Skip to comments."SUPPORT THE WAR" - Expose on Move America Forward by Liberal Newspaper
Posted on 12/13/2005 5:36:00 PM PST by Impeach98
NOTE: This is from a weekly liberal newspaper in Sacramento - the "Sacramento News & Review." It's a tabloid that is like the San Francisco Bay Guardian or other similar left-wing street rag. However, despite the ideological bias of the publication (its editors are very anti-war) the article is actually reasonably fair.
Support the war!
The war on terror has been good for Move America Forward. Its brought the conservative activist group notoriety, cash and ratings.
In the dimly lit downtown offices of consulting firm Russo Marsh + Rogers,
the pro-troops effort includes political strategy, television attack ads,
ground coffee beans and cookies.
Born-again conservative Melanie Morgan promotes Move America Forward
and its views through the Bay Area airwaves as co-host of the morning
drive-time talk-radio program on KSFO 560 AM.
Former state Assemblyman Howard Kaloogian has stepped down
from a leadership role at the nonprofit while he runs for an open
Southern California congressional seat.
"These days, Russo is the political mind behind the rapidly growing nonprofit Move America Forward. Unless you listen to conservative talk radio, you may never have heard of it.
But chances are you know its work.
Remember the You Dont Speak For Me, Cindy Tour this past summer, which sent pro-troops activists to Crawford, Texas, to go toe to toe with anti-war military mom Cindy Sheehan? That was Move America Forward. And the group that tried to quiet the theatrical opening to Michael Moores Fahrenheit 9/11? That was them, too. Theyve also encouraged the United States to withdraw from the United Nations, run television commercials showing American troops handing goods to Afghani children and curated a pro-America art exhibit on Sacramentos Capitol building steps.
More recently, there was orchestrated outrage by Move America Forward supporters in reaction to the Sacramento City Councils bring-the-troops-home symbolic resolution.
Since the group formed fewer than two years ago, it has become the dominant voice countering the apparent American groundswell against the war in Iraq. Despite a relatively small base of supporters, reportedly little income and an almost complete lack of support from the Republican Party, Move America Forward has made waves and newspaper headlines across the country."
Arent you proud to be an American? a smiling Luauna Stines said into the microphone on a weekday in September. She stood on the sidewalk, across the street from the downtown Sacramento Greyhound bus station, amplifying her voice over passing traffic. About 20 people gathered on the sidewalk. Some held signs. We support our troops. Others had purposefully incorporated the colors of the American flag into their outfits.
It was a gathering orchestrated by Move America Forward and attended by some of the groups local followers. The cause of the day: opposing anti-war mom Cindy Sheehan.
How many are so proud of our troops? Stines, a pastor from northeastern San Diego County, asked the crowd, receiving applause in return.
The group had come to see a bus. Move America Forward had rented a luxury RV, which it planned to drive from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., stopping at cities in between. The following Saturday in D.C., anti-war activists rallying around Sheehan would be gathering outside the White House in a mass demonstration. And the Move America Forward folks wanted their pro-troops, pro-war-mission voice to be heard there as well.
Lets just say a prayer. Can we do that? Stines said. Father, we thank you ... that you are helping these men to bring peace and liberty to that land.
Meanwhile, nine stories above the crowd at L and Seventh streets, Russo gathered his belongings and rushed out of his companys offices. Russo Marsh + Rogers, the conservative political consulting and marketing firm that he started in 1976, sits at the center of the Move America Forward crusade. Up there, the small staffs from both the consulting company and the pro-troops nonprofit mingle and overlap.
This bus road trip and rally stop were part of a formula designed to give pro-troop Americans a tangible way to express their views. Listen to the radio, visit a Web site, come out to see the bus drive by, buy a T-shirt, make a donation.
The RV stopped here only briefly. KFBK radio talker Mark Williams spoke, as did Deborah Johns, a Roseville mother of a Marine serving in Iraq. The turnout at that event was small. Nevertheless, the event--and, by extension, the pro-troops message--received coverage in Sacramentos daily newspaper and on several local television stations.
You may think that your numbers are few, Stines told the gatherers. But Im telling you what: small but mighty.
Thank Gray Davis for the movement that is now Move America Forward.
The whole thing began January 22, 2003, during the morning drive time, on a San Francisco radio station. Shawn Steele, then the head of the California Republican Party, was a guest on the morning show that Melanie Morgan co-hosts on KSFO 560 AM. He and Morgan were chatting in typical incendiary talk-radio fashion, when Steele crowed, off the cuff, that someone should recall Davis from the governors office. Morgan remembers a light bulb being lit.
