Stimulus Wars;

Stimulus Wars

When, in the wake of the September 11 attacks,
conservatives pushed a $100-billion economic-stimulus package that favored their
corporate allies over laid-off workers, a coalition of more than 60 groups,
spearheaded by the Institute for America's Future, built a nationwide
campaign to
expose the bill's corporate profiteering and promote a counteragenda that
actually addresses the problems of recession.

A Greenberg Research survey (sponsored by Democracy Corps) helped
frame the
effort by revealing the public's antipathy toward a "stimulus" that amounted to
little more than throwing money at corporate opportunists. With the assistance of
Citizens for Tax Justice and Fenton Communications, the Institute
for America's
Future co-sponsored full-page ads--headlined "Sacrifice is for
Suckers"--attacking the bill in The New York Times and The Washington
Post.
Soon thereafter, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) passed
along to
Senate leaders Tom Daschle and Trent Lott a critique in the form of
an open
letter that was signed by nine Nobel laureates. A small-market talk-show campaign
(for radio and TV) was pieced together; the AFL-CIO and the American
Federation
of State, County and Municipal Employees
sponsored a $2-million series of TV
ads
that ran in nine states.

Organizers have made creative use of the Web, with new sites such as
HowDareThey.org (sponsored by Public
Campaign
) and HREF="http://www.RecoveryWatchdog.org">RecoveryWatchdog.org
(sponsored by United for a Fair Economy). The Institute for America's
Future has
documented that at least 75,000 people have contacted their senators. Established
sites, such as MoveOn.org and (our very own)
EPN.org, have also provided
extensive coverage.

Labor unions, women's groups, and environmental organizations joined on
November 13 to promote an Economic Security Day of Action, which included 35
events across the country. Three days later, USAction converted its national
convention into a rally opposing the stimulus plan. EPI and the Congressional
Progressive Caucus
, meanwhile, have drafted alternative plans of their own.

Campaign Finance: Fits and Starts

The storm that the McCain-Feingold bill created in
Washington, D.C., this spring seemed all but dead--until word was released in
late November that reformers were only seven signatures away from the 218
necessary to get Meehan-Shays, the companion to McCain-Feingold, discharged in
the House.

In North Carolina, a public-financing measure for state-level supreme court
and appellate court candidates recently passed the Senate. The measure, pushed by
North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections and a diverse array of other
organizations, faces unclear prospects in the House. Reformers in Wisconsin,
where a similar measure is moving forward, will be watching North Carolina
closely.

In Cincinnati, Ohio, a dynamic grass-roots effort guided by the Fair Elections
Coalition
( HREF="http://www.fairelectionscincinnati.org">www.fairelectionscincinnati.org)
paid off last month when voters
approved--by fewer than 600 votes--Issue 6, which will provide citywide
candidates with partial public financing and strengthen contribution limits as
well as disclosure and enforcement requirements.

Let's hope that they escape the fate of the persistent folks at Mass Voters
for Clean Elections
(www.massvoters.org),
who have been struggling with
implementation problems since 1998, when a ballot measure that established public
financing for Massachusetts candidates was overwhelmingly approved. In the most
recent scene of this direct-democracy thriller, legislators failed to include
funds for the program in the state budget. Some 36 plaintiffs, ranging from the
Republican Party to labor organizations, have filed a lawsuit claiming that the
state constitution establishes the right of the people to enact laws at the
ballot box and circumvent an unresponsive legislature. Lawyers at the National
Voting Rights Institute
argued the case before the state supreme court in early
December.

The Energy Behind the Energy Fight

Round two of the energy battle is warming up as the debate shifts to the
Senate. The House bill, passed in August, would open the Arctic National Wildlife
Refuge to oil drilling, offer sham increases in fuel-efficiency standards, fail
to lessen U.S. dependency on foreign oil, and, according to US PIRG, dole out
about $38 billion in subsidies to big fossil-fuel burners and nuclear plants.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle predicts that the Senate's bill, which is
more conservation-oriented, will come to a vote in late January or early
February.
A group of environmental, religious, and labor organizations is helping to
promote some of the better provisions in Daschle's bill. (Check out
www.epn.org/energy.)

In an attempt to shore up labor support for renewable-energy provisions,
Senators John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman held a press conference with
unions--Service Employees International Union and Communications Workers of
America
among them--at which they released a report created by the Tellus
Institute
and MRG & Associates for the World Wildlife Fund that illustrates how
the United States can create 1.3 million new jobs through clean-energy research
and development.



Networks is a new feature that offers a biweekly look at activism and
at the use of the Internet as an organizing tool. It is a project of the
Electronic Policy Network (www.epn.org), a
master Web site sponsored by
The
American Prospect that provides access to the Web sites of progressive and
policy-research organizations.

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