Presidential Campaign Debrief

GPUS Annual National Meeting 4:10 pm Friday, July 26

Here are the notes taken by John Andrews, the reporter for the debrief session. Written comments on the points raised of up to 600 words may be submitted to the Secretary. We are also working on a survey to gather additional input.

These notes represent questions asked and comments made at the Presidential Campaign Debriefing held at on Friday, July 26, at the Green Party Annual National Meeting in Iowa City, Iowa.

In the notes below “>” denotes a comment from the audience, “Q:” denotes a question from the audience and “P:” denotes a comment or response by a panel member.

The panel consisted of Jill Stein, Cheri Honkala, Shamako Noble , Tia Nowack, Matt Kowalski, Scott McLarty, and Jody Grage. The notes are not always verbatim but try to capture the exact point made by each speaker. The initial notes were taken by John Andrews.

Part 1: Activities and Accomplishments in 2012

• What was done in 2012 and why was it done that way?
• What was achieved for the Party? What was attempted but did not work?
• What improvements or preparations are needed to ensure success in 2016?

P: We were on the ballot for 85% of American voters – a staggering achievement.

P: We empowered voters to vote for an entirely new agenda.

P: We penetrated the online and cable media as never before.

P: We had a breakthrough on social and internet media. We have close to 100,000 followers on Facebook, and they are still following us, months after the election.

P: We got onto Reddit and we worked with Libertarians to promote third party debates.

P: We ran TV ads in all 50 states (more states than the major parties).

P: We made a breakthrough to young people.

P: We hired new young people and trained them as campaign staff – and most of these were people of color.

P: Ballot access was an incredible fight. We started with only 15 states and by the end we had 37 states. It was about 80% of our campaign. It was our main expenditure. If there is a major issue for 2016, it is how we can get the Party to do more of the ballot access effort.

P: We raised 8000 donors and we raised more money than a member of the Green Party has ever raised.

P: We must build on the momentum of the campaign and keep it rolling.

P: We were covered in native American newspapers, hip-hop channels, local newspapers.

P: Cheri: “It’s still going on. My Facebook is totally out of control. The Universe is in control of it. People are talking and debating.”

P: People who weren’t so sure about the Green Party when the campaign began are now card-carrying Greens.

P: A little girl came up to me and said “Miss Cheri, I just wanted to tell you that in my classroom we had a mock election. The kids had to vote for either Obama or Mitt Romney. I told the teacher I wanted to do a write-in for Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala.”

P: The article “Rosa Clemente and Jared Ball Were Right” opened a lot of minds in the black community.

P: We had a network of state coordinators who did incredible work, often without a lot of recognition – but they made the campaign work.

P: The campaign was really open and welcoming to young people, and that not only helped the campaign but helped the Party grow.

P: Preparing matching funds is done according to a 40-page FEC compliance document. We reached the money threshold in mid July and submitted our application on July 31. We got our initial payment August 15. We received a total of about $350,000 from the Federal government. We’ve gone through months of FEC audits, and we’ve passed the tests with little or no fines – which is unusual even for major party candidates.

P: We really need to start fundraising earlier. Early money lets us hire the staff we need. For most of the campaign, we were running the campaign with only three full time staff, and they were interacting with ballot access drives in 20 states, as well as matching fund drives and all the other campaign activities.

P: The FEC funds are divided into primary and general, and we were only able to qualify for primary funds which had to be spent by the end of the primary season. So it would really help to get the primary qualification in April, not June.

P: We spent 300-400 hours of staff time cleaning up bookkeeping and compliance records from earlier in the campaign so we could survive the audit. We could cut that to 50 hours if we could hire a good person to watch over the record-keeping from the beginning.

P: The Stein campaign is writing manuals and guidance documents that will be useful to the next presidential campaign.

P: The Stein-Honkala campaign was much better organized than any of our previous campaigns, and this helped our media effort.

P: Media attention was boosted by Roseanne Barr’s announcement that she was running.

