December 29th, 2005
Dear MoveOn member,
I just finished writing a report to our Board about what we accomplished together this year. I wanted to share it with you—so we could all step back and take a look at the year that’s ending.
It’s remarkable how far we’ve come in the last twelve months. When the year began we were saddened by our losses. Onlookers and pundits thought our commitment might diminish. But it didn’t. Even in dark times, you never lost sight of the free, fair, and just America that we’re fighting for.
And your passion and commitment were contagious: in 2005, MoveOn grew to over 3.3 million members.
Change happens in fits and starts. Change pools quietly and then all of a sudden breaks down the dam and surges forward. It happened this year in big moments, like when Congressman and Marine veteran John Murtha stood on the House floor and declared that America had to begin its exit from Iraq. But it also happens in small moments—the phone calls from constituents that change a staff member’s mind, a Congressman’s meeting with a clear and passionate constituent.
I want to thank you for those moments—the moments when you dashed out a quick comment to your Congresswoman or made a phone call during lunch break or ponied up $25 for an ad—that, together, made a big difference in 2005.
You don’t need to take my word for it. Here’s a note Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid asked me to send on to all of you:
To the members of MoveOn: I know Congress can often seem very far away. But when you folks call, and write, and hold events that demonstrate how much you care about something we’re doing, it really wakes people up. Your voices remind me and my colleagues that democracy works. I see the impact every day—you’re forcing Congress to answer to the people, not the lobbyists or the White House. And I’m looking forward to fighting alongside you next year.
And here’s what a Bush aide in the White House told a reporter for the conservative Weekly Standard: “Obviously the bombardment of . . . ads and the earned media by MoveOn et al. had an impact."
2006 is around the corner, and our battle to win back Congress begins in earnest in the New Year. The prospect of a big change is good—the political wind and the American people are behind us, pushing us forward.
But right now, what I’m most grateful for is your continued belief in democracy—in the impact we can all have together. Because when we believe we can make a difference together, we do.
Thanks, happy holidays, and here’s to a great ’06,
--Eli Pariser and the whole MoveOn ‘05 team: Wes, Joan, Carrie, Noah, Adam, Rosalyn, Nita, Justin, Laura, James, Erik, Marika, Micayla, Jennifer, Ben, Matt, Tanya, Tom, and Noah.
P.S. MoveOn consists of two main organizations—MoveOn.org Political Action, where we run most of our advocacy campaigns and work toward electoral success, and MoveOn.org Civic Action, the non-partisan home of the Media Action program and the Hurricane Housing project last fall.
Since this is a Political Action email, I can’t say too much about Civic Action, but MoveOn members did great work there, too. Over a million of us successfully pressured Congress to save NPR and PBS; we launched Media Action, our task force to hold the media accountable; and of course together through the Hurricane Housing website, MoveOn members and others helped house over 30,000 people stranded after Katrina. Thanks for all of that, too.
Annual Report: MoveOn.org Political Action in 2005
We expected 2005 to be a tough year. Together, we faced an ascendant Republican Party which claimed a broad mandate to push American to the right. After the heartbreaking defeat in 2004, we assumed MoveOn members’ energy and engagement would decline to normal levels.
In some respects, we were right: Republicans’ ambitions were every bit as big as they appeared. But instead of shrinking, MoveOn grew. And when Republicans pushed to the right, MoveOn members pushed back and held their ground. Together, we’re now on track for a change election in 2006.
Here’s an overview of what happened at MoveOn in 2005:
- We grew by 450,000 people. In 2005, MoveOn members enlisted nearly half a million folks to join the organization. We grew the way we always do: people told their friends, family, and colleagues about our campaigns, and they signed up.
- We raised over $9 million for candidates and campaigns. We expected to raise around $5 million in 2005, after the blow-out year in 2004. We’d raised that much by June. As the year closes, nearly 125,000 people have contributed to a MoveOn campaign in 2005. The figure we’re most proud of? Average donation: $45 (and not a single check for more than $5,000).
