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Revealed: The Massive New Liberal Plan to Remake American Politics

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A month after President Obama won reelection, America's most powerful liberal groups met to plan their next moves. Here's what they talked about.

—By Andy Kroll | Wed Jan. 9, 2013 3:06 AM PST

It was the kind of meeting that conspiratorial conservative bloggers dream about.

A month after President Barack Obama won reelection, top brass from three dozen of the most powerful groups in liberal politics met at the headquarters of the National Education Association, a few blocks north of the White House. Brought together by the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Communication Workers of America, and the NAACP, the meeting was invite-only and off-the-record.

...

At the end of the day, many of the attendees closed with a pledge of money and staff resources to build a national, coordinated campaign around three goals: getting big money out of politics, expanding the voting rolls while fighting voter ID laws, and rewriting Senate rules to curb the use of the filibuster to block legislation. The groups in attendance pledged a total of millions of dollars and dozens of organizers to form a united front on these issues—potentially, a coalition of a kind rarely seen in liberal politics, where squabbling is common.

...

The liberal activists have dubbed this effort the "Democracy Initiative." ... "This isn't an optional activity for us," Brune [sierra Club's executive director] tells me. "It is mission critical."

...

Greenpeace's Phil Radford notes that for decades conservatives have aimed to shrink local, state, and federal governments by reforming the rules so they could install like-minded politicians, bureaucrats, and judges. Radford calls it "a 40-plus-year strategy by the Scaifes, Exxons, Coors, and Kochs of the world...to take over the country."

So last spring Brune, Cohen, Jealous, and Radford called up their friends on the left and, in June, convened the Democracy Initiative's first meeting. A handful of groups attended, and they began to focus on the triad of money in politics, voting rights, and dysfunction in the Senate.

By December, the Democracy Initiative's ranks had swelled to 30 to 35 groups, Brune says. (He expects it to be 50 by the end of the winter.) Other attendees at the December meeting included top officials from the League of Conservation Voters, Friends of the Earth, Public Campaign, the AFL-CIO, SEIU, Common Cause, Voto Latino, the Demos think tank, Piper Fund, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, People for the American Way, National People's Action, National Wildlife Federation, the Center for American Progress, the United Auto Workers, and Color of Change. (A non-editorial employee of Mother Jones also attended.)

...

Radford, Brune, Cohen, and others say the Democracy Initiative is no flash in the pan; they're in it for the long haul, for more than just this election cycle and the one after it. It took four decades, these leaders say, for conservatives to shape state and federal legislatures to the degree that they have, and it will take a long stretch to roll back those changes.

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/01/democracy-initiative-campaign-finance-filibuster-sierra-club-greenpeace-naacp

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