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Campaign 2012: Understanding The Money Game

image from assets.motherjones.comIt's not easy to get anything that feels like a complete picture of the current advo-political landscape these days, in education or more broadly. The rules have changed, the organizations are new and named confusingly, and the money is pouring in from everywhere (much of it undisclosed).  But some things are becoming clearer.  Lots of left-leaning publications are seeking to bring to light the growth and spread of conservative, big-business, and Tea Party money in the American political system -- just as they should be doing (see Mother Jones here).  And lots of center- and right-leaning publications understandably like to share details about labor spending (especially when it doesn't seem to have helped). Philanthrogeeks like Lucy Bernholz, who pointed me to the Mother Jones story in a recent blog post, go a little bit farther and describe the connections between political advocacy and social advocacy in an age in which some nonprofits are focusing on political advocacy to help their causes or being created solely for advocacy purposes.  In this new world Bernholz describes, foundations and people with lots of money are being asked to choose between three basic options:  funding programs and services (so '90s!), funding issue-based advocacy efforts (so 2008!), and partisan/ideological initiatives paid for through traditional channels like the DNC and RNC or new SuperPACs like Priorities USA on the left or American Crossroads on the right (so 2010!). Nonprofit development directors who once had only to compete with each other for money now have to compete with advocacy efforts and political SuperPACs.  She calls it the new social economy.

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