A group of progressive operatives from MoveOn and labor circles have teamed with a prominent Internet pioneer to try to give the Sam Bennetts of the world the final push they need -- and send even more Perriellos to Congress. The organization will be the first of its kind exclusively to focus on electing progressive Democrats in congressional elections.This is an essential component of progressive politics. The stale CW of the village Democrats gets passed on to congressional candidates by simple osmosis --- there's no creativity, no use of modern methods and no real progressive message and the progressive ends up losing.
It won't focus its energy on unseating conservative Democrats, but Green, a cofounder, didn't rule out the possibility. Instead, it will prioritize competitive open-seat primaries and help general election candidates like Bennett and Perriello run effective campaigns.
The group's first forays are likely to be in the Illinois district vacated by Rahm Emanuel, who left to become Obama's chief of staff. Green says the group is in talks with a progressive labor lawyer, Tom Geoghegan, in that district. Another potential target: the California district emptied by Hilda Solis, who's been tapped to be labor secretary.
"Our belief is there are many more Tom Perriellos out there who are on the cusp of winning," says Green. "There's a pattern of progressive candidates who are written off in the beginning and who come inches away from victory, but lose due to inefficient campaigns."
The organization will be dedicated to finding progressive candidates who might have an outside shot at winning and "take them under our wing," in Green's words. The group's name -- the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, or the P-triple-C -- is a reference to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which financially backs Democratic candidates it thinks have a shot to win but does not prioritize progressive Democrats over conservative Democrats. The DCCC has had a patchy relationship with the liberal blogosphere, which charges it with relying too heavily on old-school expensive Democratic consultants and not being willing to take chances on progressive candidates.
The PCCC aims to be something of a guiding resource for first-time candidates like Bennett. By helping candidates find good campaign staff and make more effective use of the Internet, the group thinks candidates could save tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in consultant fees. Whereas consultants might charge thousands to record and pump out robo-calls, for instance, the PCCC could show a candidate how to do it in-house, online, for a fraction of the cost. "Anybody who pays ten thousand dollars to a consultant for a YouTube video doesn't know what they're doing," said Green.
Aaron Swartz is another cofounder and the co-inventor of RSS, which has changed the way people consume information online. Swartz co-founded Reddit, a popular Web 2.0 site depends on user interaction. Staff from Perriello's campaign, as well as that of Washington's Darcy Burner, are also involved. Stephanie Taylor, who ran Perriello's field operation in the campaign's final month, is a former union organizer with over ten years of field and online experience at SEIU, the AFL-CIO, the DNC and MoveOn.org. Mudcat Arnold was Burner's field director and Michael Snook was data director and targeting analyst for Perriello.
The group expects to raise and spend around $650,000 this year and more in the next. It has already gotten MoveOn backing and is meeting soon with other progressive-leaning organizations. The goal is to raise money from outside sources rather than to charge candidates, though some type of fee may be involved.