People United Means Action
|This article is outdated. (May 2009)|
PUMA ("People United Means Action") was a political action committee in the United States that opposed the Democratic Party leadership and the nomination of Sen. Barack Obama as the Democratic candidate for President in the 2008 presidential election. PUMA began as an effort of supporters of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton who believed that Clinton should have been the Democratic nominee. According to PUMA, "We [were] protesting the 2008 Presidential election because we refuse to support a nominee who was selected by the leadership rather than elected by the voters."
On May 11, 2011, the PUMA PAC was stripped of its status as a recognized Political Action Committee for failure to meet reporting requirements.
The PUMA PAC registered as a non-affiliated political action committee (PAC) with the Federal Election Commission and organized as a 527 Organization with the IRS in June 2008.[better source needed] PUMA's founders state that the group originated out of online comments of a group of Clinton supporters on a pro-Clinton blog, The Confluence, which was created by New Jersey biochemist and former John Edwards supporter Riverdaughter, who had been recently banned from a pro-Obama liberal blog. The website ClintonsForMcCain.com was, however, registered by the Republican National Committee on May 15, 2008, well in advance of Clinton's concession speech.
PUMA is also part of a coalition of online activists with similar goals, the JustSayNoDeal coalition. The PUMA acronym as originally coined stood for "Party Unity My Ass"; however, the official PAC was registered as "People United Means Action," a backronym. Executive Director Darragh Murphy estimates that PUMA PAC proper had gathered over 10,000 members and the organization's official site had received more than a million hits between its founding in June through August 2008. Dianne Mantouvalos, founder of the larger JustSayNoDeal coalition, estimates the coalition comprises over 100 groups, and was more than ten percent of the eighteen million votes Clinton received in the primaries.
Will Bower, a media spokesperson for PUMA and JustSayNoDeal, had summarized many of PUMA's objections to the actions of the Democratic Party during the 2008 presidential primaries. PUMA's stated beliefs were that Obama was selected undemocratically by the party leadership rather than through respect for Democratic voters' wishes, and that Obama was unfairly advantaged by the ruling by the Rules and Bylaws Committee on seating Florida and Michigan delegates.
PUMA members pointed to charges that the media directed sexism and misogyny at Clinton during the primary campaign and expressed anger at the failure of Democratic Party leaders to speak out against them or otherwise respond appropriately. Post-primaries, while focusing none of his comments on Obama, DNC Chairman Howard Dean did criticize the media, saying, "The media took a very sexist approach to Senator Clinton's campaign" in response to hearing objections from what he described as a "cross-section of women, from individual voters to powerful politicians and chief executives."
Some media and online commentators used the term PUMA to describe any Clinton primary voter who did not support Obama's nomination or the Democratic Party leadership, regardless of PAC affiliation.
PUMA's protest actions during the 2008 election took several forms, including encouraging a Clinton write-in campaign for the general election, voting for no presidential candidate, or supporting other candidates such as U.S. Senator John McCain (R–AZ). Some hoped that enough superdelegates would change their minds to give the nomination to Clinton at the Democratic National Convention in August. Other expressed desires were to help defeat Obama in the general election by electing McCain president in order to set up another run for Clinton in 2012, or that Clinton run as an Independent candidate in the election. Some have noted that the Internet had fostered the organization. Many PUMA advocates are part of the blogosphere and use it for organization, advocacy and viral communication.
PUMA advocated for an open convention in which Clinton's name would be placed in nomination and her delegates allowed to vote for her, supporting a petition by delegates to the convention to put Clinton's name into nomination. Allied organization The Denver Group had spearheaded an ad-based media campaign advocating for an open nomination convention including placing Clinton's name in nomination, allowing speeches in support and a roll call vote. The ad campaign emphasized a connection between historical events and the 2008 convention, calling on DNC Chairman Howard Dean and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to "follow fair and honest application of the democratic process and according to democratic principles" and resist turning "the convention into a coronation."
PAC members were among the groups protesting the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
Organizers/co-founders and associated movements
Darragh Murphy, Executive Director of PUMA PAC, created the organization in June 2008, saying that the immediate goal of her website was "to let the party know, let the leadership know that millions and millions of us are not going to support Obama. That we believe the nomination process was flawed beyond belief, that was unfair and biased."[not in citation given] According to one reporter who interviewed her, "Murphy ... believes that the only way to save the Democratic Party at this point was to destroy it. Mr. Obama must lose, and his supporters must be purged." Murphy had characterized PUMA PAC's goals, however, as "not an organized effort to leave the Democratic Party, but to get it back, to bring real unity to the party. Millions of voters are still very unhappy. We're going to still be here on November 5."
Diane Mantouvalos, who also founded HireHeels.com, a website trying to get women involved in politics founded “Just Say No Deal.com” along with Peter Boykin (creater of the slogan for the domain name), Will Bower, Cristi Adkins, Anne Franklin, Robin Carlson, and Thuc Ngyuen after Hillary Clinton announced her suspension of her campaign. Just Say No Deal was a coalition of groups, including PUMA, advocating against the selection of Barack Obama as the 2008 Democratic presidential nominee.
Christi Adkins, along with Anne Franklin, Peter Boykin and other Clinton supporters, created Clintons4McCain.com. Adkins’ organization was composed of volunteers who donated time, effort and energy to elect Clinton, and now feel Hillary was subjected to unfair attacks during the 2008 primaries. Adkins wrote many articles regarding several election flaw's during the campaign, one of which ACORN was featured on Bill O'Reilly's website as international news of the day.
