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December 12, 2006

Big Victories for Downsize DC

Today’s Downsizer-Dispatch . . .

In 2005, our first full year of operation, we won no victories.

But 2006 has been different.

Congress has adjourned. It can now do no more harm. Many dangerous bills the Republicans might have passed, will now never pass. The new Democratic majority will present new dangers, but we are now safe from the old dangers.

BIG Victories

We can celebrate three BIG victories!

1) In September, we told you that President Bush signed into law a bill that we backed: The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act. This new law requires the creation of a website that discloses the recipients of federal funding and shines light on pork barrel spending. It’s a great tool and a small step in the direction of getting discretionary spending bills under control.

But now that this Congress has closed-up shop, we can celebrate what I believe is our biggest victory of the year . . .

2) Our campaign, “No Warrant? No Search.” was about stalling a Congress seemingly hell-bent on throwing the Fourth Amendment under the bus in order to save an administration and the telecom industry from the consequences of breaking the law. It seemed inevitable we were going to lose in September. The only reason I can come up with for the failure of a bill that seemed inevitable to pass was the effort of DC Downsizers, working with activists in more than 20 different organizations. You didn’t let up.

When Congress returned after the elections, a new threat emerged. Even if warrantless spying on Americans couldn’t pass because of new Republican division, it seemed legislators on both sides of the aisle, beholden to the telecommunications industry were going to give immunity to President Bush and the telecom industry for illegal spying on the American people. The telecom industry was working hard behind the scenes.

We modified our campaign and stopped that as well.

DC Downsizers were major players in the ACLU-led coalition assembled to stop this bill. We generated over 27,600 messages to Congress about this issue. I met with coalition members in weekly phone calls for nearly four months and communicated with them via an email discussion list almost daily. Now that this project is complete, I am free to tell you that on more than one occasion the team leader cited our work and thanked us openly.

This victory is huge! It means there is still hope for the rule of law in this country.

3) The last of our BIG victories is big because of what it represented. Our campaign, “Don’t Let Congress hide from you” countered the Lobbying Accountability and Transparency Act (LATA). The Senate version of this bill contained “grassroots lobbying” provisions — covering the very work we do here at Downsize DC. Thanks to your efforts, the House resisted passing their version of LATA with the “grassroots lobbying” portion intact.

Still, the threat was not gone. The Senate was enthusiastic to re-insert the provisions in Conference Committee and appointed their conferees. And then, we waited for months for the House to do the same. It probably occurs to you as you’re reading this that, over the last couple months, we’ve said nothing about LATA. From our perspective, the House leadership was in no hurry to act on them, so why remind them? But during the battle over this bill DC Downsizers generated over 15,000 messages to Congress and scores more made phone calls.

Unfortunately, we’ve learned that a new, Pelosi-led version of LATA is going to make a comeback in the new Congress. It exempts unions, corporations, and membership-based organizations. But not groups like This new bill would burden us with very expensive reporting requirements and would force us to expose our plans to the government before we enter the game. You’ll be hearing more about this soon.

Measuring Effectiveness

Did “we” stop the LATA bill? We don’t know and we never will. But I remember a heated political battle in 2003 that served as part of our inspiration to create the system we have at . . . A vote on the new prescription drug entitlement was held open until the wee hours of the morning. Members were supposed to have returned home for a holiday, but instead they were subjected to arm-twisting from cabinet members late into the night, and freshman members received calls from the President offering taxpayer-funded, pork-laden bribes. Finally, this bill was finally passed when two members who had committed to oppose it, flipped.

We wondered aloud, “What if there were a sufficient number of citizens telling these members to stick by their position?” And so, we created’s proprietary Congressional Contact System.

I can’t prove we won any of the battles I’ve mentioned, and even moreso the skirmishes I’m about to list. But sometimes, it only takes one or two people refusing to go along with the leadership to make a difference. Those people may be shaky until we reinforce them by reminding them that we’re watching and that we care.

In my heart, I do believe we made a difference.

Other Successes

We had other successes, some of which came about by choking bad ideas in their cribs. Our goal was to stop some really bad legislation from emerging out of committee. We didn’t want these ideas to even come up for a vote.

1) Legislation that would have ended citizen funding of political campaigns is dead. Bad political ideas, like zombies, have an annoying habit of rising from the grave, but this one is buried for the moment.

2) Legislation that made you an accomplice if you didn’t report someone else’s use of marijuana is also dead. This idea was the product of Republican drug warriors playing the law-and-order card. Without their majority and the accompanying committee chairmanships, this issue is almost certainly dead in the new term.

Neither bill made it out of committee. Mission accomplished.

The Truth About Success

President Calvin Coolidge said that stopping bad bills was more important than passing good bills. When we look at proposals like the “Read the Bills Act,” we’re not certain if that’s true, but we definitely share his passion for stopping bad bills.

None of these victories was won by Downsize DC alone. And, as I’ve already admitted, we can’t prove we’re responsible for these victories. To do so is outside of the nature of the game. Unless we originated the issue, we can only do what we can to make as much impact as possible.

But the truth about our success is that we’re just not big enough to win many victories. And this point is important: is not about winning specific battles. IT’S NOT ABOUT LOBBYING. We’re going to lose more than we win.

Our focus is more long-term: It’s about building…

* an army so large that Congress cannot afford to ignore it.
* a force so large that we have the resources and manpower to get our message out everywhere, everyday, thereby changing the political environment so that it’s our issues they’re debating and our position that is best-represented.
* a parade so large that a successful, opportunistic politician shows up on the scene to try leading the Downsize DC band.

Still, I think you, our DC Downsizers, deserve credit. I’ve been a full-time activist for nearly a decade now. Until this year, I was used to consistently losing to the Upsizers, the Centralizers, the Internationalists, and the Special Interests feeding at the trough. One affirmative victory and success in blocking four bad bills is a small but real start in a new direction.

More victories are coming, so long as we keep plugging. Why? Because we’re continuing to grow. And you can help.

I want to urge you to become a monthly credit card pledger. Via automatic processing, we’re able to profitably charge forward and do more good work with monthly pledges as small as $3. As of right now, we’re just about $150 away from $6,000 per month in reliable income. You can move us closer by clicking here.

December is challenging, but we also need to do what we can to make sure we get a strong start on 2007, which I suspect will be, by far, our biggest year yet. That means meeting our budget for December. As of right now, we’re roughly $8,000 away. Someone on this list has the capability of contributing the entire amount. I wish they would. Others could contribute $2,000 or $1,000 or $500. But whatever you can do is helpful. .

Let’s expand the list of victories and become a force to be reckoned with. Make a difference. Please, support today.

Jim Babka
President, Inc.

P.S. Tax-deductibility is not available to contributions made to, Inc. But donations to our sister organization, the Downsize DC Foundation, which participates in public education efforts, legal defense of key issues, and more, is tax-deductible. You can make those donations here.

And if you wish to mail checks or money orders to either group (please be sure they’re signed), you can send them to . . .

Downsize DC
1931 15th St.
Cuyahoga Falls, OH 44223

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