Monday, July 28, 2008

"You Are NOT Normal"

Sitting in a classroom on a Sunday learning about targeting and media markets, working 18 hour work days and having fun doing it, getting excited about budgeting and fundraising. Not things the average American would get caught doing....the trainers keep trying to remind us this periodically: "You are NOT normal!" The average voter doesn't give a hoot about all this politics crap. And yet, I am immersed in it constantly, obsessively. And I am supposed to be the one able to talk to the voters....

Tomorrow I have to make my decision about my top choices for campaigns. I am still unsure what I am qualified to do, so I am just going to make a few random choices (sorry, mom, except for a race in IA, I think I am going to avoid the Midwest...too much snow) and let fate take its course. We have been way too busy for me to do the level of research that I wanted to do. But I trust that EMILY's List did a great job of choosing these races.

Today we met Ellen Malcolm. She is the founder and current president of EMILY's List. Not sure if you are familiar with the history of EMILY's List, but basically, Ellen and her friends thought that it would be easier to elect women candidates if they could fundraise earlier. Early fundraising makes big money donaters like PACs see that they are viable candidates and makes them want to give more money to help them win. So Ellen and her friends asked their friends to make small donations to pro-choice women candidates. They bundled these checks together, sent them to candidates, and together raised more than $300,000 for two women candidates and electing the first democratic woman to the senate in her own right. Rdiculously cool. This group became EMILY's List.

Today we also went to the EMILY's List headquarters for a reception with the staff. Good food. HUGE beautiful office. They certainly have plenty of money and it was exciting to see so many people dedicated to helping women in politics. It gives me much hope.

I am getting along well with my campaign team. They are fantastic people (although mostly Obama supporters....oh Hillary....) and really fun to work with. We created a fantastic attack direct mail piece calling George Bush a monkey. If I can figure out how to post it to the web, I will show it to you.

This is the first night in what seems like an eternity that I can get to bed before midnight so I should prolly take advantage of that. Write me an email or something. I need to talk about anything other than politics.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

What's $500 Anyway?

So I wrote my first campaign budget today. It is pretty ridiculously bad from a I-know-what-I'm-doing-so-don't-worry-that-you-put-me-in-charge standpoint, but at least I know enough about campaigning after today to be able to know that it is bad. Mostly it is fun to throw around a few hundred/thousand/hundred thousand dollars like nothing. Fake money is fun to spend. Earning it will be the difficult part, I guess.

This morning, a lifetime ago, we started with campaign planning, followed by budgeting. Then we got to meet with our teams to staff our campaign. I have been designated communications director as well as the candidate whenever she is supposed to speak or be on posters. Not sure if voters would elect a girl with slightly pinkish-when-in-the-right-light hair as a state rep, but I guess we will find out. This afternoon we were introduced to fundraising, and then...DUN DUN DUUUUUNNNNN!!!!....

We found out about the campaigns that we could be assigned to. There are only a few congressional races, mostly state legislative races. Some working for state Democratic committees. They are all women candidates. The states range from Iowa to Florida to Washington. I have my work cut out for me ranking them by Wednesday. Do I want to be one of only two staffers on a state legislative race? I would get to do amazingly cool things, but it would be on a small level. Or work on a US House race and have less power over the direction of the campaign, but do equally (and maybe more so) amazingly cool things? Ack!

In the meantime, I am sooooo hungry. TDR food is just not working for me, but I think that's because there is no protein containing foods that look edible. So it is peanut butter and scrambled eggs for breakfast tomorrow. Followed by fundraising. Lots and lots of fundraising.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Lime Green Suitcase and a Pack of Graham Crackers

So, I am off on my campaign adventure. You will notice that I am writing this at 11:30 at night. That's because we JUST finished our campaign simulation and I am supposed to be sleeping so I can get up tomorrow morning and do some more.

I started the day off with a crazy, bat-out-of-hell bus ride across town, shepherded by a haphazard new WMATA trainee bus driver back to my dorm room after having delivered all the belongings that don't fit into my tiny but deceptively heavy suitcases to a friend's house (these, incidentally, are the things you can win if you enter my contest to plan my life). I sat on and zipped my lime green suitcase, threw the graham crackers that were inexplicably on my bookshelf into my tote, turned in my keys and internet equipment (yes, GW, you live in the stone age, requiring me to have equipment in order to connect to the internet), and taxied it up to AU.

