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Non-Partisan GOOOH Picks a Side in the Battle for Congress

Three years ago, I stumbled across a new political effort called GOOOH. Pronounced “Go,” GOOOH is an acronym standing for Get Out Of Our House, and in 2010 it is still GOOOHing. The GOOOal: to replace all 435 current members of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012 with new representatives chosen in a distinct GOOOH process.

The GOOOH process for nominating candidates for the 435 House districts envisions large numbers of GOOOH participants (citizens who register on the GOOOH website) meeting in groups to winnow a very large number of contenders for Congress in each district down to a set of 10 finalists. In the second GOOOH-around, the 10 finalists for a district decide amongst themselves who the nominee should be. Finally, these nominees will be placed on the November ballot for Congress. Ballot placement and individual GOOOH campaigns are to be paid for out of GOOOH funds generated by requiring every GOOOH member to donate $100 as a condition of participation.

GOOOH Procedural Oddities

There are some procedural oddities in GOOOH’s plans and activities which are worthy of your attention should you consider participating in the GOOOH process:

  • GOOOH members do not have a direct role in nominating candidates for their district; rather, they are to winnow down an imagined large pool of contenders in each district down to 10 finalists. If as usual in a congressional district there are not 10 contenders for nomination, then there appears to be no decision-making capacity for GOOOH members at all.
  • The GOOOH process stipulates that the 10 finalists in a district choose the winner among themselves. Presumably, each of the 10 finalists wishes to be the winner, which would make final selection of a nominee interesting to say the least. What deals will be struck in that smoke-filled room?
  • On its donations page, GOOOH declares that “All donations, including those you make now, will be applied to the first election after we reach critical mass in membership.” But later in the fine print GOOOH makes a different declaration, that “Our intent is to use 50% of funds collected for the national campaign, 30% for the marketing of GOOOH, and 10% for administrative, salary, technology, and legal costs. The final 10% will be held in reserve for as-needed expenses but should be considered part of the Administrative funds for now (i.e. 20% admin). If we exceed our goal of half a million participants, we will revisit how any excess funds will be utilized. These allocations are not yet final, and more of the early dollars will be applied to the marketing of GOOOH, but do represent the intent of the organization at this time.” According to FEC documentation (source | source), in the first half of 2010 GOOOH has received $190,517.46 in donations and made $111,185.75 in expenditures; 92.0% of those expenditures have been dedicated to marketing, 5.1% for financial transaction fees, 2.7% for website hosting and e-mail, and 0.2% for a meetup.
  • This summer GOOOH announced that its financial plan “has officially been placed on hold until spending exceeds $10,000/quarter,” but FEC documents show that in the 1st quarter of 2010 GOOOH spent $64,636.20. In the 2nd quarter of 2010 GOOOH spent $46,549.55. At the time GOOOH suspended its financial plan, spending had already exceeded $10,000/quarter.
  • Even if all of the donations to GOOOH were actually being directed to candidates and elections, with its goal of 500,000 members GOOOGH would only have $50,000,000 at its disposal. I know, I just wrote “only $50,000,000″ — but the GOOOH process gives GOOOH the financial responsibility of getting candidates on the ballot in 435 House districts across the country AND covering the costs of running a successful campaign in each of the 435 districts. That’s just $115,000 per district. Even in “safe” districts incumbents regularly spend six times as much as that on their election contests… and they’re guaranteed a spot on the ballot.

The GOOOH Substantive Litmus Test

The above are procedural matters for you to pause and consider before you sign up and send $100 to GOOOH. But there are substantive matters of concern for you to be aware of as well. GOOOH publicly declares that it has no substantive platform, that it is only a process:

we have no platform… The GOOOH process allows Americans of every political leaning to participate in the selection of their District’s Representative while being considered themselves…. Because GOOOH is a process for selecting representatives (not a “party”) we expect a person left of center to be selected in San Francisco and one right of center in Colorado Springs — but it will be up to the GOOOH members in each district to decide.

But on a page that GOOOH won’t let you see unless you first sign yourself up as a participant, GOOOH sets up a candidate screening questionnaire; those who wish to be nominated under the GOOOH process must answer “yes” to every one of 21 questions. 2 of the 21 questions are non-controversial; they only ask potential GOOOH nominees whether they meet the constitutional requirements of being 25 years old and a citizen for 7 years. 4 of the 21 questions impose extra behavioral limitations on GOOOH nominees: they must live in-district, be registered to vote there, not be immediate family members of any Congressional or Gubernatorial officeholder, and not be a felon unless they are willing to talk about their crimes. A further 12 questions ask potential GOOOH nominees to agree to set of procedural standards.

