the meeting, I didn't quite know what this meant -- they really did not clearly articulate their positions. In fact, I believe GCI is purposely unclear about the differences between CD, AD, Field Manager, Canvasser.  The same is true for the pay scale. They purposely just hoarded people in with a "let's beat Bush, you'll get the details later" mentality.

They sent me to San Diego. It was a hard place to raise money. I'd hired a woman who had monitored elections in Bosnia, and she was getting screamed at on the street. Then I found myself in the position of being unable to explain her payscale. Nobody could explain the payscale -- it was awful.

Then I went to Cleveland for the rest of the summer -- a city where the unemployment rate is above 15 percent, deemed "the poorest city in America" in 2004.   What kind of fundraising canvassing could we do there? I told them we should have been out there registering voters, but they didn't listen to me. In NYC, people were getting handed 1000 checks, but I'd tell my canvassers, we are blessed -- we are out on the street talking to swing voters, union people. Even if we don't make our quota, at least we have told people the truth. But we had these poor poor people who worked for us, and who just wouldn't get paid on time or at all in part because they were unable to raise much money. And the rest because GCI was unethical with paychecks and reimbursements. They'd be asking 'can I please just get my $18 check so that I can put gas in my car?' But we didn't have the checks -- I was so severely embarrassed. One director gave someone $300 of her own money, just because she felt so bad because this canvasser's pay hadn't come.

Still, I believed GCI when they told me that their goals were to engage small donors to increase the vote and beat the Republicans in the campaign finance race for 2004.  All along they were running it on the PIRG membership model -- which is all about long-term database building. They were telling people that the money was going to the swing states -- but it was just going to make a bigger donor list! I'm not saying that's not a good thing -- but, you know, so much for 'beat Bush.'

Eventually, after four months, I told GCI that if was time for me to find another way to help beat Bush.  I was so completely exhausted that I was ordered to bedrest for 4 days by my doctor.   But GCI was closing down the Cleveland office, and there was only one other director, so I stayed on for two weeks to help wrap everything up. After all that, they called me and told me that I wasn't pulling my weight the last week and therefore they weren't going to pay me for my last week! Their reason was that I had not canvassed during that time. Nevermind my four months of success as a canvasser and canvassing trainer.   I guess running their office alone with one person while sick doesn't count as actual work.

When I left, I wrote a long letter to the head of GCI, Doug Phelps, detailing a number of legal and ethical violations (not mentioned in this posting) that I'd seen as a director. I was angry. I was upset about how I was treated.   I was upset about how our canvassers were treated.  I felt dirty having been a part of this.  I was tired. I was poor.  

I never received a response to this letter.

However, "hope was on the way." I got a fantastic job on the Kerry campaign in Ohio and really grew into myself with a team of professionals.  I had a livable wage. I had a little power. I worked with a great national team. I developed a state-wide voter contact training model. I had a hand in strategic planning. We had record breaking achievements. And while on that team for two months, I learned a great deal about the problems that the DNC canvassers caused for the Kerry campaign -- because GCI had been there canvassing the poor neighborhoods so much, claiming to represent the Democrats, to the point where people were refusing to be approached by the Kerry campaign operatives! After the campaign, I also spoke with my contacts from my years in DC -- some of whom were pretty high up -- who reported to me that the DNC wanted to "shitcan" its contract with GCI.

But here we are again, no shitcan for GCI -- in fact, even more contracts, with the DCCC! We're coming up onto another election, and GCI is still operating with highly irresponsible and even immoral practices, still lying to people that their donation is going to help win the election, still putting the Democratic Party's reputation in danger. It's not just a matter of hypocrisy with regards to the minimum wage, although the right-wing blogs may get great mileage out of that. It's a matter of corporate responsibility; for Democrats, it needs to start here.

