Wednesday, December 30, 2009

GAIN-the Astroturf Advocates

The Cambridge dictionary defines 'grassroots' as-
the ordinary people in a society or an organization, especially a political party
The Minnesota DFL takes that definition to new levels in irony with a link on the homepage of their website.

GAIN-Grassroots Action Institute Network

That's right, the Minnesota DFL is promoting an institute set up to organize grassroots networks.

While the Cambridge dictionary doesn't have a listing for 'astroturfing', Sourcewatch, a liberal fact-checking website does.  According to these folks on the left, 'astroturfing' is-
Astroturf refers to apparently grassroots-based citizen groups or coalitions that are primarily conceived, created and/or funded by corporations, industry trade associations, political interests or public relations firms. (Emphasis mine)
GAIN offers training for activists, job referrals and help wanted ads for activists. No, seriously, they do.  Their mission statement?
Democratic GAIN exists to support the professional needs of individuals and organizations that work in Democratic and Progressive Politics.

Programs and Plans That Support This Mission

  • Job and Talent Bank: Democratic GAIN is building the largest job and talent bank for our community. Any individual interested in submitting his or her resume will be able to, regardless of membership. Job postings will be available for paid organizational members or you may purchase a job credit in our store.
  • Training: Democratic GAIN will develop a set of training materials and tools for members and training participants. These will also be shared with other member organizations for use at their trainings.
  • Recruitment: Democratic GAIN will expand the number of individuals who work in our profession by creating a real recruitment program, including one specifically aimed at youth and minorities.
  • Networks: By building our membership, Democratic GAIN seeks to create an organized community of individuals who promote our profession. Democratic GAIN will sponsor or co-sponsor a variety of events that will promote networking for our members. Democratic GAIN will also create programs that aim to enhance relations and promote communication with specialty communities within our profession and across state lines.
  • Benefits: Democratic GAIN will help members obtain health care insurance and financial planning advice.
While there is certainly no problem with organizing people to be active in politics, paying a company to organize grassroots activity is nothing more than astroturfing.

So who is behind GAIN?  According to their website-
Amy Pritchard is the Director of the DC office of Mission Control, a direct mail firm which works with Democratic candidates, party committees, initiative and referendum campaigns, trade associations, labor unions and public interest groups.
In 2003, Pritchard founded Democratic GAIN – an association for Democratic and Progressive Political Professionals - and current serves as its President. Democratic GAIN supports individuals and organizations through training, mentoring, professional benefits and employment services.
What do grassroots activists and 'Political Professionals' have in common?  Nothing.  Unless you are in the Democrat Party, of course.   But wait, the grassroots theme gets even funnier.

Because what is a grassroots network without bylaws and a permanent office in Washington DC?
BYLAWS OF
DEMOCRATIC GRASSROOTS ACTION INSTITUTE
& NETWORK, INC.
REVISED—JULY 14, 2005

ARTICLE I. NAME.
The name of this corporation is "Democratic Grassroots Action Institute & Network, Inc.”
(hereinafter "the Corporation").
ARTICLE II. OFFICES.
The Corporation shall have and continuously maintain in the District of Columbia a
registered office, and may have such other offices within or without the District of Columbia as the Board of Directors may from time to time designate.

Suddenly GAIN (hereinafter the Corporation) looks a lot less like an grassroots activist group as it does an official lobbying organization.  Wouldn't it be really crazy if they had stuff like membership qualifications, elected officers and a board of directors?

ARTICLE III. MEMBERS.
Section 1. Who Shall be Members. The members of the Corporation shall consist of all
persons who (a) are existing or prospective professional campaign workers for Democratic
political organizations, vendors and consulting firms, or progressive nonprofit organizations; or
(b) existing or potential employers or such workers;

ARTICLE VI. OFFICERS, AGENTS AND EMPLOYEES
Section 1. Officers. In addition to the offices of Chair and Vice Chair as provided in Article
IV, section 4 of these Bylaws, the Board of Directors shall elect or appoint a President, an Executive
Director, a Secretary and a Treasurer, and it may, if it so determines, elect or appoint one or more
additional Vice-Presidents and such other officers and assistant officers as may be deemed
necessary.

ARTICLE IV. BOARD OF DIRECTORS.
Section 1. Duties and Powers. The affairs of the Corporation shall be managed by the Board
of Directors. Directors need not be residents of the District of Columbia or members of the
Corporation.
Section 2. Number. The number of directors of the Corporation shall be sixteen. The
number of directors may be increased or decreased from time to time by amendment to the Bylaws.
No decrease in the number of directors shall have the effect of shortening the term of any incumbent
director. The number of directors shall never be less than three.
Continuing with the grassroots theme, the legal notice at the bottom of GAIN's (the Corporation) website leads you to YourMembership.com.  What is that?
It's the complete online member community. For more than a decade, YourMembership.com has been a leading global provider of online member communities and web-based membership management software, and our customers span all seven continents and range from associations to schools to multi-national corporations.
No matter your organization's size or mission, we provide the tools you need to create stronger connections with your members.
Yes, that's right, the fake grassroots organization is actually outsourcing the network management portion of the organization.

But wait, that's not all!  You can make a generous contribution to GAIN (the Corporation) of up to $10,000 online!  Why would you contribute?
The core services of Democratic GAIN are the Job Board, training activities, recruitment, member benefits and the fostering of networking among political professionals.  Your financial support will help us maintain, and even expand, the services to our members without increasing our membership costs for those who need us most - the professionals who do so much to make our movement successful! 
Legal note: Democratic GAIN is a non-profit 501 C(6).  We can accept unlimited contributions from individuals and corporations.  Contributions to Democratic GAIN are not deductible on federal taxes as charitable.
 501 C is of course the section of the tax code that applies to non-profit organizations.  501 C(6) is the section that applies to:
Reg. 1.501(c)(6)-l defines a business league as an association of persons having a common business interest, whose purpose is to promote the common business interest and not to engage in a regular business of a kind ordinarily carried on for profit. Its activities are directed to the improvement of business conditions of one or more lines of business rather than the performance of particular services for individual persons.
No mention of the word grassroots.  Instead, we have a group calling itself grassroots that sells, markets, hires, and employs professional political operations that appear to be locally organized.

Who do you think might be associated with a group like GAIN (the Corporation)?  Who do you think-Service Employees International Union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and the AFL-CIO.  Each of these three groups have given between 20 and 50 thousand dollars.  That is one well financed grassroots organization.  The National Education Association and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees apparently didn't feel like shelling out quite as much, because they only gave between 10 and 20 thousand dollars.

Considering that I spent 9 1/2 years with the Teamsters, I wonder if any of my dues money went to GAIN (the Corporation)?

Last spring, tea party organizers across Minnesota and America got lambasted by liberals who claimed that we were astroturfing the April 15th tea parties.  They reasoned that because we posted the date and time of the planned parties to a central site, we were no longer grassroots.  GAIN blows that reasoning away by actually have a professional organization for grassroots activists.  The audacity of it is stunning.

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