The Most Common Question I Get

I wanted to address a common question I always get in person and online within this blog post.  It is a question that every candidate gets often so hopefully this post will be helpful to a variety of different campaigns.  It is a question equally heard within federal, state, and even local campaigns all over America:

“How can I best help with your campaign?”

That is a great question!  Each campaign is different, but generally speaking these points are what every campaign needs to thrive.  This list is generalized quite a bit, but my own campaign runs like this.  If you want to help out, then consider these five things:

1.) Come to an event!  Campaign events (or any political events really) might be new and intimidating to people who have recently decided to become politically involved in their communities.  Keep in mind the people you will meet are similarly-minded to you – which is the whole point of assembling together – and you’ll find plenty of friendly faces.

Events are important.  They lend support to members and strengthen the political communities we have at the local level.  Whether the meetings are democratic central committee meetings, Indivisible groups, or other progressive organizations a strong and vibrant local scene is the best catalyst to change.  There is a lot of truth in the often-quoted statement, “all politics are local.”  National movements were once small local actions and built momentum over time.

Look at the events listed on my page. I speak often and if you are interested in my campaign or learning more about me as a person coming to an event is a good way to get started.

2.) Follow me on Facebook and Twitter, and participate online.  The twenty-first century has many new tools for candidates and community organizers to use and most of them are free.  In the old days communication cost money.  If you wanted to get a message across, you had to buy radio time, make a TV commercial, figure out a way to make the news media interested in you, or spend significant amounts of money on direct mail.

Things are much cheaper now, but sometimes “cheap” can be complicated in ways not many people think about.  Candidates can make Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and websites with ease and much cheaper compared to what traditional forms of communication would cost for worldwide reach.  My website and my Facebook page can reach anyone on earth that has an internet connection.

Here’s the complicated part: traditional (expensive) communication will reach people of all political affiliations and demographics whereas new (cheap) communication is largely self-selected and therefore not as good as “communicating.”  This is an unusual concept, but here is how it works with some examples:

  • People from the far political right to the far political left watch television.  The television will show commercials without involvement of the viewer.  The viewer can change the channel, but the TV station (not the viewer) decides to show the commercial and the viewer much digest enough of the message to voluntarily change the channel.
  • People from the far political right to the far political left drive cars and / or use public sidewalks.  Billboards exist in public, and if they are placed correctly they will be seen by anyone in public.  The viewer can ignore the message, but the message must be seen and then actively thought about for the viewer to choose to ignore it.  In other words, the message was digested by the viewer regardless of their political affiliation or desire to consider the information.
  • People from the far political right to the far political left receive postal mail.  Much like billboards, a postcard direct mailer to a person who is not interested in the political message may wind up in the garbage.  But – the person has to look at the postcard mailer and make a decision to trash it.  The message and the name of the candidate is in his or her head even if the postcard mailer is in the garbage, provided the postcard is designed correctly.  And the name might stick around for future reference: the die hard republican might take notice when he or she hears a democratic candidate mentioned on TV if the name is familiar.

Problematically, free communication is largely digested by a self-selected audience.  That isn’t ideal for a candidate (like me) that is trying to reach outside of the democratic bubble.  If somebody seems interested in my platform, they can search for my website on Google or look for me on Facebook.  However, this does not create interest or name-recognition out of nothing.

This is where you come in and how you can help.  “Like” my Facebook page and also “like” things I post.  Share my material to your own personal page.  Copy and paste links to my website on your page.  Re-tweet things I post on Twitter.  This helps in two ways: (a) it will allow my content to be seen by people – your Facebook friends and Twitter followers – who might not otherwise know who I am or what I stand for, and (b) multiple shares of URLs actually does good things with the algorithms that Facebook and search engines use to add exposure to content.

In other words, when you interact with my postings Facebook and Twitter then Google thinks other people might want to interact, too, so it is easier for people to see me who aren’t actually looking for it.

