San Diego Review March 1, 1996
The Political Heartbeat of America
By Dwayne Hunn
Like many organizations, People’s Lobby learned how to succeed by failing. It twice failed to recall Ronald Reagan in 1967-68; failed to qualify a Clean Environment Initiative (CEI) in 1969, then gathered 328,235 in 1971 to qualify the CEI for the November 1972 ballot. Its largest contributor was Paul Newman, and it spent about $9,000 in its qualifying campaign….
Today’s initiative campaigns can run well above several hundred thousand dollars. One of today’s campaign axioms is “get” groups and individuals to “commit” and then have your leadership push them to “contribute.” Back then People’s Lobby got each of its mostly young, volunteer and poor steering board to “commit” to contribute “thousands of signatures.” Succeeding with that approach, People’s Lobby launched the National Initiative & Referendum movement in the 70’s. Today, most campaigns hire paid signature gatherers.
Can old fashioned dedication and incorruptible leadership qualify and win an initiative campaign in today’s job concerned economy? Of the 519 initiatives that sought a ballot spot in 1994, you won’t find one that earned it the old fashioned, Peole’s Lobby way.
So how would one fund and run a campaign to enact a national initiative?
There are three major groups working to allow Americans to choose whether they want a national initiative and referendum process — former Senator Mike Gravel’s Philily II, Barbara Vincent’s National Referendum Movement, and Rick Arnold’s American Initiative Committee (AIC), which is an adjunct of his existing, successful signature gathering business.
AIC expects to go through the traditional, long and arduous Constitutional amendment process. The plan to fund that campaign that could change America’s political heartbeat mixes some creative capitalism through the Heartland Corporation.
“Heartland wants to fund AIC. Heartland wants to make sure the National I&R works. We know it takes time and effort. Rick and his people are doing what they need to do. And we are working on producing, marketing, and distributing radio shows, looking for companies to buy to increase cash flow and preparing to go public with the Heartland Corporation,” says Heartland CEO, Gerald Garcia, a veteran of 30 years of media work ranging from Capitol Cities/ABC, to Gannet to the launch team of USA Today.
What cash flow ventures is Heartland packaging to attract investors? They presently have three on-air radio shows: 1) America the Beautiful, hosted by Mike Foudy; 2) another political talk show hosted by Hugh Rodham, Hillary’s brother, who recently married California Senator Boxer’s daughter; and 3) Synergy, which talks about new age lifestyles.
Seven shows in development deal with finances, travel, car repair, hot subjects, education, women’s issues and psychology. Heartland plans to develop, market and distribute these shows, and if that requires buying, investing in or leasing satellite space, they’ll pony up to do that too.
In addition, Heartland’s initial investors are looking for high quality service oriented businesses that have exceeded the planned successes of the original founders, who now would like to cash out.
Not ignoring increased interest in educational and personal development, Heartland is in the early stages of defining its American Institute Program, whose goals include developing skills of self-help and self-esteem, so that its students become “problem solvers rather than problem creators.”
Heartland has not forgotten the traditional print media, where it believes it will have products that are “distinct and niched and will be available for the fall of 1997.”
What do you think? Does America’s heartland house enough investors interested in seeing some of their dividends from media, education and small businesses reinvested in the tools of direct national democracy? Would elected politicians invest? Well-heeled special interest groups? Politically frustrated citizens? You?