Campaigning for Political Reform

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    • 00:00


    • 00:12

      BENJAMIN SINGER: This issue pulls at 3/4 of voters.It's when you get to Congress, and there'sso much money at stake, it becomes a partisanshipat that level.Unaffiliated voters who would be to--I'm Benjamin Singer.I'm the campaign manager of MAYDAY.US,and you can call me Benj.

    • 00:34

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: I was working for the largest providerof homelessness services in the state of Illinois.And the Democratic governor at the timesaid, We need to pass an income tax increase.That's the only way that we can continueto fund human services in the state of Illinois.And so we all supported that because we all

    • 00:54

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: wanted our critical work-- saving people's lives,and helping them get back on their feet,becoming taxpayers-- we wanted that to be supported.So we all supported that tax increase.So the state of Illinois raised taxes and still cutfunding to human services at the same time they handed out$0.5 billion in tax credits to the local stock exchange.

    • 01:16

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: They had actually just made $100,000 donationto the person running for mayor at the time who later won.So that's the way power works.And as much as I had cared about money and politicsbefore this happened, for me that was the final straw.I decided, You know what?If money is where the power is, then first of all,

    • 01:39

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: I need to learn how to raise money.And second of all, we need to changethis broken political system.Because the American people are goingto keep losing when it comes to public policythat's for the common good because of the big moneyfrom special interests that's coming in on the other side.And so for several issues that I worked on-- from tax policy,

    • 02:02

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: to homelessness and human services, to energy policy--I kept seeing the same thing.I was working on all of these issuesI cared about from a nonprofit perspective.I had started a student group in college.I was doing communications for this homelessness nonprofit.But we kept running up against this issueof big money from, let's say, a particular industry that

    • 02:27

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: was pushing for policy that was notto the benefit of the American public.So I realized, You know what?I'm wasting my time.We're spinning our wheels if we'retrying to get better energy policy, or better tax policy,or better human services to help end homelessness, if we're notgoing to first fix this root flaw, this corruption

    • 02:51

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: in our political system.First we have to fix that.Then we can make progress on these other things.But we're going to keep playing defense,and we're going to keep losing until wefix big money in politics.I was splitting my time, and I was having to choose.Am I going to spend my time working on energy policy,

    • 03:13

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: or on homelessness, or on criminal justice?And for me, the decision to get involved in the democracymovement actually made it easier to pickwhat issue to get involved in.Because I know that by picking big money in politics,and democracy reform in general, thatis going to help us make progresson all these other issues I care about.

    • 03:35

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: So for me, it's the most meaningful and fulfilling wayof taking action on the things that are really important to meemotionally as well as intellectually.I think if someone is looking to get involvedin issues that are meaningful to them, I would say,Look at that issue.Look at the problems in society.

    • 03:56

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: And then look at what is the root cause of those issues?The solution to hunger isn't necessarilyto give $1 to someone on the street,or even to open a soup kitchen.The question is why are there people who are hungry?And try to fix that.

    • 04:20

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: The mission of MAYDAY.US is to pass fundamental reformof our political system, to create citizen-funded electionsso that our policies and our politiciansare countable two the people, not the special interests.What makes MAYDAY.US different from a lot

    • 04:40

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: of other organizations who are lookingto end the dominance of big, special interest moneyin politics, is that we actually get our handsdirty in election campaigns.A lot of organizations will organize people.They will go and the lobby lawmakers.

    • 05:02

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: But frankly, if you are just asking lawmakersto do the right thing but not helping thempolitically and not making that to their advantage politicallyto do the right thing, then you'resort of leaving it up to chance and to other people who aregoing to get their hands dirty.With big money dominating, we know, OK.

    • 05:23

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: Well, we have to raise money from the grassrootsand put it to support reformers who are running for office.So what makes us different is we don't just lobby.We work to elect champions of reform.

    • 05:39

      SPEAKER 1: In a sense, there is a needto attract-- [INTERPOSING VOICES].

