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Sunday, August 13, 2017


Nothing for money or: Why their souls aren't for sale

by Tom Sullivan

One of the pleasures of attending Netroots Nation is spending time with several thousand people whose principal motivation in life isn't making money. (Blasphemy, I know.) A conference for do-gooders is how one regular explains the annual event to friends.

Former Vice President Al Gore just spoke to the closing plenary to promote his new film, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. Gore recounted how he watched Congress change in the late 1970s as money took over Washington, D.C. Four to five hours per day politicians spend on the phone soliciting money from donors. Some of those donors today represent fossil-fuel interests, Gore said. They have employed the same advertising agencies tobacco companies paid for decades to question the science that cigarettes were dangerous to people's health.

They took the money. Today, Gore told the assembly, those same ad agencies promote climate change denial. They'd sold their souls long ago, so what the hell?

While billionaire do-gooder Tom Steyer preceded Gore to the stage, his bankroll is the exception not the rule at the conference.

An attorney who runs a nonprofit explained how she'd entered public service after law school while a close friend joined a private practice. A recent financial disclosure revealed the friend had made $2 million last year. The attorney smiled and said every now and then her husband asks couldn't she have gone into private practice for a few years before becoming a not-for-profit do-gooder.

Before becoming a public education advocate, another attendee received an offer to write the newsletter for a conservative think tank in Washington. It was a name-your-price offer. He turned it down. His soul was not for sale.

Netroots Nation is part activist fair and part advocacy trade show. Make no mistake, many of the attendees here make their living doing advocacy work. But most could make make a better living if money was their primary motivation.

Mary Cathryn Ricker came as executive vice president of the American Federation of Teachers. She is on leave from her job teaching middle school English in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Aftab Pureval is the first Democrat elected Clerk of Court in Hamilton County, Ohio in 100 years. A neat trick for a Nepali-Indian kid from Beavercreek, Ohio. He too couldl. be making better money as an attorney in private practice.

As Gore's session ended, tired convention-goers took to the streets of Atlanta to protest the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Washington Post's Dave Weigel writes:

At 7 p.m., hundreds of Netroots attendees gathered in a park across from the Hyatt Regency where the conference had been held. They held signs with slogans ranging from the optimistic (“United against hate”) to the profane (“F— white supremacy”) to the ultra-specific (“This Palestinian supports Black Intifada”). After forming into a long, winding line, they marched to the state Capitol, where labor organizer Dolores Huerta led them in prayer.

“Let’s pray for the people who have been killed and injured,” she said. “Let’s pray for the haters, that the hate comes out of their hearts.”

MoveOn, Indivisible, Greenpeace, Our Revolution and other groups represented in Atlanta had already compiled a list of vigils held across the country in solidarity with Charlottesville.

Sweeping the water from his head as he stepped into the elevator afterwards, Democracy for America (DFA) chair Jim Dean looked as if he had just come from a swim. "Been walking," he said.

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