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Updated: How the Party Killed the Net Neutrality Resolution

by: Julia Rosen

Sun Apr 29, 2007 at 22:00:21 PM PDT

(I have some updated information and want to make sure everyone gets a chance to see it. - promoted by juls)

And the rest of the resolutions they did not want to have heard...

I learned a lot about the process of how resolutions are dealt with at California Democratic Party Conventions this weekend.  It is not particularly democratic, which is not surprising.  The party leaders decide what has a chance of getting approved and use the process to push off to the side any other proposed resolutions. 

Take for instance the net neutrality resolution, which one would think should be heard in front of the Computer and Internet Caucus.  Instead we learned upon arriving at the convention that it has been, along with a bunch of other resolutions, referred to another caucus, thereby eliminating any potential avenue for its viability at this party meeting.  There is no process whereby you can appeal this move by collecting signatures, or any other appeals process.

So how and why did it get referred to the Labor Caucus?

Julia Rosen :: Updated: How the Party Killed the Net Neutrality Resolution
Several weeks ago the Party leadership and upper level staff had a conference call lasting several hours to discuss the proposed resolutions.  They have these calls prior to every convention.  At that meeting they discuss who is on either side of the issue, what the party has at stake and decide what to do about them.  They have several choices.  The ones they want to have heard are allowed to proceed.  All others are either denied due to technicalities, or referred to other committees. 

In this case they knew that AT&T, a major party donor and sponsor of the convention, opposed the deal.  Since Alexandra Gallardo-Rooker, 1st Vice-Chair of the Party sits on the Executive Board of CWA #9400 they knew about CWA's issues with net neutrality.  They also knew that Jim Gordon, Chair of the Labor Caucus, is also with CWA.  Thus, they could be assured that the concerns of the organization would be addressed when the resolution is heard at a later date.  In addition, one must be a member of a union and a dues paying member of the Labor Caucus to be heard at their meetings.  Those supporting net neutrality would be unlikely to have someone to carry this for them at any meeting.

The only way a net neutrality resolution will ever have a chance of being endorsed by the California Democratic Party is to have CWA on board.  The focus would have to be on how packets get treated and not deal at all with the issue of big companies like Google helping pay for building out the next generation of high speed in the country.  Otherwise the Party leaders will deny us at every turn.  Now it is possible to navigate the system and pass a net neutrality resolution, but it will take a lot of effort to make it happen.

Back to the process for a minute.  The Party leadership knows very well about the ability to do as someone did today, end the session abruptly by calling for a quorum.  In fact, they have a delegate prepared in advance to do just that if a resolution they do not want to have approved makes it through the appeals process (signature gathering) to make it to the floor.  That is not what happened today.  In fact, this was exactly what they did not want to have happen, as was evident in Chairman Torres's reaction.  They had already set it up in a way that was favorable to them and wanted the debate that was occurring to happen.  Now they will have to deal with the fallout from a number of upset delegates.

This was an eye opening experience for me and a lot of bloggers.  We learned a lot about how the process works.  If we do ever work to support a resolution we must be prepared to compromise and work with the leadership, while still pressuring from the outside with grassroots support like the impeachment resolution folks did.  Bloggers are very good about working strategically.  This is one case where we would have to do just that.

[UPDATE] I just heard that part of what I wrote was inaccurate, with regards to Torres and a plan to have someone call for a quorum.  It could have been senior staff from elected federal/state Democratic leaders who had that plan in place.  It was related to two specific issues, neither of them having to do with Iraq or any of the war-related issues.  Now, that's not to say that the Party couldn't have that as a plan, given the fact that a number of the staffers are there as delegates.

Inola Henry told everyone who was listening at Resolutions on Friday and Saturday that the committee has calls before the convention where resolutions were discussed.  That of course makes lots of sense.  The information I have about the phone call between Torres and upper level staff was related to me as likely standard practice each year.  The specifics about the net neutrality resolution lays out a likely path, not an absolute one.  I know that the call probably occurred, but do not have knowledge about what exactly was discussed.

As you can tell, I am having a hard time getting a straight answer on this.  If what I have up is inaccurate in any way I would be more than happy to issue a correction.  To the best of my knowledge this is what I believe occurred.  To confirm the phone call would require a direct confirmation from a Party staffer.  That I do not have.

