Washington (CNSNews.com) - MoveOn.org's political action committee launched its most ambitious fund-raising campaign ever on Thursday, announcing a plan to raise $50 million to elect Democrat John F. Kerry.
The liberal activist organization, which has faced a barrage of criticism from the Republican National Committee and President Bush's re-election campaign, made an e-mail appeal to its 2.1 million members asking for pledges of $1,000 to $10,000.
"It's incredibly ambitious and no one has really done that before, but when you look at how many people have already been involved with MoveOn and contributed to MoveOn, I think it's feasible," said Adam Ruben, field director for the MoveOn PAC.
"It's going to be a lot of work between now and then," Ruben added. "It's far more than we've ever raised. But I think we can do it."
Ruben spoke to CNSNews.com after promoting MoveOn's new book, "50 Ways to Love Your County," at a Washington bookstore Thursday night. More than 100 MoveOn supporters attended the event to hear motivational speeches about liberal activism.
The MoveOn PAC fund-raising campaign plans three specific uses for the money:
* A get-out-the-vote drive with the liberal group America Coming Together will cost $10 million. MoveOn members have pledged 7 million hours of time to volunteer, according to the e-mail solicitation. The money will be used to hire staff in battleground states and to set up phone banks.
* Advertisements in battleground states that "cut through the spin and set the record straight" will consume $20 million more. The MoveOn e-mail states, "$20 million will allow us to systematically confront President Bush with the truth. He can run, but he can't hide."
* Up to $20 million is promised to Kerry and other liberal candidates. MoveOn wants its members to contribute directly to candidates. "We'll raise money for John Kerry, giving him the resources to articulate his vision for our country and take President Bush to task," the e-mail asserts.
The MoveOn PAC is a separate organization from the original advocacy group MoveOn.org and the MoveOn.org Voter Fund, a so-called 527 organization (for its tax status) that has aired anti-Bush television ads.
Both the Republican National Committee and the Bush campaign have criticized the MoveOn Voter Fund as a shadow Kerry organization. Earlier this month, when MoveOn's Zack Exley took a job with the Kerry campaign, a Bush spokeswoman raised concerns about the possibility of illegal coordination between MoveOn's political arm and the Kerry camp.
Exley originally was supposed to appear alongside Ruben on Thursday, but that changed once he became Kerry's director of online communications and organizing.
Ruben, meanwhile, offered an upbeat report on the MoveOn PAC's activities. Last weekend the organization sponsored bake sales across the country. According to Thursday's e-mail solicitation, MoveOn far surpassed its $100,000 goal by raising a total of $750,000.
Given the high amount of activity in an election year, Ruben said the group might expand its staff. The MoveOn PAC team includes seven staff members, which is small for an organization that has become one of the most vilified on the left.
When asked if MoveOn could live up to the $50 million goal and the pressure that comes along with being a major political player, Ruben expressed optimism about the group's future.
"The pressure I feel is to live up to the trust our members put in us," he said, "to give them the opportunities they're asking for to help make a difference."
He also challenged conservatives to form their own online grassroots activist network if they want to engage more people in politics, just as MoveOn has done for its 2.1 million members.
"On both sides of the political spectrum, if there are groups that are genuinely bringing people into the political process, that's great," Ruben said. "There aren't a lot of secrets about what we do and we happily talk to different organizations about how they can adopt some of these techniques."
See Earlier Story:
MoveOn.org Staffer Moving Over to Kerry Campaign (April 8, 2004)
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