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Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Michigan State Democratic Party - An Interview

Posted by Tim Tagaris

The communications director for the Michigan State Democratic Party answered my questions this morning.  You can find the exchange in the extended text portion of this post.  I will not provide commentary on the exchange, but would love your feedback. 

There is also an opportunity for follow up with the Chairman of the state party, Mark Brewer.  Chairman Brewer is the man who tossed Jerome Armstrong and Matt Stoller from the closed session Q&A with DNC candidates in Orlando last weekend.  So, what questions would you like to see asked?

Finally, following up on Bob Brigham's revelation that 3/4 of state party websites do not have blogs, I emailed each one of them last night offering assistance in getting off the ground.  I have already received some interesting and encouraging emails.  Check back later for the email and responses.  There will be some changes.

My Q&A with Jason Moon, communications director for the Michigan State Democratic Party can be found in the extended entry.

The questions (in italics) were submitted via email.  The interview took place with the backdrop of Jerome & Matt's expulsion from the closed Q&A.

1.) Is the displeasure in the blogging community understandable?

It is unfortunate that those bloggers who were asked to leave feel offended.  They were credentialed as press and therefore treated as press.  We apologize for any confusion.

The Chairman and the ADSC are seeking substantial reform and change at the DNC, focusing it on building the grassroots structure of the Party in every part of every state rather than continuing as a D.C.-based, paid consultant-driven organization.  We would appreciate the blogging community's support of those shared goals.

The Chairman would be willing to be interviewed by bloggers and talk further about these needed reforms.

2.) Was the Chairman aware of the contributions (financial, community organizing/activism & otherwise) Matt Stoller and Jerome made to the Democratic Party for the last two years?  If he was, would that have made a difference?

He is aware of the contributions of the blogging community generally, but not the specific contributions of Matt and Jerome.  We appreciate their help and look forward to working with them in the future.

3.) Jerome and Matt say that they made it clear they were invited guests of Governor Dean and Simon Rosenberg, was the Chairman aware of that?  If he wasn't, would it have made a difference?

He was not aware of their invitations and because they checked in as press they were treated as press.

4.) They also said they had promised not to write anything about the Q&A.  In light of their activism and obvious partisanship, was that considered when the decision was made to toss them from the Q&A?

No, this meeting was a closed to the press between the ADSC and leaders within the Democratic Party.  There was never an option for any "off the record" coverage for people credentialed as press.

5.) Matt Stoller claimed the Chairman seemed to "relish" kicking the bloggers out of the room.  Is that an appropriate choice of words?

No, he simply stated that all credentialed press, including bloggers, would have to leave the Q&A portion of the Candidate Forum.

6.) What about the fact that anyone could have walked in from off the street into the Q&A and then written or blogged about the event?  Did you just take everyone at their word?

This was a meeting between the ADSC and leaders within the Democratic Party which required all in attendance to be credentialed with the ADSC.  No one could have walked in from the street.

7.) How is feedback registered and taken into account?  Who reads the feedback and is it ever acted upon?  Examples?

Feedback is registered at are website and taken into account by the Chairman.

8.) How do you feel the blogs contributed to the Democratic effort in 2004, and what is their role in the future?

Blogs were an important part of the revitalization of the grass/netroots efforts in the Democratic Party.  In the future blogs will become even more important source for news and opinion.

9.) Is there anything you want to add?

We understand the importance of Bloggers and the Internet.  This year the Michigan Democratic Party offered Internet voting for its Presidential Caucus and we understand the importance of the web as a fundraising, messaging, and organizing tool.  We apologize if we angered any of the bloggers who were present in Orlando, but we treated them as if they were with the press because they have the same influence anyone else in the media.

Posted at 02:22 PM in Michigan | Technorati


"In the future blogs will become even more important source for news and opinion."

Oh yes, news and opinion. Like the press. Except for the fact that comparing blogs to the press is like comparing the space shuttle to a paper airplane. Which is also similar to comparing the tools the CDP gives Bob Mulholland to the tools MDP gives Jason Moon.

It will be interesting to see how long Brewer waits before he adds blogging to Moon's responsibilities.

It appears that this whole stink is due to a language barrier. Once and for all, blogs are not the press. Blogs can do everything the press can do, but blogs can also do anything. No barriers, no rules, no roadblocks. Blogs can appear to be the press like in South Dakota. But blogs can also raise crazy money (like Tim and I both experienced with congressional candidates last year). Blogs can ruthlessly smear the opposition. Blogs can organize, inspire, but most importantly blogs engage. In the world of non-stop campaigning blogs keep people interested year round.

