Grassroots Campaigns, Inc.

Last week I mentioned Grassroots Campaigns, Inc., in a MyDD comment, and then promised a reader to write a diary on the subject.  Here it is, albeit belatedly:

I worked for GCI for a while during last year's election, and then again for a period late this winter.  I've gone on to do other things--but I can't recommend them highly enough, for certain people.  Essentially, if you work for GCI you will get on-the-ground experience executing electoral and issue campaigns right away, and you'll get a chance to succeed or fail based entirely on how hard you work, regardless of whether or not your uncle was deputy-vice-under-assistant to Senator so-and-so.

A new, unique kind of political contracting firm was founded by veteran progressive activists.  CEO Doug Phelps ran USPIRG for years, and the company's principles have serious bonafides in grassroots field camaigns all over the country.  

Here's what GCI's ~500 organizers/directors were doing in 2004:
-Running an innovative city-by-city grassroots membership/hard-money fundraising drive for the DNC.  It was a strange amalgam of field and fundraising programs, it was based largely on PIRG's membership model (previously used only for issue advocacy, almost never for electoral campaigns), and it was wildly successful.  There was ultimately a  national staff of a couple thousand paid canvassers who brought the DNC $20 million, mostly from new grassroots-level donors who the party wasn't reaching online.
-Staffing, planning, and executing MoveOn PAC's Leave No Voter Behind campaign.  We wired up 10,000 precincts with precinct leaders and volunteers and tracked and turned-out hundreds of thousands of unlikely voters.  The MoveOn field organizers worked 100+ hours per week, slept on MoveOn members' couches and never ate anything that didn't fit in our hands.  It was--of course--fantastic.

There was some other stuff here and there, as well.  

GCI is headquartered out of Boston, but they're definitely a national company, with field offices in most major cities.  Oh, and they're hiring now and for the midterms.  It's a great company to work for, given that:

  1.  You are geographically mobile.
  2.  You have no kids.
  3.  You like burritos, but not sleep.

Working for GCI is draining, physically, mentally, and creatively.  And the pay does fall into the tax bracket designated by the IRS as "craptastic." That being said, most people don't work on elections for the money, and Bob Shrum has apparently retired.  The best opportunities will always require travelling around.  

Essentially, if you think of putting 100 hours in a week as a positive and not a negative, you could enjoy working for them.  And if that sentence didn't sound ridiculous--you might want to give them a call.  They aren't a perfect employer, but they are a really good opportunity for the right people--especially if you're looking for your first paid campaign job.

Tags: Astroturf, Grassroots Campaigns Inc, Scams (all tags)

Comments

3 Comments

problem worth addressing
I got to know some GCI folks last fall who came to my area both through MoveOn and DNC to help us canvass. As individuals they were incredibly dedicated (I worried for their health since the stuff about 100 hours/week and all-pizza diet was not a joke) and very well trained in communication, organization and handling people.

The problem is that this model does very little to foster local oranizing of the sort that the neighbor-to-neighbor model prefers. GCI-type organization works well for a short period of time when you can send in a "team" to sweep a precinct to identify and involve supporters (through donations and volunteering), educate leaners, and (maybe) mobilize voters (I haven't seen any data to suggest my personal, anecdotal experience that MoveOn organizers generated little mobilization in marginal D prcincts beyond state party/dnc/Ke04 efforts)...

But I wonder if GCI has any contracts to work in an area for a longer period of time than 10 weeks.  More on the ACORN model of community organizign than the single-issue fundraising PIRG or the campaign GOTV type actions?

We need to address the problem that last fall, we as Democrats simply could not identify and mobilize a volunteer base as large or as convincing in carrying our message as the other folks did. This, it seems to me, is one of our biggest hurdles, and I worry that GCI (as I know it, admittedly only very superficially) is a grass-roots equivalent to what the DNC always does -- send in "teams" from DC or elsewhere to precints/districts/states where it feels there is not a local base of activity ...and thereby confirms that prophecy by not helping to build a local base.

Any thoughts? CAn you, I hope, tell me I'm wrong?

by desmoulins 2005-05-10 10:52PM | 0 recs
Re: problem worth addressing
You should check out their current project.  They are putting field organizers in individual CDs to run various issue campaigns as a way of building volunteers for 2006 electoral/GOTV stuff.  Essentially, the same organizer will be in his/her district for two years, and by the time they start working on field operations for mid-term candidates, they will already have precinct leaders, media contacts, an apartment, etc.

I think that your assessment of GCI in 2004 is spot-on.  I would add that they also did a poor job of recognizing the importance of finding local talent to begin with.  But I don't think they like that any more than you or I do, and their goals--beyond obviously, succeeding as a company--are really all about the kind of infrastructure-building that seem to be in to.  The bottom line for them is that they're a vendor, and their clients need to be creatively, flexible, and rich enough to float long-term organizing.  I was hoping that they would play some role in setting up the DNC's state-by-state permanent field operation--and maybe they will.  

by Patton 2005-05-11 10:08AM | 0 recs
Re: problem worth addressing

I think with a lack of an insiders perspective you would not know that GCI has worked for much longer than 10 weeks on 1 campaign in 1 location, and has exceeded client expectations in these cases just as GCI did in the 2004 elections. To those of us who knew then and know now- it's grown just as it was meant to.

by LaLaBlackSheep 2006-08-15 06:02AM | 0 recs

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