    • 05:43

      BENJAMIN SINGER: Swing voters throughout the districtobviously you're going to make the election.I mean, that's what makes Congressman Doldsuch a strong possibility.We like to get involved in primaries and other electionswhere partisanship plays less of a role.Because that is where you can reallyget a champion into office.Whereas otherwise there's a lot of money at stake,

    • 06:05

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: and you're deciding between two parties.And frankly in Congress right now, most districts are safe.Because another prominent issue in our democracyis gerrymandering and the way political districtsare drawn where politicians choose their voters insteadof the other way around.With so many districts being either safe Republican or safe

    • 06:26

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: Democratic districts in Congress--and even in a lot of state legislatures--the primary is where the real choice is.Because whoever wins the primary isgoing to easily win the general electionin a lot of these gerrymandered districts.So that's why we get involved in primaries.And so we're preparing an announcement video.

    • 06:47

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: We're preparing what's the fundraising pitch goingto be for our members to want to chip in to this campaign,to our organizing and communication efforts?We're preparing the other aspects of web implementation--so landing pages where people can volunteer or donate money.That's another thing that makes us different.

    • 07:08

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: We don't just focus on the money and payingpolitical consultants.We really believe in a 21st century model of democracywhere the more grassroots citizenswe can connect with each other, the stronger campaign we'regoing to have on the ground, in the district,

    • 07:28

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: and across the country supporting efforts.Because the power's with the people.That at least what we believe it should be.So we're trying to run our campaign in a way thatis both conscious of the broken aspects of our political systemand seeking to use those broken aspects to fix those.It's sort of an ironic approach for us

    • 07:49

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: to be spending money to get money out of politics.But we also want to run a campaignin a way that is true to the democracyas we would like to see it, with more participationfrom citizens, who are more empowered to takea role in electing people who are goingto be accountable to them and make policiesthat are in their interest.What a crazy idea.

    • 08:16

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: As the campaign manager, my role isto make sure things are running smoothly.Checking in with people, problem solving,figuring out what do we need to doto move a particular initiative forward,pass the particular roadblock.Yeah.I was actually just sending an email related to that.So the first thing I did this morning was I

    • 08:36

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: hopped on a conference call with our core staff membersacross the country.We had a brief conversation about what is each of usup to that day, what progress have we madeon the different initiatives.We need to review that video script.I have to cut the parts I like.Then we moved into a conversation about this videowe shot about the New York City citizen-funded election system.

    • 08:59

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: And then I hopped in a cab, came downto meet with these volunteers in downtown Chicago,and we had a great conversation todaywith what we're doing in Illinois 10thcongressional district.We were talking about how can we use the fact that there'sa very competitive race in the 10th congressional districtin Illinois to try to get that member of Congress on board.

    • 09:19

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: This member of Congress would be a really big symbolic win,and we think is closer than many in Congressto really signing onto reform.Where in the district do you think we can recruit folks?

    • 09:34

      SPEAKER 2: Right here on the very southern tip of 10.

    • 09:37

      BENJAMIN SINGER: We just ran this pollthat the vast majority of Republicans and Democratssupport this reform.So, OK, where can we find more Republicans whowill sign a letter to the editor of the local newspaper saying,We are Republicans, and we are callingon our Republican member of Congressto sign onto this reform because wehave consensus in our district and the grassroots voters

    • 09:60

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: in our party.We are demanding this change, and wewant you to be our champion.And we think that if you are a champion on this issue,you will have a better shot at winning the electionin this competitive district.So that's the message that we were talking about todayand really trying to, send.And figuring out, OK, maybe we'llorganize a pledge among all the candidates

    • 10:20

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: for office in this district.And they can inject some competition into that race.It uses the fact that they're allrunning for office against each otherto see, OK, well, who can one up each other?Who's going to be a better advocate for the people?That's the kind of competition we would like to see.[INAUDIBLE]

    • 10:38

      BENJAMIN SINGER: Phone conversations,and correspondence by email, and on Slack,and our other online systems is so critical to our work,because we are a national organization with staffand volunteers across the country.We're about to set up a calling campaign for citizensto call other supporters of MAYDAY.US say, Hey, we

    • 10:59

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: won this big lobbying campaign this summer.We have more sponsors of reform than our country has everhad before for citizen-funded elections.And we're launching this new campaignto elect a champion to Congress who'sgoing to connect every issue to this one issueand debate this on the floor of Congress.

