Strip-mining the grassroots? (pt 2): the DNC's 'Grassroots Campaigns' canvassers

(This is the second entry in a series I'm reposting from my diary at DailyKos. I'm writing about a particular breed of ground operations that is increasingly popular among progressive organizations -- including the DNC and MoveOn. I'll argue--and I'm not the first to do so--that this model of 'grassroots' activism saps vital energy from the progressive movement and does not effectively advance our cause.)

In my last post, I wrote about the canvass fundraising campaign that the DNC launched in 2004 through a subcontracted outfit, Grassroots Campaigns Inc (GCI). The campaign successfully added three quarters of a million names to the DNC membership. These people gave money under the pretense of 'beating Bush'--but the money they gave mostly went to pay for the operation itself. I questioned whether these means justified the ends.

In the comments, people noted that this is a tough reality about most canvass fundraising campaigns: they don't directly raise money for the cause--they are about establishing relationships with new donors, and building the base. Indeed. The 2006 DNC canvass operation has recently launched. Hundreds of city streets will be manned with GCI's canvassers every day from now on--for millions of people, they will embody the Democratic Party. But what kind of relationships are they building?

As one Dkos member who participated in the 2004 campaign wrote:

"[This is] indicative of the national Democratic party's penchant for missing opportunities."

To illustrate these missed opportunities, I'll run through a typical interaction with a GCI canvasser:

The canvasser says something to you like, "Hi do you want to help stop the Bush agenda?" Let's say (and this will not be a stretch) that you are a person who does, in fact, want to help stop the Bush agenda. You say 'yes.'

The canvasser will introduce himself by name. He'll say he's 'with the DNC,' and they are out here working to win back seats in Congress for the Democrats this November. He'll ask you if that's something you want to see happen.

You say 'yes,' but you hesitate. He'll remind you how important this election is.

If you say something like 'I'll just give online,' or 'I'll send in a check,' he'll ask you, 'Have you given before on a grassroots level?'

If you're thoughtful, you might ask, 'What do you mean by that?'

If he's a bad canvasser scrambling to make quota, he might say something like, 'The money we raise here is crucial in developing the grassroots operations in the most important races in the country.' This is not true--no one seems to be able to say specifically where these funds go. (This response is also NOT officially taught in GCI trainings, but a canvasser who has been trained to push every potential mark and who is desperate to make quota will say anything.)

If he's a good canvasser, he'll say something like: 'Well, if you give to us right here, it's sending a message to the Democratic party that we need people like me out here, face to face with our supporters, talking about the issues and spreading the word.'

So you bite: 'Go on -- talk to me about the issues.''

This canvasser is equipped to rattle off a list of the important issues-- 'health care, the environment, the war in Iraq,' maybe a few others. Then, because he's trying to make the deal, he'll steer you swiftly back towards the imperative to give. But ask the canvasser what about these issues, and his response is going to depend entirely upon bare wits. Now, this job attracts some bright, articulate people, but it attracts many more who mean well but have no innate skill for political speech. GCI trains its canvassers daily, but trains them only in methods that direct a conversation toward donation. Even a bad canvasser can make quota if their blunt persuasion skills are forceful enough -- but think about the quality of those interactions. Think about the quality of the interactions they have with the people who do need to be engaged with skill and care, people who might be willing to listen to a flesh-and-blood representative of the party. Or people who are frustrated and disillusioned with the party.

If you ask the canvasser about state or local political issues, he will not know anything about them. If you ask the canvasser about the local or state Democratic party, he will not know anything about it.

If you tell the canvasser that you or someone you know needs to register to vote, he will likely not have voter registration cards.

If you tell the canvasser you want to volunteer with the Democrats, he will point you to a checkbox on his form that you can tick off. Or they will send you 'to the website' (at which point you might ask, 'why, again, couldn't I donate on the web site?') As juls and jbou commented over at Daily Kos, this opportunity was fumbled in 2004. My experience, in fact, was that these volunteer requests were ignored entirely.