In short, blogs can do anything one can imagine. But they are not the press, regardless of what outdated credentials categories say. If they could have checked in as bloggers (such as at the DNC) they probably would have chosen that option. But my guess is they would have just walked in the door. Because first an foremost they are Democrats who care about the future of our Party. That they use blogging to advance their activism doesn't mean they aren't Democrats any longer, it just means they are smarter Democrats.

Posted by: Bob Brigham at December 15, 2004 03:07 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Maybe the best way to describe the weird thing called blogging is "a structured conversation." Conversations can be about anything and take any form the people handing the conversation may want.

No one could have walked in from the street.

This makes an enormous difference. I would let this line of conversation go for now. It sounds like they were kicked out not because they were bloggers but because they didn't have the credentials to be there in the first place. The idea of pushing for party-run blogs on a local level should go front and center from here.

Posted by: Dan Hogan at December 15, 2004 06:50 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

No one could have walked in from the street.

That is certainly an interesting claim, however there are multiple reports that it was not the case. During the meeting, multiple posters on DailyKos reported that they did walk in off the street. The multitude of evidence to conflicting with this claim leads me to believe it was how the wished it would have been, not how it actually was.

Posted by: Bob Brigham at December 15, 2004 07:23 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

That's why i would love to get Jerome and Matt's comments on this -- and why I offered the piece with no opinion as of yet.


Posted by: Tim T. at December 15, 2004 07:30 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

The executive director of the Minnesota DFL told me today that no one could've walked in off the street to attend the meeting.

Posted by: Luke Francl at December 16, 2004 12:10 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Well, that was the claim that I hear, so I asked the question.

This diary at kos lent credence to that asserion as well.


Here are some quotes from her diary:

"I live in Orlando and went down to the State Democratic Chair Convention to hear the speeches of the candidates for DNC Chair. It was a job interview format with a five minute introduction and then questions that each had to answer."

AND... The death blow.

"A friend and I just walked in and sat down..

Al Sharpton walked by and we shook his hand. We didn't try to go to any events, just the speeches. There was no security or anything."

She then gave a description of the event.


Posted by: Tim T. at December 16, 2004 12:20 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

No, this meeting was a closed to the press between the ADSC and leaders within the Democratic Party.

I have seen the following posted on other blogs (may have originated here):

Article 9, Section 12. All meetings of the Democratic National Committee, the Executive Committee, and all other official Party committees, commissions and bodies shall be open to the public, and votes shall not be taken by secret ballot.

(From the DNC Charter & Bylaws)

Given that the above statement contradicts this article, how do you justify a closed meeting? You can't reasonably argue that the ASDC is different enough from the DNC because the ASDC president is a DNC vice-chair.

Posted by: Corinne M. at December 16, 2004 03:03 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

This is getting real dangerous here. We need to know the truth about this "anybody off the street" thing. We have to keep the integrity of the Democratic Party, and any democrats who LIES is OUT!!! I won't be member of a political party that lies about things like this.

Posted by: Pamela at December 16, 2004 03:56 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Let's be careful about how we deal with this. I think that calling it lying may be a bit much based on what we know so far. My guess is that this meeting is supposed to be closed-door but they do a horrible job of enforcing that consistently. This sounds like more of a case of communication and enforcement of procedure.

There are reasons for closed meetings in some cases, too. I wouldn't want any of us unknowns in on a meeting discussing strategy for a Presidential campaign, for example. There is a time and place where people need to be able to talk openly without worrying about how it might look. In the case of Bloggers, we have a reputation of writing anything and everything that we see and hear. In most cases, this is a virtue. In other cases, people are going to shut us out if need be.

I'm glad that this conversation is being worked through. Those of you who really work your tails off on blogs should be included in organizing efforts of the party.

Posted by: Dan Hogan at December 16, 2004 04:47 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

You're right. We need to be more careful. I hope it was just a mix-up and not intentional. Frankly, the issue of "integrity" concerns me more than this whole bungled blogging business. I'm having a hard enough time holding my own with the Republicans. The DEMOCRATS need to be more careful. I don't care if they have "private" meetings when appropriate, but then make sure they are!
People are really taking a beating out here. We don't need any more hits. Did anybody read Michael Moore's article on "Don't take any more hits". It's real good. Right now it appears on the front page of Michaelmoore.com when you go there.

Posted by: Pamela at December 16, 2004 06:50 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment