Unity '09: Dem groups quietly align
A broad coalition of left-leaning groups is quietly closing ranks into a new coalition, "Unity '09," aimed at helping President Barack Obama push his agenda through Congress.
Conceived at a New York meeting before the November election, two Democrats familiar with the planning said, Unity '09 will draw together money and grassroots organizations to pressure lawmakers in their home states to back White House legislation and other progressive causes.
The online-based MoveOn.org is a central player in the nascent organization, but other groups involved in planning Unity '09 span a broad spectrum of interests, from the American Civil Liberties Union to the National Council of La Raza to Planned Parenthood, as well as labor unions and environmental groups.
The group is still in its early stages, and its organizers have adopted a secretive posture: Several of the people involved did not respond to emails over the last two days, even though one of them, former MoveOn executive director Eli Pariser, has programmed his MoveOn email account to assure correspondents that he is using the account for messages "including Unity '09 work."
People familiar with the planning said that the White House is not directly involved in the group's formation, though Unity '09's main day-to-day staffer, Aaron Pickrell, was a senior aide on Obama's presidential campaign. Aides to Obama and to Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel didn't respond to inquiries about whether they were familiar with the group.
Unity '09 comes at a time of increasing coordination on the left, including an effort this week by the Democratic National Committee, Obama's grassroots network and other groups to defend Obama's budget and attack the GOP as obstructionists.
But Unity '09 is setting a broader, and longer-term agenda, aiming to exert grassroots pressure on lawmakers in their home states over the next several years on the entire spectrum of political issues.
"When progressive activists are working in concert and the right is forming a circular firing squad, you know it's a new day," said consultant Paul Begala, who said he's not involved in the new organization.
Unity '09 is, informally, the field organizing compliment to another new organization, Progressive Media , which launched a month ago to coordinate the liberal groups' messages and their attacks on Republicans and on critics of Obama's policies. That group's 8:45 a.m. daily conference call has helped bring such unlikely groups as the League of Conservation Voters into an effort to cast Rush Limbaugh as the leader of the Republican Party, and has coordinated attacks on two leading critics of Obama's health care plans.
But while Progressive Media is an in-house project of two existing organizations, the Center for American Progress and Media Matters, Unity '09 requires more commitment from its members in the form of a $25,000 contribution to the group's future organizing campaigns, a source said.
Unity '09 is conceived as ultimately including 20 to 30 organizations, people familiar with the planning said. The groups have overlapping, but different, groups of members and financial resources at their disposal, and the idea behind the organization is that they can share resources to fill in geographical and organizational gaps. Labor unions could, for instance, put their weight behind environmental campaigns in regions where environmental groups are relatively weak, and vice versa.
Along with the groups previously mentioned, others involved in planning discussions include the Sierra Club, Media Matters for America, and Health Care for America Now.
Unity '09 is not to be confused with Unity '08, a bipartisan group of political operatives that sought to nominate New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg as the top of an independent presidential ticket last year.
The new organization is likely to stir fears among conservatives already feeling organizationally outgunned and flatly alarmed by the new progressive infrastructure.
"This, ladies and gentlemen is, a threat to America," Fox News's Bill O'Reilly said, responding Saturday night to POLITICO's report on the birth of Progressive Media and its morning conference call. "The Obama administration would be wise to avoid this crew. If the new administration gets involved in this, it would be like the Nixon dirty tricks squad."
Looks like the Dems have to band together in order to push Obamessiah's agenda. They don't want any stray dissenters in the ranks throwing a stick in the spokes....I'm sure Claire McCaskill is in the crosshairs, for not "falling in line"