If you say you've already given before, the canvasser will dig in on you even harder. You've identified yourself to him as a donor, and donors will give again -- a 'well-trained' canvasser will ask you three to five times to give again, even in the face of your increasingly-insistent 'no.'

When I canvassed for GCI, harried people would often tell me  that they'd given to us four or five times already, that each time they checked the volunteer box, but never were contacted again except by a flood of direct mail asking for more money.

One argument that is often put forward in defense of canvass campaigns is that -- even though the money itself is not put toward the cause -- it serves as an investment, a personal bond between the donor and the cause. I agree with this; I had many positive experiences when canvassing, in which I know that I made a person a little more politically active.

But the responsibility on that investment runs both ways -- and it's dangerous to take shortcuts to building donor relationships. The risks you (we/GCI/the DNC) run of not doing this include alienating and burning out our core base, leaving potential connections and appeals unmade, while diluting the potency of our appeals.

To conclude, I'll turn to my hands-down favorite source on fundraising philosophy and good works, Jeff Brooks of Donor Power Blog. Part of Brooks' mission is to identify and warn against 'anti-donor' fundraising tactics. He lays out three key elements of powerful, progressive fundraising:

Empower your donors.

Serve your donors.  

Respect your donors.  

In future posts, I'll write about the environment within GCI that fosters potentially anti-donor practices; I'll also write about their history as an employer.

(I should note again that I am basing my knowledge of GCI from my own experience and from many months of research and interviews with other staffers. I hope that GCI employees who read this can comment here, especially if they can clarify and further the discussion.)

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

Comments

17 Comments

Re: Strip-mining the grassroots? (pt 2): the DNC's

Greg-
I agreed with the central premise of your last post, but I think that this one is off.  When you talk about the "anti-donor" methods, you are just describing effective fundraising strategies.  Is a repeated ask "anti-donor" when a candidate uses it on the phone, or only when a young person uses it on the street?

And as for ignoring requests to volunteer... I agree that this could have been done more effectively.  However, in 2004 the fundraising was (largely) all about taking money from "safe states" and putting it into "swing states."  Now, I think that the 50-state strategy is better, but my flux capacitor is in the shop.  No matter how money got raised in 2004, the DNC was never going to have anything constructive for volunteers in Berkley or LA to do.  

It is strange to be taking these positions, because I am the opposite of a GCI shill.  They especially bungled the MoveOn "Leave No Voter Behind" campaign (and in a way that calls a lot into question).  But I've got to say that the DNC canvass, especially in 2004, was a brilliant idea that was executed in a fair-to-good manner.  Basically, McAuliffe (the ultimate corporate Dem) left Howard Dean with a giant, shiny new small donor base.  In a summer the DNC built the kind of network of small donors that it took the GOP 30 years worth of direct mail to put together.  I think this ended up being a fantastic bridge between the crappy old DNC and Dean's grassroots-centered operation (it was just administered by a company that treats their emplyees badly and went on to cause some other problems).

by Patton 2006-05-26 07:52AM | 0 recs
Re: Strip-mining the grassroots? (pt 2): the DNC's

The addition of three quarters of a million names to the Dems database is no small thing, which I acknowledge (I'm pretty sure, though, that it's just a start -- not some kind of fantastic boost that caught us up with the GOP).

And I also want to use 2004 only as a jumping off point to look at what these campaigns accomplish in the long-term.

Remember, we portrayed our work and understood it ourselves as a transfer of money from the safe states to swing states -- but that wasn't at all true. I'll get more into this in later posts -- but the basic point is the canvassers out there weren't actually fighting the 2004 war. They were building the party. On that note, I think there's a difference between effective sales strategies and good fundraising strategies --and the priorities of good fundraising (See the Donor Power blog -- really!) need to take into account the donor as an individual, not as just a source of money. A fundraiser needs to able to advocate for the cause--to boost it, not just beg for it. And jeez, since those dollars weren't going to beat George Bush -- it wouldn't have hurt anything but GCI's bottom line to register voters! (We had offices in places like Ohio, and Miami, remember -- they were explicitly led away from any registration efforts.)

As you mention, however, this is only part of a larger picture with regards to GCI. Stay tuned for posts on their record as an employer, and eventually for an analysis of the MoveOn campaign.

by greg bloom 2006-05-26 09:28AM | 0 recs
Re: Strip-mining the grassroots? (pt 2): the DNC's

Interesting story. It presents another aspect  of something that's been driving me nuts since I got actively involved in campaigns in late 2003 and got on every mailing list in the world. Absolutely everybody hits you up all the time for money for everybody, but you have to expend a lot of effort to find areas where you can contribute work. I've become so frustrated at times with campaigns for issues and candidates I believed in that I essentially set up my own little organization, talking to people within my own community and circle of contacts and relying on the campaigns primarily for literature. It seems all they ever have to offer you is phone-banking and I am awkward and unconvincing on the phone with strangers (particularly with the bad lists they give you, with tons of non-existent names, long-departed residents or their own volunteers who don't need to be called). The simple fact is I have no money. I find it insulting, for instance, to receive solicitations from Hilary Clinton, moaning about how everyone is going to attack her and she needs money to fight this off when a. I know she has out-fundraised almost everyone and b. we have critical, almost life-or-death campaigns here in ohio that need the money far worse. I'm tired of being asked to contribute to every "important" race coast-to-coast when the Ohio gubernatorial race is one that will make or break the state and possible the 2008 presidential election.

Voters and citizens need to be treated as more than ATMs. I understand the importance of money until we get some meaningful campaign finance reform, but many of us who are engaged simply don't have it.

by anastasia 2006-05-26 08:00AM | 0 recs
Go Local

If your attempts to volunteer get stymied, you might try looking a little further down the "pecking order."  For most of us (though not all), there is a competitive state legislative race within a half-hour drive.  These are campaigns where they really need your help and where the couple hundred votes a committed volunteer can help create may prove critical.  

Here is a sure sign that you've contacted a campaign that will treat you like a person, not an ATM:

ring, ring
ANASTASIA: Hello, could I speak with Jane Smith?
STAFFER: MOOOOOOOOMMMMMM!!!!!  PHOOOONE!  Just a minute, ma'am....
JANE SMITH: You want to volunteer?  Great.   Come walk with me tomorrow night, would you?

Just some advice.  I hope it isn't the case that you've tried more local campaigns and also been rebuffed.  If so, move to Oregon and we will hook you up.

by Patton 2006-05-26 08:14AM | 0 recs
Re: Strip-mining the grassroots? (pt 2): the DNC's

Yep. My beef is that if I don't host a house party, there's not too much to do except give $ or work the phone banks. I don't do parties. It's just not my thing.  And my experience with phone banks is similar to yours.

Since Edwards got my name from Dean's mailing list and started spamming me with double mailings, I get double mailings from who-knows-where, and even phone calls from the DLCC. My phone listing is my maiden name, so I have no idea where they get my phone number.

I'd like to go door-to-door in my precinct .  I'd like to get out and talk to people. I think it would be a more effective way of getting the progressive message out to the voters and encourage them to participate in the process. It sure would be nice it I was provided with literature or some kind of visual aid to legitimatize my efforts. What the endless request for house parties says to me, is that the organization just wants to raise more money.

I believe one of the main shortcomings in the last election was that canvassers were not local people. I volunteered for MoveOn and they sent me to a precinct miles away from my own precinct with totally different demographics. I live in a lower middle class multicultural 'hood and they sent me to an upper class white neighborhood.  ACORN worked my precinct and the canvasser was terrific, but he was non partisan (as is MoveOn.)

I guess I'll have to do what you do and wait for the candidates to publish their own literature.  That's a great idea. Now what do we call our own individual organizations?  Do we say, "Hello, I represent the progressive movement?"

....so frustrating.

by misscee 2006-05-26 08:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Strip-mining the grassroots? (pt 2): the DNC's

by adamterando 2006-05-27 04:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Strip-mining the grassroots? (pt 2): the DNC's

Sorry for the blank reply, finger slipped before I typed anything.