- We’ve built a field program to do deeper, more local work than ever before. In January, we launched Operation Democracy, our new field program. It was a gamble: we’d never tried something so big and so focused on off-line organizing. But it worked, and there are now thousands of Operation Democracy leaders around the country who can bring local MoveOn members together, hold events, and capture the media’s attention like never before.
- We helped tip the balance in critical fights. MoveOn members helped swing opinion against President Bush’s Social Security plan. With other groups, our pressure saved the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and stopped Patriot Act renewal until the bill is fixed. Thanks to an all-hands-on-deck push, the “Nuclear Option” failed. In a number of states, MoveOn members helped reform election laws to protect our elections. Perhaps most important, MoveOn members helped cause a sea change in public opinion and in Congress on Iraq—Democrats are now speaking out for a responsible exit plan.
- We’re on track for a change election in 2006. Winning back Congress is the next big step toward a progressive country, and it’s within reach. Through Operation Democracy, we’re working to shape the battlefield—especially in the local media. We’re also focusing on making sure Democrats stand up and fight: giving them support when they do, and giving them negative feedback when they don’t take principled stands. As 2006 continues, we’ll also be giving MoveOn members an opportunity to directly affect target races—from wherever in the country they are.
It’ll be a long, hard journey to win back Congress and start building a truly progressive America. But MoveOn members are active and engaged, the political climate is turning, and the course is clear. We’re on the right path.
Manning the Barricades and Winning Victories
At MoveOn’s foundation is the idea that all of us, together, are smarter and stronger than any one individual. So we listen carefully to where MoveOn members want to make an impact and focus our resources there.
In 2005, MoveOn members told us they wanted to work in four main categories: good government, peace and security, a middle-class America, and a sustainable future. Here’s a far from comprehensive look at what we did together in these areas:
Good government: Building a strong democracy
- We advocated nationally for paper records. Thousands of MoveOn members called Congress seeking to make sure every vote is recorded securely and accurately. Hundreds met with Congressional representatives face to face. Our efforts helped add 24 new co-sponsors to this crucial legislation, but it hasn’t passed yet. We’ll continue to put on pressure in 2006.
- In North Carolina, Colorado, Hawaii, Connecticut, and California, we won legislation requiring electronic voting machines to print paper records. Phone calls by MoveOn members played a big role in these victories—showing legislators that the public was watching. This year, 19 more states required a paper record of every vote, bringing the total to 27. More than half the states now guarantee reliable voting machines.
- In Connecticut, members helped pass the most sweeping campaign finance reform in the nation’s history, setting a new standard for fighting corruption. We worked closely with groups like Public Campaign and Common Cause to add pressure at key moments.
- In Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Virginia, members are successfully beating back Republican efforts to make voting harder for people of color, elderly, disabled, and low-income voters. Members have stopped provisions requiring every voter to have a photo ID and disenfranchising former prisoners who’ve served their time.
- In Ohio, we supported investigations into voting machine discrepancies. Member donations funded legal action that dug up secret electronic voting machine records and paper documents to compare them to and supported a national voting machine expert in analyzing the data. This analysis is being used to fight for accountable voting machines for next time.
- Holding Tom DeLay accountable. Republican leader Tom DeLay, who is currently under indictment for money laundering, presides over one of the most corrupt Congresses ever. Throughout the year, we worked to hold him accountable for his corrupt behavior.
- We helped make sure DeLay had to step down. Early in the year, Republicans tried to change Congressional rules to allow Tom DeLay to retain his leadership post—even if he was indicted for a felony. Members made lots of phone calls, and shortly afterwards the Republicans reversed themselves.
- We petitioned members of Congress to return funds they received from DeLay and delivered these petitions to their doorsteps. MoveOn members across the nation went in person to Republican representatives’ offices—with the media in tow. A number of members of Congress have returned their money.
- We ran ads highlighting the “culture of corruption” on the Hill. One of our favorite ads all year was a print ad focusing on Tom DeLay and Bill Frist. The headline: “More interested in checks than balances.”
- Promoting a fair judicial process. As conservatives rallied to pack the courts with right-wing ideologues, we worked hard to make sure that America’s courts—especially the Supreme Court—are fair and just.