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my take (0.00 / 0)
The bloggers in California are not big enough and powerful enough to do this alone.  They have the respect of the CDP, but not the leverage.  We need to cultivate partners that can tap into the activist communities and mobilize people so that we can get an inside-outside strategy the way that progressives did on the impeachment issue.  Fortunately, I was told that PDA is going to spend the next year "scaring our membership to death" about net neutrality.  "Without net neutrality, we can't organize," I was told.  So I think the opportunity is there to coordinate on the issue and get the partners we need.  There are good people who want to move forward and take up this fight.  I know what Governor Richardson said to us in our private meeting with him (more on that later).  "Don't let the telcos swallow you up, because they'll take you out."  If you explain this issue to people, it hits them where they live.  I'm confident we can duplicate the inside-outside strategy.  But it will take an incredible effort.

Fantastic (0.00 / 0)
I completely agree.  We will need a lot of help on this one and cannot carry it on our own.  We cannot demonize the Party leadership given the structure if we hope to actually pass something, nor can we to CWA.  We need them on the right side on this stuff and will need to push forwards a plan that emphasizes an uncensored Internet.

[ Parent ]
I agree about leverage (0.00 / 0)
If anything, bloggers have an opportunity to provide leadership on tactics and the rules of order.  I don't see the blogging community churning out numbers, but rather being an important part of a coalition.

[ Parent ]
Here's a possible start (0.00 / 0)
From the CDP web site :

Chairman Art Torres will appoint all standing committees immediately after the 2007 State Convention.  To request an appointment to any standing committee, send your request to Robert Jordan in the Sacramento office who will compile and forward all requests to Chairman Torres.

California Democratic Party
1401 21st Street, Suite 200
Sacramento CA 95814

Also from the CDP web site :

There are nine standing committees:
  Affirmative Action Committee
  Credentials Committee
  Finance Committee
  Legislation Committee
  Organizational Development
  Platform Committee
  Resolutions Committee
  Rules Committee
  Voter Services Committee

Looks like it's time to send in applications.

[ Parent ]
Ridiculous (0.00 / 0)
I'm not sure I can really say much else.  Perhaps this should serve as a lesson...

I think?

Fantastic writeup (0.00 / 0)
Thanks for giving us the full details on what transpired. It seems this may turn out to be a boon, giving us something to rally around and help raise the profile of the issue, although the way this was handled was poor, as you note.

You can check out any time you like but you can never leave

we got the people in there (8.00 / 1)
now we've got to learn the rules and use them as a weapon, if need be.

did anyone think the party would let us substantively change anything, without a fight?

comment and a couple of questions (0.00 / 0)
one of the several net neutrality resolutions introduced
was sponsored by the Computer & Internet Caucus

re - the conference call - you know this how?

re - committees - Have you applied for a committee seat?
The chair will select new committees in
about ten days, you have a week or so to get your letters of application in to sit on rules, resolutions, organizational development, or any other standing committee described in the cdp bylaws.
from the CDP website
Chairman Torres will appoint all standing committees immediately after the 2007 State Convention.  To request an appointment to any standing committee, send your request to Robert Jordan in the Sacramento office who will compile and forward all requests to Chairman Torres.
Call CDP in Sacto and see what you need to do to get on
a committee.

Personally I was not there (0.00 / 0)
as a delegate.  Some bloggers who were there as a delegate are thinking about trying to get on a committee.

I cannot say how I know about the call.

[ Parent ]
Here's the number (0.00 / 0)
(916) 442-5707

Also, see my comment above in reply to the first comment from dday for the party's address and a list of the nine standing committees.

[ Parent ]
I've got a couple questions, too. (4.00 / 1)
You write:

"In fact, they have a delegate prepared in advance to do just that if a resolution they do not want to have approved makes it through the appeals process (signature gathering) to make it to the floor.  That is not what happened today."

is the first part official? written down anywhere? or is it just a little inside obstruction/corruption somebody told you about? (I use the inflammatory words deliberately.) Any chance you'll tell us who told you? Is it something "everybody" -- except the grassroots delegates -- already knows? That once the celebrity speeches are over and all the "important" delegates leave, there are mechanisms in place to derail any resolution inconvenient to the party power brokers? Any idea when this practice of designating a delegate to defensively call for a quorum count was started? whose idea it was? Or whether calling for a quorum has been used to derail grassroots resolutions in the past?

Also, when you write, "That is not what happened today" -- how do you know that?  dday writes in more detail as to why he doesn't think Torres was involved, but do you have any further information? thanks.

