Thursday, August 21, 2008

A visit to Progressive Majority

I've been investigating Progressive Majority for a few months now. They are a Washington D.C.-based PAC who provides comprehensive campaign planning and direct financial support to liberal/"progressive" candidates running for local office. According to this article in "The Nation" Candidates must get 100% on a forty-item questionnaire that tests their positions on issues ranging from “economic justice” to universal health care in order to be supported by the organization. They are involved in over twenty races in Minnesota and also in other states.

I had a Dr's appointment on Tuesday and I had a babysitter so I decided to swing through downtown Minneapolis to visit the office of Progressive Majority Minnesota. Nice digs.

It's located at 126 N 3rd St. -right next door to my favorite restaurant in town- 112 Eatery. Gleaming hardwood floors, bright light, high ceilings. 4-5 nicely sized rooms on the 5th Floor. Nice place to work.

I talked to Gia Vitali, their Political Director. She couldn't have been any nicer and I had talked to her boss (Matt Filner) the previous day to ask if I could take a look at their candidate questionnaire. Matt initially said "we're happy to share the questionnaire with fellow Progressives"- I quickly said "Oh, I'm not a Progressive, I'm a Republican" I let him know that I'm a grassroots activist and was following their organization with interest in Minnesota. After a short conversation in which I asked if he agreed in the concept of open government and mentioned that if I were running a conservative counterpart to his organization I'd have no problem sharing a candidate questionnaire. (I'd be proud of it in fact). He eventually said I couldn't have a copy of the questionnaire, but I was welcome to come in and take a look.

When I stopped by the office on Tuesday, Gia handed me a copy. I perused it for about 10 minutes or so- and took some notes. There was nothing especially shocking about the form since it was coming from an organization whose job is to "bring more Paul Wellstones into office". It had a page-and-a-half fill-in-the-blank section asking the candidate basic questions, it asked what unions they belong to if any, etc. Then there were individual Q&A's broken into categories Reproductive Health, Education, Environment, etc. Each answer consisted of the choices "Support or Oppose" with the correct answer in bold. It wasn't too challenging to figure out what the correct answer (according to the liberal agenda) was.

Public funding of abortion, increasing access for abortions, protection for immigrants in the workplace (no mention if they're legal or not), government funded "age appropriate" sex-ed for all children, government enforcement of "a living wage", comprehensive universal health care coverage, expansion of Medicaid, free government-paid Pre-school for all, opposing any privatization of Social Security, requiring health care providers to provide "culturally competent and language specific resources", government-led regulation of private insurance companies to lower their costs of health care, expansion of public transit, government determined pay equity for women, continued use of race and quotas in hiring employees-both governmental and private sector, on and on.

Some of these are federal issues. Progressive Majority's goal is to win local-level offices and then run this "farm team" for higher office. They need to make sure their candidates are "on board" with their agenda- even if they won't be voting on these issues in the offices they hold.

Before I left I asked Gia about their "direct financial support" to candidates which is mentioned on their web site-she said it was limited to $300-$500 depending on the race and added that most of their support was in the form of in-kind donations to the campaigns for political services. With an office like that (and seven more throughout Minnesota she informed me) and professional staff- it's like your very own "Professional Campaign in a Box". While most local candidates have to rely on their friends, families and themselves to staff their local campaigns. Progressive Majority candidates get full-time political professionals at their fingertips. Nice.

This type of political machine doesn't just fall out of the sky. No- there's some serious money behind Progressive Majority that would make Bill Cooper look like a pauper. They claim "the Wellstone way" Hardly. More on that later.

Jerry Pitzrick has been working with this organization for a year now. He has their full endorsement and support. He had to agree with 100% of their agenda in order to get their support. What exactly is "Moderate" about that?

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