- We fought like heck to stop the “Nuclear Option”—and won. In the spring, Republicans attempted a power grab to exclude Democrats from having any say over which judges are picked. MoveOn members wrote 59,645 letters to the editor, placed over 118,000 calls to Congress, held 1,539 house meetings, launched our famous “Save the Republic” Star Wars spoof ad, organized 192 simultaneous rallies, and delivered over 580,000 comments to Congress. In the end, the power grab failed and democracy won.
- We worked to stop John Roberts and Harriet Miers. Although John Roberts was confirmed as Chief Justice, these campaigns were important—showing President Bush that he couldn’t appoint a right-wing ideologue like Roberts without some opposition and setting the stage for the Alito nomination next year.
- We mobilized quickly to stop Samuel Alito. In just the first week after Samuel Alito’s nomination was announced, over 500,000 MoveOn members petitioned Congress to oppose his confirmation. We’re gearing up now for a major fight in January, when the hearings are scheduled to start.
- Drawing attention to the CIA leak scandal. In August, it became clear that Karl Rove was involved in the CIA leak scandal swirling around Valerie Plame. We worked hard to put the Bush administration on the spot about its claims regarding the case, and made sure the media was paying attention. Our rally was featured in Time and Newsweek, and tens of thousands of MoveOn members downloaded the “Loose Lips: Pink Slips” poster that emerged as the winner of our contest.
Peace and Security: Building a safer America
- Amplifying the call for an exit plan in Iraq. In the spring of 2005, Republican Congressman Walter Jones—a staunch war supporter—and Democrats in Congress announced a plan for a responsible exit from Iraq that would conclude in 2006. MoveOn members endorsed it, and since then we’ve been pushing hard for a solution to the mess in Iraq that will bring our troops home and serve the Iraqis well.
- Hundreds of thousands of us gathered in vigils to support Cindy Sheehan and to mourn the passing of the 2000th soldier. When Cindy Sheehan went to Crawford to demand that President Bush meet with her about the death of her son, MoveOn members gathered in thousands of locations across the country to show our support. Two months later, we gathered again in candlelight vigils to honor and mourn those who died in Iraq. The vigils were picked up by local media across the nation and sent a clear and emotional message: the public supports the troops but not an endless occupation.
- We ran a series of ads to highlight growing public support for a change of course. Thanks to generous contributions from thousands of MoveOn members, we were able to run a number of ads at key moments in the debate over Iraq. After Nancy Pelosi came out in support of Rep. Murtha’s plan for exit, we ran an ad in the districts of Murtha’s attackers. Just after the elections in December, we highlighted the fact that most Iraqis want us out.
- We helped turn the tide in Congress toward an exit plan. At the beginning of 2005, few members of Congress supported an exit from Iraq. Now, people from Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi to Senator Russ Feingold have come out for a responsible exit, and Republicans are moving in that direction, too. MoveOn members made tens of thousands of phone calls, pushing Congress to stand up to President Bush and demand a plan for exit. We delivered petition signatures to hundreds of congressional offices nation-wide, getting local media across the country. Thirty members of Congress announced that they were more supportive of an exit plan that week alone.
- Winning a law against torture. Despite Vice President Cheney’s best efforts, Democrats and Republicans came together to ban torture by the U.S. MoveOn members made thousands of calls to representatives who were on the fence.
- Stopping the Patriot Act and protecting our civil liberties. The White House pushed to make the Patriot Act—which was originally passed just days after September 11th—permanent. MoveOn members rallied behind Senator Russ Feingold, other Senate Democrats, and a principled group of Republicans. So far, they’ve won the day: the bill has not passed yet, and the final version is likely to do a much better job of protecting our civil liberties.
A fair economy: Building a middle-class America
- We pushed back against the plan to privatize Social Security—and won. In early 2004, President Bush made clear that privatizing Social Security was his number one domestic priority. He embarked on a three-month road-trip to make the sell. But MoveOn members fought back, and in the end President Bush dropped the plan. Here’s a taste of the tactics we used:
- Members attended Republican town hall meetings and asked tough questions—putting a number of members of Congress off their game.
