National Council Report for 1998-99
noimage Welcome to the AfD’s third national convention

"Ending the Corporate Century / Launching the People's Millennium ."

Peter Montague, the editor of Rachel's Environmental Weekly and one of the featured speakers, declared during a speech recently that the Alliance for Democracy is the only membership organization in the country committed and dedicated to the specific mission of ending the domination of the United States by large corporations.

We have proved our staying power for a hard, long, tough struggle and are ready to fully blossom. We have proved this to many who are watching our progress; more important we have proved it to each other. Here are some of last year s accomplishments:

Our New National Coordinator

Nick Penniman, journalist and environmental activist, was hired as full-time National Coordinator. Nick has also served as interim editor for the Alliance Reports. Kati Winchell was later hired to help part-time in the busy administrative office, which also includes long-time database specialist Anne Donohue.

National Actions/Campaigns/ Issue Work

Opposing the Multilateral Agreement on Investments (MAI) and Choosing Positive Alternatives: Alliance members Dave Lewit of the Boston/Cambridge chapter and Ruth Caplan, past AfD Co-chair, of Washington, DC, led the Alliance in an intense campaign against the MAI, and, in tandem with our organizational allies in this effort, have stopped the MAI at the OECD. This is the first time an international investment agreement has been stopped by international organizing. Starting with the first community conference against the MAI in the United States, sponsored by the Boston/Cambridge Alliance in tandem with Public Citizen and Preamble Collaborative, and continuing forward with educating members of Congress and their staff about the MAI and its relation to "fast track" which would have made it difficult to stop the MAI if it came to Congress; to many long months of fighting the MAI at the OECD; to representing the Alliance at international meetings from the People's Summit at the G-8 in Birmingham, England to Global Dialogues in Helsinki to an international gathering of MAI activists in Paris; to a major conference on the MAI in Dallas; to helping get local anti-MAI resolutions passed, Dave, Ruth and many other AfD members worked hard to alert the public to the dangers in the MAI. They wrote and sold action packets for getting local anti-MAI resolutions passed. North Texas chapter, San Fernando Valley chapter, Davis and Santa Cruz Alliances, Epicenter chapter in Boulder, Denver, and The Capital Area, New York, chapters all participated in local anti-MAI campaigns. This is a great victory, but the MAI is not dead. Organizing efforts and local resolutions must continue while we also focus on the second part of the Campaign: positive alternatives to the MAI, such as the Common Agreement on Investment (CAI).

Challenging Corporate Charters: Working alongside a federal judge, the Birmingham, AL, chapter participated in an effort to revoke the charters of Alabama-based tobacco companies. The Council voted to approve the authorization of a representative of the AfD to sign an amicus brief supporting Judge William J. Wynn's Motion to Remand in his charter revocation campaign against the tobacco cartel.

Unocal Petition: In our ongoing campaign against corporate rule the Alliance participated actively in a coalition of 30 citizens' organizations to demand the dissolution of one of the world's largest oil companies. The coalition filed a 127-page petition asking the Attorney General of California to revoke the charter of the Union Oil Company of California, Unocal. And now the Alliance is planning, with the National Lawyers Guild, whose Robert Benson is the author of the Unocal petition, to produce a pamphlet which will explain how activists all over the country can utilize the tool of charter revocation in their efforts to curb corporate abuses and end corporate domination.

Cleaning Up Elections: The Alliance has endorsed full public funding of political campaigns. Massachusetts chapters helped push a voluntary public funding measure onto the state ballot (it passed in November). Local chapters in Missouri, New York, California, Indiana, and Oregon have also worked on this issue.

The Alliance's Health Care Action Group became co-sponsors of a "Medicare for All" signature campaign, pledging to gather 50,000 signatures to be presented to the Medicare Bipartisan Commission in March 1999. There will be two Health Care Action workshops at the Convention.

The Corporate Welfare Action Group led by Jerry Polner developed and distributed Corporate Welfare Application Kits which humorously enable citizens to apply for the same kinds of tax breaks, subsidies, discounts, and give-aways that corporations receive in the billions from taxpayers every year.

The Children's & Youths' Bill of Rights for Equal Opportunity movement initiated by the San Fernando Valley AfD in l996 now has 22 national, state and local organization endorsers including AfD, California Council of Churches, and California Green Party, and l9 V.I.P.s , including Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Rev. John Buehrens, Pres. of the Unitarian Universalist Assoc., Matthew Rothschild, Editor of The Progressive magazine, Jonathan Kozol, and recently, Episcopalian Bishop Frederick H. Borsch. On March l4th,. sponsored by the San Fernando Valley Interfaith Council and co-sponsored by l9 state and local organizations, the first community Symposium of diverse views was held on the issue, "Do America's Children Need A Bill of Rights?" Interested AfD members should attend the Boulder Convention Workshop on Children's & Youths' Rights and contact Nick Seidita.

