California Group Steps Into Vacuum on the Left

By Thomas B. Edsall and Chris Cillizza
Sunday, October 23, 2005

During last year's campaign, two big new groups -- America Coming Together and the Media Fund -- captured the imagination of such mega-donors as international financier George Soros and insurance magnate Peter Lewis. Exclusive Hollywood fundraisers drew movie stars and producers.

In the aftermath of defeat, however, many of these deep-pocketed donors have picked up their marbles and gone home. ACT and the Media Fund, which were originally billed as long-term projects, are in hibernation with uncertain futures after their billionaire benefactors stopped writing checks.

Last week a new organization was launched, aiming to build the liberal cause with supporters who have thinner wallets but longer attention spans. The New Progressive Coalition said it will try to create a "marketplace of ideas" in which donors of all sizes can be connected with "progressive innovators and organizations" crafting long-term ideas to rebuild the left.

The group got going with a grant of nearly $1 million from Andrew and Deborah Rappaport, a Silicon Valley couple who in the 2003-2004 election cycle gave at least $4.7 million to liberal causes.

The group lamented on its Web site, http://www.newprogressivecoalition.com/ , that the right has been better at funding a movement rather than merely focusing on individual campaigns: "The so-called 'vast right-wing conspiracy' is a powerful $300 million network of conservative policy think tanks, grassroots organizations, advocacy groups and media entities that took decades to build. For too long, progressives have failed to develop our own infrastructure and make these investments in our future."

Executive Director Kirsten M. Falk and a staff of seven at the Redwood City, Calif., offices are setting up a Web site where prospective donors can examine proposals from various liberal activists or organizations. Groups seeking donations will pay to sign up on the NPC site, using a sliding scale from $100 to $5,000, depending on the size of their budget.

In a statement, Deborah Rappaport, the group's president, said, "It's time to look beyond next election . . . and invest in people and ideas."

An organization with similar long-term goals, the Democracy Alliance, was started earlier this year, geared primarily to major donors who commit to giving $1 million over five years.

RNC Turns Up Heat for Kilgore Turnout

With just 16 days before Virginia voters choose a new governor, the Republican National Committee is cranking up its vaunted turnout machine on behalf of GOP nominee Jerry W. Kilgore.

In an e-mail appeal sent out nationwide last week, RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman asks for volunteers to "adopt a precinct" for Kilgore. Sign up and the RNC will e-mail you a list of 25 Virginians to call seeking votes for Kilgore on Nov. 8. Then, with one week before the election, the RNC will re-send the list and you'll do it again. Sounds like fun, no?

The "adopt a precinct" initiative comes on the heels of a Sept. 24 RNC-organized phone-athon during which Republicans from across the country made more than 9,000 calls to Virginians, urging a vote for Kilgore. Both tactics were widely used during President Bush's 2004 reelection race.

President Warner, President Daschle

Speaking of Virginia, Democratic Gov. Mark R. Warner's fly-around the Old Dominion last week on behalf of would-be successor Timothy M. Kaine was trailed by speculation about his own ambitions.


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