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-Two of the biggest players in the 2004 campaign wereAmerica Coming Together and The Media Fund.  These were supported by Victory Campaign 2004, a Section 527 organization that raised funds.  According to its website, "Victory Campaign 2004 supports an aggressive national strategy that is attacking the right-wing on the ground and on the air.  We are combining an innovative grassroots program (America Coming Together) with a sophisticated and powerful media operation (The Media Fund), which, together will expose the real Bush Republican record and deliver progressive victories at all levels in 2004."  The website also stated, "This strategy will cost $189 million."  Contributions to Victory Campaign 2004 were split equally between ACT and The Media Fund; ACT and The Media Fund also brought in their own dedicated contributions. 
America Coming Together sought to register voters but also to engage individual voters multiple times, learn and address their issues, and get them out to vote.  The idea was "concentrated, focused, repeated personal contacts" in the words of ACT chief of staff Harold Ickes.  ACT had 550 full-time staff, about 90 percent in the states, and employed some 3,500 paid canvassers.  ACT registered about 400,000 people.   ACT is a federal PAC with hard and soft money accounts.  It raised about $140 million; in addition to its share from Victory Campaign 2004, ACT raised tens of millions through direct mail and about $16 million through Vote for Change concerts.  Ellen R. Malcolm, founder and president of EMILY's List, served as president and Steve Rosenthal, former political director of the AFL-CIO, served as chief executive officer. (organization)
The Media Fund reported that from March 10 through Election Day it spent "more than $50 million in media running dozens of television, radio, print and Internet ads nationally and in 82 media markets in 21 states."(11/04/04 press release)  Later, Harold Ickes stated that The Media Fund raised and spent almost $60 million, with 85% going to airtime.  The Media Fund had very small staff.  Erik Smith, a former Gephardt aide, served as president, succeeding Harold Ickes.  There was a creative team, time buyers and a stable of pollsters. 
After the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002 cut off the national parties from big soft money donations, Democrats took advantage of the 527 route.  ACT and The Media Fund received large contributions from billionaire George Soros and others.  While this drew criticism, the FEC twice declined to regulate the 527s.  ACT and The Media Fund effectively ran a parallel campaign, a very well financed parallel campaign that complemented the Kerry campaign and the Democratic Party efforts.   Some observers have said that Democratic Party in effect outsourced voter registration to ACT, although that would be a bit of an oversimplification since ACT's efforts went much deeper.  Likewise, the Media Fund filled in with heavy buys in the Spring of 2004 when the Kerry campaign's funds were depleted.  Principals of ACT and The Media Fund emphasize that there was no coordination with the Kerry campaign (which is prohibited).  In fact there did not really need to be direct coordination; so many staff were veterans of numerous Democratic campaigns that the lay of the land was clear without the need to talk to the Kerry campaign.

-America Votes coalition aimed to "increase voter registration, education and participation in electoral politics."  Founded in July 2003, America Votes brought together more than 30 groups representing a combined membership of more than 20 million Americans.  America Votes effectively served as a traffic cop; a director in each of the targeted states helped to maximize the efficiency of the various groups' efforts.  Cecile Richards, formerly Deputy Chief of Staff to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, served as president.  (organization)  (Avoid confusion: 10/13/04 press release), launched in September 1998 by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs Joan Blades and Wes Boyd, claims a nationwide network of two million online activists.  MoveOn is a 501(c)(4).  MoveOn PAC, a federal PAC (organization), did advertising, sponsored the Vote for Change concert tour to benefit America Coming Together, and in the closing weeks of the campaign conducted a "Leave No Voter Behind: MoveOn's Neighbor-to-Neighbor Victory Drive" which aimed to turn out 440,000 additional votes for Kerry from 10,000 targeted neighborhoods."  LNVB built up through the year but the big push started September 17.  MoveOn reported 70,000 volunteers contacted 1.25 million voters and turned out 500,000 of them.  Finally, there was also a 527 organization, Voter Fund, which announced on Oct. 23, 2003 a goal of raising $10 million to produce and purchase "TV issue advertising on George W. Bush and the failures of his presidency."  Ads ran through July 2004.   The FEC later found that MOVF had violated federal campaign finance laws and on Dec. 13, 2006 it announced the group had agreed to pay a civil penalty of $150,000. 

-On April 19, 2004 the League of Conservation Voters, Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund, and Friends of the Earth Action formally launched Environmental Victory Project, which has as its goal "to defeat President George W. Bush and elect Senator John Kerry."  Environmental Victory Project initially targeted independent and swing voters in four battleground states--Florida, New Mexico, Oregon and Wisconsin.  It later added Pennsylvania, in part because of the availability of volunteers in New York.  The FEC later found that the LCV's 527s had violated federal campaign finance laws and on Dec. 13, 2006 it announced the group had agreed to pay a civil penalty of $180,000. 

-Environment2004 "is the only political organization in the country that is solely focused on promoting environmental issues to defeat George Bush and his Republican allies, and that can work directly with Democratic candidates in the 2004 elections to this end."  Chairman of the Board: Frank Loy, former Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs.  Executive Director: Aimée Christensen. 

-The Committee to ReDefeat the President founded in October 2003 by David Lytel with an initial objective of registering a million new Democrats in key states.   ReDefeat Bush "raised and spent about $350,000 prior to election day and organized thousands of volunteers nationwide to register tens of thousands of new Democratic voters by telephone in Pennsylvania and Oregon." 