I haven't forgotten how Torres actively derailed a possible eboard endorsement of Prop. 89, despite grassroots delegates' strong support. No matter his reasons for not wanting the party to endorse Prop. 89, or your reasons for not supporting it, a strong majority of grassroots delegates DID want the party to endorse Prop. 89, and the majority's will was overruled by those at the top.

And it was this weekend too (0.00 / 0)
Clean Money was not adopted as a resolution despite efforts by Assemblywoman  Loni Hancock to get the Party to endorse.  It was made a "reaffirmation" so that it could be taken off of the resolution slate.

[ Parent ]
No I cannot (8.00 / 1)
reveal my source.  They are in a position to know this and I would not write it unless I was sure they were correct.  I hope you will understand that I felt it was more important to get this information out there than not use it in order to not provide information from a source that I cannot reveal.

No that is not official and they have a degree of separation.  Chairman Torres does not tell someone directly, but word is passed down.

The same source confirmed what dday wrote about Torres not being involved in yesterday's quorum call.  It was pretty obvious from those in attendance that Torres was not happy, nor were the rest of the party staff.

I would agree with you that it is likely that the will of the majority of the delegates was thwarted on Prop. 89.  That said, I do believe it is possible to pass a clean money resolution, but support of 89 was not a viable vehicle.

[ Parent ]
I understand -- it's exactly because of how important (0.00 / 0)
I think it is for us to know that "insiders" know that there is an "unofficial" fall-back mechanism (or mechanisms) in place designed to thwart the convention's official democratic processes that I asked how you learned about it. thanks again for writing about it.

I hope somebody follows up on this -- one relatively easy thing a "real" reporter might do would be simply to call a party leader (Torres, say) and ask: "Chairman Torres, a source I consider reliable has told me that 'the Party leadership ... has a delegate prepared in advance to [end the session abruptly by calling for a quorum] if a resolution they do not want to have approved ... make[s] it to the floor.' Will you confirm or deny this on the record?"

My bet is Torres wouldn't confirm or deny at first -- but if a second reporter, then a third, called to ask about it, he might decide that ignoring the issue wouldn't work.

[ Parent ]
This may be helpful, but (0.00 / 0)
it is not current.  Here is a link to the August 2006 edition of the By-Laws and Rules of the California Democratic Party (caution:  46-page pdf file). 

The April 2007 version was distributed to delegates at the convention, but I can't find a link to it anywhere.

[ Parent ]
Setting the Record Straight (0.00 / 0)
My name is John Hanna & I am along with Inola Henry one of the Coordinating Co-Chairs of the Resolutions Committee.
We have been in this position for 20 years, Inola a little longer then me. If you are going to be blogging from the Convention you should get your facts straight. I feel obligated to correct a number of innacuracies in your post. First, let me deal specifically with net neutrality:

1) The Party did not "kill net neutrality" as your headline suggests. They've been referred to the Labor Caucus with a request that they report them back to the Resolutions Committee at the July Executive Board Hearing.

2) There were 4 net neutrality resolutions, not one.

3) All of them referenced support for specific legislation; the resolutions committee has consistently over the years referred resolutions that refer to specific legislation to the Legislative Committee. Not doing so this time was an oversight which most likely happened because we were referring it to the Labor Caucus and because we were just plain tired from spending countless hours dealing with well over 100 resolutions. But to make sure that members of the Black Helicopter Caucus don't feel we're trying to "deep six" net neutrality by sending it to the labor Caucus, I will make sure staff will also send it to the Legislative Committee at the Executive Board with a request they report back to us with their findings.

4) You suggest these resolutions should have gone to the Computer and Internet Caucus----but one of them actually was FROM THAT CAUCUS!!! Since the four were similar it didn't seem the obvious choice to refer it back to that caucus but, to elminate any concern about favoritism, I will also make sure that staff sends these 4 similar resolutions back to the Computer and Internet Caucus and  request that they report their findings back to the Resolutions Commiittee.

5) With regard to your absurd claim that somehow this decision was made to cater to AT&T and we knew about their opposition: a) see above reference to Black helicopter Caucus, b) I am the one who suggested we refer this to the Labor Caucus and I had NEVER heard the AT&T had issues with net neutrality and c) I suggested this because I was aware that CWA has some concerns although they were generally supportive and thought these could get vetted out at the labor caucus. I talked to Jim Gordon about it at the Convention---he said the net neutrality folks will be happy with what the Caucus will send back to Resolutions.