Anyway, what I was going to say is that your situation is a fairly easy one to remedy. Just contact your local precinct committeeperson. They'll be glad to give you voter lists to go door-to-door to canvass. And if they're not interested in you helping out, then take the Chris Bowers route and run for the spot yourself. All you'd have to do is go talk to a few neighbors and let them know you're running. My mom just did a write-in campaign for the post and won with 12 votes. Now she's going to be doing monthly or bi-monthly canvasses in her very rural precinct to connect with the stranded democrats in republican country.

There are many opportunities to have face to face contact with voters by going through the party. Probably shouldn't waste your time with the "non-partisan" organizations unless you specifically want to do fundraising.

by adamterando 2006-05-27 04:24AM | 0 recs
Re: Strip-mining the grassroots? (pt 2): the DNC's

Misscee, your points are right on and you should indeed take the initiative. First find others in your own precinct who are willing to help you share the work and try to break it down by nbhds or blocks. Depends a lot on what type of density you live in -- urban, suburban rural.

All that said, one of the big lessons of 04 is that the traditional Democratic field strategy of reaching people based on geographical concentration -- heavily Democratic precincts where higher turnout will mean a bigger margin (which means low D precints get scant attention, and that may be the case where you are Misscee) -- is no longer effective.

The GOP were much more effective reaching people based on affiliations (church, gun club, magazine subscription) to target those with a predisoposition to vote for them, regardless of where they live. In this way, the GOP increased its vote totals even in some of the most heavily D precincts (even in those precincts where Dems or liberal groups concentrated their efforts).

Which is to say, Miscee, you might want to think not about working your own precinct but working other (esp non political) affiliations -- at your place of worship, a sports team, but even more important groups which would be predisposed to voting for democrats: charitable volunteer org, animal rescue groups, carpool bulletin board, and of course non-political online groups. This is a very different kind of organizing.

All that said, a final word about organizing your own precinct. Everyone wants to do their own; adn for the right reason. One way to help enlrage the impact is to recruit others from other precints to help you organize yours -- in exchange for going help them in theirs. OR, better yet, as noted above, find out if your local ro state Dem org has a functional field plan in place (or if not the Dems, local union or other group).

Not all campaign professionals are high paid consultants and having someone with experience helping you help others is going to be much more effective than just wanting always to do our own turn, our own way.

PS. Why do folks not like phone banking? I think you can't beat it -- hit lots of people with less physical expenditure, often free food, chance to meet and interact with other volunteers.

by desmoulins 2006-05-27 10:27AM | 0 recs
Re: Strip-mining the grassroots? (pt 2): the DNC's

This company doesn't have a good reputation on the college recruiting circut.  I'd say they are about even with the Cutco people.

I have personally witnessed a recruiter telling graduating seniors that the job has nothing to do with asking for money.  They talk about organizing volunteers and working in swing states to defeat the GOP.

If you express interest, they will set up an "interview" which is a total sham.  At the end of the interview they will ask you to come to Chicago to have a level 2 interview.  You pay for the flight.

Thankfully, there are google results that describe the rough working conditions and low pay.

Trust me, you'll make much more money and be allowed to treat your employees much better if you manage a Burger King.

by KansasNate 2006-05-26 10:59AM | 0 recs
Missing a crucial point

I, like you worked on the campaign in '04, and I think some of your critiques are well founded, but there's a point that needs to be brought up for context:

I think you're missing one key element of judging the worth of this campaign, namely, what does it replace? The canvass run for the DNC by GCI in '04 and again now are, as you correctly mention, focused on generating new grassroots donors. Thus, they replace traditional direct-mail donor prospecting, a process through which one organization buys lists from various other like-minded organizations and solicits the names on those lists for donation. In this system, the prospecting organization generally expects to pay (or LOSE, if you prefer) anywhere from $10 to $20 per new donor, which is a price they're willing to pay to generate new donors, who will ultimately give them more than enough in subsequent donation to cover the cost of finding them. Canvassing accomplishes this same task, but with three advantages:

  1. It costs less. In 2004, in fact, the DNC canvass actually NETTED money on the 'front end' for the DNC, in other words, some small chunk of the dollars raised actually did make it above the overhead costs of running the canvass. So the cost per Donor was actually negative.
  2. It is far more popular with the donors themselves. Nobody ever raves about how nice it was to get a glossy solicitation in the mail. But people frequently do thank canvassers for their work and sincerely appreciate the fact that someone knocked on their door. This certainly falls in the catagory of 'respecting your donors.'
  3. It serves to recruit, train, and motivate a cadre of young activists, many of whom go on to work on other grassroots projects, with their skills to communicate and fundraise already honed. No direct mailing ever accomplished this.

Now, that having been said, I think you're right that these canvasses could potentially do a lot more for the movement. I think it would be especially great if there was a built-in mechanism for utilizing the potential volunteers from this project for local or national campaigns. But even here, I think you're either mistaking or forgetting the reason why GCI's canvass in 04 didn't do that. It wasn't a lack of willingness of GCI's part (nor some concern about 'bottom line'), but rather the '04 DNC's lack of coordination with their own field campaign. The names of volunteers were all dutifully turned over to the DNC and supposedly used for the coordinated campaign, but I, like you, never got wind of any actual follow-ups being done. Hopefully Dean's 50-state strategy will make use of this huge group of people.

by James Gatz 2006-05-26 11:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Missing a crucial point

Lockse's right (below) -- I'm not questioning the efficiency of the canvass as a tool for generating new donors. And, of course, it's not GCI's responsibility when thousands of potential volunteers get left behind. That's not just a logistical gap -- it is a telling example of the DNC's attitude toward the operation. Again, as Lockse noted below, this was probably the easiest canvass imaginable -- go out and tell people you're going to beat Bush, bring back a two thousand dollar check -- hey, even a twenty thousand dollar check. As a quick-fix, easy payday, it seems to have been very successful--for both the DNC and for GCI. (Now that they don't have George Bush to cash in on, however, the math is going to be a bit less awesome than 'some small chunk' coughed up over the overhead.)

But I should make a brief note here -- as someone who signed on to the cause under the pretense of taking on George Bush, it makes me a little nauseous to try to weigh my efforts against the possibility that I helped make the DNC some millions of dollars in the long run. I doubt that even the people running GCI believe that the DNC in its current state is capable of using that money to effectively advance our cause. And let's not pretend that these small donors are so very important to the party's 'fighting chances,' Lockse. My question is really about how--not how much.

Which brings me to your next point. Yes, I would have positive reactions every day in which people thanked me. These were far outnumbered by the negative reactions, not just by people who were put off that all I wanted was their money, but also from committed supporters who were tired of being hounded (since we were trained to re-ask them again and again -- something a piece of mail can't do). But this point is just as anecdotal as yours, Jay -- by which I mean, not very helpful. In my next post (tomorrow) I'll lay out further the ways in which canvassers are trained to be (politely) disrespectful of the donor.

But it's your third point that is my real concern, and the ultimate subject of these posts -- so I thank you for bringing it up, though it will be two posts before I can properly address it. This cost-reduction per-donor you're talking about, Mr. Gatsby -- that value comes from somewhere, and it's not the green light at the end of the dock, no matter how much you believe in it.

by greg bloom 2006-05-26 08:50PM | 0 recs
Bigger points

Greg Bloom, you're right to distinguish between the purpose of the GCI (identifying small donors) and the means of achieving it (misleading and overworking young organizers.)

If you think about the latter, there is a significant opportunity cost for the Party -- how many young recruits might have been significant contributors, as employees or better yet citizens (what the party calls volunteers), to re-building the local structures of the party (ie, "Grassroots"). If that sort of training had merely accompanied (not even necessarily replaced) the GCI how-to-shakedown-donors indoctrination, and if GCI simply added on opportunitites to move from front-line frontraising to campaing field work (an outplacement operation after the 04 campaign (or even after the end fo the fundraising for the 04 campaign)?