3.) If you are able, donate to my campaign.  Asking for money is a hard thing for me to do, because I am a DIY-minded person who has always been self-sufficient in everything.  Asking for help is anathema to me.  But the cold hard truth is campaigns costs money – federal campaigns cost lots of money especially – and money buys things that volunteering and sharing Facebook posts do not.  As I described above, winning involves a combination of name recognition and getting my message out to people who are not pre-disposed to voluntarily digest the message.  Money buys that sort of thing.  Money buys, promotional items, traditional communication, and gasoline for my car so I can get out in the community and talk to people face-to-face.

If you can’t afford to donate, don’t worry about it.  If you can, even $5 or $10 can help.  You can find out how to donate to my campaign via mail here or you can donate online via Act Blue.  Act Blue is awesome.  It is a not-for-profit that does credit card and debit card donation processing for progressive candidates and charitable organizations.  Click the button below to donate online:

4.) Volunteer with my campaign.  Volunteering is vital to any organization.  A campaign is essentially a not-for-profit, and every not-for-profit needs boots on the ground to do things that can’t be paid for and can’t otherwise be done.  Volunteering for a campaign can take many forms, from a part-time titled position (finance director, social media director, scheduling manager, etc.) to a one-time volunteer at a single event.  Even just coming to an event and looking to help out the same day is useful!  There is always a need for someone to hand out flyers, buttons, take down attendees’ information, and make sure things run smoothly.

Volunteers really are the backbone of any campaign.  If you could like to volunteer, please check out my volunteer page here and drop me a line!

5.) MOST IMPORTANT – Be a good example of change.  I always harp on this when I speak in public, but we need to stop talking to each other and get out and talk with people who do not self-identify as democrats.  Talk to your neighbors and friends that are independents, or libertarians, or apolitical, or (gasp!) republicans.  Listen to their concerns and worries about our country.  And persuade them the democratic way of doing things is not scary, harmful, and may actually address their fears!

Hopefully this helps!

Chris Minelli

Adam Kinzinger on Planned Parenthood (Spoiler: He Lied)

I was able to attend Representative Adam Kinzinger’s Q&A yesterday in Pontiac, Illinois.  It is good that I work for myself, because Mr. Kinzinger only provided 20 hours’ notice that the Q&A was going to take place.  He also scheduled it at a time that most constituents would be at work.  Nonetheless, there were about 75 people in attendance including myself.

Adam Kinzinger Q&A

David Giuliani, a reporter with the Ottawa-based The Times newspaper, noted in his coverage of the event that Mr. Kinzinger in the past has blamed the “radical left” (Kinzinger’s words) for disrupting town halls.  Mr. Giuliani also talked to the sheriff’s office, who had officers on the scene, as to why they were there.  The answer he received was, “we try to do what they request.”

I did not seen anyone in the audience that I would describe as “radical left.”  I’m unsure as to what that term means specifically, but there were no (a) anarchists, (b) rioters, or (c) Joseph Stalin impersonators present that I personally witnessed.  All I saw were concerned constituents that wanted a chance to see their representative to Congress in-person and ask questions of him after an extraordinary few months in federal politics.

This Q&A was similar in structure to the Q&A held by the League of Women’s Voters in Rockford last month.  Questions could not be directly posed to Mr. Kinzinger.  Instead, questions could be written down on a note card and submitted via a wicker basket.  Mr. Todd Wineburner, a newsman from WJEZ, acted as moderator.  He chose questions from the basket and allowed Mr. Kinzinger whatever time he needed to answer.

With no criticism to Mr. Wineburner, this format for a town hall does not allow constituents – or even a moderator – to hold Mr. Kinzinger’s feet to the fire publicly on issues important to those in attendance.  There were a few questions directed to the American Health Care Act – the “repeal and replace” bill that the House passed last month that Mr. Kinzinger voted in favor of – but Mr. Kinzinger just glossed over it.  His explanation for most bills involved his concern over the increase in deductibles and premiums under ObamaCare plans and that the AHCA is simply “misunderstood.”

(Sidebar: experts have stated that the Republicans themselves, not the ACA’s structure, are causing premiums and costs to rise because the GOP is patently lying about the ACA and is not clear on continued premium subsidies, causing chaos in the market).