It’s the remaining 3 questions that struck me with the greatest force, because they are a private contradiction of GOOOH’s public declaration that it has no platform and is only a process. To be able to run for nomination under the GOOOH process, would-be candidates must answer “YES” to the following three questions posted on the private, members-only candidate questionnaire page:

Can you confirm that you have never been a member of, or made a donation of any amount to, the KKK or NAMBLA, and that you have not made a donation of more than $100 to the ACLU after the age of 30 or after the year 1999?

Will you promise to support our nation as a republic, not a socialistic, communistic or fascist society?

If it comes to a vote, do you commit to vote for an amendment to the Constitution that calls for term limits for the U.S. House of Representatives of two terms or less?

I could not run for nomination under the GOOOH process because I have made a number of donations to the American Civil Liberties Union since my 30th birthday. I support the ACLU because the ACLU acts to support the American freedoms listed in the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution for every person in America, whether the ACLU agrees substantively with those people or not.

Tim Cox, the founder and head of GOOOH, has written a book explaining why he feels that ACLU supporters should be banned from his nominating process:

The final reason I believe lawyers are contributing to the demise of our country and why I suggest we eliminate them from the GOOOH system is the ACLU, an organization dominated by lawyers. If the legal profession cannot find a way to control a group that argues for the “rights” of NAMBLA members, the KKK, Madelyn Murray O’Hare, and murderers, I want to try. (page 88)

O’Hare was an atheist, by the way, and for Cox she and other uppity atheists only have “rights” in quotation marks. On page 90, Cox harangues the ACLU for prioritizing free speech and free press rights and opposing obscenity laws. On both page 175 of his book and on his website, GOOOH chief Tim Cox offers up an idea for consideration:

amending the Constitution with a “law of predominant majority”, which says the “rights” of groups can be denied if they have consistently demonstrated behavior that 95% of the population considers unacceptable? For example, 95% of the population would likely vote that a public KKK rally should NOT be allowed, overriding the “right” of free speech for that particular group.

If you support freedom of speech, if you support free press, if you think that majorities should NOT be able to shut up and shut down and railroad minorities, and if for these reasons you’ve written a check to the ACLU, you cannot be a GOOOH candidate. Serious, committed, freedom-loving liberals are banned from GOOOH candidacy as a matter of substantive preference.

Are you a “socialist?” Do you support universal health care, a minimum wage, OSHA, environmental regulation, public education or public roads? Those are socialist policies. You’re excluded. You can’t run under the GOOOH banner, even if you object that “socialist” policies are not incompatible with a representative and democratic “republic.”

I’m not a communist, a fascist, a KKK member or part of NAMBLA, but on these points again the GOOOH organization is prohibiting candidates from participating because of their substantive stances.

Finally, if all of these policy and association litmus tests aren’t enough for you, GOOOH throws in another one at the end: you can’t run as a GOOOH candidate unless you agree that 2-term term limits in the House are a good idea, and unless you agree to put those limits in the Constitution.

GOOOH emerges as an organization that isn’t just pushing a particular process; it’s pushing a rather limited vision on policy and demanding that those who disagree butt out.

GOOOH hits the Road

If you have any lingering doubt that GOOOH is a group for one part of the policy spectrum and not for others, just watch what GOOOH does:

GOOOH sent a bus to the August 27, 2010 “Restoring Honor” rally dedicated to putting “God” back in politics.

Tim Cox and GOOOH are urging GOOOH members to “Participate in the Unite In Action March On DC the weekend of 9/11.” This Tea Party political protest advocates “conservative-minded” political philosophy, including, you guessed it, the return of “God” to American politics, with a push to “reverence God and the providential history of our nation.” Stephani Scruggs, president of the corporation organizing this march, explains that she’s organizing this march on Washington because she wants public school teachers to start her son’s day with Christian prayer, she doesn’t want to pay for private Christian schooling, and she doesn’t want to take the time to home school her son. GOOOH wants you to be there.

GOOOH has done outreach with and solicited and received the endorsements of the likes of Dennis Miller and Lou Dobbs. Tim Cox traveled to speak with and obtain the endorsement of GOOOH by the right-wing anti-bill-of-rights Constitution Party.

Cox and GOOOH didn’t visit Al Sharpton’s march on the same day as Glenn Beck’s. They’re not headed to the One Nation March on Washington October 2. They’re not asking for the Green Party endorsement. They’re not asking for or pushing endorsements from Dennis Kucinich or Mike Gravel.

