The Agenda Project
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The Agenda Project is a New York-based non-profit political organization. It was founded in 2010 by political strategist, commentator, and author, Erica Payne, the founder of the consulting firm, the Tesseract Group. The Agenda Project was founded to connect participants and progressive leaders and stakeholders to build critical relationships and to deepen the understanding of progressive ideas and specific policy issues.
The Breakfast Series
The Agenda Project first began as the Agenda Project Breakfast Series in 2006, which was a monthly informal discussion about important issues facing the country, developed by Payne and co-hosted by the former national finance chair for the Democratic Party, Maureen White, and Democratic party activist, Gail Furman. The breakfasts have had over 100 notable speakers including US Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman, and author Mona Sutphen. Since then, the Project has expanded to become a non-profit organization.
The Agenda Project launched practicalprogress.org and a monthly Practical Progress monthly e-newsletter to highlight the accomplishments of other notable progressive organizations and to keep leaders and activists informed and updated about the progressive movement. The Practical Progressive: How to Build a 21st Century Political Movement is also the name of the book that Payne authored in 2008.
The Agenda Project is responsible for numerous campaigns such as F*ck Tea, Hate Begets Hate, Vote Sanity, and Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength. F*ck Tea was launched in the summer of 2010 and included "F*ck Tea" mugs and t-shirts, which on the back read: "Progress is the Real American Party". The campaign was intended to urge Americans "to dismiss the tea party and to promote the progressive cause", Erica told Politico. "Hate Begets Hate" was launched in response to the stabbing of a New York City cab driver, and other hate crimes against Muslims. The Project suggested that the negative light under which Muslims are portrayed in the media and by conservative public officials is the cause of such violence. "Vote Sanity" was a campaign launched right before the November 2010 US Congressional midterm elections, inspired by Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity on October 30, 2010. The campaign's intention was to encourage voters to vote against the Republican, and more specifically the Tea Party candidates, in the 2010 election.
Hate Begets Hate
Also referred to as "Defending American Values: The Freedom to Worship", the Agenda Project launched a three-pronged campaign in partnership with Auburn Seminary, National Security Network, and Vote Vets in response to politicians and individuals who publicly opposed the construction of Park51 in close proximity to Ground Zero. The Agenda Project coordinated the efforts of the three partner organizations in order to attack opposition to the mosque from three different constituent communities, including:
- The religious community (positioning: “stop the war on prayer”), which included a website and online petition letter that was signed by 700+ individuals, a “War on Prayer” video (produced by the AP), and numerous media appearances by religious leaders;
- The veteran community (positioning: “we didn’t fight for American values abroad to have them denigrated at home”), which included an online petition letter that was signed by 14,000+ veterans and veteran families;
- The national security community (positioning: “anti-Muslim sentiments are bad for our security”), which included a “Propaganda for Terrorists” video (produced by the Agenda Project), which called out Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and Rev. Terry Jones for providing fodder for anti-American Muslim extremist groups.
The Agenda Project also launched pieces of the campaign under its own brand, including:
- Video: A "Hate Begets Hate" video, which was a direct attack on politicians who publicly opposed the construction of the Cordoba House—the video received 6,000+ hits to date and was played twice in-full on MSNBC;
- Media appearance: After the video's release, Erica Payne appeared on Hardball with Chris Matthews to speak about the AP's work on the mosque issue;
- Publication: The AP also published an op-ed in the Huffington Post titled "How to Kill America," which explored the ways in which the mosque issue highlighted how America becomes a threat to itself when our political leaders forfeit the shared principles that constitute the soul of our country.
2010 Midterm Elections Strategy
In the weeks before the midterm elections, the Agenda Project focused on influencing congressional and senatorial races in battleground states, particularly where Tea Party candidates were running against Democratic opponents. This campaign had four main components:
- Strategy discussion and website: After hosting a midterm strategy discussion and presentation with special guests Greg Speed, Executive Director of America Votes; Joan Fitz-gerald, President of America Votes; and Anita Dunn, former White House Communications Director, the AP launched a website called “Strat2010” that laid out a comprehensive midterm strategy that outlined the most efficient use of donors' political dollars. The website also featured a video produced by the Agenda Project and America Votes called 2010: The Movie.
- “Vote Sanity”/ “Welcome to Crazytown”: The AP then launched a second website titled “Vote Sanity,” which lightheartedly documented the Tea Party candidates' more outlandish statements. The website received 5,000+ hits and was featured in Salon.com. The website also included an AP produced video titled “Welcome to Crazytown” which currently has almost 15,000 hits. The AP also published an op-ed in the Huffington Post by the same name.
- Video: The AP also produced a video that contained some of most startling Tea Party candidate quotes titled “Tea Party Candidates Taken Out” which has 4,300+ hits to date.
The Agenda Project campaign of 2010 focused on pressuring political leaders to allow the Bush-era tax cuts to expire as scheduled. The campaign, "Patriotic Millionaires," featured millionaires calling for tax increases on the richest taxpayers. The campaign received significant press coverage, ranging from New York Magazine and The Atlantic to national coverage from ABC News and Reuters.
The Agenda Project also took part in other campaigns. Women for Fiscal Strength entailed a website with a petition letter that was signed by 300+ women, including Gloria Steinem and Kerry Kennedy. The site was featured on Gloria Steinem’s Women’s Media Center Blog. Faithful Americans for Fiscal Strength included a website and petition letter that received over 400+ signatures from Americans of faith. National Security Community for Fiscal Strength received nearly 100 signatures from national security experts on a petition at their website. Massachusetts for Fiscal Strength targeted then-Senator Scott Brown on the issue of tax cuts. The Agenda Project also called on supporters to call the White House to urge expiration of the Bush tax cuts, resulting in the White House switchboards having two lines crash.
America the Beautiful
In May 2011, The Agenda Project, released its “America the Beautiful” campaign, also known as “Granny off the Cliff.” The video was created in response to Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposed Medicare cuts, as part of The Path to Prosperity, the Republican Party’s long-term budget proposal.
The video dramatizes Paul Ryan’s proposal to privatize Medicare. The video – which shows an elderly woman getting thrown off a cliff – asserts that the Ryan plan will hurt elderly Americans.
- Agenda Project Profile, Idealist.org
- What We Do, Agendaproject.org
- Dem group launches 'F*ck Tea' campaign, Politico
- Progressive Dems Launch Potty-Mouthed Campaign Against Tea Party, Mediaite.com
- New York Magazine: Millionaires for More Taxes. December 5, 2010.
- The Atlantic: Millionaires for Tax Raises, and the Non-Millionaires Who Hate Them. November 23, 2010.
- ABC: 45 'Patriotic Millionaires' Call for Bush-Era Tax Cuts to Expire. November 22, 2010.
- Reuters: Liberal millionaires to US: Please hike my taxes. November 22, 2010.
- Roll Call: Group Mocks Scott Brown's Truck in First 2012 Campaign Ad. December 10, 2010.
- Roll Call: Tax Deal Opponents Shut Down White House Phones. December 7, 2010.
- Shahid, Aliyah. "'Grandma' thrown off cliff by Paul Ryan lookalike in anti-GOP Medicare ad made by The Agenda Project", NY Daily News, May 20, 2011, accessed June 20, 2011.
- Rothberg, Peter. "Is America Still Beautiful without Medicare?", The Nation, May 18, 2011, accessed June 20, 2011.
- Shear, Michael D. "The ‘Mediscare’ Revolving Door", The New York Times, May 26, 2011, accessed June 20, 2011.