Newsflash:
Dr. Syed Taj Member Spotlight PDA Educates Congress One Letter at a Time
Thursday, 24 October 2013 16:02

PDA Educates Congress One Letter at a Time Featured

Written by 
Pamela Powers Hanley and Jessica Floyd, District Director Pamela Powers Hanley and Jessica Floyd, District Director

The US Congress considers several hundred bills each session. Senators and Representatives depend upon staffers and, unfortunately, high-paid corporate lobbyists to dissect the bills, offer summaries, and provide advice. Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) launched the Educate Congress campaign to involve ordinary voters in this often overly complicated and undemocratic legislative process.

PDA began delivering letters to congressional offices in 2010 during the fight over healthcare reform. Originally dubbed "Brown Bag Lunch Vigils" these PDA-organized "street heat" demonstrations evolved into letter drops at Congressional offices. Every month, PDA activists deliver letters asking elected officials to cosponsor and vote for important legislation.

As PDA’s membership has grown, so has the letter drop effort. In 2012, PDA organized an average of 30 letter drops per month at Congressional offices. By July 2013—when PDA pulled out all the stops to fight against billions of dollars in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP aka food stamps)—the letter drop effort had grown to 230 per month. To reinforce and add emphasis to the messages in the hand-delivered, PDA organizes simultaneous demonstrations at district offices, and then follows up with nationwide phone banking after each letter drop.

PDA helped to turn back the GOP-led effort to slash $20 billion from food stamp funding in the summer of 2013. Anti-hunger crusader, Massachusetts Representative Jim McGovern said that PDA “helped Democrats be Democrats” encouraging them to vote against food stamp cuts. “People here [in DC] knew there was a movement out there that was absolutely against gutting the SNAP program,” McGovern said. Referring to future fights over food stamp funding, he added, we’re still “in the game” because of PDA, “You are being heard.”

In late August 2013, when hundreds of Syrian civilians were brutally murdered with chemical weapons and President Barack Obama was calling for military action against the government of Bashar Assad, PDA activists took action. By phone-banking, social media activism, and through street heat, PDA helped to push for aggressive diplomacy, instead of war.

Within days of the President’s decision to seek Congressional approval for military action, PDA mobilized a special Congressional letter drop. PDA activists hand-delivered letters to 151 Representatives and Senators urging them to vote against military action. A second September letter drop two weeks later called for continued diplomatic efforts—not warfare against Syria—and provided information about how the Trans-Pacific Partnership (currently in secret negotiations) would hurt Main Street.

PDA Executive Director Tim Carpenter explained, “The Educate Congress letter drops represent some of the best organizing PDA has done.” He added, “Delivering monthly letters to an increasing number of Congressional offices has not only helped us influence policy decisions—from stopping war with Syria to saving food stamps—it has helped us grow PDA and the new progressive movement nationwide.”

Parallel to the Educate Congress campaign, and integral to its inside/outside strategy, PDA holds Progressive Round Tables each month. PDA invites Progressive Congress members and staffers to join allies from unions as well as peace, labor, environmental, and justice groups to discuss progressive initiatives and legislation. The first Round Table in late 2012 focused on educating Congress regarding the need to protect earned benefit programs—Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, and supplemental nutrition programs. Recently, Round Tables have been simulcast online and posted to YouTube, providing the general public with essential details on legislation to rebuild America’s middle class by creating jobs, expanding healthcare, raising revenue without raising taxes on or cutting services for the 99%—and more.

PDA’s inside/outside strategy is building our democracy at the grass roots level—one call, one meeting, and one letter at a time. Between July and September 2013, through progressive efforts on multiple levels PDA helped to significantly increase Congressional support for progressive bills. In less than three months, PDA’s letter drops, targeted street heat demonstrations, phone-banking, social media outreach, and DC Round Tables persuaded six Representatives to cosponsor H.R. 1000: The Humphrey Hawkins Full Employment and Training Act; five signed onto H.R. 676: The Expanded and Improved Medicare For All Act; and three agreed to cosponsor H.R. 1579: The Inclusive Prosperity Act (AKA the Robin Hood Tax). “We had drops in all of the districts where we gained co-sponsors for progressive bills.” Director Tim Carpenter noted, “This shows that our hard work is beginning to pay off!”

As Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota noted at a recent Round Table, “These people [House Republicans] believe that plutocracy is the right model for America, and they’re striving to achieve it every day. We believe in democracy.” And so does PDA. More than that PDA is working to promote and protect democracy through progressive people-based action each month nationwide. At another recent roundtable, Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts recognized PDA’s help on opposing cuts to Food Stamps / SNAP and other progressive initiatives saying, “It’s helpful to have wind at your back. You [PDA] are like a hurricane at my back.”

The letter drops at Congressional district offices around the country and the inside-the-beltway Progressive Roundtables are key components of PDA’s Educate Congress efforts. The letter drops take place on the 3rd Wednesday of every month. Progressive Roundtables take place a week or so before that—with a live streaming connection available to the public, and videos posted on PDA’s YouTube channel.

Read 1958 times Last modified on Thursday, 24 October 2013 20:11
Pamela Powers Hannley

I stand on the side of Love. I believe in kindness to all creatures on Earth--not just people who agree with me or look like me. I believe that people who promote religiosity but use violence, intimidation, and lies to force their ideas upon other people are not following the teachings of any religious leader.

