P Street Project to lobby for progressives' agenda

President Obama and other Democratic leaders appealed to a gathering of prominent liberal activists Saturday, seeking to win back a disenchanted constituency that appears uninterested in helping the party avoid large losses in November's midterm elections.
By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 24, 2010; 11:36 AM

LAS VEGAS -- A progressive grass-roots organizing group is launching a federal lobbying arm Saturday, seeking to leverage the energy of its members to advance liberal policy in Congress.

The P Street Project is an effort by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee to build upon the progressive movement's online organizing of the past few years and move into the business of registered lobbying. The lobby has recently advocated on some issues during a trial run, but will be officially launched here at Netroots Nation, a gathering of 2,100 liberal leaders, bloggers and activists.

"We are lobbying," Shaunna Thomas, director of the P Street Project, said in an interview Friday. "We are living on the Hill. . . . The goal is to move progressive policy and to win progressive policy, but also to move progressive ideas."

The group is registered as a 501(c)4 organization and hopes to attract not only small-dollar online donations, but also large sums from wealthy liberal activists.

The P Street Project has already won what its founders consider policy victories. The group helped Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) organize a letter calling on President Obama to nominate Elizabeth Warren to lead the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, despite opposition from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and many in the business community. Thomas said the group helped Maloney's letter attract more than 60 members of Congress as co-signers.

"Some of these progressive members feel like they're out in the wilderness and we are able to connect them, give them a community and help them see a path towards accomplishing their goals," Thomas said.

The PCCC, which has 430,000 members and raised $1.25 million last year to help progressive candidates, will work "hand in hand" with the lobbying group, PCCC co-founder Adam Green said in an interview.

"We can provide the grass-roots support to back the politicians on our side," Green said. "They won't be alone."

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who was a key backer of the public insurance option during the health-care debate, said he thinks the P Street Project can help provide resources and political cover for other liberal lawmakers.

"I think P Street, working with the PCCC, can help organize the tremendous amount of energy in the general public and among progressive members of Congress," Polis said in an interview.

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