MoveOn

MoveOn.org

MoveOn is an American non-profit progressive, liberal public policy advocacy group and political action committee which has raised millions of dollars for candidates of the Democratic Party in the United States. Formed in response to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, it has been cited in some accounts as a factor which helped propel the Democratic Party to power in the 2006 election.

Legal status

MoveOn comprises two legal entities, each organized under a different section of U.S. tax and election laws:

  • MoveOn.org Civic Action, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization, formerly known as MoveOn.org, primarily focuses on education and advocacy on national issues.

  • MoveOn.org Political Action, a federal political action committee, formerly known as MoveOn PAC, gives contributions to candidates across the country to advance causes in Congress and help elect selected political candidates.

History

MoveOn started in 1998 as an email group, MoveOn.org, created by computer entrepreneurs Joan Blades and Wes Boyd, the married cofounders of Berkeley Systems. They started by passing around a petition asking Congress to "censure President Clinton and move on", as opposed to impeaching him. The petition, passed around by word of mouth, was extremely successful; ultimately, they had half a million signatures.

Buoyed by their success, the couple went on to start similar campaigns, including:

Since 1998, MoveOn has raised millions of dollars for many Democratic candidates.

In November 2007, a drive spearheaded by MoveOn caused Facebook to change its controversial new "Beacon" program, which notified Facebook users about purchases by people on their friends list.

Organizing methodology

MoveOn uses e-mail as its main conduit for communicating with members, sending action alerts at least once a week. It communicates primarily through a variation on a chain letter.

The MoveOn.org web site also uses multi-media, including videos, audio downloads, and images. In addition to communicating via the Internet, MoveOn advertises using traditional print and broadcast media, as well as billboards, bus signs, and bumper stickers, digital versions of which are downloadable from its web site. It also contains an area called the "Action Forum", which functions much like a traditional electronic discussion group. The Action Forums act as a grassroots organization allowing members to propose priorities and strategies.

Through this grassroots methodology, MoveOn collaborates with groups like Meetup.com in organizing street demonstrations, bake sales, house parties, and other opportunities for people to meet personally and act collectively in their own communities.

Some of the core principles of MoveOn are:

  • Moveon is not dependent on foundation money.
  • The ability to use 'hard money' – as opposed to grants and tax-deductible contributions – enables them to be partisan, contribute to political campaigns, and exercise clout in the political process.

Changes in federal election laws have also impacted groups like MoveOn. The McCain/Feingold election finance reform legislation, which went into effect in 2002, allowed political parties to raise larger amounts of "hard money" contributions, but were forbidden from raising "soft money". MoveOn, like many other political organizations which sought to influence the 2004 election, was able to circumvent this legislation using a 527 group, which became inactive in 2005 and closed in 2008.

Call for Change

In preparation for the 2006 midterm elections, MoveOn created a new system for soliciting potential voters named Call for Change. As part of the Call for Change effort, registered voters in key voting districts were contacted by MoveOn members, who placed over 7 million phone calls as part of the effort.

Personnel

  • Joan Blades, Co-Chair, Board of Directors
  • Wes Boyd, Chair, Board of Directors
  • Carrie Olson, Chief Operating Officer, Board of Directors (PAC)
  • Eli Pariser, Executive Director
    • Adam Ruben, Political Director, responsible for MoveOn Political Action's electoral strategy
    • Justin Ruben, Organizing Director, oversees "Operation Democracy," MoveOn's in-depth volunteer driven field network
    • Adam Green, Civic Communications Director, handles communications for MoveOn's c4 and leads campaigns on media reform issues like Net Neutrality, public airwaves for the public good, and taking on Fox
    • Nita Chaudhary, Advocate, runs campaigns on civil liberties, Censure, and other issues
    • Jennifer Lindenauer, PAC Communications Director
    • Laura Dawn, Cultural Director, co-creator of Bush in 30 Seconds, develops and runs cultural engagement campaigns like the celebrity directed "10 Weeks" ads and the Vote for Change tour.
  • Patrick Michael Kane Web designer, designing, building and managing MoveOn's web and mailing infrastructure.