I knew this was an idea whose time had come. ... I said, 'I can do this. I know I can do this, Morgan recounted. It was like watching a video. I saw it in my brain.
Fast-forward through a circus special election in which Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor. Though Morgan and her co-conspirators supported Tom McClintock throughout the election, they considered the recall a success.
In an interview on a recent Wednesday morning in her studio, following The Lee Rodgers & Melanie Morgan Program--the Bay Areas No. 1-rated morning drive-time talk program--one of the first things out of Morgans mouth was: I used to be a liberal Democrat.
Morgan, a petite woman, who even in jeans appears well-dressed, also says she used to be a straight-down-the-line journalist. The daughter of a former Missouri state legislator, Morgan said shed always been politically aware. But it took Lee Rodgers, her morning-show co-host, to cause her political rebirth, she says.
I feel like Ive gone to school for the last 11 years for the conservative ideology sitting beside him, Morgan said.
In that same time, Morgan discovered that radio, more than other media, has a town-square-like power--a lesson amplified in liberal-minded San Francisco, where she says the radio station became something of an island of refuge for conservatives.
Talk-show hosts really are the ward healers of modern-day politics, Morgan said.
By the time Morgans recall effort was up and running, conservative activist Ted Costa and former Republican state Assemblyman Howard Kaloogian had caught the recall bug and started online efforts of their own. An acquaintance encouraged her to contact Kaloogian, who was working with Russo.
After the recall success, the alliance formed between Kaloogian, Morgan and Russo no longer had reason to exist. But with that radio-Internet-action formula perfected and with the media attention at a height, the trio wanted to continue.
Russo was quoted shortly after the recall in the L.A. Daily News saying of his new activism group, Well change the name to something like Move America Forward.
The question, then, was the issue. What would be the cause they would rally around?
Enter John Ubaldi.
When the war on terror began, Ubaldi, a U.S. Marine reservist with political aspirations, was working as an assistant in Russos office--manning the front desk and answering phones. He lobbied the military to get sent to Afghanistan. And as soon as he got there, Move America Forward folks say, he began e-mailing back to the office about how poorly the American media were reporting on the war. What he saw on the ground, he said, was not what was reflected in newspapers.
How can we get the soldiers story to the public unfiltered? Russo remembers asking.
So, encouraged by Ubaldi, Move America Forward became an organization aiming to support the troops and their mission. Initially, that meant combating anti-war messages, whether in the so-called mainstream media or in movie theaters. Later, Move America Forward targeted individuals--an Ohio senator; a Bay Area congresswoman; and, of course, Cindy Sheehan, the Vacaville mother whose son was killed in Iraq and whose anti-war vigil outside President Bushs Crawford, Texas, ranch brought her an international spotlight.
Cindy Sheehan just landed in our lap, Morgan said. That was a no-brainer. Hers was such a destructive voice that she had to be countered.
Hers was also a voice already in the news, thus providing an opening for Move America Forward to get its name in those same news stories.
Were all media-savvy people, Morgan said. If she was gonna be in a ditch in Texas, we were gonna be in a ditch in Texas.
Kaloogian tells the caravan-to-Crawford story to counter critics who say Move America Forward is not a true grassroots organization.
There were 4,000 people there--from all over the country, who spent their own money to make the trip, Kaloogian said. We had a five-mile-long caravan.
By way of comparison, Sheehan said more than 12,000 of her supporters traveled to Crawford over the course of her vigil.
Move America Forwards pro-troops road-trippers are what make the organization work. Typically, nonprofit political-action organizations have significant monetary backers--wealthy donors who believe in the cause and put up cash to support it. For example, the conservative group Progress for America, closely linked to the president, gets much of its money from Bushs major donors. MoveOn.org, the liberal Internet-based activist group, was started by two wealthy Internet entrepreneurs and buoyed by several million dollars from billionaire George Soros.
On a Monday in early November, Howard Kaloogian sat slumped in a booth in a noisy sandwich shop in Carlsbad, in northern San Diego County. Later in the evening, he would formally announce his candidacy for Californias 50th Congressional District.
Some Sacramento critics of Kaloogians say running for another elected office was his plan all along and that this Move America Forward deal was just a way to keep his name on a business card and in the media in the meantime, until the right office opened up.
