Thursday, December 03, 2009

BAR: Courage's 'Obsession With Secrecy'

American citizens are blessed with the Freedom of Information Act, a tool designed to make our federal government more accountable and transparent. Similar acts exist at the state and local levels, and sunshine advocates use open government laws to curb secrecy and closed-door thinking by politicians and their cronies. Unfortunately, no such laws exist to bring much-needed transparency to Gay Inc groups and their highly-paid consultants.

Today's Bay Area Reporter prints a fantastic editorial, advocating pulling the plug on a Prop 8 gay marriage repeal in California in 2010, but the real news of the column details some of the problems with Rick Jacobs' Courage Campaign. He and his org were supposed to be the antitheses to Geoff Kors and his Equality California group, but as we've all seen in the past 12 months, the men and their orgs sure like operating without much genuine sunshine.

BAR editor Cynthia Laird lays out just a few problems with Courage:

One of Courage's faults, however, is its obsession with secrecy. We experienced that first-hand last May when the Bay Area Reporter was booted from a leadership town hall meeting in Fresno because "top secret" poll results were to be discussed – even though we had already obtained the results of the poll. Jacobs told us then that he didn't think we should use the information, saying that it gave "$86,000 worth of information to the opposition." But there was nothing earth-shattering in the findings. It was basic information that's widely known [...]

This week, Steve Hildebrand, who helped run Obama's campaign and has been working on research with Courage, told us that just because there is a high level of interest in their research doesn't mean it should be made public. And he said that Courage doesn't think it's in the best interest of the marriage equality movement to share their strategic research with the media, "as it would result in news stories that provide vital strategic information to our opponents."

So much for believing in the grassroots, transparency, and all that. Those activists who faulted the No on 8 campaign for not being transparent should be just as critical of Courage and its decision not to release its research. [...]

So we as a community need to grow up and have a more mature conversation.

If the likes of Kors, Jacobs and Hildebrand don't get their act together on really engaging the grassroots community, curbing their secrecy principles, sunshining their decision-making procedures, and stop acting like they're the only ones smart enough to have access to key research and decide how to use it, the repeal effort in 2012 won't be successful.

There won't be anything approaching a modest dose of community unity for repeal in 2010 if the betrayals of EQCA and Courage, are not publicly and forthrightly dealt with to the satisfaction of the grassroots segments of California's gay community.

Jacobs, Hildebrand and Kors need to add open meetings, streamed on the web too, to their organizing toolkit. The days when gay troops simply took marching orders from un-elected executive directors and political consultants ended a long time ago. Public engagement from the big boys with the troops, starting _now_, would do a lot to build strength for future battles.

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