Cracking the Telecom Conglomerates: The North Bridge Alliance in Massachusetts sponsored an all-day regional forum called "Microwaving America: Does the 96 Telecom Act Jeopardize Our Health, property, and Democracy?"

Boxing Biotech Bullies: Four Northern California chapters sponsored a four-day, four-city UDDER FRAUD Food Forum criticizing Monsanto Corporation's devious programs to push dairy farmers' to use the recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH). Al Krebs launched a weekly e-mail newsletter called The Agribusiness Examiner to monitor corporate agribusiness from a public interest perspective.

Taking to the Airwaves: The Mendocino Coast chapter of the Alliance began a weekly radio program, "American Democracy Is Being Overwhelmed by Corporations" and promotes local alternatives.

Exposing Privatization in Local Government: The Indianapolis chapter petitioned the State Board of Accounts to do a comprehensive audit of the City, which had not been audited by the State in 14 years.

Amassing Independent Allies for Education and Action: The San Antonio Alliance has created a network of groups and individuals concerned with the corporate domination of everyday life. From an initial list of about 70 persons, the network has quickly increased to 197 individuals who belong to 60 different organizations. The Northern California chapters of the Alliance have undertaken to form a regional network on the San Antonio model. Long Beach member Ken Reiner has initiated dialogue with many organizations concerning joining forces against corporate domination.

Working for Better Jobs/ Striking at Sweat Shops/ Curbing Conspicuous Consumption/ and Protesting the "Corporate War": Local chapters have carried out such actions as: Leafleting in Brooklyn neighborhoods, Joining with the Ad Hoc Coalition for Real Jobs; Co-sponsoring a forum on economic democracy in St. Louis; Defending small community business against the large corporations in Boulder; Active protesting of sweatshop labor and promoting buyer boycotts in Rhode Island, Madison, WI, San Fernando Valley , Maine & Central MI; Protesting the bombing in Iraq by students at Madison, WI. --"Exxon, Chevron,Texaco/Corporate Wars Have Got to Go."

Endorsement Highlights

2/98 - Council endorsed participation of Ronnie Dugger to attend the Geneva meeting sponsored by The People's Global Action against Free Trade and the World Trade Organization. Sue Wheaton and Arnold Stanton also attended (All were funded by donations)

5/98 - Council voted to approve Al Kreb's action proposal for a 4th of July action focused on Monsanto.

8/98 - The Executive Committee voted to send endorsement to the Pakistani anti-nuclear and peace movement on behalf of the AfD.

10/98 - Council voted to endorse "A Day Without the Pentagon" rally in Washington, DC.

10/98 - Council voted to endorse on behalf of the AfD "The People's Right to Know Campaign: A Call for Corporate Disclosure."

11/98 - Council voted to sign, on behalf of the AfD, a NGO letter for unconditional forgiveness of all external debt owed by Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Costa Rica.

1/99 - Council voted to sign, on behalf of the AfD, a letter to Indonesian President Habibe calling for the release of East Timor leader Xanana Gusmao.

4/99 - Executive Committee voted to endorse, on behalf of the AfD, the PIRG effort to overturn the Buckley/ v. Valeo decision.

4/99 - Council voted to endorse, on behalf of the AfD a Statement in Opposition to the Proposed Exxon-Mobil Merger.

Publications and Other Communications to and among Alliance Members

The First Official National Ballot was published and mailed to the membership following the 1997 Convention.

Ruth Caplan coordinated the writing, ordering and publishing of 25,000 popular education booklets on the MAI which were used for organizing across the country and as a model by activists in other countries. These were endorsed by three national trade unions as well as a wide range of other organizations.

Several issues of Alliance Reports and Deep Democracy were published and mailed to the membership.

Nick Penniman developed a new National Brochure, which were printed and mailed out, with templates available to local chapters.

The Council identified and endorsed Ed Plunkett as ANN and ALL Moderator.

We have a new national Web Site. Our webmaster is Andy Reid who also does the Oregon website. John Burritt and John Rogers are developing an interactive web server.

At the initiative of Sacramento Alliance member Ben Sher, the council established a low-cost teleconference service which is available for all Alliance committees and task forces as well monthly council meetings.

Five membership/renewal letters were sent to members and others on the national database.

Strategy Retreat

The Alliance held its first ever strategy retreat in June in Washington, DC with 12 council members, two staff members and 20 other members from around the country.

Chapter Development and Support

Though several of the 54 chapters listed in 1997 folded, several new ones were formed. New chapters were formed in Mendocino Coast, CA; So. Humboldt County, CA; Inland Communities, CA; Delta County, CO; Maine; Central MI; Metro Detroit, MI; Northwest, MI; Helena, MT; Missoula, MT; Portland, OR; Rogue Valley, OR; Bend, OR; Eugene, OR; and Salem, OR. The current chapter roster includes 54 chapters, with additional new ones now organizing in Southern California and Colorado.

