Move America Forward

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Move America Forward (MAF), part of a pro-war lobby, is headed by California Republican activists, talk show hosts and staff members of the public relations firm Russo Marsh & Rogers, which has strong ties to the Republican Party. PR professional Sal Russo is the chief strategist [1] for MAF. It is a conservative 501c3 not-for-profit organization formed in early 2004 by Howard Kaloogian and "acclaimed radio and television personality" Melanie Morgan (formerly of KSFO 560 AM -- San Francisco). As a non-profit organization it is not required to reveal its funders to the public. [2].

Melanie Morgan is MAF chairman and a columnist for WorldNetDaily, and author of the book America Mourning. She gained national notoriety in the summer of 2006 when she suggested that Bill Keller, an editor of the New York Times, be killed in a "gaschamber" for alleged "treason" after the Times' reporting on US government spying on Americans. [3]

Melanie Morgan has an email address associated with the Russo Marsh & Rogers PR firm: Melanie AT RMRWest.Net.

According to its website, MAF "is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization committed to supporting America's efforts to defeat terrorism and supporting the brave men and women of our Armed Forces." [4] MAF identifies their domestic opponents as "self-loathing liberal journalists and 'Blame America First' politicians" (June 29, 2005 email, titled "The War at Home - in America"). In September 2007, MAF claimed to have "raised an estimated $2 million," and to have "about 1 million members and financial supporters," according to The Indianapolis Star. [5]

Political action committees

The MAF Freedom PAC

In September 2008, MAF launched its own political action committee, called the MAF Freedom PAC. "The PAC will elect candidates to federal office who share the groups strong support for US troops and the War on Terror," stated a press release from the group. "The PAC will focus on very competitive congressional races, but will also address the presidential race, in which Vietnam veteran John McCain is touting his support for the surge strategy and Sen Barack Obama is promoting his plan to withdraw troops from Iraq upon entering office." [1]

Our Country Deserves Better

A political action committee formed to oppose Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, called "Our Country Deserves Better," has several officers currently or formerly leaders of MAF. These include MAF co-founder and former chair Howard Kaloogian, who chairs the PAC; PR executive Sal Russo, who serves as chief strategist for both MAF and the PAC; Russo Marsh & Rogers principal Joe Wierzbicki, who serves as grassroots coordinator for MAF and coordinates the PAC; and Marine mom Deborah Johns, who is MAF's director of military relations and the PAC's spokesperson. [2]

History

MAF had its beginnings in California's October 2003 gubernatorial recall election, which movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger won. One month after the election, the Daily News of Los Angeles interviewed Sacramento-based political consultant Sal Russo. "We took on the political establishment and won, and they feel empowered," said Russo of the 120,000 recall supporters in his database. "They want to be involved. . . . We'll change the name to something like 'Move America Forward,'" and go national, he predicted. [6]

Personnel

A November 2008 meeting of the Ygnacio Valley Republican Women in California featured Mary Pearson, who is described as MAF's "Deputy Executive Director." [3]

As of late 2008, MAF's personnel included founder Howard Kaloogian, chair Melanie Morgan, acting executive director Catherine Moy, director of military relations Deborah Johns, Gold Star Mother Debbie Lee, chief strategist Sal Russo and advisory board member Lew Uhler. [4]

MAF's founding "vice chairmen are conservative radio talk show co-host Melanie Morgan and National Tax Limitation Committee founder Lew Uhler," reported PR Week in mid-2004. [7] The organization later identified Morgan and former Republican California State Assembly member Howard Kaloogian as its co-chairs, with Uhler as an advisory board member. Lt. Col. Robert B. "Buzz" Patterson was an early board member. MAF's former executive director is Siobhan Guiney, who previous to MAF worked as a California Assembly Republican staffer. [8] MelanieMorganHeadshot2006medium.JPG HowardKaloogian.jpg LewUhler.jpg SalRusso.jpg

In an August 2005 email to supporters, MAF announced that Kaloogian "has decided to step away from day-to-day involvement with Move America Forward (a 501c3 non-profit) in order to prevent any appearance of a conflict of interest." That's because, after being "approached by conservatives," Kaloogian decided to run for Congress for the seat then held by Congressman Duke Cunningham, who pleaded guilty to graft and resigned from Congress (in light of the controversy surrounding some of Cunningham's real estate deals). Kaloogian lost in the Republican primary held in 2006. [5]

Robert Dixon was identified as MAF's executive director in a May 2007 Politico story. [9] In September 2007 emails to supporters RM+R' account executive Joe Wierzbicki describes himself as MAF's "Grassroots Coordinator."