    • 11:20

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: Get involved.We want your support.We want you to volunteer.We want you to donate.I would definitely recommend sharing one of these.You'll just go to it's actually D-O-T.I'm working with a volunteer who'shelping set up this new phone bankingsystem that will allow volunteersto contact each other by phone.And it's very complicated.

    • 11:41

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: We're also going to be doing mass texting campaigns.So it's a lot of details to figure out,and so a lot of conversations justto try to keep things moving as quickly as possible,because There's a democracy we need to save.The words campaign finance reform, I think,

    • 12:02

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: will make anyone's eyes glaze over.I think what's important to see isthat when big, special interest money is involved,you-- as a voter and a citizen of the United Statesof America-- are not getting what you want.When 90% of the public want a particular tax policy,want a particular gun policy, want a particular energy

    • 12:25

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: policy, or something related to Social Security or Medicare.If you have 90% plus of people who want that, well guess what?They're not going to get it.You are not going to get it.A study just came out last year published by a Princetonprofessor and a Northwestern professorthat showed that public policy preferences

    • 12:47

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: of 90% of the public have literally zero effect on whatmembers of Congress do.Then they took the policy preferencesof well-organized, financially well-off, and businessinterests, and those have a very strong correlation with what

    • 13:08

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: public policy goes into effect.I'm sure this comes as no surprise to anyone who hearsthat or is watching this video.People know that money buys access.People know that if I give $2,500 to a politician-- whichis legal-- they are more likely to support a policy that I

    • 13:32

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: mentioned to them as something I desire.So we have quite literally in this country legalized bribery.It is 100% legal to give money to a politicianand then later ask them to do something.You can't say, Here's $2,500 if you pass upon a policy I want.

    • 13:54

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: But people know that that's how relationships work.That's how favors work.That's how access works.And so we essentially have legalizedbribery in this country.We have the person who's steppingdown as Speaker of the House in Congressin the '90s literally passed out checks from tobacco lobbyists

    • 14:14

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: to members of his party's caucus during a vote on tobaccopolicy.It couldn't be any clearer.So the state of campaign finance reform in the 21st centuryis not about how can we limit the contributionsthat special interests can make.Because the Supreme Court, at least right now, has said, No.You can't limit that.

    • 14:35

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: That's considered speech.That's protected political speech.So we say, OK.Well, you know what?There's this optional system that's working in New York Cityand across the country.Let's just empower regular citizens.Let's not limit what special interests can do.Let's empower the people.Let's match small donations.And any limits that are involved are optional.

    • 14:58

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: Because if you want to opt into the small donor system,you're going to be able to raise moremoney by getting small donations from regular voters.So it's more about creating citizen-funded elections.It's about empowering small donors.And it's not about limiting anyone's speech.It's about creating more options for peopleto run for office in a way that is accountable to the people.

    • 15:26

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: So the question of how we get access to lawmakersis an excellent one.Because as we know in our current political system,it's money that buys access.And its political insiders who have worked with them,worked on their campaigns, who have this access.All right.So any time that's not blue is good for the House.

    • 15:50

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: I think him.I really think him.Ken, does that work for you?Some of us have political backgrounds,and I have some relationships with elected officialsat several levels of government-- local, state,and federal.However, we are primarily an outsider's movement.We are looking to change the way insider politics works.

