In early 2005 GCi served a contract for the PIRGs whereby they sent field organizers (I was one) to some number of Congressional Districts to do grassroots organizing against the Bush energy bill. It was called "New Energy Future." My paycheck said "Grassroots Voter Outreach, Inc.," but I was to say "OSPIRG" when I phonebanked. Now, I don't mean to suggest that this was not on the up-and-up (or that I know for a fact it wasn't, for that matter), but this was a clear example wherein the PIRG (of which Phelps is a Director--thanks for the clarification) is deciding to pay money to GVO (GCI's legal entity du jour) a company of which Phelps is the CEO. This is very simple to the kind of conflicts of interest that are sometimes present with Democratic media consultants, but it is paid for by members of non-profits (Sierra Club, PIRG, etc.) rather than by political donors (who you have to assume know at least that their money will go to commercials).
Oh, and I am definitely not a lawyer, but I know at least in my state the "Inc." is not a voluntary buzzword but a meaningful legal distinction.
There is no connection, formal or otherwise between PIRG/Fund and GCI.
The "or otherwise" part of this statement is where it starts to break down heavilly. Is not Doug Phelps the CEO of both (this is an honest question, maybe I'm wrong here)? Has not USPIRG contracted with GCI to run campaigns (the answer is "yes," because I worked on such a campaign--The New Energy Future campaign)? Did not PIRG grant leaves of absence to literally hundreds of staff who went to work for GCI in 2004?
Do you reall want to stand behind the statement that there is no connection between PIRG/Fund and GCI? I mean, that is laughable on its face. Also, whether GCI actually turns a profit is not relevant to its legal status as a corporation (hence the "Inc" in "Grassroots Campaigns Inc").
It is a state legislative campaign, but we are heavilly targetted (my candidate lost to this same incumbent by only 400 votes in 2004--despite jumping at the filing deadline with staffing/funding problems) and we'll have the resources to run a bad-ass field program.
Thanks for saying I sound like a decent boss. I hope that I am. A frustrating counter-argument in this whole GCI discussion is that to question GCI's model is to be afraid of hard work. I think one can be very demanding and still be straight with the people who work for them.
Well, when you're talking about non-fundraising canvassing, there is no "breaking even." It is certainly possible to give paid canvassers adequate respect and salary--you just gotta have enough money and make the decision that you think it is worthwhile to spend it on field. Lots of campaigns--at many different levels--do just that.
I'm going to be hiring some paid canvassers (for a candidate, not a group) soon, and they will be paid decently and not subjected to any bullshit that isn't intrinsic to walking outside on the Oregon Coast in the fall. We feel that the knowledge and relationship-building benefits of having continuity and quality in these positions will be worth some extra bread.
Chris, this is one time where I disagree with you. I think there is definitely a real community, but that it is organized around what you might call "professional values." I agree that our communications and our bonds seem less intimate than at other community sites, but I also get a level of "productive" satisfaction from MyDD that I never get from any other blog. I think that what your average user gets from the experience is different than at other blogs, but it might just be because what we are looking for is different as well.
After re-reading your comment, I had to add something. The attitude that it's OK to fall short on payroll because other things are a higher priority is symbollic of exactly what's wrong with GCI. I agree that good activists don't always make natural administrative staff (shit, I can bear that out with my own work history!)--but GCI (and I mean "GCI" not "the finance staff they hired in 2004") needs to understand that it is not only a terribly short-sighted practice to knowingly continue a system that results in emplyees getting paid late and reimbursed inadequately, it is also illegal. If the exact same folks were running an entity called "No on 35" or "Smith for Rep.," I think your argument would hold up perfectly. But they are running a business, called Grassroots Campaigns Inc., for a profit--and they are using practices that are not tenable for entities that want to survuve long-term.
That you, I, and anyone else who worked on any campaign in 2004 would agree that administrative stuff isn't our highest priority is a perfect indicator that we are the wrong people to be handling that particular job.
I didn't mean to attack the finance stuff. I am not doing a good job of making my point, so I will bail out with one final comment: GCI is not a campaign, it is a business. It is not acceptable for a business to get payroll right "most of the time." If they don't get that, they shouldn't be running a business.
