Thursday, June 16, 2005

New West on PLAN

Courtney Lowery in New West: Orchestrated Progressive Movement Moves Up, Moves West

If you want to change public opinion and turn the tide of national politics, you start on the ground floor. The right-leaning American Legislative Exchange Council, which has successfully mobilized state and local politicians on a range of hot-button issues, has made that pretty clear. But ALEC won't be working alone in that realm anymore -- meet the Progressive Legislative Action Network.

"Certainly, they (ALEC) have emphasized the states and they've had success. They're a model, definitely, but we'll be doing things a little differently," said PLAN co-chair and former Montana Senate minority leader Steve Doherty with a chuckle.

By "little differently," Doherty means policy. PLAN aims to be the left-leaning answer to the right-wing ALEC.

Think of PLAN as a training camp, a policy resource and an information hub for progressive leaders across the country. PLAN will do everything from keeping local leaders on message to helping them draft legislation. Simply put, it will serve as the orchestration of a movement that PLAN leaders say needs some steam in the country right now.
Progress is happening out west, in the states:

David Sirota, who will be leaving his position as a fellow for the Center for American Progress, has been minted as Doherty's co-chair. He announced the launch on his blog today, writing "If you know a little about the right-wing's American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), you know that conservatives have built up a very powerful infrastructure to pass their agenda at the state level. PLAN is going to counter that by marshalling progressive forces at the state level to fight back."

It isn't a fluke either that this large network is based in, of all places, Montana. Further proof, I like to believe, that the West is ripe for change, ripe for action and ripe for the kind of notoreity this type of organzation can bring to the region.

"I think it's important that we deal with states that may have been looked upon as "red" states in the past," Doherty said adding that the success of pragmatic and "progressive" leaders in Western states (read: Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer) has helped bring the network to the region. "Unless we start making changes in places like Montana, the Midwestern states and the Rocky Mountain states, progressives are going to be on the losing end of things."

PLAN will officially launch in August with a shindig in Seattle featuring the likes of Willie Brown and John Edwards.

~ Progressive Legislative Action Network

Progressive Legislative Action Network

Coalition Launches the Progressive Legislative Action Network (PLAN)

New organization will counter right-wing groups like ALEC by bringing together progressive state legislators throughout America and pushing concrete progressive policies

Helena, MT – A coalition of present and former state legislators and policy experts today announced the upcoming launch of the Progressive Legislative Action Network (PLAN), a new organization to support forward-thinking, progressive state legislators with the policy, communication, and strategic resources to help them fight the progressive battle at the state level.

The organization will be co-chaired by Steve Doherty, the former Minority Leader of the Montana Senate, and David Sirota, who will be leaving his position as a Fellow at the Center for American Progress to assume his new role at PLAN.

The organization is hosting its kickoff event in Seattle on August 16th to coincide with the annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislators. The event will feature, among others, former Speaker of the California Assembly Willie Brown, Senator John Edwards, and Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer. Details of the event can be found at A full agenda will be released in the coming weeks.

“We are pleased that so many important progressive leaders recognize the need for a nationwide commitment to getting things done at the state level,” said Doherty. “These leaders have brought a refreshing perspective to American politics. We will continue their tradition by helping embolden progressive state legislators who are committed to standing up for America's middle class.”

“With an entrenched majority in Washington, D.C. that ignores the needs of ordinary Americans, the real fight has moved to the states,” said Sirota. “PLAN will take the lead in crafting innovative policy solutions to improve the lives of Americans across the country. For too long, right-wing groups have dominated the debate at the state level. With PLAN, that is going to change.”

Steve Doherty currently serves as the Chairman of Montana’s Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Commission. He served in the Montana Senate from 1991 to 2003, including four years as Minority Leader.

Before his tenure as a Fellow at the Center for American Progress, David Sirota was the chief spokesman for Democrats on the U.S. House Appropriations Committee. He is currently completing a book on the middle-class economic squeeze that will be released by Random House's Crown Publishers in the Spring of 2006.

The Progressive Legislative Action Network will have a 501c(3) and 501c(4) component, and will be a national organization committed to working in all 50 states. Its mission is to drive public policy debates and change the political landscape in the United States by focusing on attainable and progressive state level legislation and action. It will do so by providing coordinated research support for a network of state legislators, their staffs and constituencies, in order to equip them with coherent logistical and strategic advocacy tools necessary for advancing key progressive economic and social policies.