    • 16:15

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: We like to say this isn't a questionof right side versus left side.It's a question of inside versus outside.So a lot of times, we don't have the direct relationships.And our grassroots members sometimesdon't have the relationships with their members of Congress.So there are two ways that we primarily have access.One is we have allies in Washington, DC,

    • 16:37

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: if we're going to talk about our congressional work, whoare with us on this issue.Some of them are public interest lobbyistson this issue who maybe have worked on the Hill.And we also have some contacts on the Hill whoare disgusted with the way it's workingand are one of the 170 or so members of Congress

    • 16:60

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: who are actually supporting fundamental reform on this.When you have allies who can make connections for you,that's helpful.I also think the fact that we are a grassroots organizationis sometimes extremely helpful.So for instance, today I met with severalof our local activists, one of whom

    • 17:20

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: is good friends with the father of his current memberof Congress.[INAUDIBLE]Cam, who we were meeting with, he's a voter in the district.That's power he has.And the fact that he's family friends with this congressman'sfamily.The fact that we actually are workingwith these grassroots supporters across the country

    • 17:41

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: means that occasionally we will get relationshipsthrough the grassroots to those elected representatives.Of course, that's more likely to happen with politicians whoare either just more oriented towards beingin touch with their grassroots-- they oftenhold town halls or things like that-- or in districts

    • 18:02

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: that are competitive.So in Illinois' 10th congressional district,it's a very competitive district.And so politicians have to be extra sensitive to the demandsof their constituents.And that's the way it should be.So raising awareness of the issue of corruption

    • 18:25

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: and of the solutions with citizen-funded electionsis definitely a multi-pronged approach.We can put it as an open letter on our website,get as many signatories as we want.We can push it via social media to voters in the district.The old-fashioned way of doing thiswould be to take out a full-page ad in a major newspaper,

    • 18:48

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: get press off of that, get people paying attention,visiting your website.Or really, in the days when that was a real campaign tactic,getting people writing physical checksand mailing them to an organizationthat did something like that.Today, we take a much more organizing approach--you could say a community organizing approach.

    • 19:08

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: And the internet is what really empowers people to get involvedin a campaign like ours.What we try to do is give volunteers the resourcesthey need to spread the word.Because they're going to know what'sexciting to their friends and their networksmuch more than we will.So if we give people interesting content--

    • 19:30

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: like we saw a ton of shares from our Facebook pagewhen we posted a graphic on our Facebook page with these pollresults showing that both Republicans and Democratsoverwhelmingly want to pass this reform.We try to build our web presence in a waythat these posts lead to a place wherenew supporters can sign up.

    • 19:50

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: They can get on our email list.So that's often the first step with campaigns today,is get new people to sign up on your email list.From there, you build them up to do more things for you.We don't like running these bogus petitionsthat a lot of other organizations and politiciansare doing.We really believe in giving people meaningful actions

    • 20:12

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: to take to help fix our republic.But getting people on our email listis the initial way we can make that contact to then build themup to volunteer, call their member of Congress,meet with their member of Congresslike the folks we talked to today have been doing.Sign or write a letter to the editor.

    • 20:35

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: That was actually a hugely successful initiativewe ran this year was grassroots letters to the editor.We ended up getting letters publishedin at least eight different states callingon specific members of Congress to support a specific pieceof legislation.And so this is where the awareness questionneeds to be drilled down a little bit more.

    • 20:55

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: Do you want to get awareness among the general public?Or do you want to break through the noiseand get awareness from actual lawmakers?And a lot of times, the ways of doing that are different.I think a letter to the editor in newspapercan actually accomplish both.But what we were really looking to dowas call out specific members of Congress

    • 21:16

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: who are not co-sponsors of citizen-funded elections yet.And we saw a dramatic response ratefrom those congressional offices beingvery eager to meet with our members who are constituentsin their districts and often beingvery eager to sign on to legislationright away before they could be called out any further.A lot of times, lawmakers say, Work with us.

    • 21:39

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: Let's talk.Call our office.Meet with us.That's the most productive way of getting our support.But what you really see is that sometimes the most effectiveway of doing it is taking it public and saying, Look.If you really care about this issue,then take a stand on this.We drove dozens, hundreds of calls

    • 22:00

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: to some congressional offices with no progress.And then we would get a letter to the editor publishedin a newspaper from a voter in their district.And all of a sudden, the office would be up in arms.Oh, why are you doing this?Why are you calling us out publicly?This is what stops progress.But you know what?They signed onto that bill.

