Bo Shuff

Have an Impact: Seeking Quality in Equality 2

Filed By Bo Shuff | May 20, 2009 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Politics
Tags: Equality Ohio, state-wide organizations

This is an ongoing series that began at Bears Left. This is part two and was originally published on May 11th. Part 3 will appear here on Thursday.

The organizations that speak for us have the highest of responsibility. Even if I am not a member or do not donate, their missions and actions claim to speak on my behalf. I have no option on that front, and it is why I hold them to a very high standard.

This first test of any organization is, to me, does the organization actually have the impact it claims to.

Equality Ohio fails to pass that test.

On Wednesday, Equality Ohio will hold their fourth annual Lobby Day. Down from over 500 participants, most of the chatter puts this year's number at closer to 300. I maintain, however, that while the first Lobby Day was action with an impact, this year will serve very little, if any, purpose.

For Lobby Day to have an impact, Equality Ohio would have needed to lay a foundation with the elected officials that the citizen lobbyists will visit. They have not.

According to the Federal Elections Commission, the Equality Ohio Campaign Fund (EOCF) raised a total of $9450.14 in the 2008 cycle. EOCF is the PAC and electoral wing of Equality Ohio and was "established in May of 2006 with the sole purpose of electing fair-minded candidates to office in Ohio." Of those donations, 8% came after election day (most of that from outside of Ohio), 21% from their lobbyist, 15% from board members or their spouses and more than 50% coming from the treasurer of the PAC. Zero came from donations solicited at events, via email or web or in anything under $250. Zero. Full FEC reports are here.

PAC's and donation based campaigns are effective when they represent a broad base of supportive individuals banding together to elect officials who share their views. It is the bundling together of donations, both big and small, that have led to the electoral successes of PACs like HRC or EMILY's List. The Victory Fund has used its PAC to incredibly successful levels electing openly LGBT people to office across the country. Every single body that has passed LGBT friendly legislation in recent times has contained an openly LGBT person. The Equality Ohio Campaign Fund has done nothing to engage the grassroots in electoral efforts through fundraising.

Nor has EOCF utilized its paltry level of funding in a strategic way. In the 2008 election cycle, EOCF endorsed 9 candidates for office and donated money to one of them. Only one and for a total of $250. The remaining $5000 donation was made to the House Democratic Caucus. The other 45% of the money raised was spent on admin and overhead.

While this expenditure was $5000 well spent, as the Democrats were successful in their work to re-take the house, the value of an endorsement is pretty closely tied with the amount of money that comes along with it to any specific candidate. The average value of a EOCF endorsement in 2008 was $27.

Without a strong relationship with elected officials, one brought about by active engagement in the election of those officials, the organization's involvement in Wednesday's activities will be pointless. Equality Ohio has no strength of brand in the Statehouse. I believe that many of the elected officials will get the opportunity to hear compelling stories from some great people. These stories may have an impact on a couple of them. However, the work done in November by the Democratic Party and HRC here in Ohio will move the ball farther forward than Lobby Day ever will. The Senators and Representatives will respond

EOCF failed to leverage the excitement of the 2008 election, they failed to engage their membership in electoral activity, they failed to do the work needed to build the long-term sustainable relationships needed to effectively lobby a Legislative body. Lobby Day

All this leads me to wonder, if Lobby Day is Equality Ohio's only grassroots action each year and it serves no useful purpose, what does that mean by extension?

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Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | May 21, 2009 2:52 AM

Bo, I think the greatest challenge is apathy on the part of most of us. In the early 70's I used to hear: "I am not political" when I tried to organize. Now it is: "I am not inconvenienced so I am not interested."

When a state with the population size of Ohio can only turn out 300 members they need to concentrate on what we used to call "consciousness building" and make it a priority to increase membership. Only when people decide to put down their cocktails and start making converts can these orgs be successful. Cincinnati alone is an example of where GLBT persons should be mad as hell and ready to put it on the line.