Why Is The Grass-Roots So Green?
Make no mistake, there are hundreds of thousands, if not now millions of dollars changing hands within the so-called Netroots movement. And I don’t mean dollars flowing up from contributors to political campaigns, though obviously that’s happening, too.
While some, see Mickey Kaus here and Rogers Cadenhead here, continue to focus on the concept of Kosola (unproven allegations that some quid pro quo involving Dailykos, Jerome Armstrong and politicians) might exist, the bigger story may be the financial connections that suggest there is no reason for a Kosola of the type alleged to have taken place. There’s more than enough money floating around the Liberal blogosphere for everyone, though it seems a few may be getting more than their fair share, while others are starting to complain.
The paper trail documents how the so-called people powered movement isn’t so much people powered at all. It’s fueled by big money with a big agenda being funneled into the Liberal blogosphere and to Liberal bloggers on a regular basis. Without that support, the grass-roots movement and Dailykos probably wouldn’t amount to much of anything and Yearlykos couldn’t have taken place on the scale it did.
To understand the financial connections that can now be documented, you’ll also want to understand the Phoenix Group (PG), as reported on here in The Hill, and in depth through the New York Times, Wiring the Vast Left Wing Conspiracy, July 2004. Wealthy associates of the group have been propping up the Netroots movement, enjoying the cachet of a ground up grass roots movement that’s actually financed and, I’d argue, controlled from the top down by big money, just as is most all contemporary politics. The Times piece is an absolute must read.
The Hill: One source at the DNC with direct knowledge of the agenda said that the Phoenix Group had three specific goals at the outset. It wants to create liberal think tanks, training camps for young progressives and media centers.
Despite the general recognition that progressives are several years behind conservatives, liberal activists are confident that technology will help them close the gap. “Technology may allow us to do in a few years what it took the other side 40 years,” the DNC source said.
Some of the key PG players, though far from all, are Howard Dean, George Soros, Simon Rosenberg, Andy Rappaport, and SEIU President Andy Stern. All of them, and others, have channeled serious money and support to the Netroots movement, including to Moulitsas and Armstrong, since it began. In fact, it likely wouldn’t have taken off or even survived without that financial support.
Armstrong and Dailykos are simply mimicking the talking points of well to do Liberals documented in articles and speeches as talking about fifty state campaigning and the need for a new Democratic Party. Here’s an excerpt from a speech by Alan Broadbent in 2004 in which he lays out some rules Kos and Armstrong also seem to embrace by shouting down dissension, or expelling dissidents from their ranks.
What are these rules? … First, create the institutions that can do the research and analysis that can underpin progressive causes. Second, meet on a regular basis. Third, support each other, and celebrate successes of others. Fourth, don’t criticize each other. Fifth, stay on message. Sixth, reward those politicians who act progressively, as opposed to those who only talk progressively.
Howard Dean introduced pay for play into the Liberal blogosphere. And while Moulitsas and Armstrong are still somewhat tight lipped when it comes to clients, past or present, here’s a look at what is known.
After the Dean campaign stood down, along came Andy Stern of the SEUI with $162,000 dollars to Political Technologies, LLC. Those payments came while they were writing Crashing The Gate – a work that even some Liberals complained was too labor friendly? Coincidence? You be the judge.
I’ve read the 1st half of "crashing the gate", and I think Jerome’s and Markos’s treatment of the "issue groups" is, in some places, spot-on. However, their pro-labor bias is apparent
When Kos and Armstrong wanted to start BlogPac, who stepped up? According to FEC documents, it was Andy Rappaport with $4,000 – and later Simon Rosenberg’s (New Democratic Network) NDN with another $4,000 and David Lee, a Paramount Director, with $2,000 – and the donor list includes several other well-off Liberal benefactors contributing 1k, or so. Unfortunately FEC archives don’t link direct, but you can search the FEC.
There’s nothing at all wrong with that, but even with that type of money, the BlogPac still found itself mostly strapped. The so-called grass roots these bloggers allegedly lead may donate to campaigns through their respective sites, but they are not supporting their sites and direct efforts, so big money types are stepping in.
Now try and comprehend this. TheHill reported a $2,000 loan to BlogPac from Matt Stoller.