    • 22:21

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: And we had been working with them.We had personally reached out.Their own voters had called their officeto ask them to sign on.And that's something that's seriously wrongwhen they claim that you should be contacting themthrough normal means, and they'lllisten to their constituents.No.We need outrage.We need a public call for reform.Because the system is broken, and nothing the people want

    • 22:44

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: is getting done.And we need to take this to the next level,and that's what MAYDAY.US is looking to do.Right now, it's actually surprisingly easyto convince people to take political action.Because, to quote the famous movie, We're mad as hell,

    • 23:06

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: and we're not going to take it anymore.And people are fed up with corruption in our governmentand with seeing big, special interestmoney stopping public priorities from getting passedand creating this gridlock in Congress between this big moneyand the people's will.And whenever there's not gridlock,I can almost guarantee you what's

    • 23:27

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: getting past is what the big special interests wantand not what the people want.Everyone sees this.It's common knowledge.I think the real barrier to getting people involvedin political reform is not showing themthat there's a problem.It's showing them that there's a solution.And fortunately, we have citizen-funded elections

    • 23:47

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: introduced as bills in both houses of Congress.In the House, it's the Government by the People Act.And in the Senate, it's the Fair Elections Now Act.Between the two bills in Congress--the two major bills in Congress for citizen-funded elections--there are about 178 members of Congress supporting,

    • 24:08

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: which leaves us 100 away from passing it.And I think most Americans don't knowthat we are well over halfway to passinga total overhaul of political power in this country.And I think that's what we have to show people.Look, there are members of Congress from both partieswho are doing this, who are supporting this.

    • 24:30

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: And if people are skeptical that Congress will really pass this,I understand that.And then we can point to solutionsthat are happening on the ground in cities and statesaround the country.There's some are really encouraging reformthat has happened in local and state governments allover America.The highlight, of course, is in America's largest city.

    • 24:52

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: In New York City, they have a fantastic citizen-fundedelections program that just fully went into effect in 2009.New York City used to be a terribly corrupt placewith unbelievable patronage and favors,a total political insider's game.What's happened since 2009 is that any small donations

    • 25:15

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: from actual constituents to someonerunning for office in their City Council District,or for mayor of New York, those small donationsare matched six to one from public funds.And what we see is politicians-- they want that money to supporttheir campaigns.So they actually now care about getting support

    • 25:35

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: from ordinary voters in their districts.Because a $10 contribution becomes worth $70.The six to one match plus the original-- $60 plus $10-- $70.And so we see politicians seeking the supportand securing the support of ordinary Americans.And not only that, it's not just who they're getting support

    • 25:56

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: from, but who is running.And a lot of times, you have peoplewho aren't the most talented public speakers.They're not the best looking.They're not the best connected to the halls of powerin New York City.No, they're people who are from the neighborhood.They're people who understand the concernsof their neighbors, because they have the same concerns.And those are the people who are now able to run campaigns

    • 26:21

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: on small donations.And so the balance of power in New Yorkhas shifted dramatically.And policies involving, for example,paid sick leave for workers-- five days paid sick leave.Pretty minimal requirement.And l think 99% percent of Americanswould agree that we should have at least five paidsick days a year as a minimal vacation

    • 26:42

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: or paid time off requirement.That was stalled in New York City for years.All of the sudden under this new system, the peoplehave a voice.The people have power in government again.And so it's working beautifully in New York.Every winning candidate for public office in New York Cityruns on their citizen-funded election system.

    • 27:02

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: And so New York City's model has becomethe model for this reform all across the country.It exists also in Los Angeles.It exists at other state levels.And in fact, it's now the model for these congressional billsfor citizen-funded elections, for anti-corruption reform.And it's very encouraging.It's gaining ground.

    • 27:23

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: And I think the revolution is near.So there are two main types of campaignsyou can run for campaign finance reform, or for any issue.One is strictly a legislative campaign, a lobbying campaign.