Secondly, on the former, how sad that we have all had to accept the reality that the greatest contribution a young person (or an old person for that matter) who wants to become involved in American democracy can make is to raise money (or donate). In other countries that have different (and not necessarily more honest or transparent) mechanisms for funding parties and campaigns, people seeking to get involved in politics at a local level can do the sorts of things that are discussed in this thread -- discuss issues with others, organize their own neighborhoods, and generally speaking become much more quickly drawn into the process. Friends of mine who are politically active in other countries have no idea why it is that when I talk about American politics, I talk about fundraising first and foremost.

by desmoulins 2006-05-28 07:26AM | 0 recs
Re: Strip-mining the grassroots? (pt 2): the DNC's

My experience was similar to Patton and James. I was a GCI director (from the very beginning) and worked on the canvass all the way up to the election. (well, actually, I spent the last five days before the election experiencing the MoveOn project - but that's for another time) I've been a long time canvasser, roughly eight years or so.  And, Greg, while you've done a good job recreating the interaction - the science of it all -  you've missed a bit of the art and history and the importance of exception in this historic election cycle.

I don't need to comment on why canvassing is important (though I will if necessary)- it's been said and I don't think you are arguing canvassing shouldn't be a part of base-building, fundraising or not.  Having an army to canvass door to door, face to face, raising money is the wet dream of any party leader whether you're broke or not. And we were broke. After McCain/Feingold, McAuliffe saw the loss of millions of dollars and filled the void...at the very last possible moment. GCI was the pinch hitter brought into the fold late in 2003 to 1)cover the financial loss of years of poor base organizing and 2)to save the ailing Demzilla the DNC's voter and donor database - if you can call that flawed software anything other then a faliure. (I had a couple of conversations with former DNC staffers about the Demzilla and they were, let's say, less then enthusiastic about it's effectiveness. For example there were voters in FL that had been long time Dems that were never asked to vote for John Kerry ONCE during the '04 cycle - talk about missed organizing opportunities).  I guess what I'm trying to say is GCI did give the Dem's a fighting chance in future elections by scouring the streets of neighborhoods across the country for willing donors and handing them over.  Whether that should have gone to the DNC or not is a different question. Job, basically, well done.

Also - how would you expect to run a canvass for the DNC in 2004 and not have the greeting be, "Hi. do you want to help us defeat George Bush?" It would be pretty silly to hear, "Hi. Would you like to help the DNC expand its donor base?"  Yes, using George Bush's name did help us galvanize J.Q.Liberal, but we didn't really need too much help.  Canvassing in the '04 election was a cake walk compared to the sluggish and sometimes isolating single-issue campaigns of the environmental canvasses I worked on in the past. (Working on protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge year after year after year was ... tiring.)  But, these environmental canvasses did implement some organizing tactics within the larger fundraising strategies; they would get petitions signed, organize Congressional call-in days, letter writing projects.  I mean to say hollistic canvassing is possible, though I'm not sure we had the time to do it successfully in '04.

by Lockse 2006-05-26 05:38PM | 0 recs
Re: Strip-mining the grassroots? (pt 2): the DNC's

You keep complaining about the DNC's failure (under McAuliffe) to meaningfully connect with the grassroots who wanted to volunteer. But you keep saying it as though nothing has changed at the DNC since the 2004 election.

But, you know, the new head of the DNC was backed by the state organizations based on his commitment to the 50 state strategy. And he sort of has a record for involving the grassroots in politics.

by Bill Rehm 2006-05-27 04:57AM | 0 recs
Re: Strip-mining the grassroots? (pt 2): the DNC's

Well, Bill, we are talking about a specific operation, GCI, which was hired to fundraise for the DNC, and not the DNC's larger strategy once they received those funds. And though we haven't seen too much happen in the last year, I'm very interested in Dean's 50 State Strategy.  We'll see.