The Clintons4McCain's group membership intend to vote for Republican John McCain in November 2008, and believed that John McCain would be tolerable. Adkins and Franklin had been interviewed on Third Rail Radio, Fox News on multiple occasions about the mission of the PUMA organization. Adkins and Bowers along with other PUMA's appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart during the 2008 Democratic convention in Denver.
PUMA has been criticized for their support of Republican candidates John McCain and Sarah Palin, especially considering the sharp policy differences between the Republican ticket and Hillary Clinton; this has left the organization open to charges that it supported the McCain campaign solely out of spite, with no concern whether a McCain victory would actually advance Hillary's policy agenda.
Some Democrats argued that the organization's goals contradict Hillary Clinton's stated views, and PUMA's lack of support from Clinton herself undermined the credibility of the PUMA position. On CNN's Situation Room, Clinton herself had been quoted as saying, "I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that anyone who supported me... understands what a grave error it would be not to vote for Sen. Obama." PUMA itself suggested that Hillary was not sincere in her endorsement of Obama, but was simply trying to avoid damage to her position in the party by not openly criticising the candidate. One Democratic state committeewoman who says she supported Clinton, and whose attitude was "Enough with this PUMA stuff," said: "It's not like it's 'Rah rah Obama'. No. But he was our candidate...."
PUMA was also charged with hypocrisy for claiming that Obama was selected by the party leadership rather than elected by Democratic voters, while at the same time seeking to have the primary results overturned by unelected superdelegates.
Patti Higgins, the Chair of the Alaska Democratic Party, wrote to a PUMA supporter: "Having Senator Clinton’s name on a roll call without having the votes would just embarrass her, waste time, and make people agonize over nothing. I find it difficult to believe that this organization was not an undercover McCain operation." On August 14, 2008, Senators Clinton and Obama issued a joint news release stating that Senator Clinton's name would be put into nomination and a roll-call vote held at the convention, in response to calls from Clinton supporters. Clinton previously stated at a fundraiser: "[I] believe that we will come out stronger if people feel that their voices were heard and their views were respected. I think that was a very big part of how we actually come out unified."
Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon had accused PUMA of being a front for McCain advocacy, pointing to founder Darragh Murphy's financial support of McCain in February 2000. Murphy admitted having donating to McCain, stating that the donation was to help defeat George W. Bush in the primary. She says she voted for Al Gore in the general election, although she did not donate to his campaign. She says she was "devastated when Bush stole the election". According to the Huffington Post's Fundrace 2008, Murphy had donated $850 to Clinton's presidential campaign through Q3 2008. Marcotte's accusation omits Murphy's campaign contributions to Clinton. FEC records show a $200 donation to WomenCount PAC by Murphy in June 2008. Bower rejects the claims of Marcotte and others: "People have been trying to paint this as a Trojan horse, you know, as though I'm a Republican, that this was a Republican strategy... No, that's not it at all. From dog-catcher to president, I've voted Democrat."
Clinton-supporter Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) had argued that while she sees why many have subscribed to the "Puma attitude", she argues that for women "reproductive rights, the economy and a range other issues, the only choice was Obama." She believes that voting for McCain, or letting him win by default, was worse than not having Clinton as the nominee. Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi had stated that PUMAs and other Clinton supporters "have been less than gracious" for their continuing refusal to support Senator Obama.
DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee co-chairman James Roosevelt disputes the claim that the Michigan–Florida delegate decision was in any way pre-ordained to favor Obama. He argues that Party rules and regulations were "followed and interpreted fairly," saying that there were allegations of impropriety in the Texas caucuses, but only one complaint was filed with a delegate.
Following John McCain's defeat in the 2008 presidential election many commentators from both sides of the political spectrum accused PUMA of essentially misrepresenting their influence or numbers, as exit polls showed that Obama won better than 90% of the Democratic vote, a larger percentage than the previous Democratic nominee, John Kerry.
Among the anti-PUMA blogs, StupidPumas! is easily the least restrained, accusing the group of both overt and covert racism, duplicity, and even fraud. StupidPumas! has gone so far as to post on their site online copies of official letters sent to PUMA-Pac from the Federal Election Commission, demanding the filing of long-overdue financial reports.
In 2009, Los Angeles filmmakers Brad Mays and Lorenda Starfelt finished work on their feature-length political documentary The Audacity of Democracy, which followed the 2008 race for the Democratic Presidential nomination and focused in particular on the PUMA organization. Shot from June through September 2008, Mays and Starfelt filmed interviews and political activity taking place in Los Angeles, Princeton, Dallas, Austin, Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York City and, ultimately, at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. Mays came under almost immediate fire from pro-Obama groups, citing conflict of interest due to the production having been financed by PUMA-Pac itself. Mays acknowledged these concerns, while maintaining that his film would be an objective account of what he saw and heard during the Democratic primary. About a week before the Democratic convention in Denver, all of Mays' camera equipment was stolen while en route to Chicago. Although most of the gear was eventually replaced, the crucial Chicago shoot was seriously compromised. When Mays decided to film interviews with Internet journalist Tommy Christopher, an outspoken PUMA critic, the rank and file of the PUMA movement quickly denounced the filmmaker, distancing themselves from the entire project.
In multiple subsequent Blog-Radio interviews, Brad Mays has expressed extreme dissatisfaction with the finished film, revealing that he had not been allowed to complete shooting in the manner originally agreed to, adding that many of the PUMA members who had decided to switch their support from Hillary Clinton to John McCain did not care for the way their new-found Republican leanings played onscreen.
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