Kate Burke - Nashville, TN

Tags: canvassing, dccc, DNC, Fundraising, GCI, grassroots, minimum wage (all tags)



Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

Well said and I'm glad to see that you are backing up the comments we've seen before. I know of Congressional campaigns that believe that they have hired a different firm for their GOTV and yet I'm pretty sure it's the same folks.

I feel sorry for them.

This is another symptom of a problem I glanced off of in my post today: Very few Democratic Contractors at any level are actually coordinated nor have bench marks that must be met to be retained in the future.

It seems that once a person or firm is inside the 'Party' that they are there for the duration.

I have my own personally experienced examples of this incompetence but can't be more explicit without chancing a lawsuit.

I do have a suggestion: Get on an interview with me at Political Interviews and I'll see that the interview is forwarded to some people that can get it in front of some true leaders in the Party.

You will need to have a file built of times and a legal brief, so if they want proof you can have it ready. Simply telling the story won't be enough. But we can try.

Our GOTV machine is non-existent as a Party entity or tool. That does not need to be the reality. There are solutions that can be implemented on any scale necessary.

But first we have to prove...truly prove...the ineffectiveness of the current system.

Up to you.

by BigDog 2006-09-05 10:53AM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

Thanks for your appreciation toward this issue. I do not feel bad for them.  I do hope, however, they will come to face the Truth (with a capital T.)

by GCILies 2006-09-05 11:14AM | 0 recs
Re: Big Dog and GC

why doesn't someone start an alternative version of Grassroots Campaigns with a different business model, and compete with them?

by buffalo girl 2006-09-05 11:24AM | 0 recs
Re: Big Dog and GC

There are alternative models out there doing campaign subcontracting work -- notably Fieldworks and  Grassroots Solutions. There are alternative models to Telefund, including the unionized I can't personally attest to any of these operations, though I hear they are all well-respected.

The more salient point is, however, that GCI has almost immediately grabbed a huge chunk of its market. GCI's big sis, the Fund, is nearly a monopoly in the canvassing industry. I've heard the response "just start your own!" a bunch of times, and it strikes me that no one would even think to say that to someone who is criticizing, say, WalMart or the Clear Channel. These are companies have gotten so big in part because of how cheaply they treat their product/services -- and like GCI, the critique of WalMart and Clear Channel is that they actually have negative effects that emanate throughout the market.

And as Kate points out, GCI is representing major progressive entities whose reputation is ultimately at stake.

by greg bloom 2006-09-05 11:35AM | 0 recs
Re: Big Dog and GC

A friend at Grassroots solutions has detailed for me the problems and embarassments the name similarity with Grassroots Campaigns has caused for them!

by GCILies 2006-09-05 11:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Big Dog and GC

well, they'd say it if they didn't know what else there was in the market...thanks for the info.

by buffalo girl 2006-09-05 12:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Big Dog and GC

And there are other solutions too. But the difference in names could be solved if the one that needed the differentiation would take the bull by the horns.

An uncomfortable solution...but obvious. Be more detailed and expressive in your name...and different.

As an old marketing book that I live by was titled:
Differentiate or Die

by BigDog 2006-09-05 04:27PM | 0 recs
Re: Big Dog and GC

Greg I worked for the Fund for a couple of years and have been following your series.

I feel the need to chime in on the "just start your own group" response that you get.

Your analogy to Wal-Mart and Clear Channel just does not seem to be fair. Wal-Mart drove out smaller locally owned shops. The Fund developed a cost effective way to do a fundraising canvass. Most groups could not pull of their own canvasses successfully, so they turned to the Fund to do it for them. They Fund may appear to have a monopoly, but they really do not they are just really good at what they do. They in no way drove out the competition.

In terms of Clear Channel they rose to be where they are because of the Telecommunication Act of 1996. Clinton deregulated the industry and Clear Channel rose to power in the industry because of that, which ruined everything that was good about radio. As you can see my Communications degree is finally coming in handy. The Fund's rise to power in the canvassing world did not really happen like that.