But Greg, small donors DID help the party in '04 - they at least filled in some gaps.  I read the link to "The Myth of the Small-Donor Clout", but I have data from the Blue Tiger Democrats showing that small donors of $200 or less made up $255 million that went to the Dems in '04. (definitely check these guys out) That's pretty serious.  Let's try to figure out what the real number is.  

You implied that GCI fooled you. Did you feel fooled becasue we don't know how the DNC spent the money or because most of it went back into running these canvass offices? I'll admit, I don't know how the money (whatever the amount) was spent after we sent it to the DNC (to Kerry or to Congressional Races).

 But I'll stop short of saying I don't care.  I will say instead that I don't feel like it was a total loss either way.  I would like more Democrats to win in elections everywhere.  I will point this (http://www.fec.gov/press/press2005/20050 302party/Party2004final.html) out, from the FEC which notes that in 2004 Senatorial and Congressional Committees (like DSCC, and DCCC) made less then in previous years. We had to win both the Presidency and also fight for Congressional Seats - and we could have used some more money winning Congressional Seats (not to mention more organizers out there).  

 I'm also ok with some of the money going back into helping run these canvass offices for all of the reasons James noted as well as my belief that canvass offices are more good then bad.  That being said, I don't trust the DNC. It's not working; A LOT about it doesn't work. I, like many others including you, I'm sure, had some moral discussion with yourself about working for the DNC. It probably went something like, "man, I hate the Democratic Party, but man, George Bush is worse, and hey, I gotta do something, " so you signed on, just like me.  I don't regret working for GCI in 2004 because I did something and I think I, and everyone else, did make some kind of difference.  I recognize that's not necessary a reason to keep something around that doesn't work - but I think it's at least a start.

by Lockse 2006-05-27 12:46PM | 0 recs
DNC canvasses

I was quite appalled at the DNC (GCI) canvass effort in 2004. The DNC did not inform local and state parties that they were going to do the canvass. We didn't find out about it until people started calling us to complain.

I know many of the canvassers did just fine. However, we had reports of many canvassers didn't know anything about the races. None of them had ID, t-shirts, and some dressed...um...poorly. One person called the local party to complain that the canvasser had gotten mad and thrown a clipboard. Another sent the state party the bill for the emergency room visit when a canvasser slammed her kid's fingers in the door. Other people called because they were not sure they'd given money to the party or to a con artist.

As a district leader, I was frustrated because the precinct volunteers would end up in the same territory at the same time because GCI wouldn't coordinate with us, despite polite and not-so-polite requests.

All-in-all, it may have been successful monetarily, but it was poorly run, especially at first.

So, here it is 2006, and I'm on the DNC, and I have to look at things differently. The DNC really needs to do this. We have to fund this party with small donors so that it truly belongs to the people. (We also welcome our larger contributors, of course!)

Whether GCI is the company to do it, I don't know, but I support the concept. I think it also helps get our message out. I hope they'll be carrying the Democratic Vision and telling people about it as well as asking for money. This is an opportunity to touch a voter at the door, if it's done right.

We have been told that GCI will be setting up here in Oregon. Every single party officer has contacted the DNC political staff to discuss it.

I have been told that the canvassers will have ID, t-shirts, and training. (Hopefully this will weed out the unstable.) We are negotiating about carrying lit for our gubernatorial race and trying to make this a win-win operation for the DNC and state party.

This is a far cry from the treatment we received when we complained to the DNC staff in 2004. Remember, nobody even bothered to call and let us know it was happening.

I also think that with four DNC-paid organizers working for the state party, we'll be better able to monitor the situation and try to make it work.

by Jenny Greenleaf 2006-05-27 09:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Strip-mining the grassroots? (pt 2): the DNC's

This might be the approriate moment as well to ask how and what the DNC-paid field organizers are doing for the state party there. Where I live, which was one of the first states to get DNC funding for field, I have no idea what they are doing and have seen no visible evidence; that could be because they are working other parts of the state (ie, rural areas; high-density minority areas) or because we have contested primaries up and down the ballot so its too soon.

But does anyone know, as a point of comparison with the GCI discussion?

by desmoulins 2006-05-28 07:32AM | 0 recs

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