Robert Dixon is another controversial addition to a long line of controversial people involved with Move America Forward. Dixon’s earliest identification as Executive Director came in Dec. 2005 in a Wall Street Journal article [10] in which it implied he’s using Move America Forward to gain footing to run for political office. He is again accused of the same thing in a Sacramento Bee article [11] Sept. 2006. Mr. Dixon was again mentioned in a Dec. 2006 Associated Press article in which he arranged a trip for Gold Star Parents to visit the war torn country of Iraq and actively hid his plans from the Department of Defense.[12] RobertDixonActExecDirector.JPG

Connections with Russo Marsh and Rogers

MAF strategist Sal Russo is also the founder and principal at the Republican-leaning public relations / public affairs firm Russo Marsh and Rogers (RM&R) [13] - although the firm is not listed in his MAF bio. [14]

MAF and RM&R have been closely linked since MAF's inception. The MAF website address was initially registered to RM&R (see below). [15] MAF and RM&R offices are located in the same building, and calls to the two organizations are answered by the same receptionist, according to several reports. [16]

In an interview with journalist Bill Berkowitz, RM&R account executive Joe Wierzbicki said, "There is nothing secret about our relationship with Move America Forward," adding that Russo "helped set it in motion." Wierzbicki said RM&R does "all of [MAF's] public relations stuff, press releases, and radio and television ads that have been aired to date," and MAF "also uses Douglas Lorenz, the webmaster at RM&R, as their webmaster." (MAF's website makes no mention of Lorenz's involvement.)

For all this work, "RM&R doesn't charge Move America Forward any consulting fees and doesn't receive any retainer from the organization." MAF does "pay for the advertising placements from money they receive from small donors," according to Wierzbicki. [17]

Campaigns and actions

January 2009 Protest of Bill Ayers

In January 2009 MAF targeted professor Bill Ayers for public protests because of his involvement in anti-Vietnam war activism in the 1960s and 1970s. [18]

After protesting an Ayers talk at Saint Mary's College of California, a student criticized MAF for "treat[ing] us like ignorant young children who needed protection. ... There is nothing wrong with the protesting, but it was the group's patronizing attitude to 'protect' the students, their desire to keep students out of the talk, that was the real problem," wrote student Bryant West. [6]

December 2008 trip to Guantanamo Bay

MAF's Melanie Morgan, Debbie Lee, Catherine Moy, Danny Gonzalez and Ryan Gill traveled to the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in December 2008, "to honor soldiers serving away from their loved ones this holiday season." After their return, the group harshly criticized President-elect Barack Obama's stated plan to close the detention center. Morgan claimed that closing the center would "endanger American lives." She, and other members of the delegation, also complained that "Those prisoners are shown too much respect." [7]

March 14, 2008: National Press Club event smearing Iraq War opponents

MAF held a news conference Friday, March 14, in Washington, DC, on the first day of testimony in the Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan investigation. MAF will unveil a report [19] and "national television ad campaign" attempting to link opposition to the war with violence and violent attacks on recruiting centers. Speakers will include Melanie Morgan, Congressman John Carter and Kristinn Taylor of Free Republic and Gathering of Eagles. [8] Gathering of Eagles is also holding events to protest the Winter Soldier hearings. Right wing pundit Michelle Malkin has also been commenting on and criticizing the Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan hearings. [20]

September 3-15, 2007: "Fight for Victory Tour"

Move America Forward will conduct its "national, cross-country[9] 'Fight for Victory Tour'"[10] September 3-15, 2007, ending in Washington, D.C., where MAF will "have a rally with a collection of pro-troop groups" that includes Vets for Freedom (VFF), Gathering of Eagles (GOE), Military Order of the Purple Heart[11], Free Republic, Protest Warrior[12], Eagles UP!.[13], and Center for Vigilant Freedom (formerly known as The 910 Group).[14].

Also see September 15 Coalition.