- Members made tens of thousands of phone calls to Congress—letting them know that the public was watching.
- We ran ads at key moments, which got picked up nationally in the news.
- Together with our friends at Americans United to Protect Social Security, we made sure that everywhere President Bush went, people were organized to push back in the press.
- We fought the “reverse Robin Hood” budget—making clear to the public whose side Republican leaders are on. After Hurricane Katrina, radical Republicans moved forward with a proposal to cut $50 billion in services for the poor—while at the same time cutting $70 billion in taxes for the rich. We called it the “reverse Robin Hood” budget—stealing from the poor to pay the rich. Members’ pressure helped make sure that some of the worst cuts were dropped from the bill, and even convinced 5 Republicans in the Senate to vote against it. Although Republican leaders originally thought the bill would be a slam dunk, we’ve helped hold them off for months—the final vote just got bumped into 2006.
- We took on Wal-Mart. We joined a coalition of hundreds of other progressive organizations and helped organize over 7,000 house parties to screen Robert Greenwald’s new film, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. Wal-Mart was so concerned about the campaign that they hired a “war room” of public relations people to spin back. No dice: a Zogby poll showed that Americans don’t approve of Wal-Mart’s worker-unfriendly policies, and we helped make Wal-Mart a vivid example of what’s wrong with a “sink or swim” economy.
The environment: Building a sustainable future
- We stopped Arctic drilling. For over 25 years, the oil industry has been lobbying Congress to approve drilling in the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This year, Republicans believed they could finally pass the bill. But led by Senator Maria Cantwell, Democrats in Congress filibustered the stealth attack, and the Wildlife Refuge was saved. MoveOn members’ pressure helped rally the troops around Cantwell.
Building toward 2006: Electoral work in 2005
In 2005, we started laying the groundwork for a change election in 2006.
We raised over $1.5 million directly for candidates, focusing on progressives and on key races in 2006. Our early money had a big impact: in a number of these races—candidates who were on shaky ground are now firmly in the lead.
Here’s where members made a difference:
- $168,000 for Bob Casey, Jr. (D-PA), who’s running against radical Republican Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania. Right now, Casey has a double-digit lead in the polls over Santorum—a highly unusual (and promising) sign.
- $832,000 for Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), who at 87 was considering retiring from the Senate. MoveOn members contributed to his war chest, and recently he announced he’s running for re-election. So far, no prominent West Virginia Republican has decided to take him on.
- $164,000 for Nick Lampson (D-TX), the ex-congressman running against Rep. Tom DeLay. DeLay’s approval rating in his home district is in the gutter, and Lampson stands a good chance of sweeping him from power even if DeLay isn’t convicted.
- $153,000 for Bill Nelson (D-FL), who faces a challenge from Katherine Harris (yes, that Katherine Harris). With a fundraising boost from MoveOn members, Nelson is looking good, and rumors are surfacing that Karl Rove is trying to get Harris out of the race.
- After Senator Jeffords announced he wouldn’t run for re-election, MoveOn Vermonters endorsed Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for Senate early. We hoped to scare top Republicans out of the race, and so far, the tactic has worked. Sanders, a true progressive, has a good chance of making it to the Senate.
- When there were no candidates in the Ohio Senate race, we raised a contingency fund of over $177,000 for Paul Hackett (D-OH). Now there are two progressives running, Hackett and Rep. Sherrod Brown—either of whom stands a great chance of winning a Senate seat from Republican Senator Mike DeWine.
We also helped progressives win big in the 2005 elections. In states where important ballot initiatives were happening, we asked MoveOn members what positions we should endorse. Then we encouraged folks to get out and vote for those positions.
- In California, we partnered with the California Courage Campaign, which ran an ad highlighting Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s conservative views. MoveOn members also volunteered to get out the vote, and in the end every single one of Schwarzenegger’s initiatives was defeated.
- In Virginia and New Jersey, MoveOn members helped get out the vote for new Governors Tim Kaine (VA) and Jon Corzine (NJ). Both won.
- In Maine, Washington, and Colorado, MoveOn members helped win victories to end sexual discrimination, ban indoor smoking, and protect funds for education, health care, and roads.