P: We used Twitter, You-tube, and TV adds.

P: We need to develop our GP media operations. Every candidate and every Green Party should have a media person.

P: There was an unfortunate dearth of GP candidates for state and local offices. This was a shame because the state and local candidates can offer mutual support to each other.

P: I concluded that it isn’t necessary to run celebrities as candidates, but it is important to get celebrities into the party and get them to endorse the party. This gets people to pay attention to us.

P: One lesson that we learned is that we have to start a lot earlier on ballot access and matching funds. It is a shame that so much of the time of the campaign was taken up with working toward ballot access and matching funds. We should be able to go out early to get $5000 from 20 states to qualify for matching funds. In effect, that would have allowed the real campaign to start two months earlier. We spent $255,353 on direct ballot access costs (not counting campaign staff time). The great bulk was spent by the Stein campaign, with some help from the Ballot Access Committee and some from state parties.

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Audience comments (>) and questions (Q:) and answers from the panel (A:):

> We should be trying to bring down the unreasonable ballot access requirements, and not just try to jump through the same hoops each election.

Q: People often couldn’t get through when they called the campaign. In future, we should make sure that the phones are answered.

A: Agreed. We were so incredibly overloaded and stressed that it’s amazing that we’re still talking to each other after the election. We need to do better on availability if we possibly can.

> PCSC approved an outreach letter to recruit candidates. It took six months for this recruitment letter to get SC approval and go out. This level of delay is unacceptable.

> The PCSC spent three executive sessions dealing with how the ballot line access in California was manipulated to put Roseanne Barr on the ballot. Our procedures were violated to put her on the ballot. Because of this, the Stein campaign had to spend money in the California primary that would otherwise have been available for other purposes. We need to follow our own rules.

> What the campaign did with minority constituents in California was incredible.

> For many of us the campaign hasn’t stopped. It just gets bigger by the day. We’re seeing many people running for office who’ve never done it before.

Q: Is the Stein campaign willing to make the maximum allowable contribution to the Party to prime the pump for the next ballot access drive?

A: We don’t know if it is legal to contribute matching funds back to the party. We’ll report back when we get the legal question figured out.

> The Libertarians won 47 ballot lines because they started earlier. In 2012, many states would not have achieved Green Party ballot access without help from the Stein campaign.

> I say to Jill – We cannot call you a candidate anymore. We have to call you a LEADER. You are a leader of our Party. And having the Shadow Cabinet responding to issues is HUGE.

> Our state party had a 22% surge in party registration during 2012 without a voter registration drive. It seems to be entirely due to the Stein campaign. I wonder if other states noted a similar boost in registration.

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Part 2: Party Activation, Volunteer Base, and Support from the Party

> In Pennsylvania, the party was rejuvenated. We certified new locals. It’s clear that it was because of the energy of the Stein campaign.

Q: I appreciate the great successes of the campaign But from the perspective of a volunteer, I had a different experience. I volunteered but felt that communication with the campaign staff was abysmal. I couldn’t get answers when I called. I would like to ask what we could do differently to make the volunteer experience better.

A: We need to do better. The staff were often so overloaded with ballot access and fundraising that they just didn’t have the time to answer the telephone.

A: We were all learning about how to put the campaign machine together, and we didn’t always get it right.

> In our state, we weren’t prepared to deal with the new volunteers that the campaign brought in. Our database wasn’t up to it. We need better tools. We need to become much more nimble and able to use opportunities. There were a lot of deficiencies that need to be fixed as we grow.

> In California we had visits from Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala. This campaign motivated people to do stressful, last-minute work. We are still figuring it out which means we’re not perfect but it also means we’re growing and that’s exciting.

> We need to plug people in with clear definitions of what they should be doing.

> We have to push local candidates. Get a pledge from each that they will promote the presidential candidate and that the presidential campaign will help fund that literature. We need to figure out how to do this without violating campaign finance rules.

