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Nat’l Leftwing Network Discovered Via State Open Records Law

Transparency law provides glimpse into secretive e-mail list

Thanks to a law requiring government workers in Wisconsin to turn over e-mails to citizens who ask to see them, a secretive national network of liberal ideologues and activists has been discovered. Nate Schacht of Media Trackers has been researching the work of a liberal University of Wisconsin professor who runs a left-wing think-tank at the University funded in-part with public money. Since the professor is a government employee – as are all employees of the University of Wisconsin – his e-mails are subject to the state open records law.

Here’s what Schacht found:

“A low-profile Google Group used by over 1,000 state and national leftwing leaders and activists has been discovered thanks to Wisconsin’s open records law. A Media Trackers inquiry into the actions of a University of Wisconsin professor turned up records and communications from “Gamechanger Salon,” an online community that provides a forum for leftwing activists and leaders to share tactics, strategies and opinions.

“Operating as a closed Google Group, much of what the network does is unavailable for public review. However, a document listing the network’s membership and a policy manual describing the mission and ground rules for the entity were accessible when Media Trackers discovered a non-password protected link in the emails obtained through an open records request of a University of Wisconsin professor.”

Thanks to those non-password protected links, we know that:

“Gamechanger Salon is comprised of “experienced change makers from different ‘worlds’ of the movement to share stories, honest reflections, interesting articles, and provocative ideas on how we build a stronger, more coordinated, more game-changing movement for the 21st Century” according to the policy manual.

“The group has the self-described goal of creating a ‘more coordinated’ movement for liberals across the country. Among those included on the membership list are:

Damon Silver, Policy Director for the AFL-CIO
Benjamin Joffe-Walk, Chief of Staff at Change.org
Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK
Elizabeth Rose, Director of Communications at the Economic Policy Institute
Philip Radford, Executive Director of Greenpeace until earlier this year
Ilyse Hogue, President of NARAL
Raven Brooks, Executive Director of Netroots Nation
Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee
Deirdre Schifeling, National Director Organizing & Electoral Campaigns for Planned Parenthood

“The group’s policy manual directs members to abstain from forwarding emails to recipients outside the group. It does warn, however, that with 1,000-plus members, anyone emailing the group should not say anything ‘you wouldn’t want to be subpoenaed by a Grand Jury or broadcast on Fox News.’”

The group was discovered as a result of records requests filed to learn more about the UW professor’s involvement with an unsuccessful Democrat-led effort to raise the minimum wage in Wisconsin. The “Gamechanger Salon,” however, is a network that includes media as well as policy and political types:

“In addition to the prominent leaders and activists listed above, Gamechanger Salon also includes members of the leftwing “media” such as: Amanda Terkel, Senior Political Reporter and Politics Managing Editor at The Huffington Post, Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief for The Huffington Post and MSNBC contributor, Josh Dorner, Communications Director at ThinkProgress, and Angelo Carusone, Executive Vice President at Media Matters.”

The original documents exposing the network and the full Media Trackers report are available here.

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