One sad note: Ohio voters rejected a broad set of initiatives called Reform Ohio Now which would have changed Ohio’s election system. Luckily, there are important races next year for Governor and Secretary of State—which means there’s still an opportunity to make sure what happened in 2004 doesn’t happen in 2008.
Going Deeper: Operation Democracy Takes America
In 2004, we tried something new: a get-out-the-vote program in key battleground states we called Leave No Voter Behind. Over 70,000 MoveOn members participated, and our post-election analysis shows it was highly effective.
Now, through Operation Democracy, we’ve made the 2004 field campaign permanent. Across America, there are thousands of volunteers who spend hours each week taking MoveOn deeper into our communities.
In the spring and summer, Operation Democracy increased the number of MoveOn events being held across the country by 40%. Operation Democracy leaders held “Speak Outs” to oppose the Republican budget, organized vigils, delivered petitions on Iraq and Tom DeLay, and organized all night “citizens’ filibusters” to stop the “Nuclear Option.”
This fall we began focusing on getting progressive messages out through the media, and we added staff organizers and volunteer Regional Coordinators to train Operation Democracy members. This nearly quintupled the amount of media coverage local events received.
Having organizers and Regional Coordinators also helped us expand into places people don't normally associate with MoveOn: towns like Southaven, MS; Hays, KS; Kingsport, TN; Fayetteville, NC; Humble, TX; Starkville, MS; Walterboro, SC; Coeur d'Alene, ID; Norman, OK; and Martinsburg, WV.
MoveOn’s Challenges: Name, Innovation, and Focus
As we go into 2006, we’ll be especially attentive to three main challenges MoveOn faces as an organization:
Protecting the MoveOn name.
Right-wing operatives from Karl Rove on down have made MoveOn a target of their attacks. Their strategy: divide Democrats from MoveOn and their base. It’s something to be proud of—it means we’re having a real impact—but it’s also something to watch.
The primary way we can fight back is by making our 3.3 million members the face of the organization—something we’re doing more than ever with Operation Democracy. Our members look, act, and talk like real Americans because they are real Americans—and that’s the best way we can demonstrate that MoveOn is a mainstream phenomenon.
Innovating in online organizing.
As MoveOn has grown, we’ve continued to take risks—trying out creative new ways of involving members in national politics. Sometimes these projects work, and sometimes they don’t, but when they do they can help move the whole field forward.
Now that we’re a more established part of the progressive movement, it’d be easy to become more conservative—taking fewer risks and sticking to what we know because there are more people watching.
We’re committed to keep trying new things: We serve MoveOn members best through constant innovation.
Focusing on the most important fights.
While we will focus more and more in 2006 on winning a change election in Congress, our work to pass good laws and stop bad ones won’t stop. Since we’re a multi-issue group, we’ll be asked to join many fights—partners in the movement know that MoveOn members’ pressure can make a real impact. But we have to make sure we don’t get spread too thin.
We’ll work to stay focused on the fights where we can make the biggest difference—either by weighing in to change the balance in Congress, or by telling a story about what’s going on that helps set the terms for the elections in November. And, of course, the first and last question we’ll ask ourselves before engaging is, “Is this a service to MoveOn members?”
The Year Ahead: Winning Back Congress in 2006
In 2005, we’ve been preparing for the November election, and in 2006 our campaign will commence in earnest. Here are some of the elements of our strategy:
- Encouraging Democrats to “Stand Up and Fight.” In December, Democrats led filibusters of the Patriot Act and a defense bill that would have allowed drilling in the Arctic. It’s the kind of strong leadership that we believe will lead to victory in ’06—if they keep it up. So, we’ll work to support leaders who stand up and fight. And when folks like Joe Lieberman don’t stand strong with their colleagues, we’ll let them know how disappointed we are. We’ll work to make sure the Democratic Party is united around progressive ideals as we head into the election season.
- Raising money for progressive candidates. MoveOn members, together, are one of the largest single sources of money for progressive candidates. By giving, we can help keep them accountable to real Americans—not lobbyists, CEOs, and special interests. We’ll highlight opportunities to give to some of the best candidates over the course of 2006.