> In 2003 Matt Gonzalez ran for Mayor of San Francisco and got 47% of the vote. There was creative chaos in which events were taking place outside the campaign and outside the Green Party. We need to learn to cede control and let people be creative in their own way.

> In Tennessee, we got ballot access for the first time ever. We had done the work earlier and it took six years to finally be implemented. We went from 100 members to over 400 members – solely because of the Stein campaign. The campaign created problems with giving us dates to plan for candidate visits and then changing them after we had done prep work.

> Remember that Jill and Cheri may not be running in 2016, and we need to be prepared to do well even if we have different candidates.

> The matching funds effort was incredible – the state parties pulled out all the stops.

> A lot of volunteers have been inspired to come to us through the Stein campaign. But our state party isn’t organized to integrate them into the party, so we need to be prepared to do this.

> I didn’t believe in a Presidential campaign going into this. I just wanted to work on local campaigns. But when the Jill Stein came to our state, we had people turning out whom we’d never seen – the media was suddenly calling us. Organizations that we had no previous contact with were wanting to get involved. As a result, instead of one city council candidate, we have five. We started up a mayoral campaign with tools from the Stein campaign. We picked up so many tools.

P: The next campaign is now. The Green New Deal is out there. We need to start reinventing the climate movement, the racial justice movement. Let’s start now.

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Part 3: Planning for Success in 2016

What do we have to do to ensure even greater success in 2016? What preparations should we be making now, even before the campaign season?

Q: How was the “Green New Deal” conceived? What were the pros and cons of using that term?

A: The Green New Deal was a way of packaging up some concepts that we wanted to campaign on. It really attracted interest from diverse groups. It was embraced by labor and by inner city activists. It really worked well in its first road test. It was just a communication tool and I’m willing to hear what would work better.

> In the future, what about reaching out to people like the Justice Party, and others, to make the party bigger?

> Our rules call for candidates to raise $5000 by June 30 in order to be recognized by the Party. That bylaw needs to clarified and tightened up.

> Presidential candidates shouldn’t get involved in internal state party affairs. One candidate got involved attacking some local candidates, which affected their run for office, and that did not help.

> We aren’t organized locally in many areas. We should work to create local green organizations, even if it is the county level. This helps us develop the “ground game” for the national campaigns.

P: We need to reach out to the community and link ourselves to every struggle.

P: We need time, preparation, ballot access, and field organizers. We should have more multilingual outreach.

P: Have an earlier convention date so we know who our candidates will be at an earlier date. We couldn’t put our VP candidate on some ballot lines because the deadline was before our convention. We had to use a stand-in name, which confused voters.

P: For the Stein/Honkala campaign, the Green New Deal was a very effective anchor. It was hammered home again and again, which avoided the common mistake of having a long laundry list.

P: Greens need to think about how and why people vote the way they do. We need a ten minute video presenting the Green Party and what we stand for, for people who don’t know us.

> We have the most room for improvement in the way we handle volunteers and state level organizations. Often the volunteers were ready to go and the campaign office told them to wait because the office wasn’t ready to oversee their work. Then later the office would call and ask for immediate action. Decentralizion is empowering for state volunteers. We should let every state have its own volunteer web page and post news about what the volunteers are doing.

> We shouldn’t be stopping – it’s an ongoing process. We should be engaging in local issues – wherever the action is – that’s an opportunity for us. The Green Shadow Cabinet isn’t tied to an election cycle, and our local efforts shouldn’t either. This doesn’t shouldn’t stop when the election is over – it doesn’t stop until independent politics in America has a voice.

P: How to continue? The CCC could create a “Campaign in a Box” to help our local candidates. There are efficiencies to be realized. Please join the CCC at least to be a liaison for your state. Donors are ready to respond, and I don’t think we will have trouble funding it.

P: We need a home for our Green New Deal issue type outreach. It’s not clear whether this is an existing committee or a new task force. We need to talk about how to do this. We have a really exciting four years ahead of us.