Conclusion
Despite some procedural peculiarities I’d recommend you look into regardless of your politics, GOOOH is certainly within its rights to operate in the political sphere. There’s nothing legally wrong with an American political organization having a litmus test for candidates to prevent detractors of term limits, or supporters of the Bill of Rights for small minorities, from being able to compete for its the ballot. And certainly Tim Cox and the other GOOOH leadership are free to exercise their prerogative to conduct outreach exclusively with right-wing theocratically-minded groups. But GOOOH shouldn’t at the same time be promoting itself as a process without policy preferences. That’s simply not true, and it’s unfair of GOOOH to be asking for your donation while it hides these policy preferences behind its back.

P.S. I’d love to bring up these issues directly with the GOOOH administrators on their own website, but the GOOOH website prohibits the writing of any feedback that “Attacks or insults any Forum administrators/moderators/participants.” No matter the content of your ideas, you’re welcome to share them here.

7 comments to Non-Partisan GOOOH Picks a Side in the Battle for Congress

  • Jim,

    Thanks for the blog mention. I would like to address a couple of things in your article. GOOOH is a non-partisan entity. We have no platform, with the exception of Term Limits. Our first major radio interviews were done by Montel Williams and Lou Dobbs. Neither of these can be accused of being right-wing christian conservatives. Two of our TV interviews were Fox and Friends and MSNBC Dylan Radigan show (guest hosted by Ed Schultz). Can’t say that these two shows are on the same side of the ideological fence. We have tried reaching out to all different political groups to find those that are frustrated with the current state of the nation. We attended the Restoring Honor Rally, and are going back to DC for the weekend of 9/10 – 9/12. The reason is simple. There were and will be a lot of people there that are upset with the current state of the nation. We have no problem with going to the 10-2 rally. For me it is a matter of 3 trips to DC in less than one month.

    As for the GOOOH members not having a direct say in their candidate, that isn’t accurate. We will group the members of each district into groups of 10. They will interview each other, based on their answers to the questionnaire, their personal experiences, business and life experience, or whatever the individuals in each group think is important. They will, after a day spent interviewing each other, vote for the 2 best candidates in their pool of ten. They cannot vote for themselves. These two will go forward and represent their group at the next level. The following week there will be new but fewer groups of 10 and the process will repeat itself. (Think March Madness) We will have at least 1000 members in each district. We will go through at least 6 rounds in each district. We are currently running Mock Selection Sessions online for people to get a feel for the system and how it works. If you are interested send and email to goooh@goooh.com and request to participate in one of the sessions upcoming.

    Thanks again. If you have further questions, send it to questions@goooh.com and I will be happy to answer them.

    • Jim

      Steve A:

      Thanks for writing, but come on: you mean no platform but for term limits, and anti-“socialism” (whatever you mean by that), and anti-fascism, and anti-communism, and anti-ACLU, and anti-NAMBLA, and anti-KKK. That’s seven platform planks, some excluding small chunks of the American population and other excluding huge chunks of the American population. Read Tim Cox’s book referenced in my article and you’ll find out that he’s included some of those planks to exclude GOOOH candidates on the basis of his religious ideas.

      Second, read GOOOH’s own description of its process. It specifically distinguishes between GOOOH members and GOOOH candidates. Anyone can be a member and participate (if they give GOOOH $100, which it’s not spending according to plan), and yes, GOOOH imagines that it will have “at least 1000 members in each district.” But not anyone can be a candidate: to be a candidate, you have to answer 21 questions in the affirmative — questions which include those 7 platform planks, assuring that you’ll get only certain candidates. I believe term limits are anti-democratic and I have given a fair amount of money to the ACLU: I became one of the “members” you’ll cite in your next press release to find out about all this, but I cannot be a candidate in your process. On top of that, the actual share of members who will want to be candidates will be low; not everybody wants to go to Capitol Hill. And the GOOOH process says that members in a district don’t get to have a say in the final selection of the nominee; the 10 finalists decide which one gets to run amongst themselves: “The final ten candidates in each of the districts will select a single nominee to represent their district.” http://goooh.com/Learn.aspx?pageid=16

      Third, I don’t do the “let’s carry on our conversations in private where no one else can here thing” unless we’re talking about boils on my bottom. In fact, the whole “private” thing is a problem with GOOOH. This is a public group making one set of claims in public and another set of claims in private.

      Ed Schultz is in the middle of the ideological fence, and if you’re calling out Lou Dobbs as a leftist then, well.

    • Jim

      I forgot this last bit:

      Will GOOOH be organizing a GOOOH bus to bring people to the October 2 One Nation March on Washington, as it organized a bus to bring people to Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin’s rally?