Kati Winchell and Garret Whitney developed a new chapter starter kit, which is available to all beginning chapters. The Council established the Regional and Chapter Development and Coordination Committee (RCDC), which sent out a survey to all chapters and developed a Chapter Affiliation Agreement, which was sent to chapters for review and comment and will be finalized following the Boulder Convention.

Makeup of the Council and Council Meetings

Council members elected at the Atchison convention included Co-Chairs Sue Wheaton and Ronnie Dugger; Vice Co-Chairs Nancy Price and Michael Givel; Secretary Vikki Savee; Treasurer Marie Smith; past Co-Chair Ruth Caplan; At-Large Representatives Nancy Campbell, Laura Jennings-Cranford, Kwazi Nkrumah, Emilie Nichols, and Arnold Stanton; and Regional Representatives Garret Whitney and Kati Winchell (NE); Bonnie Preston and Jim Schrider (Mid-Atlantic); Ed Rollins and John Withrow (SE); Stefanie Miller and Marc Loveless (NC); Gary Dugger and Jim Bush (SC); and Bob Chase and Jo Seidita (SW). Marian Lowe joined later as NW Regional Rep.

Bob Comeaux of San Antonio, TX and later Patricia Hammann of Ortanna, PA were selected as ombudsmen for the Alliance.

The following changes occurred in the makeup of the 1998-99 council: Al Krebs replaced Nkrumah, who became an Ex-Officio member; Givel resigned and was replaced as Vice Co-Chair by Whitney; Campbell and Jennings-Cranford resigned and were replaced by Ben Kjelshus of the Mo-Kan chapter and Clara Oleson from Iowa; Bush resigned and was replaced by Emily Boyd-Hewitt of Houston; Lowe resigned and was replaced by Harry Lonsdale of Sisters, OR. Sharon Scott of Salem, OR became the second Regional Rep. for the NW. Loveless resigned and was not replaced. Kati Winchell resigned to take a staff position in the national office, and she and Garret Whitney were replaced by Peter Mott of the Rochester, NY chapter and Jean Maryborn of the Boston-Cambridge chapter as NW Regional Reps.

The Council met each month by teleconference and twice at in-person meetings held in Washington, DC. Council members paid the cost of the monthly teleconferences and shared equally the cost of travel, food and lodging for the in-person meetings.

Fundraising and Finances

After three years we are at the point where we need to double our resources to maintain our upward momentum and to continue networking with our allies to get this enormous job done.

Council members Ronnie Dugger, Jo Seidita and Harry Lonsdale and Detroit Alliance member Harold Stokes led the way in our fundraising efforts, which, among other outreach efforts, included highly successful events in Southern California and the creative Stokes challenge to chapters, whereby Harold matched in a grant to national every dollar raised by chapters as part of the challenge campaign.

Nick Penniman and Ronnie Dugger prepared and filed our 501(c)(3) application and answered additional questions from the IRS; we are awaiting the IRS response.

In 1997 the Council approved a budget for our fiscal year April 1, 1997 through March 31, 1998, an ambitious budget of $186,782 which we did not meet. The council has just approved a more realistic budget of $114,500 for FYE March 31, 2000, with plans for a larger growth budget if additional funding is secured. The growth budget includes expenditures for a new office space, additional staff, and more money for action campaigns. Last year we were able to reduce our start-up cost debt by $2,523. An Income Statement for FYE March 31, 1999 and the Budget for FYE March 31, 2000 is included in the registration packets.

Policies and Procedures and Other Administrative Accomplishments

The Council developed and approved a policy for endorsing statements and actions initiated both by other organizations and from within the Alliance. We also set in place a procedure for wide review and discussion of pending motions before they are voted upon and for timely review by members on e-mail of the proposed agenda and minutes of council meetings. The Council put together a Policy Manual (an ongoing piece of work and established Council Roles and Responsibilities. We developed a National Database Policy, and The Executive Committee approved a one-time swap of mailing labels with the Progressive Populist newpaper.

Finally, a Convention Coordinating Committee composed of Convention Logistics Committee Chair and AfD Secretary Vikki Savee, Co-Chair Sue Wheaton, National Office representative Kati Winchell, Garret Whitney for the Program Committee and Convention Rules Committee Chair Jo Seidita and a Convention Program Committee, co-chaired by Ruth Caplan and Garret Whitney, and working with Colorado AfD members and allies, planned this year 's Convention without hiring a coordinator.

As corporate power continues to conglomerate and the nation’s wealth is siphoned into fewer and fewer hands, the work we do becomes more and more crucial. That s what David Korten, author of When Corporations Rule the World, meant when he said, "A progressive, populist non-political movement is our last best hope to recover our economic lives and restore our democracy in an age of unabashed corporate greed and political hegemony. The Alliance is it"

As such, the deepest reason to continue supporting the Alliance is the same one that made us start out in the first place: the necessity that as free people we end corporate domination of our lives and establish for ourselves and our children real democracy.

On to deep democracy!

The 1998-99 National Council

The Alliance for Democracy