    • 27:45

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: I lobbied on this issue in Springfield,and we got several Republicans to sign on.What we find is the closer you get to the grassrootsand to how people really feel, the more it'sobvious that it's a cross-partisan issue.I mean, you saw in the polls, some of the numbers Republicanswere higher than Democrats on.

    • 27:59

      SPEAKER 2: Right, right.

    • 27:60

      SPEAKER 1: And maybe if you even helped them a bit,you might find more be willing to do it.

    • 28:04

      BENJAMIN SINGER: Right, when theyrealize that it actually goes really wellwith Republican voters.That really isn't a partisan issue.In my opinion, the best way to show public supportfor an issue is put a ballot measureeven if it's a non-binding, advisory ballot measure,on a local ballot.Maybe it's your county ballot.Maybe it's your city -- your town, village, whatever.

    • 28:27

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: On this issue, you're easily goingto get-- if you word it well-- you're going to get 3/4of voters to vote yes on that.Do that in as many districts as you can,as many municipalities as you can.And then take those ballot resultsand show your politician, show your lawmaker.Hey, look.3/4 of your constituents, of your actual voters

    • 28:49

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: who show up on election day, want this issue to be fixed.Maybe you want to consider co-sponsoring this billto fix this issue.And odds are they will see that in their political interestsof doing that.So that's been a successful approach.And then typically, you really wantto get bipartisan support even if you're

    • 29:11

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: in a legislature with one party in control.It really greases the wheels of the legislative processif you can show you have bipartisan support.It tends to minimize people who aregoing to try to find a reason to disagree with itand avoid it becoming controversial.So if you can get ballot measuresin diverse ideological areas, get bipartisan support

    • 29:35

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: for your bill, and then lobby as hard as you canto members to do that.And the approach I've taken with the democracy movementwith MAYDAY.US is really emphasizing the grassroots.Take local voters, citizens, and take themto their representatives in government.

    • 29:55

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: Because those representatives depend on those votersfor their power, for their job.And it really sends a strong message.While it is true that our system isbroken when it comes to money in politics,the goal of that money is to get votes.So when you can get straight to the votes, that's huge.

    • 30:16

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: So that takes me to the second kind of campaignyou can run for citizen-funded elections,which is an electoral campaign.And that's really MAYDAY.US' bread and butter.How can we elect champions for citizen-funded elections?To end big money special interest corruptionin politics?

    • 30:36

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: So you have to look at the votes.You have to be a little bit cynical and say, OK.Who's running?What are the constituencies in this district?How many votes do we need?How are we going to put together a majorityto elect this champion?So let's say the big barrier, especially

    • 30:58

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: in primary elections it often is-- name recognition.A lot of times if voters go to the polls,and they see a bunch of names that they've never heard of,but there's one who they've kind of heard of, they're like, Oh.I think I've heard something about John Smith .Why don't I go with him?I feel like I've heard something good about him.

    • 31:19

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: And unfortunately, that's the level of informationa lot of voters rely on.So if there's someone we believe is a strong champion,we need to get the word out about them as much as possible.So there are two ways we're going to do that.Again, it's the money approach and the volunteers approach.So we're going to raise money.We're going to hire organizers.

    • 31:39

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: We're going to put communicationsinto that district, whether we'retalking door hangers, fliers, mail, probably not TV adsbecause TV ads are really expensive and not as effectiveas in-person canvassing.But we're going to put money into that districtto run a professional revolution, as I like to say,

    • 32:02

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: to get a champion into office.We're going to recruit as many volunteersas we can to spread these materials, spread the word,and make phone calls, and knock on doors.And those are really, in my opinion,the two critical components for howyou can reach a lot of people.In experiments in voter behavior,

    • 32:24

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: the most reliable communication that voters depend onfor information is word of mouth.So if you have someone visiting a voter's door,knocking on doors in a neighborhood,they have a list of registered voters,and they go door to door to talk to those registeredvoters, that's really effective in person.

    • 32:46

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: If you have a phone bank, whether we're running itfrom the district or our supporters around the countryare calling, and making phone calls,and directly speaking the voters,that's also really powerful.It's not as powerful as in person.Of course, the most powerful is when it's someone I knowand trust who's coming to me and saying,Hey, I know you really care about having a fair tax policy.