My point here is that these corporate giants, Wal-Mart and Clear Channel, rose to power in a much different fashion.

Greg honestly I think that you are off base in a lot of your critiques, but have raised some good points.

Greg you could start your own group. The Fund's "monopoly" is not what is getting in the way. Just start a group that does canvassing more effectively than the Fund/GCI and clients will go with you instead.

When people make this critique I think that one of the major things that they are getting at is that you seem to give mostly broad solutions with no way to practically implement them.

I will just come out in say it, Greg I do not think that you could not pull off starting your own group. This is not a personal attack just a reality.

Nothing would make me happier than if you did, I just want the Progressive movement to win. Prove me wrong.

In terms of GOTV I do not think that GCI is standing in the way of other groups doing GOTV.

BTW- People should start better versions of Wal-Mart/Clear Channel.

by thegatekeeper 2006-09-06 09:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

Actually, Stuart, if they're hiring a vendor to help set up GOTV (i.e., not to fundraise) there is a pretty high likelihood they are using Grrassroots Solutions, and not GCI.  Grassroots Solutions is a totally unrelated and altogether reputable company (unless there's something I don't know).  I've never worked for them personally, but I almost did one time, and they sure seemed to understand the value of paying people adequately and being straight with them.  They also have a reputation for doing some pretty good work.

by Patton 2006-09-05 03:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

(see Kate's comment above: A friend at Grassroots solutions has detailed for me the problems and embarassments the name similarity with Grassroots Campaigns has caused for them!)

by campaign06 2006-09-05 03:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

10-4, Patton. Double checked and you are correct!

I think this points out the necessity of changing the company name as it is still, even by professionals, mistaken for the other company.

Grassroots Solutions doesn't say anything anyway unless seen in the context of a specific political cycle. Otherwise, it's a turf additive. Sorry guys....just calling 'em as I see the Practical Poltical Reality.

Good to hear from you, BTW. Call me if you have the time! :))

by BigDog 2006-09-05 05:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

I don't believe we ever met, but I arrived in San Diego not long after you left.  You were extremely well respected by Tommy, Isaac and the rest of the team down there.  It is disappointing that someone who is as well-regarded as yourself would also meet with the Doug Phelps Brushoff.

What I don't understand is why GCI seems to take the more abusive aspects of its labor policies as a given.  The DNC and DCCC think it is worth spending money to grow their donor rolls (hardly a controversial notion in-and-of-itself).  Has anyone at GCI even asked them if they would pay a little more to be able to say they paid their canvassers minimum wage?  Is it a lock that they'd say no?

by Patton 2006-09-05 11:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

Patton - Thank you for your supportive note.  I agree with your point. However, GCI seems to be less concerned about doing the right thing and more concerned with keeping their obsessiveness afloat, - at all costs.  I have hope.  I hope one of three things happens: 1. They will either be forced into ethical practices. 2. They will shut down. 3. The powers that be will become enlightened and to do the right thing. Keep fighting the good fight, and may the Dems have a big win in 2006, despite GCI.

by GCILies 2006-09-05 11:17AM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

I hope to see the things I don't see now;

A. metrics...measurements of achievements
B. RFP's from outside agencies that might be tested on smaller scales then adapted if successful
C. The recognition that 'the way it's always been doesn't mean that's the way it should be!'
D. The recognition that the GOTV concept needs to be turned on it's head, as the Republicans have done, with computer techniques that the Democratic Party seems unable to do for itself. The ability, as Patton as a glancing knowledge about the formative stage of a new ability, is now here for the Democratic Party to rival the Republicans in 2008 in voter knowledge and voter relationships.
E. The start of all this begins with people banging on the door willing to write down the horrible stories...bringing legal talent, pro bono, to the stage to sue the appropriate companies for violations of labor laws in any state where they occured...and having multiple segments of a solution that would work at least as well as the existing paradigm.