-Mothers Opposing Bush "is harnessing the power of mothers (and others) across the country to get the facts out, get the voters out and to get this president out of office. Our fundraising efforts through will finance a national public awareness campaign with the goal of mobilizing millions of mothers across America to vote for change."

-Run Against Bush "is a grassroots campaign dedicated to  removing George W. Bush from the White House by providing concerned citizens a way to collectively and comfortably express their disapproval of the Bush Administration." 

-Fair and Balanced PAC's site

-Americans for Democratic Action's Regime Change 2004 "a campaign to help voters in key states "connect the dots" and hold Bush accountable for job losses and the weak economy.  Ten organizers in eight battleground states focused on medium to smaller sized cities.  (more)

-Council for a Livable World, a political action committee founded in 1962 to focus on national security issues, announces new anti-Bush campaign (Dec. 1, 2003 press release).

-PunkVoter --"Punk bands, punk labels, and punk fans must form a union against the chaotic policies George W. Bush has put in place. He must be exposed." (Oct. 21, 2003 press release).

-Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change, a group of retired diplomats and military commanders held a press conference on June 16, 2004 to issue a call for a change.  According to their statement, "From the outset, President George W. Bush adopted an overbearing approach to America's role in the world, relying upon military might and righteousness, insensitive to the concerns of traditional friends and allies, and disdainful of the United Nations."  The group stopped short of endorsing Sen. Kerry, however.

-A Win Back Respect campaign is being run by Safer Together 04, an independent political organization dedicated to building a stronger, more cooperative American foreign policy.  The Win Back Respect advisory board is Gary Hart, Anthony Lake, Robert M. Orr, Robert Barry, Elaine Kamarck, Steve Jarding and Linda Bilmes.  The group generated a letter from Americans abroad and has produced some TV ads and is seeking to run them in battleground states during the Republican National Convention. 

-The Clergy Network for National Leadership Change, initiated in September 2003, is a 527 organization claiming "over 1200 clergy and religious leaders - Protestant, Catholic and Evangelical Christians, Jewish rabbis and Muslim leaders as well as those of other traditions within America's religious spectrum." According to the Purpose and Profile statement on the Clergy Network's website "these clergy are outraged at the domestic and international policies of the Bush Administration.  These clergy see national leadership promoting the very self-absorption and imperialistic unilateralism rejected by the Jewish prophets, Jesus of Nazareth and other great spiritual leaders.  These clergy are spiritually progressive and long to restore and renew America's moral integrity."  Further, "The Clergy Network will do whatever is appropriate within existing legal processes and restraints to achieve national leadership change."  Chair/CEO is Rev. Dr. Albert M. Pennybacker; director of the Washington office is Rev. Dr. Kwasi A. Thornell.

-Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery as the saying goes.  Following upon the example of "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" an entity called Texans for Truth appeared on the scene on September 8, 2004 with a 30-second TV spot featuring a former Lieutenant Colonel in the Alabama Air National Guard who did not recall seeing Bush when he was supposed to be serving there in 1972.  According to its website, "Texans for Truth is the 527 arm of DriveDemocracy, a 20,000-member Texas-based grassroots organization that seeks to increase political participation by helping ordinary people make their voices heard in politics."

-Communities for Quality Education formed in Spring of 2004 and has run ads in several battleground states critical of the Bush Administration's "No Child Left Behind" law and supportive of Sen. Kerry.  As of the beginning of June the NEA Fund for Children & Public Education had put $1.8 million into the effort.  According to its website, Communities for Quality Education "will work to educate the public and elected officials, and work to make public education a central issue in the 2004 election and beyond...  Communities for Quality Education will have as its primary focus educating the public about the new federal education legislation, the so-called No Child Left Behind law.  It will work to build broad-based public support to fix and fund the law, which currently threatens to leave millions of our most vulnerable children behind. Moreover, CQE will work to address the education budget crises in the states, since the law's new mandates place unprecedented stresses on states and localities that already are facing significant budget shortfalls. CQE will work with state lawmakers from both parties to ensure that public schools get the resources they need and that our children deserve."

-Campaign Money Watch, formerly known as Reform Voter Project, is a project of Public Campaign Action Fund.  According to its mission statement: " The mission of Campaign Money Watch is to hold politicians accountable for doing political favors for their contributors, and to put the issue of campaign finance reform on the front burner of American politics... While the public strongly favors a comprehensive overhaul of the current system, many elected officials believe that they can oppose reform, take money from whomever offers it, and not pay a political price.  By targeting key races and none is more key than the race for the White House Campaign Money Watch will prove them wrong...  We will make doing favors for special interest contributors a political liability. Politicians will see the light on reform when they feel the heat." 

-Billionaire George Soros has launched a tour and advertising campaign to spread his message "Why We Must Not Re-elect President Bush."

-Greens for Impact is "a non-connected committee chaired by David Segal - Providence, Rhode Island's first Green Party elected official." This PAC is "working to ensure our President is not given another four years to irresponsibly manage our foreign policy and economy while curtailing social justice. Greens for Impact seeks to unite the progressive community around creative and strategic solutions for advocating reform and defeating Bush."  endorses David Cobb in safe states, John Kerry in swing states, and emphasizes the need for electoral reform.

Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action.