Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

‘Accountability Now’: Bloggers And Progressive Groups Plan To Challenge Elected Dems

Posted in activism, Barack Obama, politics by allisonkilkenny on February 26, 2009

Sam Stein

s-cap-largeSome of the most prominent names in progressive politics launched a major new organization on Thursday dedicated to pinpointing and aiding primary challenges against incumbent Democrats who are viewed as acting against their constituents’ interests.

Accountability Now PAC will officially be based in Washington D.C., though its influence is designed to be felt in congressional districts across the country. The group will adopt an aggressive approach to pushing the Democratic Party in a progressive direction; it will actively target, raise funds, poll and campaign for primary challengers to members who are either ethically or politically out-of-touch with their voters. The goal, officials with the organization say, is to start with 25 potential races and dwindle it down to eight or 10; ultimately spending hundreds of thousands on elections that usually wouldn’t be touched.

“Most of the time, regardless of your record in Washington, an incumbent does not have to worry about being challenged in a primary,” explained Jeff Hauser, an online Democratic operative who will serve as the group’s executive director. “This only increases the power of the Washington echo chamber and the influence of lobbyists. We are trying to change that… We think there are potentially talented challengers out there who think the process of mounting a primary challenge is simply too daunting. When you bring to bear the resources of national organizations and the influence of the netroots, you can help these potential candidates.”

It is a concept bound — indeed, designed — to ruffle the feathers of powerful figures in Washington, in part because the names behind it are now institutions themselves. With $500,000 currently in the bank, Accountability Now will be aided, in varying forms, by groups such as MoveOn, SEIU, Color of Change, Democracy for America, 21st Century Democrats and BlogPAC. FireDogLake’s Jane Hamsher and’s Glenn Greenwald will serve in advisory roles, while Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos will conduct polling, with analytical help from’s Nate Silver.

“This will be very much interactive and localized,” said Hamsher. “We are already going out to local state blogs to help us identify well-qualified candidates in their communities. Once those people are identified we will be able to bring the strength of our resources to help them mount primary challenges.”

In a conversation with the Huffington Post, Hauser, Hamsher and Greenwald said that the process by which targeted incumbents were chosen would not constitute an ideological litmus test. The goal, they noted, was simply to follow the numbers: figure out which Members were casting votes that were out of tune, philosophically speaking, with their constituent’s public opinion readings. And then bear the most basic form of political pressure: encourage a primary challenger to run and help him or her campaign. Fundraising will be done by galvanizing online support for specific races — a practice now natural to Accountability Now’s principals.

The overarching premise would be to break down the power of incumbency. But the side effects would be equally lucrative: putting members on notice that their votes have consequences and offering a support structure to aspiring progressives.

“We want to normalize the idea that Democratic incumbents can be challenged…and to the extent that we can legitimize that you can then open up the conversation, causing even the good incumbents in Washington to endorse primary challengers as a means to make the political class more responsive,” said Greenwald. “We want to destroy the taboo against challenging politicians from within their own party.”

And yet, not everyone is bound to be on board, least of all official Washington. Protecting incumbency is, as Accountability Now’s founders are acutely aware, one of D.C.’s foremost operating principles (in 2008, only 23 incumbents lost their House races and only four of those losses came in the primary). And there is a reason for it. Political power comes in the form of numbers and unity. As such, keeping the majority intact often takes precedent over ideological purity. Rep. Donna Edwards’ victory over ethically challenged Al Wynn in 2008 — a template for what Accountability Now seeks to do in 2010 — was one of the few cases that went against the grain.

But in private, some Democrats expressed worry about pushing for progressive change from the outside rather than from within. Would running an election opponent be the best measure of political persuasion? What if, hypothetically, a primary challenger won the nomination only to lose in the general?

These are concerns that Accountability Now does not take lightly. They insist that they will “take district realities into account,” which means that Democrats who represent moderate districts will be forgiven for their moderate votes. But beyond that, they argue, it is the candidate’s responsibility, not theirs, to ensure reelection.

“No incumbent worth their salt should lose in a primary — their advantages are considerable, and so to be vulnerable indicates a considerable focus on K Street, not Main Street,” said Hauser. “A primary is the height of democracy, a two-year job performance review — what is wrong with having to listen to constituents as well as D.C. lobbyists and groupthink.”

CBS VP: “Obama is Incredibly Dangerous”

Posted in Barack Obama, media, politics by allisonkilkenny on February 23, 2009

Ira Forman

barack-lenin-large-718694Today, I learned that CBS News named Jeff Ballabon, a New York Republican activist, to serve as the Senior Vice President of Communications.

What is CBS thinking? This guy is very far out there with his partisan rhetoric.

A decade ago, I debated Ballabon in New York. I represented the Democratic Jewish communitywhile he spoke on behalf of Republican Jews.During the debate, Ballabon claimed that, after his most recent job in Washington, he became convinced that Democrats are inherently bad people and Republicans are fundamentally good people.

What planet does this guy come from? It’s astonishing that CBS News would name Ballabon to its senior management.

In fact, it is not atypical of Ballabon to use this kind of extreme partisan rhetoric. During the 2008 election, Ballabon said, “Obama is incredibly dangerous.”