Kate: I wish to interview you for Political Interviews. Your experience adds substance to Greg's. It would be interesting to say the least.
At some point it might be interesting to get you, Greg and Patton on a recorded conference call.

Interested? Email me

by BigDog 2006-09-05 05:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots


Patton sent me your entry and I just want to say that it is good to hear your voice out there. I think the most important consequence of GCI's '04 effort, though unforeseen by any of the GCI higher-up, is that they they provided the forum for young dems to test the extenct of their political passions. The fact that GCI, through perhaps unethical marketing practices, brought the likes of Patton, yourself, Isaac, myself and many other competent activists together is a beautiful thing. I doubt any of us would be where we are now in our political pursuits if it wasn't for the experiences we had while working for GCI, for better or worse. Now that I think about it, maybe my boy "W" should get the credit, but GCI stuck us all in the same room. My point is that there is a 4th option: GCI help develop those that will eventually make them obsolete. Give us a couple years and GCI will be back knocking doors to save the Mid-Alaskan White Squash Yaulping Snake from extinction.

by tommyj17 2006-09-05 01:21PM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

Tommy - It was so good to hear from you.  I agree with you, wholeheartedly.  But an intrinsic end doesn't justify an unethical means.  I think people like you would be succeeding one way or another.  I on the other hand, have decided to hide in academia, pursuing my Masters & Phd at Vanderbilt. (Wake me up when it is over. Ok?) I want GCI to do the right thing and pay canvassers a livable wage, if nothing else than BECAUSE they are dealing with the hearts and minds of passionate young people.

by GCILies 2006-09-05 01:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

Agree. My comments did not mean to sugarcoat over what needs to be changed now. I think meeting the memebers of our group in SD was one of the brightspots in the whole GCI experience. I can only hope similar experiences are happening now, but I doubt it.

by tommyj17 2006-09-05 01:50PM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

I'll do you one more, Tommy.  Meeting the team in San Diego was one of the brightspots of my life.  But the fact that our greatest successes were often the result of breaking the rules (like actually putting thought into and applying technology to turf planning) just goes to show that we were assembled by nothing more than dumb luck.

To me--a person who was proud to be involved in the DNC canvass, though with some reservations, despite thinking that GCI's MoveOn campaign was a disaster--there is one central questions left after reading all these diaries: would anyone be able to successfully pull off a membership canvass for a political party without the misleading "Beat Bush" motiff?  I also wonder why the right wing--who are often wholeheartedly in favor of exploitive labor practices--doesn't try this shit out.

by Patton 2006-09-05 03:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

They don't need to Patton.

They already know the INDIVIDUALS in their base and, as Ken Mehlman (sp?)said last year, they had already identified 4 MILLION new likely Republican voters that were not even registered yet. And they had them identified as individuals. He was speaking of 2008.

And I believed him then...I believe him now.

How do they do that? Ask any real Professional Marketing Person that is hugely successful but keeps out of the antiquated business we call Democratic Politics. [Don't think it's antiquated? There are places and people right now that don't answer their email more than once a week, if then. And they are candidates, managers, union leaders, county officials etc. True stories.]

I call it Voter Relationship Management combined with data management techniques that are common to any Fortune 500 consumer product company.

And I know it can be done. Like many things, it takes the will and the money to do it. The framework is built.

by BigDog 2006-09-05 05:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

I am sure that data warehousing and data mining could really help the Democratic Party. It wouldn't surprise me if the RNC has a sophisticated data warehousing and data mining system to identify likely Republican voters.

by jiacinto 2006-09-06 08:38PM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

I, too, have had bad experiences with GCI, though I left after four days, not four months ;). This was recently. I know I'll never get paid for the days I worked.

Kate, you touched a little bit on one of my biggest problems with GCI: that they do no targeting! I have conversed with Greg Bloom briefly about this.