May 2004: Rep. Pelosi as "Domestic Enemy"

Following U.S. House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's (Democrat from Northern California) calling President Bush an "incompetent leader," because of his handling of the Iraq War, MAF launched its first action. On May 26, 2004, MAF declared Pelosi "one of the worst examples of a 'Domestic Enemy' . . . certainly up there with the ranks of Senator Ted Kennedy and America-bashing filmmaker, Michael Moore."

MAF urged people on its email list to contact Rep. Pelosi's office, to "demand an apology," and to contact Pelosi campaign contributors E&J Gallo Winery and Wells Fargo Bank, to tell them "to stop supporting 'Bash America' politicians like Pelosi or else be willing to lose our business." [21]

June 2004: Wen Ho Lee Not Exonerated Enough

In June 2004, the California state legislature's Asian Pacific Islander Caucus, whose members are all Democrats, planned to honor Wen Ho Lee during a brief presentation on the Assembly floor. Dr. Lee is a Chinese-American scientist who was accused in 1999 of stealing U.S. nuclear secrets, amid much media hype, but was later exonerated. (The federal judge in the case and the New York Times both later apologized for what Dr. Lee went through.)

On June 4, 2004, MAF called the Caucus "left-leaning politicians [who] cannot find any words of praise for our brave troops fighting the War on Terrorism," but who "honor former accused spy Wen Ho Lee." Kaloogian questioned whether "Asian caucus members might be violating their oaths of office to defend against domestic enemies by honoring Lee." Russo told the San Francisco Chronicle, "People are innocent until proven guilty, but just because something was not proven, that's no reason to celebrate." [22]

To avoid an "awkward situation" for Dr. Lee, the Caucus changed the event to a private dinner. Nearly 100 of California's Asian community leaders called MAF "racist, right-wing zealots" for their vitriolic statements. [23]

June 2004: Getting Hot Over "Fahrenheit 9/11"

MAF garnered substantial media attention with its campaign [24] to dissuade cinemas from showing Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 (movie 2004). Its website published names, telephone numbers, and email addresses of what it said were cinema company executives, and urged its members to ask them not to show Fahrenheit 9/11, saying: "...it is important for us to speak up loudly and tell the industry executives that we don't want this misleading and grotesque movie being shown at our local cinema. We need these executives to be overwhelmed with letters, phone calls and FAXes… in addition to emails. Sending an email alone is not enough - since in some cases an aide can easily click DELETE."

According to Salon.com writer John Gorenfeld, the actual impact of the anti-Moore campaign was small. "No theaters have canceled showings of 'Fahrenheit' at this point," he wrote on June 23, 2004. "And the MAF group doesn't seem to have had the most useful intelligence in its campaign. A lowly theater payroll employee inexplicably listed on MAF's e-mail list of 'leading movie executives' is confused about how he became a central front in the War on Moore (he did not wish to be identified). As he sat in his office Friday, messages pinged into his in box. Dryly, he read aloud his favorites: 'I will never see a movie again' ... 'I will not support a business that aids a piece of crap sub-human like Moore in spreading his anti-american bullshit ...'" In addition, after the grass-roots liberal group MoveOn launched a counteroffensive, letters of support for the film outnumbered negative letters (according to an unscientific survey of five theater owners) at roughly 3-to-1. [25]

Paradoxically, MAF's campaign may have helped the movie get more screenings. Rick King, a spokesman for Kansas City-based AMC Theaters, told the San Jose Mercury News, "We're hearing from both sides of the political spectrum... Awareness of the film is very high. Our conclusion is that we should show the film, and let individuals decide if they want to see it or not." [26]

July - Nov. 2004: Democrat-Bashing Ad Campaigns

Leading up to the Democratic National Committee's convention in Boston in July 2004, MAF called the event "nothing more than a 'Blame America First' pep rally." Party leaders and convention speakers Senator Hillary Clinton, former Vice-President Al Gore, Senator Ted Kennedy and Reverend Al Sharpton "have used some of the most irresponsible language in seeking to advance their liberal political goals by trying to divide our nation and erode support for our military and the war effort," MAF wrote in an email to members.