    • 33:09

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: Well, there's this candidate who wantsto make it so that the people's will is heard and notthe will of big special interests.This is a candidate you should really consider voting for,because I think we're going to havereally strong representation in the legislature or in Congressif this candidate is elected.Wow.

    • 33:29

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: Well, that's much better informationthan I can get from a campaign ad that may or may not be true.Or that I may or may not put on mute, or tune outduring an election year.So the more we can empower grassroots citizens,the stronger campaign we're going to have.There's a leading Republican voice on this issue

    • 33:51

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: who actually ran a primary campaign last yearthat defeated Eric Cantor, the former House Majority Leader.The House Majority Leader in Congress of the majority partyin Congress was defeated in a primary electionin his own district.

    • 34:11

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: It came as a huge shock to the political establishment.Well, what did they do?They ran a grassroots operation with a lotof volunteers involved on strong messages,including against the corruption from big special interestmoney in politics that people feltwas controlling their member of Congress.And they also did a lot of digital.

    • 34:31

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: They ran a lot of digital ads.And that's the other thing that MAYDAY.US brings to the mix.Let's use new technology to connect peopleand to reach people.And digital ads are a fantastic wayof getting that message across and reaching peopleon a budget.Especially when you're a grassroots-funded, outsidergroup like we are, being able to get that message out there

    • 34:54

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: digitally, grassroots, on a budget,makes all the difference.I would say whatever the available technologyis that can allow citizens to collaborate with each otherand to run a grassroots campaign.That's going to be the most effective tool.

    • 35:16

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: For us, our volunteer database.It's called Nation Builder.Nation Builder is a really solid tool for sending emails,keeping track of supporters, collecting donations.And it has great tools to allow citizensto collaborate as well.Slack is another online tool that we use.It's basically an instant messaging platform.

    • 35:36

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: So especially the fact that we have staff and volunteersspread across the whole country, and in some cases the world,we use that to communicate with each other instantly,practically like being in the same room with each other.A basic email listserv is a really simple but very powerfultool that makes it easy for citizens to collaborate.

    • 35:58

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: Something like Google Groups, for instancewhere citizens can just send an email to the group.It goes out to everyone who's in that group,and allows for collaborations straight from their emailinboxes.Especially when you're dealing with volunteerswho have day jobs or other commitments,meeting people where they are is really important.

    • 36:24

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: A lot of people say, How can you spend so much timeon this issue?This makes me so angry and upset.I just want to disengage from the political process.Well, I totally understand that.And for me, that's kind of why I have to be involved.Because as long as I'm involved and cansee that we're making progress, that's what gives me hope.

    • 36:45

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: It's what I think is only thing that can make change possible.And it allows me to feel happy about the progressthat we're seeing in the political situation.Because even though things almostcouldn't get worse in our countryin terms of actually being a representative government,we are moving forward.And as long as we're involved in moving forward,

    • 37:07

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: we can feel good about the fact that change is happening.And what's most fulfilling about this workfor me is not only that by being involved,I can see changes happening, but also it affects every issueI care about.Whether it's taxes, energy, homelessness,hunger-- as long as I'm working to fix the factthe government is not responsive to the people,

    • 37:29

      BENJAMIN SINGER [continued]: then I know that once we get it to bemore responsive to the people, like we'reseeing in places that have passed these reforms,then I know every issue I care about can only improve.Because it's something that the vast majority of Americansagree on.[MUSIC PLAYING]

Campaigning for Political Reform

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Campaign manager Benjamin Singer discusses his work pushing for campaign finance reform. He explains the tactics his organization uses, including grassroots efforts and donations to political champions. He also highlights the progress he's seen in publicly financing elections.

SAGE Video In Practice
Campaigning for Political Reform

Campaign manager Benjamin Singer discusses his work pushing for campaign finance reform. He explains the tactics his organization uses, including grassroots efforts and donations to political champions. He also highlights the progress he's seen in publicly financing elections.

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