Category Archives: ME-Blog/SocialMedia

Challenging Big Money in Public Elections: #NCMR Reflections

This is the second in a series of posts reflecting on lessons I’ve learned through my work as an AmeriCorps VISTA at CAN TV and my time spent at the 2011 National Conference on Media Reform (NCMR).

“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root”- Thoreau

If there’s any one issue that liberals and conservatives can agree on it’s that there’s too much money in today’s politics. Following the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court, campaign finance reform  finally reached a crisis point. Without any restrictions on the amount of donations companies and other big money can give, unlimited funds began running towards political candidates of all parties. Lawrence Lessig, one of the headline speakers at #NCMR, issued a call to arms against this form of corruption.

Lessig pointed to the fate of popular Open Internet legislation as an example of the influence this big money already has on political issues. The movement towards network neutrality and an open Internet was a popular one, with support from hundreds of thousands of Americans and politicians from both parties. While on the campaign trail, Barack Obama promised to promote net neutrality legislation, saying it is essential to development, diversity in the media, and equality of access to information. And yet, despite Obama’s election and widespread bipartisan support, this issue is now politically dead.

What happened?

According to Lessig the root of the problem boils down to this: Private funds drive public elections.  In order to better their political chances, politicians always “lean towards the green,” instinctively adjusting their views to maximize the opportunity for them and their parties to become the party in power.

“There’s no quid pro quo bribery here,” he said. “It’s a corruption of the independence of these institutions.”

This corruption takes many forms, according to Lessig:  “Revolving door” jobs for regulators; Cronyism that values loyalty above competence; And unlimited political contributions. After all, members spend 30-70% of their time trying to get reelected or to support their party. It shouldn’t be surprising that their need for funds to get re-elected would impact their decisions.

In a democracy that’s supposed to have a Congress “dependent on the people alone,” he said, these factors lead to a startling fact: only 11% of Americans have confidence in Congress. There were more people who believed in the British crown during the Revolutionary  War than believe in Congress today.

In order to confront this issue, Lessig launched what he’s calling #rootstrikers, a web-based project that allows everyone to document the influence of money in politics. Whenever participants stumble upon a news item or other story that demonstrates the impact of money on politics, they can share it with social media and tag it with “#rootstrikers.” Then a centralized database collects these articles in one place where people can review and share them. By bringing all of these stories into one place, he hopes to convince more people to take up the mantle of campaign finance reform.

Key Points:

  • Private funds drive public elections- big business, big labor, and big banks provide most funds for candidates.
  • Members spend 30-70% of their time trying to get reelected or to support their party.
  • 11% of Americans have confidence in Congress; There were more people who believed in the British crown during the Revolutionary war than believe in Congress today.


“There’s no progress so long as private funds drive public elections,” Lawrence Lessig

“Every single issue we care about is blocked by the same fundamental rot… We won’t get anything real from our government until we change this”- Lessig

Here’s the video of Lawrence Lessig giving his speech


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Filed under Journalism, ME-Blog/SocialMedia, Non-Profit

From VISTA Pulse: Calling All VISTAs

The following post is excerpted from VISTA Pulse, a blog run for- and by- AmeriCorps VISTAs

Friends, VISTAs, Americans, lend me your voices (tweets, YouTubes, blogs, etc).

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but certain recent events have called into question the future of Americorps. Now, as current federal employees we’re not allowed to formally “lobby” on either side of this issue, so I would never ask you to do that. However, speaking as a VISTA, I think one of the biggest problems of AmeriCorps as a whole is people simply do not know what it is, who we are, or what work we are doing in the community.

Even the AmeriCorps Pledge doesn’t help clarify things- “Getting things done” for Americorps doesn’t exactly spell it out.

So, here’s my simple proposal, fellow VISTAs: let’s write our own history. In the age of social media and such interconnectedness, there’s no reason for us to remain silent. At the very least we can tell OUR OWN stories, and maybe we can inspire others to take the less-trodden path and dedicate themselves to serving others. Maybe we can ensure that public service remains a priority in this country.

Read More (or watch the video below)

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Filed under ME-Blog/SocialMedia, MikE's Works, VISTA

New Blog Partnership: VISTA Pulse

I’ve recently joined my fellow VISTA and social media enthusiast Robyn Stegman blogging on all things VISTA-related at the VISTA Pulse blog. I should be posting there every two weeks, and although I will be cross-posting them all here as well, you should feel free to check out VISTA Pulse if you’re interested. My first post was a guide to Food Stamps- a resource that most VISTAs come to love, even if they loathe the bureaucracy it entails.

Aw, SNAP! (Or VISTAs and Food Stamps)

Food stamps

Plenty of jobs come with perks. For some these come in the form of company cars, dental insurance, or a spending allowance. For VISTAs, it’s food stamps. On second thought, food stamps aren’t so much a perk as a necessity. The only kind of living you can really do on a VISTA “living stipend” is eat, sleep, and go to work. By taking taking care of the “eat” part, food stamps help you feel a little less broke at the end of the month.

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Filed under ME-Blog/SocialMedia, MikE's Works, Non-Profit, VISTA

Sample Social Media Policies for Non-Profits

This is a selection of a post from my blog at work, Compassion Takes Action.

If you are involved with a non-profit that uses social media, or if you’re looking to venture into that arena with your organization, it’s important to have a common-sense policy in place that gives your employees some idea of what’s appropriate and what is not. While the policies may seem common sense, having an official stance on what’s appropriate and what isn’t can prevent plenty of headaches.

Adapted from comments on a post on “Beth’s Blog,” the policy points listed below are originally from the Easter Seals. It’s a policy can easily be used for any non-profit, especially when there’s no formal one in place. At the very least, they’re things to keep in mind as you move forward in your own blogging endeavors.

Read the rest here

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Filed under ME-Blog/SocialMedia, MikE's Works, Non-Profit, Social Media