- Framing the election: Quagmire in Iraq, and Republicans who are out for themselves—not the country. Through ads and local events that attract media attention, we’ll work to make sure that as folks go to vote in 2006, they’re reminded of Republican corruption. We won’t let voters forget who’s responsible for the mess in Iraq. And we’ll work to highlight the numerous bills in which Republicans help their rich friends—at everyone else’s expense.
- Helping on the ground. As in 2004, we have big plans for getting out the vote in 2006. Stay tuned for more details—we can’t publicly reveal them yet.
We Couldn’t Have Done All This Without . . .
We couldn’t do this work alone. We’re grateful to be part of a much larger progressive movement—a constellation of thousands of groups and millions of people—who make it possible to do what we do. Our allies in the movement help us quickly understand issues, identify places to push, coordinate messages, and bring MoveOn members’ voices into the fray. We are utterly indebted to them.
We’re also lucky to work with some truly great partners and consultants who help hone our public relations strategy, create our ads, and work with our members out in the field.
Here’s a partial list of the other folks who have worked together with us this year: Our amazing and superlative team of national volunteer coordinators: Mary S., Andrew L., Geof C.; our intrepid and outstanding team of regional coordinators: Ann G., Greg B., Joan M., Carl W., Dante C., Heather M., Beyhan T., John S., David M., James H., William M., Julian W., Randy M., Emily S., Julia D., Deirdre J., Desiree F., Randy M., Diane F., Tressa O., Kyle, Mary Hanson, Mary G., Pam H., Nancy B., Anita K., and Minna M.; Grassroots Campaigns’ talented and hard-working organzers: Sonja M., Karla P., Alissa M., Chris B., Garrett M., Gwyn L., Jennifer R., Jenny S., John R., Joshua D., Justin W., Kimberly F., Lilia T., Mari S., Martin C., Maya T., Stuti D., Susan H., Takeata P., and Mike B.; the Support Team all-stars: Kathleen G., Daniel M., Lisa J., Maria B., Jennifer T., Kate S., Dick K., Beverly B., Miriam G., Sarah M., Donna J., and Roxanna S.; Tim Hansen, who makes ActionForum sing; Patrick, Randall, Aaron, Rob, and Dave at We Also Walk Dogs; Doug, Jon and Matt at Grassroots Campaigns, Inc.; Trevor, Jessica, David, Ira, and everyone else at Fenton Communications; Bill, Pacy, and the team at Zimmerman/Markman; statistical whiz Joel; research whiz Jeff; airtime purchasing maven Jon; Hal, Benita, Selina, and the rest of the team at Leventhal Kline Management; Greg and David at Silk, Adler, & Colvin; Joe and Neil at Sandler, Reiff, & Young; the team at Fontanello, Duffield, & Otake; Tom and Chris and the Democracy for America Team; Duane, Andrew, and Matt at TrueMajority; Paul, Brad, Kim, and everyone at Americans United to Protect Social Security; Roger, Bob, and the Campaign for America’s Future team; our union allies at AFSCME, SEUI, and the AFL-CIO; Jeff Blum and U.S. Action affiliates across the country; Tom Andrews and the Win Without War coalition; the team at the Emergency Campaign for America’s Priorities; Lydia at Defenders of Wildlife; Gene, Athan, and Anna at U.S. PIRG; Pam at VerifiedVoting.org; Ralph, Marge, and Ruth at PFAW; Nancy, Nan, Wade, Glen, Adam and the the whole Coalition for a Fair and Independent Judiciary; Lisa, Jed, Jeani, and Anthony at the ACLU; Cecile at America Votes; Carl at Sierra Club; Chellie and the team at Common Cause; David, Mary, and Nick at Public Campaign; Cathy Hurwit, Susan McCue, and the House Progressive Caucus; and all of our elected leaders who stand up and fight for the issues that really matter to the American people.
Our first and last thank you is, of course, to our members, without whom MoveOn simply wouldn’t exist. Your trust, hope, and commitment mean everything to us.