Criticism

Nazi ad

MoveOn was criticized by a Jewish advocacy group, among others, when a member-submitted ad which drew parallels between President George W. Bush and Adolf Hitler was submitted to their online ad contest "Bush in 30 Seconds". The ad was part of an online MoveOn-sponsored contest, "Bush in 30 Seconds", during the 2004 presidential election, in which members were invited to create and submit political ads challenging President Bush and his administration. The advertisement was quickly pulled off the website.

Fox debate

Fox News criticized the organization after it successfully encouraged the 2008 Democratic Presidential Candidates not to attend two debates sponsored by the network. Fox News advisor David Rhodes and the network's commentators Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly have also stated that MoveOn.org "owns" the Democratic Party. This stems from a 2004 e-mail composed by Eli Pariser, among others, stating that, in regards to the Democratic Party: "Grassroots contributors like us ... bought it, we own it, and we're going to take it back.

General Petraeus

MoveOn was criticized by 31 Republican senators and one independent senator for running a print ad in The New York Times that questioned the personal integrity of General David Petraeus, with headlines such as "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?" and "Cooking the Books for the White House". On September 20 2007, the Senate passed an amendment by Republican John Cornyn III of Texas designed to "strongly condemn personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus". All forty-nine Republican Senators, as well as twenty-two Democratic Senators, voted in support. The House passed a similar resolution by a 341-79 vote on September 26 2007.

On September 20 2007, The Washington Post stated: "Democrats blamed the group [Moveon.org] for giving moderate Republicans a ready excuse for staying with Bush and for giving Bush and his supporters a way to divert attention away from the war.

The New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt later stated in an op-ed that MoveOn was mistakenly charged US$77,000 less for the ad than it should have been under Times policies, and MoveOn announced that it would pay The New York Times the difference in price.

MoveOn.org is running more ads using a 'betrayal' theme, with TV spots targeting President Bush and Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani specifically. Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani ran his own full-page ad in The New York Times on September 14 2007. Giuliani asked for and received a similar reduced fee as Moveon.org, paying US$65,000.

Google Adwords

Google and MoveOn have been accused of selective adherence to trademark law for removing ads from Google Adwords for Maine Senator Susan Collins, citing infringement of MoveOn trademarks. Wired stated on October 15, 2007 that the "left-leaning political advocacy group, MoveOn.org, is backing down" and will allow Google to show the ads. Moveon.org communications director Jennifer Lindenauer said: "We don't want to support a policy that denies people freedom of expression.

Alex ad

On June 17, 2008, MoveOn emailed its members stating that it had produced "the most effective TV ad we've ever created. The ad depicts a mother telling Republican presidential nominee John McCain that she will not let him use her son, Alex, as a soldier in the war in Iraq. Subsequent to the ad's release, Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show, "praised" MoveOn for "10 years of making even people who agree with you cringe. New York Times columnist Bill Kristol criticized the ad in a column, saying that Alex would not be old enough to serve in the military before term limits require McCain to leave office.

Relationships with other organizations

MoveOn is a co-founder of Avaaz.org, a civic organization that promotes progressive political action on issues such as climate change and religious conflicts.

MoveOn is not connected with MoveOnForAmerica (now known as Move America Forward), a conservative organization that was set up by Stephen Marks, a Republican political consultant.

Candidates supported

Since the 2000 election cycle, the MoveOn PAC has endorsed and supported the campaigns of dozens of candidates.