Woah is it weird being back on campus. And woah I cannot believe my parents let me live in a place like this. AU has nicer dorms than, say, William Jewell College, but these are for real smaller than any apartment the DC government would let you house this many people in. If I was sad I was done with college before, this changed my mind.

But yea, back on campus. We did icebreakers, were introduced to the program, and received our four inch (count it, four inch) binder of everything we need to know about campaigns. The schedule is ridiculously jam-packed and I am afraid that any hopes of AWOLing it from boot camp later this week have been dashed (unless anyone wants to meet me in the quad with some Ben and Jerry's Phish Food around midnight).

The main attraction during this week is a campaign simulation. Basically, there are ten teams that are creating campaign plans for a candidate from the good state of Delusion. Tonight my team and I spent an awfully long time reading about the candidate and writing down general ideas about what it will take to win. Tomorrow we learn more about campaign planning.

More later.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Plan JoAnna's Life and Win a Cool Prize!

So…I have this campaign job for three months. But coming up in November, I have no clue what I am going to do. So…..

I am hosting a competition called "Plan JoAnna's Life And Win a Cool Prize." All you have to do is come up with something (or a series of things) I can do for two years, starting in November when the election is over. No idea is too outrageous, but winning ideas will be those that are inexpensive/lucrative, would sound interesting in a blog/memoir/bar/children's book, and won't get me into a situation where death or maiming are the only possible outcomes. The winner will receive any of a number of cool prizes (mostly consisting of the things that don't fit into the two suitcases that the airline is going to charge me for taking on the plane with me).

May the best idea win!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hitting the Trail

As you may know, I am working as a campaign consultant for EMILY's List Campaign Corps. I will go through a week of training from July 25-August 1st to learn to be the best campaign staffer ever. Then Campaign Corps is going to ship me off to a campaign somewhere in the country. I will be there until Election Day. I am way more than a little excited (and nervous) about what this is going to be like, but it should be an incredible way to learn about politics and elections and to meet some really interesting people.

I will totally send you a post card from the trail if you are interested. Just send me your snail mail address. Alternatively, email is always nice and, while less exciting than getting real mail in your mailbox, kills fewer trees.

I hope to see everyone before I leave, but if not, come visit me on the trail.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Massachusetts State Senator Arrested for Sexually Harassing Four Women

I read the headline for this article and couldn't figure out whether to laugh or to cry. I can only imagine what this state senator had to do in order to get arrested for sexual harassment (something that is usually a civil offense, not a criminal one). It had to be pretty egregious. But what a joke it is that they would arrest some random state senator, but not the even more powerful people that do this kind of thing on a regular basis without the worry that anyone would ever dream of getting them in trouble.

For example, my friend was interning in one of the Senate committees last year, and headed over to get some yummy popcorn from the Senate dining room. One of the committee staffers she worked with asked her to grab a bowl of ice cream, too. My friends was waiting for the elevator with popcorn in one hand and ice cream in the other, when the "Senators Only" elevator door opened, with a Senator standing there. As required by Hill etiquette (and the sign banning her from that elevator), my friend didn't get on the elevator with the Senator. The Senator motioned her into the elevator saying, "Come on in." As the door closed he followed up with, "But you'll owe me."

My friend giggled uncomfortably, holding tighter to her ice cream and popcorn. The doors opened on the next floor and the Senator started to leave the now awkwardly small elevator. As he walked by my friend, he grabbed a handful of popcorn and (and here's the kicker) scooped a finger-full of ice cream out of the bowl she was holding and licked it off seductively. With a rakish grin, he walked off to, idunno, meet with constituents or write a bill or something that maybe creepy people shouldn't be doing.

Where is the press corps for these incidents?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Notable Truman Scholars

Because my mother wanted to know which famous people (besides George Stephenopolis of course) have won the Truman Scholarship. Enjoy! (All stolen from wiki, obviously)


  • Ernest Calderon (1977), Member of the Arizona Board of Regents
  • Janet Napolitano (1977), Governor of the State of Arizona, 2003-
  • Frederick G. Slabach (1977), Executive Secretary of the Truman Scholarship Foundation
  • Dwight Diveley (1978), Director of Finance for the City of Seattle
  • Awilda R. Marquez (1978), Director of the Department of Excise and Licenses, Denver
  • Keith B. Richburg (1978), Author and correspondent for the Washington Post
  • Robert J. Van Der Velde (1979), candidate for Judge, Lake County (OH) Court of Common Pleas




