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Just a year and a half after it’s much ballyhooed launch, with dancing cans and supposedly serious politicos doing the Harlem Shake, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson’s “The Can Kicks Back” astroturf group is running out of funds.

Politico broke the story this week.

“The Can Kicks Back — which targets millennials and was conceived as a partner and affiliate of the group Fix the Debt — is running low on cash, according to emails and documents reviewed by POLITICO.

The group left a history of documents, including financial statements and internal deliberations over policy decisions, online in a Google Group that was open to public view but was recently closed. Those documents provide a peek into the day-to-day planning and operation of a modern public affairs campaign, one that publicly presented itself as driven by grass-roots energy but largely relied on big donors and wealthy Wall Street types for funding.”

“One fundraising problem The Can Kicks Back has faced is the entirely accurate perception that it is not actually a grassroots organization of young people deeply concerned with reckless entitlement spending and unsustainable long-term debt, but rather yet another front group — and in this case a particularly ineffective one — for the small network of billionaires who have spent decades advocating tax cuts and the rolling back of Social Security and Medicare benefits, in the name of fiscal responsibility.” Salon
For true grassroots organizations, tough economic times usually mean you turn to your grassroots membership for support.  What is especially telling in The Can Kicks Back’s case is that according to internal emails obtained by Politico TCKB turned –not to the millennials they claim to represent – but to their true base, America’s 1%.
“According to emails, it also took meetings or made fundraising asks of former oil and gas executive T. Boone Pickens, aerospace magnate Norman R. Augustine and First Pacific CEO Bob Rodriguez, among others, since 2012.

The group has also approached Fix the Debt for additional financial resources and brainstormed a list of donors to be set up with that included former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Blackrock CEO Larry Fink, salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, venture capitalist Reid Hoffman, eBay CEO John Donahoe and others.”

TCKB is suffering from more than just a lack of finances. It also suffers from a lack of a true identity, since the public never quite bought their claims of being an independent grassroots supported movement.
“In response to a 2012 Slate piece by reporter Dave Weigel linking The Can Kicks Back with the billionaire anti-debt activist Peter Peterson, Eisenstadt argued that the group should request a correction — saying that the perception that they are Peterson-funded was hurting their credibility, according to an email thread.

‘Technically one can make an argument that we are…” (THCKB organizer) Parent wrote back in an email. ‘We receive most of our money from [Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget], which has received large amounts of funding from Peterson.’  Slate never appended a correction to the piece.”

You might be tempted to write off this story as just one example of a financially troubled Washington advocacy group trying to stay afloat.  But as the New York Times’ Paul Krugman reports, it’s much more than that.  The Can Kicks Back story gives us all a seldom seen glimpse inside Washington’s web of astrotruf advocacy groups posing as representatives for a constituency with which they have virtually no contact. All the while they’re actually doing the business of America’s corporate and Wall Street backed interests.
“they show how much of what passes for genuine expression of public concern is really just a bought and paid-for (or, in the case of The Can, not sufficiently paid-for) front for plutocratic priorities.”

Originally posted to NCPSSM on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 12:48 PM PST.

Also republished by Social Security Defenders.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Did you intend (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    whaddaya

    'the can kick backs' as a tag?

  •  Nice diary; I had not yet heard this story (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    whaddaya, NancyWH

    Thanks for writing about it.

    ______________
    Love one another

    by davehouck on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 02:41:50 PM PST

  •  If they were genuinely concerned about the debt, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NancyWH

    It bothers me when people refer to Pete Peterson and The Can Kicks Back as "anti-debt activists." People who are genuinely concerned about the debt remember that Bill Clinton balanced the budget with higher taxes, and the unemployment rate dipped to a post-Vietnam War record low.

    These people aren't that worried about the debt to cancel Bush's elitist and unnecessary tax cuts.

    I wonder, if the budget was balanced again, and we didn't need to change the retirement age to do so, would they think that they had let a good crisis go to waste? At least, they should be aware that such a charge can be made.

    Freedom's just another word for not enough to eat. --Paul Krugman's characterization of conservative attitudes.

    by Judge Moonbox on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 07:49:24 PM PST

  •  Damn my PPT going to waste (0+ / 0-)

    I did a mocking presentation on the Can Kicks Back for my College Business Communications class this last semester and planned to work it up for a Social Security Defenders diary but Nooooo!

    They decided to implode without my assistance! Shoot. At this point it would be like kicking dirt on their grave.

    On the other hand Alex Lawson, Executive Director of DC based Social Security Works hijacked one of their last rallies wearing a Pirate Suit and got escorted off by their mascot wearing a giant dented can suit. It was great.

    http://www.usnews.com/...

    SocSec dot.Defender at gmail.com - founder DK Social Security Defenders Group

    by Bruce Webb on Sat Feb 15, 2014 at 10:18:47 PM PST

    •  A taste of the action (0+ / 0-)

      The Can Kicks Back folks were having a press conference Thursday outside the Capitol, featuring Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and John Thune, R-S.D., when an "Argghhh" coming from a man dressed as a pirate interrupted the action.

      "Corporate Pirate Argghhh," the gentleman yelled. "I endorse everything, but raising corporate taxes! Keep your hands off my corporate booty that I've stashed away in the Caribbean," the pirate yelled.

      "The pirate was Alex Lawson, who serves as the executive director of Social Security Works. Lawson decided to crash the press conference and call out the Can Kicks Back campaign for not coming from the grass roots, but astroturfing instead. "The Can Kicks Back is made up and funded by Fix the Debt, which is an organization started by billionaire Pete Peterson, made up of billionaire corporate CEOs," he told Whispers. "What they are trying to do is, they are saying they crashed the world economy through reckless behavior, but they are going to cut Americans' earned benefits...so that they don't have to pay their fair share of taxes."

      SocSec dot.Defender at gmail.com - founder DK Social Security Defenders Group

      by Bruce Webb on Sat Feb 15, 2014 at 10:22:11 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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