BlogPAC also repaid a $2,000 loan from Stoller to set up a website, enjoythedraft.com, a site that satirized the possibility that the government would bring back the draft if Bush were reelected.
Yet, according to the FEC Stoller loaned BlogPac $1,000 and $5,000, for a total of $6,000 – without that and the big money players they wouldn’t have been able to do much of anything at all. So, where are all these grass roots supporters of particular bloggers when it matters? It appears as though they aren’t really there when it counts.
As an aside, I spoke with the FEC last week and BlogPac is engaging in at least two practices that present significant potential for fraud. Again from TheHill:
It will no longer operate as a traditional PAC, raising money to support candidates and participate in elections, Bowers said in a statement on the website.
That’s somewhat disingenuous because BlogPac has never given a dime to a candidate. What they’ve done is invest in on line advertising, mostly negative against Republicans. Again, nothing wrong with that. But if those on line ads start finding their way onto certain blogs, it’s a perfect mechanism to put political donations right back into the pockets of the bloggers who are constantly ginning up the crowd. And if they are BlogPac ads, you continue to replenish the pump.
Additionally, given current FEC filing regulations, it is possible for a PAC to accumulate small contributions and report them as one large loan. By repaying that non-loan, one would in effect be paying a blogger with political donations. And that practice would go undetected unless someone filed a complaint, or the FEC decided for some other reason to launch a full investigation.
When I spoke to the FEC it was very general and no PACs or individuals were mentioned. And I certainly didn’t file a complaint.
As for Daily and Yearly Kos, one need only look at his sidebar at different times and the sponsor list for YearlyKos to see how wealthy liberal groups and organizations channel money directly to him. One might think MoveOn, or NARAL, or whatever other groups controlled by wealthy Liberals aligned with the Phoenix Group aren’t really reaching out much by preaching to the choir. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with their running ads, or providing sponsorship, of course. But with the grass roots not supporting the direct efforts of the bloggers, Armstrong and Moulitsas would have to do what their history shows they’ve never really accomplished – go out and get and hold real jobs. At $2,000 a pop, it doesn’t take MoveOn and others much effort to keep Dailykos in business and even well heeled.
Most every blogger knows time is the main constraint when blogging. With big money rolling in from wealthy Liberals, some Liberal bloggers don’t appear to have that worry. The sponsors for YearlyKos include Air America, People For The American Way, MoveOn and Rosenberg’s NDN and MyDD – which indicates Armstrong certainly has come a long way.
Not all that long ago, Armstrong was pleading poverty to the court:
In answer to case number ()3 CV 326 with Judge Holschuh and Magistrate Judge Able, I humbly submit this document … Over 3 months ago, without sufficient funds to defend myself through a lawyer…
Now, according to the Washington Post, he just closed on a $440,000 home. (Correction: The purchase was in October 2005, which is even less time after he was allegedly too broke to afford a lawyer) Is there money in Liberal blogging? You bet there is. But apparently Reagan’s trickle down economics isn’t working at MyDD. As Rogers Cadenhead recently pointed out, it sounds as though someone else is now looking for their just dues.
A critical mistake some Liberal Blogger benefactors may have made is picking bloggers too far out of the norm. As stated, neither Armstrong nor Moulitsas have any experience or accomplishment in the real world. Both claim to have been expats for a significant period of time, were perpetual graduate students well into their thirties and forties, apparently either on the government or Daddy’s dime. One is so cliche he still admires Che as a hero and the other can’t seem to get his head out of the stars.
Now Hillary and the adults at the DLC have decided to start to play. Many genuine Liberals feel cut off from the grass roots because Armstrong and Moulitsas have been as heavy-handed as they both have been erratic. And it’s possible they too will start to moderate their message lest they lose the financial support of their masters. That could leave the real, or perhaps more dedicated Liberals of the blogosphere with nowhere to go. It basically depends on who wins the war in messaging between the old DNC and those who would hope for something new. Only now, the same elitists who have always taken a back seat to the politicians after giving them money, hope to more directly be pulling the strings.
Those strings look to be worth plenty of green for the grass roots movement and appear to be mostly attached to Moulitsis and Armstrong for now. But that, like everything else in the world, could change while remaining much the same as far as who gets to call the shots. It’s American politics, and you always wind up following the money in the end.