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Why Can’t Progressives Lobby Or Fundraise Effectively?

In response to my post on American politicians actually being pretty cheap to bribe compared to how much money the acts they past give those who pay them, DavidN asked:

Since politicians can be bought so cheaply, why is it only the big corporations that play the game?  Why don’t progressive groups, say, tell America that, if every American were to chip in $1, they could have more bargaining power than all of the big corporations? ($300 million > $283 million)

I know the big unions do it too, but why not more?  Why are all the progressive fundraising outlets seemingly focused on giving money to politicians’ election campaings with few, if any, strings attached?

Then, in a double whammy, Lord Mike said:

Act Blue DESPERATELY need s lobbying arm especially since so many of our candidates are turning their backs on us!

Y’know, both of these things are true.  Progressives need an effective lobbying arm, and to the best of my knowledge, other than perhaps MoveOn and unions (by which I mostly mean SEIU), we don’t have one.  And while I love my union friends, they have their own priorities, which while they often match up with progressives, don’t always.  As for MoveOn, well, let’s say that they can’t do everything.  The whip effort from FDL, Kos and others on healthcare which is going on now is doing yeoman work, but I’m sure they’ll agree that more money and full time lobbyists would make a huge difference.

So I’m genuinely throwing this out there.  I don’t know why we don’t have really effective fund-raising which is sufficient to do effective lobbying.



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  1. Joe Mason

    I’ve often wondered why Warren Buffet doesn’t personally fund some of these things. He obviously cares about a lot of progressive causes.

  2. The so-called left has never been willing to fund any long-term projects other than those that form silos around particular issues and individual races.

    The problem is that each issue battle and each individual race has to fight against a more than 40-year, multi-billion dollar campaign to convince Americans that rich people and their corporations are always good and should never have to pay taxes, and gummint is always bad and wasteful and will control your life.

    I have been preaching since mid 2001 that a concerted effort to combat the misinformation is the only thing that will change this situation.

    Unfortunately, considering the lack of response I’ve gotten, I’m now convinced that even when the Republicans have managed to thoroughly discredit Barack Obama and pin all of Bush’s failures on him, the so-called left will still not see the need for such a concerted effort.

    Carolyn Kay

  3. gtash

    Well, I would like to know the average age of a “progressive”. I think demographics may have something to do with it, plus the fact that conservatives (I think) rely on “corporate persons” in the main. Corporations don’t die. They outlive air breathers, maintain their capital better, multiply like rabbits, and have narrower (and I argue :non-social” as opposed to “a-social”) interests. Where are the demographics of progressives? How do we compare to corporate persons?

  4. gtash

    And if progressives cannot afford a lobbying arm, and if they cannot organize one, then they should by God elect someone who represents them with leadership and a willingness to fight.

    Here is Obama walking backwards.

  5. Progressives can recognize bribery even when it is legalized and do not wish to participate in the undermining of democracy. A core principle of the progressive movement is campaign finance and lobbying reform, effectively eliminating the legal exemption of bribery in politics masquerading as “free speech.” Why would progressives go back on their principles to get in the bribery game just because that’s the way Washington does business?

  6. tjfxh:

    I once tried to start an organization called Buy Back Our Government, because it seemed the only way to fight the lobbyists was head on. Too many people, apparently, felt as you do, but it’s a monumental struggle against all three branches of the existing government to implement true campaign finance reform.

    But I still hold that building progressive media to bring more attention to our issues could pave the way for such reform.

    We just keep doing the wrong things over and over, expecting different results. Crazy, huh?

    Carolyn Kay

  7. The reason why progressives can’t buy politicians is simple: money from progressives endangers the future flow of money. Many major politicians hope to make oodles of money from speaking fees at these absurd events if their political career ends (and even if it doesn’t). Are progressives willing to follow through?

  8. paperwight

    Cut and pasted from a post I wrote years ago:

    The Republican machine has been built by funding from two primary sources: multinational corporations and wealthy families. Those two groups (which overlap substantially, if one notes the source of the wealth of many of those families) are acting in their self-interest by funding political organizations which are friendly to their interests and hostile to all others. They’re trying to remake the world according to their vision, which is utopian from their view, but dystopian and unsustainable in reality. There’s all kinds of money just slopping over the sides of the Republican machine, and even that much money is a pittance compared to the amount of money that the funders gain from seeing the general population convinced to choose the Republican dystopia over a sane world.

    Now note that the primary funders of the liberal ecosystem are / will be wealthy individuals, most of whom made their money from business. In funding a liberal ecosystem, they are acting against their immediate parochial interests. Liberals should not expect this to be a typical behavior.

    Funding for liberal political projects will always be less available than funding for Republican projects, simply because it requires a conscious act of will and abnegation by the funders. Wealthy families or individuals may donate scads of money to apolitical direct-action or educational ventures, but it will continue to be unusual for them to actively oppose their parochial class interest. The same goes for multinational corporations, but more so.

  9. nihil obstet

    A highly active political class will always be the minority. Most people go to work, do the grocery shopping and laundry, watch their kids, and try to amuse themselves with the easily available shopping and TV. They don’t see the connection between the conditions of their own lives and politics. And in fact, any improvements in their own lives from politics will come slowly. That’s a big contrast with the multi-millionaires who can profit immediately and handsomely from bribes.

    And this avoids the issue of which progressive lobbying organization would get the nod. I get tens of solicitation calls, letters, and emails every month. This month, should I save the environment, protect human rights, fund investigative reporting, or what? They’re all good causes, but at some point someone needs to think about what the fragmentation is doing to the objective.

  10. b.

    Because you keep giving meony to politicians, instead of using it to hold politicians accountable.

    Don’t give a single cent to the candidate. Use it to push your agenda, to rent access to the public square to make your case – policy first.

    Then, you what the NRA does – anybody who claims to support your policy and lies, is hit as hard as you can finance. Anybody who does not support your policy is opposed to the extent it is worth it.

    Never compromise. The problem with progressives and liberals is that they are always looking for a shortcut, a way to “make them do it” instead of realizing that, if you settle for less in the short term, you will get nothing in the long term. Make your case, and cut down those that betray you. If it gets worse in the short term, it probably would have anyway. Progressives overestimate their leverage in the here and now, and hence always postpone increasing it.

  11. Kevin Dennis

    One very important difference between a corporation doling out millions to politicians vs. the possiblity that a progressive organization might do the same: those corporations usually provide multitudes of jobs that are right here, right now. Progressive campaigns/organization don’t have that trump card in their back pocket.

    All a corporation has to do is threaten to eliminate or move those jobs, and suddenly senators and congresspeople sit up and listen. Can’t lose those votes…

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