Co-written with Jonathan Stone
While the conventions and the two men who would be president have been uppermost in our minds for the past two weeks, we should not lose sight of other critical races going on across the country, in particular those in the House of Representatives. During the Democratic National Convention, Nancy Pelosi noted that if the Dems won back 25 seats, they would regain control of the House. This may be wishful thinking, but it also may be necessary -- for President Obama if he wins or the country as a whole if Romney does -- as Democrats retaining a Senate majority looks dicey.
With this in mind, I wanted to look at how one corporation is working to have a positive impact for progressives on the 2012 election. Yes, a corporation having any kind of "positive" impact on an election is itself an unusual story in this age of un-harnessed corporate and special interest money buying off our government. But CREDO Mobile is doing just that. CREDO Mobile is a unique, progressive company that has worked on social justice issues since the 1980's, and now they have launched a campaign to "Take Down The Tea Party 10" (although actually it's 11) through their CREDO Super PAC. While the conventions have been playing out, CREDO has been stepping up its efforts in 10 states where the most extreme Tea Party House members are seeking re-election, all of whom are considered vulnerable and facing tough races.
CREDO Mobile offers a model that other like-minded progressive corporations could do well to emulate. They have built a base of 3 million supporters and activists under CREDO Action, with many also being their customers. One percent of the money collected by CREDO Mobile's from their phone bills goes to fund CREDO Action, which then donates to worthy Progressive non-profits. This year alone, they raised over $2.7 million, which they donated to 40 progressive organizations. They are living proof that using a non-profit paradigm to run and build a for-profit corporation works, and that a corporation can work for the greater national good on social justice issues. They also need never worry about a hostile takeover, as it is a private company, with most of its shares owned by its employees.
CREDO Mobile has raised and donated over $70 million through the years to such worthy organizations as the ACLU, Planned Parenthood (CREDO Mobile is their biggest corporate supporter, donating $200,00.00 to them last year alone), PBS, NPR, Net Neutrality, Climate Change, 350.org, The Brennan Center For Justice, The Other 98%, Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International, Freedom To Marry and U.S. Chamber Watch. Voter registration and passing an amendment to reverse the Citizens United decision are other top priorities of CREDO Mobile, and they are longtime supporters of single-payer health care as well. CREDO Mobile also maintains a political staff to launch campaigns and decide which issues they should take on.
The worthy organizations that receive CREDO's donations are decided by a very democratic and inclusive process, with over 70,000 people voting last year. CREDO was also not deterred by the recent attacks on Planned Parenthood, delivering $200,000.00 in replacement funds when the Susan G. Komen organization pulled its support due to pressure from the right-wing. As activists, they have generated millions of petitions, run phone campaigns raising issues with elected officials, and launched protests in the streets around the country on a host of critical national issues. Another major effort by CREDO was to press major corporations like Coca Cola and Johnson and Johnson to stop funding ALEC, a major lobbyist pushing for passage of voter ID laws that could keep 5 million Latino, African-American, elderly and ill voters away from the polls on election day.
During the Democratic National Convention just last week, CREDO, along with Public Citizen and the Energy Action Coalition, marched and rallied against Duke Energy outside its offices in Charlotte. Their purpose was to expose the role of corporate influence on our political process, Duke's support of ALEC and its lies about climate change. Delegates were informed, along with others on the streets, and the CEO of Duke, Jim Rogers, was confronted and asked to drop its membership in ALEC. According to an e-mail I received from Public Citizen, Mr. Rogers answered with, "You can trust that I am paying attention to what you're saying and you'll know in due time."
A few weeks ago, CREDO organized a protest in New York City against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and his waffling about approving fracking in the state. 500 showed up at his summit at a hotel in midtown Manhattan, and the Governor got the message that if he runs for President in 2016, it could be costly for him if he approves fracking, something many New Yorkers passionately oppose.
To date, CREDO Super PAC has raised over $2 million - with a goal of $3 million - in the form of 93,000 donations from over 50,000 donors, with an average donation of just over $20. But they will not waste money on advertising that badmouths the "Toxic 10." Instead, they will open offices in all of those House members' districts and peacefully confront them at town halls and other public venues to hold them responsible for their votes and the radical policies they support. There will also be door-to-door canvassing and "member-to-member phone calls." Hired organizers and a galvanized volunteer corps will be dispatched under the leadership of CREDO Action's Political Director, Becky Bond, who will also take to the internet to activate their membership to defeat this destructive horde of the zaniest among the zany. Voters will be informed of the extremist agenda of these incumbents and their irrational attacks on women, the environment, Medicare and Medicaid, and their equally out-of-touch positions on other critical issues. The goal is to defeat extreme House Republicans and begin to change Washington, according to Ms. Bond, who is also the President of CREDO's Super PAC.
Imagine the possibilities if other progressive corporations used the CREDO model to create a fairer and more humane society.
Here are the Toxic Tea Party House members that CREDO will be working to defeat this November:
1. Michele Bachmann - MN 6th
2. Mike Coffman - CO 6th
3. Jim Renacci - OH 16th
4. Allan West - FL 18th
5. Dan Lungren - CA 7th
6. Mike Fitzpatrick - PA 8th
7. Joe Walsh - IL 8th
8. Frank Guinta - NH 1st
9. Sean Duffy - WI 7th
10. Steve King - IA 4th
11. Chip Cravaack - MN 8th