Instead of going through the precincts and choosing areas that had huge turnouts for Dems in revious elections or, better yet, targeting folks that consistently vote in Dem primaries, they just arbitrarily picked neighborhoods according to how they did in 2004! They were sending teams of people into the reddest areas imaginable an hour or more away from the office, incurring the cost of gas and rental cars to boot.

When I brought this up to the "campaign director" (what campaign?!), he looked confused and said that they "didn't have that information" and didn't do things that way.

So, not only is GCI abusive to its employees and totally against the agenda of the Democratic Party, they are a COMPLETE WASTE OF MONEY. They don't have a clue about field organization!!

by bridgetdooley 2006-09-05 03:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

I disagree with this.  The point of GCI's fundraising is to find NEW donors.  You don't do that by just going to the strong performing districts.  Yes, a fundraising canvass for new members doesn't raise money, it barely pays for itself.  But we don't have the right wing churches working for us, and unions have levelled off at around 16 million people, no longer enough to win it.

I think that the philosophy of "ends justify the means" hurts the ends, but I do think that GCI is working for a noble goal.  I have to think that at least some of Dean's small donor success is due to the extra half a million or so names GCI provided, plus the 1/4 million or so repeat donors.

I do think that the directors did make a mistake if they were only sending you out to "C" turf 4 days in a row, you're supposed to mix it up over the course of the week.

Also, Kate, you should have seen the misunderstandings about pay policy back when I started with GCI in March of 04.  Let's just say that we thought the FM pay policy was significantly (like 5 times) more generous then it actually was, due to a poorly worded recruitment rap.  Luckily we figured out that mistake pretty quickly, but it was not fun.  Believe it or not, pay policy actually did get clearer as things moved on (pun not intended).

by dansomone 2006-09-05 03:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

Ha, this is the line that they fed me, too, though I know better. Yes, of course, get more people involved in the party. The point is to build the donor lists, correct? Doesn't it make more sense to target known Democrats if that is the goal? Just because someone votes Democratic does NOT mean that they are a financial contributor to the party. Donor pools are notoriously small.

Even loose targeting by precinct is better than choosing areas based on results from 2004, a Presidential year where the line was "help beat Bush".

It seems to me that you are NOT going to get Republicans to give money to the Democratic Party and that it is a waste of time to knock on their doors. Perhaps you and have a difference of opinion there.

And if the goal is to convert Republicans, asking them to give money to the Democrats isn't going to do a DAMN thing to interest them.

by bridgetdooley 2006-09-05 04:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

Interesting comments Bridget. Seems we are fated to post together today.

I would like to hear your experience, however short, as well.

Email is above and at each blog.

by BigDog 2006-09-05 05:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

Bridget - I am sorry you had such a negative experience with GCI.  I can't say I have ever encountered someone with a positive experience, but I am always disappointed to hear about the tragedy.

by GCILies 2006-09-05 07:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

"Noble Goals" mean nothing.

Results mean everything for an organization like this.

Being good to your people,whether in success or failure, means EVERYTHING.

That is how you build a team...and a team that stays together, grows together and becomes one together. Eventually that team grows new leadership and the old leaders get a rest or move on to start new teams in new places.

Done well it becomes a neverending cycle of building strength and unity.

Little too visionary? Sure. But what the hell...everything begins with an image.

by BigDog 2006-09-05 05:30PM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

I agree.  Results matter.  And 750k donations is a hell of a result for an organization that didn't start fundraising until febuary of the election year.

I think the problems are:

1) The DNC screwed up the follow up.  All those people should have been contacted to volunteer.  I have no idea how many people were.  Statistically, it is much, much easier to get a $ donor to give some time then it is to find volunteers straight out.

2) The cost (let's use the economic term, and call it negative externialities) of the model GCI/PIRG uses is enourmous, and not particularly well measured.  I agree that building new leadership is sorely lacking, but I think that could change fairly easily if the higher ups got serious about it.