MAF (with the help of Russo Marsh and Rogers) produced television ads to run during the convention, dismissing the party as the "Blame America crowd" and implying that they didn't "stand behind our troops, as they help move America forward from the threats of terrorism." After frantic fundraising from their email list, MAF reported on July 23rd that 30-second versions of these ads aired on CNN (nationally), MSNBC (in Boston) and FOX News (in Boston and Washington DC). [27]

The group ran similar "pro-troop/pro-America television ads," as an August 28 email from MAF's Melanie Morgan described them, during the Republican National Convention in New York City. The goal of these ads was to ensure that the "'Bash America' lobby" - including MoveOn and liberal 527 groups - would not "dominate the airwaves" during the convention.

A November 10th MAF email celebrating George Bush's electoral win stated, "Americans both rejected the defeatist mantra of the 'Blame America First' crowd and also made it clear that we would not bow to the threats of terrorism." The same message offered T-shirts for sale that featured a red and blue electoral map and read, "Democracy Beats Terrorism."

Nov. 2004 - May 2005: Against the United Nations, for Bolton

June - Aug. 2005: Radio "Truth Tour" to Iraq

On June 29, an MAF email from Melanie Morgan announced, "From July 7th to July 17th, I will join with Move America Forward Co-Chair, Howard Kaloogian, in leading a delegation of radio talk show hosts to Iraq to report the truth from our troops - the truth that the liberal news media isn't reporting." A few weeks later, O'Dwyer's PR Daily reported that the PR firm Russo Marsh and Rogers, which is closely associated with MAF, was hired by the Kurdistan Regional Government to "get 'free media' to promote the interests of the Kurds in the post-Saddam Hussein Iraq." [28] [29]

This event - which MAF called "The Truth Tour: Live from Baghdad" - was cosponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense's office of Central Command, "part of a new initiative by the DoD's Office of Media Outreach." The week prior to the tour, MAF sent an email reading, "We're determined to speak to as many soldiers and Marines as possible who are serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom and allow them to report to you on how they see the mission going... and what successes they are achieving that you might not have heard about from certain biased journalists in the news media" (July 7, 2005 email, titled, "Off to Iraq... Wish Us Safe Passage!").

The trip began "with a Friday, July 8, 'Thank You BBQ' at Central Command in Tampa, Florida," reported Billboard Radio Monitor. [30] The San Francisco Chronicle wrote of the tour, "Funded in part by the hosts, and in some cases by their stations, the tour is part morale-booster -- Morgan is bringing coffee and cookies for the troops -- and part infotainment." According to the Chronicle, the tour would only be in Iraq two days, at Camp Victory in Baghdad, followed by three days at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait. [31] The itinerary posted on a separate website devoted to the tour, "VoicesOfSoldiers.com," has schedules for tour participants broadcasting from Iraq on July 11, 12 and 13, and from Kuwait on July 14. [32]

August 2005: "You Don't Speak for Me, Cindy" Caravan

On August 16, MAF announced in an email that, the following week, they would be "leading a caravan to Crawford, Texas - to present an alternative voice to that of Cindy Sheehan, who has become the heroine of the 'Blame America First' crowd. ... We cannot allow MoveOn.org, Michael Moore and Cindy Sheehan communicate a false sense of weakness to the terrorists overseas" (August 16, 2005 email, titled, "You Don't Speak for Me, Cindy"). The caravan traveled from August 22 to the 27, stopping in more than 15 cities and towns, including Vacaville (Sheehan's hometown), Sacramento and San Diego in California; Phoenix, Arizona; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Dallas, Waco, and Crawford in Texas.

The MAF caravan featured a counter to Cindy Sheehan, Marine Mom, Deborah Johns, who the group described as "a positive alternative to the likes of Cindy Sheehan who seem determined to undermine American resolve to win the war against terrorism" (August 18, 2005 email, titled, "MUST SEE VIDEO: Pro-Troop Caravan"). MAF noted that Johns beloged to an organization called Northern California Marine Moms and that her son, William, "is a Marine who has served in Operation Iraqi Freedom." Johns told the Boston Globe, "If the building of bridges and roads and schools and power plants was portrayed in the media, it would make a huge difference. We need to stand by our men and women so they can keep their morale up." [33]

Writing in the Boston Globe, Nina J. Easton and Susan Milligan noted that, as "a conservative group called Move America Forward launched a multicity bus and car caravan under the banner 'You Don't Speak for Me, Cindy'," the White House was also doing damage control. The MAF caravan took off from San Francisco the same day that President Bush addressed the annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Salt Lake City. [34]

