Excerpt: The Conservative Message Machine Money Matrix

Consider that the conservative political movement, which now has a hammerlock on every aspect of federal government, has a media message machine fed by more than eighty large nonprofit organizations -- let's call them the Big 80 -- funded by a gaggle of right-wing family foundations and wealthy individuals to the tune of $400 million a year.

And the Big 80 groups are just the "nonpartisan" 501(c)(3) groups. They do not include groups like the NRA and the anti-gay and anti-abortion groups, nor do they include the political action committees (PACs) or the 527 groups (so named for the section of the tax code they fall under), like the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which so effectively slammed John Kerry's campaign in 2004.

To get their message out, the conservatives have a powerful media empire that churns out and amplifies the message of the day -- or the week -- through a wide network of outlets and individuals, including Fox News, talk radio, Rush Limbaugh, Oliver North, and Ann Coulter, as well as religious broadcasters like Pat Robertson and his 700 Club. On the web, it starts with townhall.com.

Fueling the conservative message machine with a steady flow of cash is a large group of wealthy individuals, including many who serve on the boards of the Big 80. Rob Stein has brilliantly documented all of the above in "The Conservative Message Machine Money Matrix," a PowerPoint presentation he has taken on the road across the country, preaching to progressives about the lessons that can be learned and the challenges that need to be overcome.

In the face of all that the conservatives have assembled, Stein is nevertheless still optimistic, in part based on what he saw as promising, unprecedented levels of collaboration among progressives leading up to the 2004 election. But he emphasizes that there is much to do. "We, of course, continue to have far more challenges than answers or enduring capacities," Stein says. "Indeed, everything that happened in 2003 to 2004 can best be described as a ‘stirring,' not a solution. We have miles to go before we have built a strategic, coordinated, disciplined, and well-financed community of local, regional, and national organizations that collectively can mobilize a majority progressive constituency."

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