But I think that throwing out the entire concept is tossing the baby with the bathwater.

Oh, and re: targetting:
Meh.  Lots of people keep going to those same tightly packed dem districts.  I think there is some use in going to the tougher districts.  For one thing, if all you do is go to the A turf, you run out of turf pretty darn quick.  For another, the tougher turfs were actually better training, at least in my experience.  Convincing 10 people to give 10 bucks each and 4 to give 20 was much more challenging then finding 3 to give 50 and 1 to give 100.  Again, though, if that was all your office did 4 days in a row, that's a mistake.  You have to mix in the money turf as well.

by dansomone 2006-09-05 05:47PM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

Dan, As a person born the week of Jonestown, I have to say- - please honey, just stop drinking the koolaid.  I remember you.  You used to call me and tell me not to fold my donor slips as if I wasn an idiot. As if my parents didn't pay through the nose for my BA. As if I wasn't having a diet Coke with the Minority Leader of the House the minute the Monica Scandal broke. This isn't about my ego, this is about letting go of the practical GCI world pragmatic details and focusing on Democratic values. It is unethical to send people to the streets fighting for minimum wage when they are not being paid minimum wage.  The DCCC is insane for hiring GCI in 2006. They should cancel their contract immediately.

by GCILies 2006-09-05 06:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

Yep, I'm definately a kool-aid drinker!

Look, I feel no need to name drop or talk about how skilled I am.  I feel no need to insult anyone.  If you do, I have no need to engage with you.

Re: folding stuff:  If you didn't like the calls, all you had to do was, you know, actually get the deposit right.  Then we called and thanked offices.  And having a BA has little or nothing to do with administrative ability or getting details right.

by dansomone 2006-09-06 05:01AM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

Alright peoples we are all on the same page here. Dan is no kool-aid drinker -- he was a finance bastard but everyone was just doing their fucked up job. bygones yo.

man, if only we could have had these posts when we were still working there.

by esteban 2006-09-06 05:32AM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

Heh.  Thanks.  I think.

Actually, one of my ongoing concerns was the disconnect between field and central.  Everything from directors hating the finance staff to recruitment not telling people about new ADITs.  I'm really curious how much that has changed, if at all.

by dansomone 2006-09-06 05:58AM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

Having been a legal assistant for six years, I think my organizational skills and attention to detail are just fine. It is ok. I understand GCI was breathing down your neck too. Congrats on getting out of Jonestown.

by GCILies 2006-09-06 10:10AM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

I think Dan's right, re:targeting.  Ultimately, you're going to go everywhere.  On GCI's 2004 DNC canvass, we went everywhere in San Diego and damn near everywhere in Orange County, so I'm sure that a canvass in a smaller city would go everywhere.  You have to rotate rich turf and poor turf.

I also have to disagree with the notion that Democratic performance correlates with fundraising potential.  Give me the richest neighborhood in town, any day, and I'll get a big-ass check from the  only Democrat I meet (e.g., try raising more money in Chula Vista than in freakin' La Jolla).  The problem, of course, is that that person is probably already a donor, so I'm  not really helping anyone out...

by Patton 2006-09-05 06:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

I didn't mean to imply that Dan was saying that Democratic performance equals fundraising potential.

by Patton 2006-09-05 06:57PM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

The GCI "model" does not work.  Every office did targeting secretly, and did not report it to GCI. It was the only way to stay afloat.

by GCILies 2006-09-05 07:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

Is it really targeting when you basically canvass everywhere anyhow?  

by Patton 2006-09-05 07:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

I don't disagree that their model doesn't really work.  Oh, and our office only ever succeeded by doing shit GCI said we shouldn't do.  Especially with turf.   I just think it was more about matching the right turf with the right canvassers and giving the field managers better tools for planning (GIS, computerized streetmaps, census info., etc.).

by Patton 2006-09-05 07:30PM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

Well, in Boston, we definately "targetted" in that we mixed the good turfs in with the bad each week.  But over the course of the summer we ended up going pretty much everywhere at least once.  So I'm not sure if that counts as targetting.  And we still ran out of turf by the last week of each month.