"Whites only" means that an institution actively excludes non-whites. This accurately describes many country clubs, but clearly not the one to which Mr. LaMont belonged. I simply grew up in an area with an unfortunate lack of diversity. This did not mean that non-white people were excluded, simply that there were not very many of them there. This post claims that it is possible to be "almost whites only," which is an attempt to portray LaMont as a racist by (somewhat) cleverly blurring the semantics.
There are currently zero Jewish people on the moon. This does not mean that the moon is anti-semitic.
Oh, and for the record, my high school sucked and would have benefited from more diversity, and I would probably hate Ned LaMont's countryr blub.
If you don't want to get dragged into a fight, don't make it one. I don't have any doubt that everyone in the finance office worked hard. I have no doubt that everyone at GCI works REALLY hard, and that isn't my point.
I'm sure that I didn't screw up any of my own reimbursement stuff. I wasn't the one who handled most of that stuff directly in my office, so I can't be as sure about everything else, but it was handled by two people who had worked in business before (our CD, for instance, had worked in management for a large corporation for a few years before working on this campaign). I don't doubt that there were idiots staffing many of the offices, but we desparately tried to maintain a professional atmosphere in my office (San Diego Door, but the same goes for street, though it did take them forever to get permission to fire the AD who was getting drunk with canvassers in the office at night), and our efforts were destroyed when paychecks would arrive two days late and reimbursements would never arrive at all. This is not to mention the wacky web of "new hire" paperwork we would ahve to complete each time GCI would spawn--and relegate us to--a new legal entity.
IF you honestly think that the payroll and remibursement system worked well and was only hampered by the mistakes of the director/organizers, than we are just going to have to agree to disagree. That is so far afield of my direct experience that I don't think we can even agree on the basics of what happened and when. I don't mean for anyone to take any of this personally. Even the highest up people at GCI who I met and interacted with were really impressive and admirable people. I like them.
In a previous thread, I made the suggestion that GCI just outsource all the payroll and "officey" shit to a company like ADP or something. You didn't like that suggestion, and that's fair, but it's like I'm totally opposed to being constructive about this.
This is absolutely not the case with GCI. In my time as a Director/Organizer, my office didn't screw up a single reimbursement request--but we waited for many of them for months. 100% of the dozens of payroll problems that we experienced were the fault of the finance office in Boston.
Out of the blue one week, my paycheck (my name is "Patton Price" and I was working in Cincinnati) was sent to "Preston Pierce" in Fort Lauderdale. That was not the "office-level," it was the result of making a functional payroll system an extremely low priority. I think your explanation is a little insulting. Filling out a half-page form and stapling a receipt is not "foreign," and 22-25 year-olds are generally not as stupid as you give them credit for.
In other words, the problems you're describing are systemic to all politics, to any start-up organization, and really to the question of organization in general.
I respectfully disagree. They are systemic to lopsidedly top-down politics and organizing. I think that is evident in the collapse of the MoveOn campaign (and also why GCI's DNC campaign was really successful--a top-down fundraising program isn't nearly as wacky as a top-down "neighbor-to-neighbor" program).
The biggest problem with GCI is that they burned out a ridiculous number of talented young people who might still be active in Democratic campaigns if they had not been jerked around. All campaign work is hard, poorly paid, and crazy as hell. But GCI adds a bunch of unneeded bullshit to the mix, and now one of the most gifted field organizers I've ever met sells corporate CRM for a living.
There is no such thing as "pretty much" whites only, and you know it. There was only one black kid in my high-school class, but it was not "pretty much a whites-only school." This charge is as odious as it is cheesy. Grow up.
Oh, and good luck getting anyone to care about this tripe. Ned LaMont is a rich white guy. So is Joe Lieberman. There may well be a serious and significant issue underlying that fact, but I coubt anyone trusts it to be fairly or fruitfully elucidated by the likes of you.
There is no way that GCI will allow anyone but their top brass to openly respond to this. And institutionally, that's their prerogative.
But it is telling that they can't even send someone to defend them openly. Their reputation is being knocked down a peg among anyone who reads MyDD (read: much of the progressive activist "elite"), and they aren't bothering to respond. Greg is being very fair and judicious, so it's not like they would be doing the equivalient of going on O'Reilly or anything.