  • Jim,

    I am the CA District 52 leader. I’ve read through a list of your concerns. I believe that excluding KKK and NAMBLA members from participating is a good thing. One only needs to come to their own conclusion as to whether or not the current two party monopoly on Congress and the White is working or not in order to decide if the GOOOH! initiative is a viable alternative or not. I think you would agree that the Tea Party movement in America and the polls indicate that Americans are NOT happy with the current construct. You might disagree, but that is okay! GOOOH! is offering an alternative to the current process. I don’t think that the issues that you’ve raised will be an issue for most Americans. I believe that the polls show that a much smaller percentage of Americans actually believe that we should transition to a socialist democracy. The country was founded on republican principles and GOOOH! stands behind those. Therefore, you are correct in your premise that people with certain beliefs may not find GOOOH! as something that they would support. I think Tim Cox is betting that there is a large segment of society that will be interested in breaking the two party monopoly and supporting a new system for nominating and electing representatives. I think that you would have to agree that current system doesn’t work very well. You’ve done a fabulous job of research and for the most part your assessment of GOOOH! membership principles of being against the overwhelming participation of lawyers in the process today is spot on. GOOOH! members, as well as the large majority of Americans abhor the principles of the KKK and NAMBLA. GOOOH! isn’t attempting to silence anyone’s voice or to restrict their freedom of speech. However, I believe that Tim spent many hours contemplating the issues that you have pointed out and he obviously decided that certain restrictions would be necessary if the process is to be a viable alternative to the status quo. I for one will no longer vote for the lesser of two evils. I for one am sick and tired of the status quo and the monopoly that the two parties have on us. Under the current system neither party can get its “reforms” implemented. The attempt to reform the Health Care system, for example, turned out to be an abortion that neither party was totally happy with. I for one was surprised that it was signed into law. It just seems to me that the country and two parties are locked in “strugglism”. That’s my term for the fight between the factions of socialism/communism and capitalism/republicanism. The American people, and GOOOH! supporters in particular, are more interested in common sense solutions to our problems. We are no longer interested in the fight between the Republicans and Democrats over socialism/capitalism or democracy/republicanism. We are a Republic and nation of individual states and individual freedom. I do not subscribe to an all powerful central government that is controlled by two parties that will not even secure our borders.

    Remain in the debate and struggle over “isms” if you’d like. I choose to support Tim Cox and GOOOH! because I believe that it is the only way for us to restore the Republic and sanity in politics.

    Yours in Freedom
    Richard Santomauro
    CA District 52 GOOOH! Lead

    • Richard Santomauro writes:

      “I believe that the polls show that a much smaller percentage of Americans actually believe that we should transition to a socialist democracy. The country was founded on republican principles and GOOOH! stands behind those. Therefore, you are correct in your premise that people with certain beliefs may not find GOOOH! as something that they would support.”

      But there is no fundamental incompatibility between democratic socialists and the principles of the founding of the American republic, so I fail to see why excluding socialists from GOOOH is proper, unless GOOOH is simply a movement for things Tim Cox likes and a movement against things Tim Cox doesn’t like.

      “That’s my term for the fight between the factions of socialism/communism and capitalism/republicanism.”

      Socialism does not equal communism. Capitalism does not equal republicanism. The four are distinct ideas. The participation of people of ALL kinds of ideas is valued in American society. The participation of people of ALL kinds of ideas is shunned by GOOOH. This is why I cannot recommend that people engage in the GOOOH process. Y’all are simply too closed-minded and closed-processed. It’s not the American way.

      “GOOOH! isn’t attempting to silence anyone’s voice or to restrict their freedom of speech.”

      Bullpuckey. GOOOH is actively restricing anyone who has paid dues to a civil liberty organization from participating. That’s silencing a large number of people’s voice in the process. And don’t try to limit discussion of ACLU membership to “lawyers.” I’m not a lawyer. I’m a proud card-carrying member of the ACLU because I admire the ACLU’s defense of American constitution liberties for everyone, not just people who say things that the ACLU particularly likes. On that count, the ACLU is much more in line with the values of the founding of the republic than GOOOH is.

  • Dwayne

    Jim – thanks for calling this out. Looking at the GOOOH, it’s a front for beyond the Tea party right wingers.

    Just look down the list of articles that get posted on their blog.
    http://usa.goooh.com/articles/

    It is just one right wing rant / nutcase job after the next, after the next. Stop pretending to be non-partisan. The way questions are phrased is one giveaway, but the article list makes it abundantly clear what is “correct thinking” among GOOOH.

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