Considering how much smaller the crews are NOW, there is something to be said for sticking to better turf.  In rereading Bridget's comment, I think she is talking about the current fundraising, while Patton and I are talking about.

by dansomone 2006-09-06 06:02AM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

$750,000 is a drop in the bucket for a CAMPAIGN much less for a major organization!

A good Congressional campaign in a major market needs that. Just TODAY I spoke with a candidate who I have worked for who has a media strategy that will require $500,000 for the last 60 days. And he's not likely to win.

Hell, in the Gov's Primary in California Dem Steve Westley spent 26 MILLION dollars...and lost.

GCI Got started in Feb....let's see Election in November...that's a helluva long time and tiny amount of money depending on how many people were working on it. I know INDIVIDUALS that have organized parties that raised that much.

Sorry. Nothing for them here. Had you quoted 8 figures...then I pay attention.

by BigDog 2006-09-05 08:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

Dan typed that wrong. It was 750,000 donors that they signed up; a good number of those were new donors. So, yes -- that's an achievement, especially for a party that has a major small donor problem.

But when I asked Lockse to estimate how many people came into GCI and quit or got fired under her alone, she gave a rough estimate of a thousand. Lockse just had one region -- one of the better ones, at that. So we're talking thousands of people who came through this system and left in ignominious circumstances, walking away with the same impression that Kate and these canvassers in Wisconsin had -- that this was a dirty deal.

750k donors was a phyrric victory.

by greg bloom 2006-09-06 03:58AM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

No, it was 750k DONATIONS.  Some of those were repeat DONORS.  It was about $22mil.

I have no idea what proportion of those were actually NEW donors.  My rough guess purely through directing in Boston was that it would be somewhere between 1/2-2/3.  So probably in the 350-500k range of new donors.

by dansomone 2006-09-06 05:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

Ah. The way I'd taken the number, it was 750,000 names, of whom I figured many were already DNC donors... but yeah, at 750k donations period, taking out pre-existing donors and multiple donations, I think the new donors would probably be closer to the 350k end of that range.

And they're still out there hitting up the same people, saying it's going to help win back Congress. More pyrrhic by the minute.

by greg bloom 2006-09-06 05:16AM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

It would be interesting to see who actually had a positive experience working for them. I suppose the Sue Morans of the world enjoy it.  

by GCILies 2006-09-06 10:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

isn't it amazing what can happen when we get into something of value and everyone remains determined to add knowledge and power to the thread!

Hat's off to all on this thread!!

by BigDog 2006-09-05 05:35PM | 0 recs
anyone heard that DCCC may drop GCI?

I've heard word going around that the DCCC is going to drop GCI. Anyone?

by Our Gal in Brooklyn 2006-09-06 09:12AM | 0 recs
Re: anyone heard that DCCC may drop GCI?

Is there any more to the rumor than that?  

by Patton 2006-09-06 09:58AM | 0 recs
Re: anyone heard that DCCC may drop GCI?

Wouldn't that be great news!!

by GCILies 2006-09-06 10:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

I don't know yet, that's why I am asking.

by Our Gal in Brooklyn 2006-09-06 01:10PM | 0 recs
Send me an email

Kate--I have a story that I'd like to share with you, but I'd like to do it over email because I don't want the board seeing it. My email is

I have a story to share with you. Your story is hardly unique.

I look forward to hopefully hearing from you soon.

by jiacinto 2006-09-06 08:37PM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

First of all - I love Kate Burke, we arrived at GCI at the same time in San Francisco back in 2004.