During the 2004 elections, JTA reported, “AIPAC has touted this election [in 2004] as a ‘win-win’ proposition, noting Bush’s strong support for Israel and Kerry’s 100 percent pro-Israel voting record in the Senate.” In response, Ballabon wrote, “Bush and Kerry ‘win-win?’ Republicans and Democrats indistinguishable? It would be funny if Jews weren’t being killed.”

Ironically, Ballabon told JTA, following his new CBS News appointment, that he “always worked well with Democrats and Republicans.”

The website of the Ballabon Group, where Ballabon serves as President, quotes a satisfied client saying, “When Jeff Ballabon tells you he can do something, consider it done.”

Maybe Ballabon can get “it done,” but perhaps CBS News can get “it done” more effectively by paying more attention when vetting its senior executives.

VIDEO: Gay Snipers Attack Marriage In West Virginia Campaign Ad

Posted in Uncategorized by allisonkilkenny on February 16, 2009

Jason Linkins

s-gay-sniper-largeVia Christy Hardin Smith comes this new advertisement from an organization from Georgia called Campaign Secrets — yes, that is their real name — that has decided to wade into electoral politics in West Virginia with a website: That’s where you will find this bonkers ad, designed to scare the bejeezus out of everyone about gay marriage. The moment that already has the blogosphere blowin’ upcomes about a minute in, when a nuclear family of dedicated, bubble-blowing West Virginians get targeted by THE GAY SNIPERS.

That’s not the only good part of the video, though! I also love how gay marriage has brought America under attack from a rain of terrorist push-pins! And how can anyone refute the logic that’s presented when they prove the evils of gay marriage through MATH. Same Sex Couple + Affordable Air Fare To San Francisco + ACLU Attorney + Nice Lunch At The Auberge du Soleil + Drive Through Wine Country + Remembering To Save Time To Visit Amoeba Records + Uneventful Return Flight = NIGHTMARE FOR WEST VIRGINIA!!

Anyway, I guess the economy in West Virginia is just killing it, if this is what they are seriously going to worry about this year.



Jewish Groups Convene For Obama Transition Meeting

Posted in Barack Obama, politics by allisonkilkenny on December 19, 2008

Politico via Huffington Post

barack-obama-capitolHigh-ranking officials with Barack Obama’s transition team met for roughly two-and-a-half hours with a wide range of Jewish groups that encompassed nearly the entire ideological spectrum.

The meeting, which involved 29 organizations ranging from hawkish (Zionist Organization of America and, to a lesser extent, AIPAC) and conservative (the Orthodox Union) to Democratic (the National Jewish Democratic Council) and progressive (J Street, Peace Now), took place in the transition’s Washington D.C. office on Thursday afternoon.

Reflecting the variety of viewpoints at the table, a host of foreign policy and domestic topics were raised for discussion. Disagreements between the groups were aired before the Obama officials, which included deputy chief of staff Jim Messina, public liaison Michael Strautmanis, Jewish outreach coordinator Dan Shapiro, and aides Tonya Robinson and Eric Lynn.

On several occasions, the Obama team was pressed to define the president-elect’s position on a paramount issue to Jewish groups: U.S. policy towards Iran.

“They assured us, as the vice president-elect has said, that the Iran/nuclear issue is one of the things at the very top of the agenda,” said an attendee. “They repeated the idea that we should be focusing on it diplomatically and not just militarily. Some of the more right-wing groups were saying that it can’t be carrots and no sticks, that we are running out of time…. The Obama team said [in response] that preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons is an issue that the president-elect, as he’s made clear during and after the election, considers a primary concern. It is not something that will fall off the radar.”

Participants in the meeting, which was first reported by Politico’s Ben Smith, also addressed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Pretty much everybody in there but a handful of people were for a two-state solution,” said an attendee. Obama’s positions on energy and health care received attention as well.

“On domestic issues, except for some of the orthodox groups, it sounded like a cheerleading session for the transition team’s format,” said the source.

What stood out, above all else, was not any particular policy statements, but rather the gathering of such ideologically disparate groups under one roof. The meeting, the attendee noted, was very much in line with the Obama campaign’s stated mission to listen to a whole host of opinions when it comes to formulating foreign policy.

“The fact that they took time to do this,” said the source, “and that they did this with senior transition people, was deeply appreciated.”

ATTN Pennsylvania. Misleading Calls Say Vote Nov. 5

Posted in voter disenfranchisement by allisonkilkenny on November 3, 2008


Huffington Post

A registered Democrat in Pennsylvania writes the Huffington Post to report that she has received an anonymous phone call telling her she should go to the polls on Wednesday.

“I received a phone call from an unidentified caller yesterday telling me that because of the expected high voter turnout, Democrats will need to vote on Wednesday, November 5th,” she writes.

The calls are obviously misleading, as voting ends on Tuesday. And apparently they have been going on for quite some time. This past Friday the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported“robocalls making the rounds in Pittsburgh region” disseminating the misleading information. The reader who contacted Huffington Post was from the Philadelphia suburbs, at the opposite end of the state.

Contacted by the Huffington Post, a spokesman for the Obama campaign’s Pennsylvania operations said he was aware of the misleading calls but “not worried about” their impact.

If you hear anything more about this or other last-minute election tactics, please contact the Huffington Post.