National Lawyers Guild
She the People 2018 Summit
She the People's three-year initiative kicked off with its inaugural She the People Summit on September 20, 2018 at the Julia Morgan Ballroom in San Francisco. The sold-out, first-ever national summit of women of color in politics drew nearly 600 attendees, mostly women of color, from 36 states.
Speakers included Tory Gavito.
Ginny Goldman December 16, 2018 ·
Texas Future Project
High-powered Democrats from Texas and California have joined with national labor unions in an effort to mobilize out-of-state donors and raise millions of dollars to build a progressive majority in the Lone Star State that could change state policy and national elections.
The Texas Future Project - that also will seek to convince Texas Democrats to donate here - wants to direct funding to groups that it has identified as working to effect change, from Battleground Texas to Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas.
The project has commitments for close to $1 million, said Houston lawyer Steve Mostyn. He and his wife, Amber Mostyn, are top Democratic donors and part of a small core group of members of the project, which also includes a key California-based supporter of President Obama.
"The main thing ... when we talk to people from out of state, or folks in this state about keeping your money here, is the fact that it's possible - and that if the work is done, and the money is spent, that it's probable, it's actually probable -that you now become a battleground state in 2016 for the presidential race," Steve Mostyn said. "And the long-term effect - once you get a voter to vote once, then twice, then they are pretty much to be there."
Mostyn said the group would "like to raise as much as we can. If it's not doing a few million a year, then it's not really doing what it was designed to do."
The effort is aimed at building the infrastructure to turn out underrepresented voters in Texas - particularly Latinos, African-Americans, single women and young voters - as state demographic changes give hope to Democrats long shut out of statewide office.
A key focus is on counties in the Houston and Dallas metro areas, estimated to contain 1.8 million "eligible but unlikely progressive voters," according to an email from Houston lawyer Steve Susman, also a founding member, inviting potential partners to a Valentine's Day lunch at the Houston Club atop the Shell Plaza Building.
Started in 2013, the Texas Future Project is modeled on, and supported by, the Democracy Alliance, a national group launched in 2005 with the self-described aim of building a progressive infrastructure to counter a well-funded conservative message.
Linking to the Democracy Alliance gives the Texans access to a national donor network to help drive the effort.
The state project, organized as a corporation, doesn't collect money beyond covering its overhead - mostly the salary for an executive director. It gives a stamp of approval to a select set of groups, gauging the effectiveness of the work they do and helping ensure efforts and donations aren't duplicated but instead coordinated.
Members commit to a certain level of funding to the effort - five-figure checks for individuals, and six-figure commitments for groups like labor unions. The money, after covering overhead, goes directly from donors to the designated groups.
The project is part of a Democratic effort to make Texas competitive, spotlighting Sen. Wendy Davis' campaign for governor in the wake of her nationally noted filibuster against tighter abortion restrictions. National talent has been lured to her race and that of her presumed general election foe, Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott.
Backers emphasize, however, that the Texas Future Project is long-term, bigger than any one campaign effort and focused on policy as well as politics.
Mostyn emphasized that in-state money is a focus of the project, saying he expects most of the money eventually will come from Texas.
"This has been a giant ATM for national Democratic fundraising, because Texas has been written off for so long," he said. "We're not saying you shouldn't give federally. We still do. But what you're trying to say is that, 'hey there is a great opportunity to do something here that can actually make some change.'"
The Texas Future Project was started by the Mostyns - Susman and his wife, Ellen Susman, who has now stepped back from political efforts because she was appointed by the Obama administration to head the U.S. government's Art in Embassies program - and San Francisco-based donor activist Steve Phillips, who was founder and chairman of PowerPAC.org, which conducted the biggest independent expenditure effort in the country in the 2008 presidential primaries to support Barack Obama. Phillips also is founder and chairman of the progressive PAC+.
Also on the ground floor of the state project are labor unions concerned about Texas wages and standards. The AFL-CIO, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Union helped start it. The United Food and Commercial Workers joined more recently.
The project has identified groups in Texas that it considers to be "high-impact, high-performing, accountable programs that are building field infrastructure and engaging in leadership development for progressive change beyond any election cycle," according to Mostyn's email.
The executive director, Tory Gavito, advises members about where to put their money. The project is meant to ensure that various groups' initiatives are part of an overall strategy, and that donors are aware of the big picture when asked for money.
"Whenever you have a whole big group of credible people who are kind of unemotionally looking at the best strategic spending plans and investment plans, you are going to be a whole lot better off than if that didn't exist at all," Cook said "Dumb money won't get spent, and there will be better coordination of the things that are invested in."
- [https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Democratic-heavy-hitters-look-to-build-5260902.php Houston Chronicle, Democratic heavy-hitters look to build progressive majority in Texas By Peggy Fikac February 23, 2014]