I've arrived at the conclusion that the problems facing GCI are the same problems facing the Democratic Party: they are almost completely out of touch with the people they aim to serve.  Their myopic focus on "swing states" and/or "swing voters" has kept them - and will continue to keep them - from achieving any kind of electoral victory.  And isn't the point of elections to win them?

For evidence that they're out of touch, you need look no further than their failed effort to elect John Kerry in 2004.  If you accept the premise that there wasn't enough time and enough resources to coordinate a serious campaign effort anywhere else but the 16-19 "swing states" (I don't accept that premise, by the way), you are left with three truly competitive states: Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.  

Of those three, Kerry could still have been elected had he carried Ohio - and the coordinated campaign knew it.  They set out their target numbers county-to-county and precinct-to-precinct.  The canvassers on the ground had their goals and the canvassers on the ground met those goals.  The problem was that the numbers were wrong.  The Bush campaign far surpassed what the Kerry campaign in Boston anticipated in terms of turnout, and the rest is (painful) history.

Could the Kerry campaign have increased voter turnout (in Ohio and elsewhere) by talking about issues which really mattered to ordinary people (the economy, health care, social security) and by making the election a referendum on the first Bush term?  No question.  Did they?  No way.  

Instead, the election was a referendum on whether or not John Kerry would make an effective Commander in Chief.  In short, the Democrats played defense and allowed the Republicans to play offense.

As for GCI, the question is: could it have put enough canvassers on the ground to exceed the target numbers and compete with the Republican GOTV effort?  No question (just ask my dear friend Kate Burke).  Did they?  No way.

Instead, they tried to squeeze more and more campaign contributions (MONEY) out of less and less residents (TURF) with fewer and fewer canvassers (PEOPLE).  All the while making it more and more difficult for these canvassers to pay their rent, put gas in their cars, and food in their stomachs (God forbid they have the occasional beer or meal in a restaurant) by literally not paying them for the work that they've already done - effectively turning many of those hard-earned campaign contributions into free money for GCI.

For me, the parallel is clear: the Party assumed that with enough money and votes from people of privileged or affluent backgrounds in key states, there will always be enough poor and working-class people on board to carry the day.  GCI assumed that with enough Canvass Directors and Assistant Canvass Directors of privileged or affluent backgrounds, there will always be enough poor and working-class canvassers to raise campaign contributions.  

They were both wrong.  They both found out the hard way that when you ignore the economic needs of poor and working-class people, those same people are much more likely to ignore your political and electoral needs.  And unlike these people (who can and do always find an economic alternative), there is no do-over for election day.  GCI and the Democratic Party had one chance to get it right.  Needless to say, they blew it.

Just like the Clinton/Gore campaign in 1992, it's still the economy, stupid.  If people can't eat, it's unlikely they're going to see the difference between a Republican or a Democrat in the voting booth.  If people can't eat, it's unlikely they're even going to make it to a voting booth in the first place.

So I've been telling my friends and family - if you really want to help a candidate win, volunteer on that person's campaign IN YOUR FREE TIME WHEN YOU'RE NOT WORKING.  If you really want to help the Democratic party win, find a candidate to support, THEN VOLUNTEER ON THAT PERSON'S CAMPAIGN WHEN YOU'RE NOT WORKING.

In the interim, we can all hope that one day the leadership of the Democratic party will get some brains and get some guts and get on offense.  Because this "the other side is bad and we're not so vote for us, not them" strategy isn't resonating with anyone.

by KMack 2006-09-07 10:46AM | 0 recs
Re: Still strip-mining the grassroots

KMack- Thank you for contributing to this post. You've reminded us what this is all really about.  

" If people can't eat, it's unlikely they're going to see the difference between a Republican or a Democrat in the voting booth.  If people can't eat, it's unlikely they're even going to make it to a voting booth in the first place."

Our level of sensitivity and expression of that understanding must correspond with our values, and our values must be things like helping hungry people eat.  (And hungry CANVASSERS!)

by GCILies 2006-09-07 02:52PM | 0 recs


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