Operation Clean Energy, Not Gimmicks: A Full Report

09/07/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

MoveOn organized 52 actions across the country yesterday. My Report Follows:

Operation Name: Operation Rapid Response: Clean Energy, Not Gimmicks

Operation Parties:

1) MoveOn a political action committee active as a grassroots organization both in fundraising and manpower for progressive candidates.

2) Republican Congressmen whom MoveOn feels are politically grandstanding in their call to reconvene to vote on a comprehensive energy plan -- their Energy Plan. In Connecticut, that would be the last New England Repub standing, Christopher Shays.

Operation Description: Operation went into effect at noon in each time zone across the country. MoveOn participants deliver "Clean Energy, Not Gimmicks" petition to lawmakers. In Stamford, MoveOn participants (both from within and from without the 4th district, some driving up from New York) deliver petition to Congressman Christopher Shays at his satellite office located in the Government Center just as one staffer leaves for lunch. The petition calls to end the Republican's Political Theater and asks for real solutions not gimmicks for Americans suffering the energy crisis. Shays is out of the office.

MoveOn attendees had been recruited by e-mail blast late yesterday. Terry Miller of Stratford, MoveOn's local leader, asked people to meet at 11:45 a.m. and walk as a group into Congressman Shay's office. Staffers at the office seemed especially calm about the anticipated delivery. The group possibly tipped off the opposition by mistakenly stepping into office without gathering first outside as instructed.

Shays staffers direct this participant, me, to address questions to Dave Natonski, Congressional Press Secretary for Shays in Washington. Questions included: "What's Congressman Shays' position on the energy bill?" Natonski reverts to PR mode: "The Congressman requested Congress reconvene to debate an Energy Bill to help those in need..." and so on. Local MoveOn leader Terry Miller hand-delivers petition signed by 1,000 4th District voters and provides Shays staffer Brenda Kapchick thumbnail sketch of petition contents. Kapchick thanks Miller and placeds petition on top of folders and envelopes stacked on office desk.

Operation Assessment: Underwhelming. Results call into question meaning of said operation. Indeed, participants might be expected to ask whether the other 51 Operation actions followed a similar patten and if so to what end?

Operation Accomplishment: Not much except receiving practice at signing in and out at a security desk on the way up to government office. The experience might be likened to other peaceful rallies and protests, except quieter.

Operation Follow Up: Later same day I receive e-mail from MoveOn HQ noting that, in the wake of today's successful events, the organization is planning major rallies across the country for 19 August, suggesting that some of the 52 actions that made up Operation Rapid Response Clean Energy, Not Gimmicks must have landed their mark.

Operation Background: Congressman Shays pulls down his 2 minutes of fame Wednesday, 6 August, when he joins in what popular internet video site YouTube titles "Colleagues Call to Reconvene Congress to Vote on a Comprehensive Energy Plan."

Congressman Shays this past Saturday said there needed to be debate and Congress should be working overtime to pass his introduced energy bill, H.R 1945, the Energy For Our Future Act. Said bill, according to its author, would include energy assistance for New England states and new drilling that would deliver Americans at least one drop of oil within 20 years. The bill also proposes building nuclear power plants to reduce energy bills.

Congressman Shays holds that those who vote for Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama will also vote for Shays down the ticket, that the Dems and Obama would need him as a bi-partisan ally. In fact, the 2006 elections left Shays the lone Republican Representative in six-state New England, partly because he is considered a moderate on most issues except the war in Iraq, an issue on which he has recently pivoted, adopting a "time table for withdraw" position.

Operation Postscript: Shays' competitor, Jim Himes, has just released this statement:

"BRIDGEPORT, CT -- Today, 11-term Congressman Chris Shays joined former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and some of the most conservative Republican partisans in Congress in a political gimmick that will take 20 years to deliver results -- almost as long as Shays has been in Congress. Shays, who has praised high gas prices in the past, joined the protest despite the fact that Republicans have voted against 13 Democratic energy bills this session."