Operation Democracy: MoveOn/GCI's Crisis of Leadership Continues

"We must give ourselves the permission to fail."

That is the lesson that my dearest college professor most indelibly imparted to me: you're gonna get it wrong before you get it right. (I said it to myself every morning for a year, as I learned the lesson the hard way...) But eventually, that permission must expire--or the wrong lessons are learned.

In 2004, MoveOn ran its first massive field campaign, Leave No Voter Behind; the campaign was subcontracted to Grassroots Campaigns Inc. Things went wrong, as things always will on a campaign -- and then things got worse, as things often will on a campaign. But after the initial setbacks, we found ourselves pinned under a crisis of leadership in which GCI betrayed the good faith of its employees, and MoveOn's members, in order to protect its contract. This move apparently worked: MoveOn rehired GCI to relaunch a field campaign.

I only began writing the series on Leave No Voter Behind when I had good reason to believe that GCI and MoveOn had simply learned the wrong lessons from the failure of that campaign. I had heard that the damage that GCI wrought in 2004 -- through mismanagement and unprofessional standards -- seemed to be continuing; however, these accounts were still second-hand. That soon changed. For the last two months, I've received a steady stream of emails from veterans of MoveOn/GCI's second and third failed campaign attempts. As far as investigative reporting gigs go, this one was rather easy.

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6 ways that MoveOn can save its GCI campaign

ChangeGCI (CGCI) is a group of veterans of Grassroots Campaigns Inc operations--specifically the MoveOn campaigns of Leave No Voter Behind, Operation Democracy, and Call for Change, as well as former high-level GCI staff who were with the company at its inception (you can read diaries from some of us here, here, here, here, and here). We believe that even though GCI is engaged in important work, it has consistently misapplied core organizing principles; we believe that GCI sacrifices the quality of its campaigns for the sake of the quantity of its recruits, and that its result is far less than the sum of its parts; we believe that a campaign organization has a responsibility to honor the commitment of each organizer and every volunteer, and that whenever such honor is broken, the progressive movement suffers.

Upon MoveOn.org's request, we have submitted the following recommendations as to improvements that it can make to its GCI field program. MoveOn has not yet responded. We have a wider set of recommendations for mid- and long-term improvements to GCI's campaign model, but MoveOn's campaign is currently entering into a critical phase, and the following actions have been selected because they are all accomplishable in the short-term. We believe that these actions would bring immediate gains in effectiveness to the 2006 Call for Change campaign; we also believe that this would set a precedent of campaign accountability that can continue to develop beyond this election. Potentially, GCI could become a positive force in the progressive movement; however, if it is not held accountable, we believe that it will continue to squander our most precious resources.

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MoveOn, GCI, and the failure of Operation Democracy

My name is Takeata King Pang, and mine is the third testimonial from a group of MoveOn Field Organizers (MOFOs) who are going public about the failures of Grassroots Campaigns' MoveOn field operation. Before I start my testimonial, I want to make something clear that seemed to get lost in Kelly and Martin's threads: the MOFOs who are writing these diaries lasted longer with GCI than almost all of the other organizers. Pretty much everyone else quit long before we did--but GCI kept us all isolated from each other and we had no real means of communication, so most everyone is out of touch. But many in this group managed to stay in contact, and we'd discussed these issues even before we'd read the posts here about GCI/MoveOn's 2004 Leave No Voter Behind.

Like the 2004 MoveOn organizers, our concerns are not just about the working conditions - we are also writing about the ways that this campaign is ineffective, and is failing the MoveOn members who join it. At the end of the week, we will post a set of recommendations of actions that MoveOn can take to begin to resolve this crisis. If you find our stories compelling, and you agree this issue must be addressed by MoveOn, please send an email to Eli Pariser (eli@moveon.org) and cc us at ChangeGCI@gmail.com (or contact us there directly, and we will update you with further information about how you can send a message to MoveOn).

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Strip-mining the grassroots for GCI and MoveOn--MoveOn must act!

Last week, Grassroots Campaigns Inc's DCCC canvassers in Madison, Wisconsin protested because they were not earning minimum wage--after a bunch of blogs on the right and the left picked up on the story, the DCCC cancelled its contract with GCI.

But the lack of a living wage is just the beginning of the problems with GCI's operations. As Greg Bloom wrote in his series on MoveOn PAC's Leave No Voter Behind campaign, GCI's model has caused severe damage in the field because of a "crisis of leadership" in its management. A veteran of MoveOn/GCI's Operation Democracy read Greg's post and passed it to me, and together with a number of other veterans--we call ourselves the MOFOs, the MoveOn Field Organizers--I feel that it's imperative to show that the crisis continues. In Martin's post yesterday, a couple of people asked what our motives are: it's to expose the ways that GCI is failing its organizers AND failing to run an effective campaign for MoveOn. At the end of the week, we will post a set of recommendations of actions that MoveOn can take to begin to resolve this crisis. If you find our stories compelling, and you agree this issue must be addressed by MoveOn, please send an email to Eli Pariser (eli@moveon.org) and cc us at ChangeGCI@gmail.com (or contact us there directly, and we will update you with further information about how you can send a message to MoveOn).

My name is Kelly Nagy - I've worked on numerous environmental and social justice campaigns, as well as local community issues and Senate electoral campaigns. I was the National Director of the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) for almost 3 years.

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MoveOn and GCI: still strip-mining the grassroots

There has been a lot of discussion recently on this blog about Grassroots Campaigns Inc, which has contracts with the DNC and MoveOn, among other organizations. Last week, GCI's DCCC canvassers in Madison protested because they were not earning minimum wage--after a quick burst of outrage, the DCCC cancelled its contract with GCI.

But the lack of a living wage is only the beginning of the problems with GCI's operations. As Greg Bloom wrote in his series on MoveOn PAC's Leave No Voter Behind campaign, GCI's model has caused severe damage in the field because of a "crisis of leadership" in its management. I am here to say that the crisis has continued into MoveOn's 2006 operations. Myself and a number of other veterans of Operation Democracy--we call ourselves the MOFOs, the MoveOn Field Organizers--read Greg's posts and came together to talk about what we could do to help change the situation. This post will be the first of our series of testimonials that will expose the ways that GCI has failed its organizers, and failed MoveOn's campaign. At the end of the week, we will post a set of recommendations of actions that MoveOn can take to begin to resolve this crisis. If you find our stories compelling, and you agree this issue must be addressed by MoveOn, please send an email to Eli Pariser (eli@moveon.org) and cc us at ChangeGCI@gmail.com (or contact us there directly and we will update you with further information about how you can send a message to MoveOn).

My name is Martin Casas. In the last five years, I've been a field organizer and campaign manager for more than half a dozen progressive campaigns.

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Diaries

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