To that, Kaloogian tells an anecdote. One of Move America Forwards actions was to organize satellite phone calls from troops overseas to talk-radio stations back here in the States. It was a way to allow troops to tell their stories, unfiltered, directly to the listening audience, sometimes in their hometowns. One call, he remembers, came into a Ventura radio station. The soldier said a few words, and then the radio host took a few calls from listeners. The very next call was from that soldiers wife. Kaloogian gets misty-eyed telling this next part.
She said it was so good to hear her husbands voice, and she hadnt spoken to him in a long time, Kaloogian said. It was moving. It really was.
That didnt put my name in the paper. That didnt do anything for me. That was for the troops.
Kaloogian is an attorney, who, in his years since being in the state Assembly, has worked from his home office for a private college in Michigan, doing estate planning for its larger donors.
The 45-year-old discovered his calling, he said, in college, when he followed Reagans first election to the presidency. Kaloogian made his way to California on a scholarship from Pepperdine Universitys law school, in Malibu. A decade later, when he decided to run for Assembly, he interviewed Russo to run his campaign.
He and I saw eye to eye, Kaloogian said.
After leaving the Assembly in 2000, he and Russo have continued to work together, such as in 2003, when the two formed the Defend Reagan Project, which sought to convince cable companies not to air a miniseries about the Reagans, which Kaloogian said amounted to a character assassination of the former president. Kaloogian also ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2004.
But Move America Forward has had success by tapping into an action-oriented audience--no matter how small, it is vocal.
Another reason Move America Forward works so well, and so quickly, is because its principals dont need meetings or a show of hands or polls or focus groups before they can take action.
When you have that conversation with a friend and say, 'Somebody ought to do something, we usually are that somebody, Kaloogian said. Its that old Reagan line. 'If not us, who? If not now, when?
A 30-second phone call or a two-sentence e-mail usually sets one of their plans in motion. And no matter who lobs the first pass, the others know how to move it down the field.
Its because we all think alike, Wierzbicki said.
Back at Russo Marsh + Rogers on a November weekday, Donald La Combe, a part-time employee of Move America Forward, was sticking adhesive labels on bags of ground coffee beans and then packaging those beans alongside boxes of cookies. The coffee and cookies, with these messages of support stuck to them, will be sent to troops overseas.
More than 10 tons of coffee and cookies have come through the Russo Marsh + Rogers offices on their way to Iraq or Afghanistan, said Robert Dixon, executive director of Move America Forward and its only other paid employee. Dixon said this is the most satisfying part of his job--sending something simple like a box of cookies and receiving in return letters of appreciation from troops.
You get the sense that even if this part of their effort was all they could manage to pull together, these men would still be here, packing U.S. Postal Service boxes full of cookies and ground coffee beans.
But theres more.
When Russo returned from a Move America Forward trip to Iraq, he brought with him a client for Russo Marsh + Rogers: the Kurdistan Regional Government.
Of the Iraqi political entities various visions of a new Iraq, the Kurds is closest to Russos, he said, explaining why he took on the client. As both Russo and Wierzbicki put it, the firm was hired to thank Americans, on behalf of the Kurds, for supporting the war in Iraq--essentially, to do what Move America Forward is already trying to do. Among other things, the firm has scripted and produced television commercials for the Kurds and has arranged for visiting Kurdish officials to be interviewed by the media.
Kaloogian said Move America Forward likely would be around a long time, as the war on terror doesnt appear to be ending anytime soon. And, he said, as long as the country is at war, he will work to support the troops.
In addition, the Move America Forward work has encouraged the political aspirations of a few of its principals. Sparked by Sacramento City Councils anti-war resolution, both Dixon and Ubaldi are considering bids for a city-council seat. Each, presumably, would hire Russo Marsh + Rogers as its consulting firm.
Kaloogian sums up Move America Forwards progress by pointing out that a cartoon strip that regularly lambastes Bush, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove also took a jab at his organization.
Doonesbury decided they had to mock us, he said. Youre there [in the strip] alongside the president, the vice president, his special adviser--and who are you? Youre a citizen. Youre a private citizen without an elected office.
Youre doing something right when you get into Doonesbury.
This is a surprisingly fair article for SN&R, which is a freebie you find in coffee shops. MoveAmericaForward does lots of good things for our troops.
Yes, the reporter really went out of his way to report what both sides say, instead of what personal views he might have. Nice to see in a reporter these days.