Primer on Our 33rd President

So you hear me referring to the "Truman Foundation," to my "fellow Trumans," and to "Truman Summer Institute." You are thinking "this girl hangs out with a bunch of people who are obsessed with Truman." It's true. We have a little bit of a fondness for the 33rd President,
since he helped us get our hands on the biggest chunk of money that any of us future public servants are likely to ever see in our lifetimes. So here are some fun facts (stolen from various websites) that will help you learn to appreciate my presidential benefactor almost as much as we do:
• His parents chose "S" as his middle name, in attempt to please both of Harry's grandfathers, Anderson Shippe Truman and Solomon Young; the initial did not actually stand for anything.
• With the onset of American participation in World War I, Truman rejoined the National Guard. At his physical in 1905, his eyesight had been an unacceptable 20/50 in the right eye and 20/400 in the left. Reportedly he passed by secretly memorizing the eye chart.
• When, in late 1999, C-Span asked 90 historians to rate all 41 U.S. Presidents, Truman ranked number 5.
• Truman's Vice-Presidential acceptance speech was less than a minute long (one of the shortest ever).
• In 1950, President Harry Truman threw out the first ball twice at the opening day Washington DC baseball game; once right handed and once left handed.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Highest Court in the Land (and the People that Play Basketball There)

Today we went to visit the Supreme Court for a personal visit with some of the nation's coolest folks. After a walk from Capitol South that made my haven't-worn-heels-in-awhile feet cringe and making it through security, we headed up the marble stair case, past the oral argument room, into a back hallway and were stationed in a beautiful room with the seats crammed together to accommodate all forty-plus of us.

First on the agenda was Major General William K Suter (not related to the Supreme Court's spelled differently), the Clerk of the Court. Not the kind of clerk that writes opinions for the justices, but the guy who receives lawyer's applications for admission to the Supreme Court bar and supervises the management of the about 150 cases accepted for Supreme Court review each year. Mr. Suter was cool, not only because he was an Appellate Judge, Deputy Staff Judge Advocate of the US Army, Staff Judge Advocate of the 101st Airborne Division, Commandant of the JAG School and Assistant Judge Advocate Gender of the Army, but also because he has been clerk of the Supreme Court since 1991. That means, in a court that has only had 17 Chief Justices (or 18 if you count William Cushing, who may or may not have actually been a justice), Suter has seen a solid tenth of all the Chief Justices in action. The guy has been around.

Because of this career longevity, he was able to speak about the differences between the Chief Justices and how the different courts are influenced by the politics and legal reasoning of different justices. Infuriatingly, though, he refused to admit any ideological differences saying that "The truth is the truth" and that by careful examination of the facts, any justice would come up with the same answer. Tell that to Al Gore, my friend. He also provided insight into the occasional silliness of the Court, describing the basketball games played on the "highest court in the land" (the basketball court upstairs).

Next up was the venerable Justice Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.
Later in the day, Stacey Abrams, State House Representative for the 84th District in the Georgia General Assembly (and 1994 Truman Scholar), spoke to us about her experiences in public service.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

I Am Surrounded By Crazy People

Good crazy, but crazy all the same. Every person I talk to is INCREDIBLY smart and has a cause or policy interest they care about so much that they amaze you with their level of knowledge every time they open their mouths. They are starting schools in India and Kenya, running for office, writing agricultural and economic policy and clocking more volunteer hours than is reasonably possible. Downright crazy, and I am one of them. Welcome to the Truman Summer Institute Class of 2008! (To know just how crazy we are, please see this amazing youtube video written, directed, and acted by my Truman class outlining the scholarship application process. Make sure you catch all the parts).

Summer Institute (SI) kicks off with a week of activities designed to give us a look into different public service options and to encourage us to get the most out of our summer of DC internships. These activities are meant to be thought provoking, insightful, deep and inspiring. So, of course, the first thing we do is go on a dinner cruise.

According to their website, the Odyssey Cruise Ship DC is "the only vessel designed specifically to travel beneath the Potomac's historic bridges." The dining area, where they serve you a ridiculously luscious four course meal) is completely enclosed in glass. You can (when it isn't raining) see the monuments slide by as you eat dinner and dance on the dance floor to the live band playing the Cha-Cha Slide and YMCA.

The majority of the patrons seemed to be couples celebrating their anniversaries. I don't think they found it at all amusing to have forty recent college grads being rowdy on the dance floor, interrupting their dinners. The band loved us because we actually cheered for them.

A good time was had by all.