The Broken Band Of Brothers

Originally published at NationalJournal.com
By K. Daniel Glover

Every Tuesday, Daily Kos and The Majority Report at Air America Radio profile a new congressional candidate. They also steer readers and listeners to the ActBlue Web site to contribute to the upstart campaigns.

All of the chosen candidates have two traits in common: They are veterans, and they are Democrats. Some call them the “fighting Dems,” and these days the candidates rally under the Band of Brothers banner. Their ranks currently number 53 political soldiers from 51 districts in 23 states.

Every campaign has its engaging story lines, and the Band of Brothers is the first prominent one of 2006. In addition to Daily Kos, blogs like Blue Force and MyDD have helped push the story into major media outlets. At least one blogger is on the board of the Band of Brothers political action committee, and two other PACs — Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and Vet PAC — also are behind the effort.

But weeks before the nation’s first primary (in Illinois on March 21), the band already has been broken: Three fighting Dems have laid down their arms. The only question now is how much staying power their comrades will have.

The most significant blow came this month when a bitter Paul Hackett withdrew from the Ohio Senate race. He blamed the Democratic establishment in Washington for undermining his candidacy in favor of fellow Democrat Sherrod Brown, currently a member of the House.

Also this month, David Ashe ended his congressional quest in Virginia’s 2nd District, opting instead for a job in the new administration of Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine. And Bryan Lentz halted his campaign in Pennsylvania’s 7th District when another veteran, Vice Adm. Joseph Sestak, decided to run.

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Somebody’s Got Your Number

Originally published at NationalJournal.com
By K. Daniel Glover

Sometimes it takes an unrelenting blog swarm to push an issue onto the public stage; other times, it just takes a blogger with a penchant for publicity stunts. The latter approach worked brilliantly for John Aravosis of AMERICAblog in his quest to ignite a debate about cellular telephone privacy.

Aravosis began his crusade a few weeks ago, after reading a Chicago Sun-Times article about how easily cell phone records can be bought online. The story moved him to buy some of his own records, but when that didn’t stir enough outrage, he bought the records of a political celebrity: 2004 Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark.

That move did the trick. Suddenly, important people wanted to talk about cell-phone privacy — and do something quickly to protect it. Major media outlets covered the story, members of Congress started their 2006 session by filing multiple bills on the topic, and law enforcers announced steps to halt the sales and punish violators.

“The serious traction,” said Chris Hoofnagle of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), “started with Frank Main’s article in the Chicago Sun-Times…. But then, Aravosis’ blog post made the story national.”

Aravosis, who declined to be interviewed for this article, has a knack for driving issues — and himself — into the public eye. Just last week, his blog entry about a wounded soldier who had to pay for his own body armor — and the $5,400 raised for that soldier via AMERICAblog — sparked coverage on CNN. Last year, Aravosis also fought for gay rights against both Microsoft and Ford.

Like many bloggers, Aravosis regularly builds on the work of others, often taking his cues from media coverage. But Aravosis’ aggressive, sensational tactics tend to draw more attention than the work of conventional operations in Washington.

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