6) HERE'S THE KICKER--- The Resolutions Committee allows proponents of timely submitted resolutions to speak to their resolution at the Committee even though they may refer it to another Committee. This is the time for proponents to argue about why it should NOT be referred. Amazingly, NONE OF THE PROPONENTS OF THE 4 RESOLUTIONS SHOWED UP TO SPEAK TO THEIR RESOLUTION. All went to the Computer Caucus. Had even one of them showed up and made a strong pitch, the recommendation that it be referred might have been changed. The Committee changed other recommendations based on proponents comments and it might have done it here.

Now on general matters, as I mentioned I have been co-chair of this Committee for 20 years and have been a State Committee delegate since 1975, attending every state convention. Your unverified accusation that the "Party leadership" has someone poised to make a quorum call is the first time I have ever heard of such a charge. This is just another Black Helicopter Caucus fantasy. Quorum calls are made by bitter antagonists(see Mideast) or people who just plain disagree with what they think the convention is about to do. For the leadership, as you note in your post, it just causes people to get upset. I can assure you that neither Art nor myself nor Inola nor Steve nor Lisa were involved in any way with this quorum call.

As for the "phone calls" , Inola and I do go over all the resolutions with staff before the meetings. Art is never on these calls. Art has never asked either Inola and I to kill or table or refer a resolution. The phone calls are designed primarily to make sure the Committee works efficiently. With over 100 resolutions I can assure you that this effort is labor intensive--it takes alot of our time and we wouldnt do it if it wasn't necessary to allow the Committee to get through everything. Inola and I have never had a complaint from Committee members that we were somehow trying to force issues down their throats. in fact, committee members feel free to reject our suggestions--deciding often to pull various resolutions from our committee consent calendar. We also will ask some of our Committee members to take on the task of trying to draft a compromise resolution. Bob Farran and Emily thurber do this quite a bit. I did this myself on the San Onofre resolution and it was my rewrite which the Convention passed, helping to avoid a bitter battle between environmentalists and the building trades.

Next time you have some issues with the Resolutions Committee, why not try talking to Inola or myself before you post this stuff? Even main stream media call me to get my side of the story before they go to press.

Net Neutrality and Democratic Unity (0.00 / 0)
I am Brad Parker, the author of one of the Net Neutrality resolutions.

The only reason I was not able to speak before the Resolutions committee, when my resolution came up, is that I was a presiding officer in the Progressive Caucus meeting happening at the same time. Hopefully we will find a way in the future to focus on Resolutions when it is meeting by having no other conflicting meetings. Be that as it may, I am a member of the Labor Caucus and have told Ray Cordova, a leader of the Labor Caucus and the Resolutions Committee that I want to be on the Labor committee that studies and recommends on Net Neutrality. Ray assured me that I would be. I told Jim Gordon as well.

I am well schooled in every aspect of the Net Neutrality issue. I have been to DC lobbying in favor of the Markey amendment to HR5252 last year. My businesses are all on the Internet. I am a political writer on many sites on the Internet. I am a life long union member, A.F.of M. Local 47. Progressive issues are labor issues and vice versa.

AT&T wants to hoodwink labor into doing their dirty work of crushing Net Neutrality while they develop Internet 2, the privatized Internet. They will not succeed because we will prove to our union sisters and brothers that if AT&T, Verizon and the Telecoms are allowed to eradicate Net Neutrality then the entire Labor movement will be demolished along with it. That my friends is the end game, destroy labor. The Interent is the single greatest Labor organizing tool since the invention of the prinitng press. We must defend it as an open, accessible highway of information or the union movement and the Democratic Party are toast. Remember, 60% of the websites on the Internet are "political speech". That's the part the telecoms want blocked.

In our epic struggle to wrest control of the Democratic Party and then the nation from the Corporate Cronyists we will prevail. It will be a long hard road and no easy walk to freedom but we will prevail.

One last note: to those who broke the good faith bargain we achieved at the last minute on the floor to allow the so-called Democratic unity resolution to pass in exchange for our Progressive resolutions to be heard and voted on, you proved that the last bastion of discredited ideas is parliamentary procedure. Whoever planned and pulled this quorum stunt off, and we will know one day all of the names involved, you violated the spirit of the agreement and your own unity resolution by not allowing the voice of the people to be heard. We, Progressives, on the other hand, showed unity, decorum and respect for the process.

We will continue to bring the heat and the light. I thank John Hanna and Inola Henry for their conduct over the entire weekend. They were more than fair and I hope they return.

We will not backdown. We will not breakdown. We will breakthrough!

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