I have a bachelor's degree in journalism from Ohio State University and a masters in public health from the University of Arizona. In addition to being a blogger, I am a published author, photographer, clay artist, mother, nana, and wife.

My Tucson Progressive blog and Facebook page feature large doses of liberal ideas, local, state, and national politics, and random bits of humor. I also blog at Blog for Arizona and the Huffington Post. I am a proud member of Progressive Democrats of America (PDA).

Related items

More in this category: « The Letter Drop Team

Trans Pacific Partnership Fast Track - Where Does Your Legislator Stand

Click your state to see your Senators and Representatives

Green = Most Legislators Oppose Fast Track, Yellow = Some Opposition, Orange = Oppose TPP, Gray = Unknown
DeLauro 13 - Signed 2013 DeLauro/Miller letter
Pocan - Signed Freshman Letter Opposing Fast Track
W/M - Signed Ways and Means Letter opposing TPP
Gibson - Signed Rep. Chris Gibson letter opposing TPP
SOPA - Oppose Stop Online Piracy Act - voted against
Currency - Oppose Currency Manipulation (Signed Michaud Letter)
Textile - Oppose changes to "First Yarn" (Signed Textile Industry Letter)

Latest News from the Taj Campaign

  • Learned about Taj (letter to the editor)
    Learned about Taj (letter to the editor)

    I was anxious to attend the League of Women Voters Candidate Night because like so many other people in the new 11th District, I knew little about either of the major party candidates. I sat with more than 100 other voters and waited for Kerry Bentivolio to arrive.

    Written on Thursday, 01 November 2012 22:15 Read more...
  • Blue America Preview: Dr. Syed Taj
    Blue America Preview: Dr. Syed Taj

    With the open seat, Dr. Taj has a more than favorable chance to win. His opponent is Kerry Bentivolio, reindeer rancher, failed business owner and part-time actor who has never held elected office. He has strong ties to libertarian financiers and Tea Party activists but has been ostracized by the Republican Party establishment, having taken large donations from Liberty for All Super PAC, affiliated with Ron Paul.

    Written on Sunday, 21 October 2012 12:48 Read more...
  • Syed Taj: Democrat hopes voters will put a doctor in the House
    Syed Taj: Democrat hopes voters will put a doctor in the House

    He may be a Democrat in a largely Republican town, but don't tell that to Canton voters.

    Dr. Syed Taj finished fourth out of six candidates in 2008 to win a seat on Canton's Board of Trustees -- the first Democrat elected to the board in recent memory and the only Democrat on the seven-member board.

    Written on Monday, 15 October 2012 19:17 Read more...
  • Interview with Mark Maynard
    Interview with Mark Maynard

    We also talk economics and tax policy. We can’t just continue to cut our way to prosperity, Taj says. We continue to fire public employees, he says, and that not only impacts quality of life, but it negatively impacts consumer spending.

    Written on Sunday, 14 October 2012 00:00 Read more...
  • Syed Taj Says He's "on the radar"
    Syed Taj Says He's "on the radar"

    The sudden resignation of Rep. Thad McCotter led to a tumultuous Republican primary in Michigan's 11th District, but the fallout may also mean a competitive general election for a seat thought until recently to be safely in the GOP column. At least, that's what Syed Taj is counting on.

    Written on Wednesday, 15 August 2012 00:00 Read more...

PDA In Your State

Join "Countdown to Coverage" Share TPP with your Daily Newspaper

CWA devised a simple plan for which they were uniquely suited: drag TPP out of the shadows and into the light - one city at a time - using a medium they understand intimately: Daily Newspapers!

Two CWA members - Dave Felice in Denver, CO and Madelyn Elder in Portland, OR have started the ball rolling. We just need to keep up the momentum leading up to a big day of petition deliveries in January.

Button-ShareTPPWithNewspaper

Step 1 is to send an Op-Ed to your Daily Newspaper.

Sign the Petition - Sen. Sanders Run as a Democrat in 2016

Button-SandersPetition

Sign the TPP Fast Track Petitions

MoveOn.org Petition - Congress Don't Renew Fast Track

Pulic Citizen Petition - Congress Must Reject Fast Track Authority

MoveOn.org Petition - Stop the Trans Pacific Partnership

CREDO Petition - Stop the Massive Corporate Power Grab

 

MI Endorsed Candidate

Dr.TajSmall 

MI-11 Dr. Syed Taj
http://www.tajforcongress.com

Hand Deliver a Letter to your Senators or Representative on the TPP

If your Senator(s) and/or Representative is not currently opposed to Fast Track, they may not completely understand all the implications. Nothing sends a stronger message to a Congressional member than a personal visit to a district office by a voter with a written request. Phone calls and emails are incredibly important but nothing gets attention like a personal visit. Our Educate Congress page has information and a sample letter. Print the letter, sign it, deliver it.

Button-HandDeliver

Lori Wallach on the TPP from PDA Progressive Roundtable

Progressive Roundtable with Reps. Ellison and Pocan and Lori Wallach on TPP

TPP: The Biggest Threat to the Internet You've Probably Never Heard Of