Website Registration

The Move America Forward website is available at two internet addresses, www.moveamericaforward.org and www.moveamericaforward.com. The .com address was first registered using this information: [35]

Registrant:
Russo Marsh & Rogers
770 L Street, #950
Sacramento, CA 95814
US
Domain name: MOVEAMERICAFORWARD.COM
Administrative Contact:
Lorenz, Douglas dlorenz@rmrwest.com
770 L Street, #950
Sacramento, CA 95814
US
916-441-3734 Fax: 916-441-6057
Technical Contact:
Lorenz, Douglas dlorenz@rmrwest.com
770 L Street, #950
Sacramento, CA 95814
US
916-441-3734 Fax: 916-441-6057
Registrar of Record: easyDNS Technologies, Inc.
Record last updated on 18-Nov-2003.
Record expires on 18-Nov-2004.
Record created on 18-Nov-2003.

After the above registration was exposed and discussed on the Internet, on 12 June 2004, the .com registration was changed to the following information, which makes no mention of RM+R and uses a mailbox address:

Registrant:
Move America Forward
P.O. Box 1863
Sacramento, CA 95812
US
Domain name: MOVEAMERICAFORWARD.COM
Administrative Contact:
Kaloogian, Howard howard@moveamericaforward.org
P.O. Box 1863
Sacramento, CA 95812
US
916-441-6197 Fax: 916-441-6057
Technical Contact:
Kaloogian, Howard howard@moveamericaforward.org
P.O. Box 1863
Sacramento, CA 95812
US
916-441-6197 Fax: 916-441-6057
Registrar of Record: easyDNS Technologies, Inc.
Record last updated on 13-Jun-2004.
Record expires on 18-Nov-2004.
Record created on 18-Nov-2003.

California Articles of Incorporation

The journalist Jackson Thoreau [36] has obtained MAF's articles of incorporation with the California Secretary of State. They show that MAF was registered by Siobhan Guiney as a non-stock, non-profit body on the 2nd June 2004. The registration address was that of Russo Marsh and Rogers. Note that the address given on the website is, however, a postal box in Sacramento. Also note that Russo Marsh and Rogers clearly had been intending to set up MAF for a long time before June 2004, since its internet address was registered in November 2003.

Contact information

Move America Forward
P.O. Box 1497
Sacramento, CA 95812
Phone: (916) 441-6197
Email: info AT MoveAmericaForward.org
Website: http://www.moveamericaforward.org
About MAF

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles

References

  1. Press release, "New PAC Will Elect Candidates to Support Troops, Strengthen National Security," MAF Freedom PAC, September 5, 2008.
  2. "Who we are," Our Country Deserves Better PAC website, accessed September 2008.
  3. Lisa Vorderbrueggen, "Political notes: Troop activist to speak," Contra Costa Times (California), November 11, 2008.
  4. "About us," Move America Forward website, accessed October 2008.
  5. William Finn Bennett, "50th: Kaloogian out, Roach decision unknown", North County Times, April 17, 2006.
  6. Bryant West, op/ed: "Protestors out of line," The Collegian, newspaper of Saint Mary's College of California, February 18, 2009.
  7. Catherine Moy, "Alert! Firsthand Account of Gitmo Detention Centers: Tour of Gitmo Detention Center Reveals Movie Nights and Overstuffed Couches, NOT Torture," News Blaze, December 23,2008.
  8. Press release, "New Report Finds Increase in Attacks Against Military Recruiters in America," Move America Forward via PR Newswire, March 13, 2008.
  9. "Itinerary for 'Fight for Victory Tour'," Move America Forward, July 15, 2007.
  10. "Pro-Troop Supporters Announce Major September Push," Move America Forward, July 15, 2007.
  11. Military Order of the Purple Heart website; Tom Poulter, National Commander.
  12. Marty Droney, "Our Boys Want to Win... Continued," AbolitionOfMan.com, July 24, 2007.
  13. Col. Harry G. Riley, Colonel's Corner: "Eagles Landing: A call to stand for freedom, September 15, 2007, Washington, D.C.," Eagles Up!, July 24, 2007.
  14. DKShideler, "Help Wanted:State Bloggers for Pro-Surge Push," Center for Vigilant Freedom Blog (The 910 Group Blog), July 24, 2007.

External resources

External articles

See Move America Forward: External articles