2000 election

2002 election

2006 election

  • Ned Lamont, who defeated three-term Democratic incumbent Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic primary, but lost in the general election against Lieberman, who ran as an independent. [Lost]
  • Patrick Murphy, Democratic nominee for Pennsylvania's 8th Congressional District. [Won]
  • Westport first selectwoman Diane Farrell, Democratic nominee for Connecticut's 4th Congressional District. [Lost]
  • Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), running for re-election to his tenth term in the U.S. Senate [Won]
  • Pennsylvania State Treasurer Bob Casey, Jr., Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate. [Won]
  • Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), running for his second term. [Won]
  • Montana State Senate President Jon Tester (D-MT), running to unseat Conrad Burns (R-MT) [Won]
  • Former Congressman Nick Lampson, Democratic candidate for Texas's 22nd Congressional District. [Won]
  • Congressman Chet Edwards, Democratic incumbent for Texas' 17th Congressional District. [Won]
  • Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate. [Won]
  • Cardiff School District Board Trustee Francine Busby, Democratic candidate for California's 50th Congressional District. [Lost]
  • Former Congressman Ciro Rodriguez, Democratic candidate for Texas' 23rd Congressional District, pending redistricting decisions.[Won]
  • Bob Shamansky, Democratic candidate for 12th congressional district of Ohio. [Lost]
  • Gabrielle Giffords, Democratic candidate for Arizona's 8th congressional district. [Won]
  • Jason Altmire, Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania's 4th congressional district [Won]
  • John Yarmuth, Democratic candidate for 3rd congressional district of Kentucky. [Won]
  • Tim Mahoney, Democratic candidate for 16th congressional district of Florida, running against Mark Foley's replacement. [Won]
  • Ron Klein, Democratic candidate for Florida's 22nd congressional district, running against 12-term Republican incumbent Clay Shaw. [Won]
  • Bruce Braley, Iowa. [Won]
  • Martin O'Malley, Democratic candidate for governor of Maryland. [Won]
  • Doug Gansler, Democratic candidate for Attorney General of Maryland. [Won]
  • James T. Smith, Jr., Democratic incumbent for Baltimore County (Maryland) Executive. [Won]

2008 election

  • Senator Barack Obama, US Senator and presidential candidate, nominee of the Democratic Party.

Financial contributors

According to an article in the Washington Post dated March 10 2004:

"The Democratic 527 organizations have drawn support from some wealthy liberals determined to defeat Bush. They include financier George Soros who gave $1.46 million to MoveOn.org Voter Fund (in the form of matching funds to recruit additional small donors); Peter B. Lewis, chief executive of the Progressive Corp., who gave $500,000 to MoveOn.org Voter Fund; and Linda Pritzker, of the Hyatt hotel family, and her Sustainable World Corp., who gave $4 million to the joint fundraising committee.

Some of the major financial contributors to MoveOn.org have included:

  • Linda Pritzker has donated at least US$4,000,000.
  • George Soros has donated at least US$1,460,000.
  • Peter B. Lewis has donated at least US$500,000.
  • The San Francisco Foundation Community Initiative Funds, a 501(c)(3) organization affiliated with the San Francisco Foundation, began serving as a fiscal sponsor for MoveOn.org Civic Action in 2000, providing a channel through which individuals can make directed, tax-exempt donations to support its work. In 2001, SFFCIF's IRS Form 990 show that it provided MoveOn.org Civic Action with $17,698 in funding.
  • Iraq Peace Fund, an effort of the Tides Foundation, has donated an unspecified amount.
  • Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund has donated an unspecified amount.

MoveOn.org ceased receiving any donations to its 527 after the 2004 election, and closed the 527 permanently in 2008. MoveOn's primary source of funding is its members. MoveOn.org raised nearly 60 million dollars in 2004 from its members alone, with an average donation of $50.

Books

  • (2004). MoveOn's 50 Ways to Love Your Country. Maui, Hawaii: Inner Ocean Pub.. ISBN 1-930722-29-X.
  • (2006). It Takes a Nation: How Strangers Became Family in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina. Earth Aware. ISBN 1-932771-86-7.

See also

References

External links

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