I was really, really hoping for more substance in his answer.  Maybe something about his thought processes in deciding how to vote; what the bill will specifically do to premiums and deductibles (and that Mr. Kinzinger had actually thought about those nuts and bolts); and what his constituents were telling his office and whether that mattered in his final decision.  (Mr. Kinzinger noted that he had “thousands” of comments come into his offices from the phone and email but he did not elaborate further).

This is why Mr. Kinzinger’s preferred format is terrible.  The format is almost worse than not having any Q&A or town hall at all.  Whenever a (pre-screened, softball) question is not answered nobody can press for a clearer answer or in the case of a patent falsehood press for the truth.

Enter another of Mr. Kinzinger’s statements.  Mr. Kinzinger stated, twice, when asked about continued federal funding of Planned Parenthood that he would not support funding because he “does not support tax money used to fund abortions.”

Because this is a bald-faced lie, and it is irrelevant to the federal monies used to fund Planned Parenthood, and because there was no way for me or anyone else to correct the record yesterday:

Planned Parenthood receives federal money BUT THIS MONEY IS NOT USED TO FUND ABORTIONS. 

I’m actually going to say that one more time, because abortion is a hot-button topic and when public servants like Adam Kinzinger sit on a stage and blatantly lie in such a way that would inflame the passions of his constituents to where a reasonable discussion based on facts and not feelings cannot occur, it makes me mad.

So once again, say it all together:

Planned Parenthood receives federal money BUT THIS MONEY IS NOT USED TO FUND ABORTIONS. 

In reality, when the GOP states they want to withhold money from Planned Parenthood they are saying something that is much more complicated than merely stopping (imaginary) government checks from being sent to Planned Parenthood’s mailbox.  There is no line-item for Planned Parenthood in the federal budget.  Rather, federal money that gets to Planned Parenthood is from government reimbursement for preventative care.

This is how that works.  Planned Parenthood is a not-for-profit organization that provides all sorts of low-cost services to women that encompass all kinds of preventative care in addition to procedures such as those that terminate pregnancies.  Because of Planned Parenthood’s lost cost / not-for-profit nature, 60% of patients that seek preventative care are recipients of government aid such as Medicaid.

A is a low-income woman who receives Medicaid benefits.  A desires a pap smear and birth control (whether for contraceptive purposes or for hormone regulation) because she understands her health requires these things.  She goes to Planned Parenthood because it is convenient and she does not need to make a co-pay for necessary preventative services.  A gets the preventative services; these services are billed to Medicaid (just like private insurance would be billed); the state A lives in pays the bill; and eventually the federal government reimburses the state for the Medicaid costs. 

Here is a handy chart (from the good folks at Planned Parenthood Action Fund) to explain how the federal monies that do get to Planned Parenthood actually get to Planned Parenthood.  Let’s repeat our bold text from above once again: Planned Parenthood receives federal money BUT THIS MONEY IS NOT USED TO FUND ABORTIONS.

So to recap: federal money is eventually used to repay Planned Parenthood for preventative services much like private insurance would pay for services at a healthcare provider’s office.

But wait!  If Planned Parenthood does in fact perform abortions, would A or any other low-income patient be able to receive a procedure and then use Medicaid to pay for it?

The answer is no because federal law prohibits it.  The Hyde Amendment, a 1976 law that prohibited federal funds from being used to fund abortions and was modified in 1994 to allow an exception for cases of rape, incest, and where the mother’s life is in danger, prohibits Medicaid funds from being used for abortion procedures.

The policy behind such a prohibition should be debated in another blog post, but let’s say it together one last time for Mr. Kinzinger’s benefit: Planned Parenthood receives federal money BUT THIS MONEY IS NOT USED TO FUND ABORTIONS.

Chris Minelli


Federal Support for C.S.A. Organizations

I am dedicated to finding new ways to reduce living expenses for working families.  Besides housing, perhaps the largest consumables expense in a family’s budget is for groceries.  According to a United States Department of Agriculture report, between the years 2012 and 2016 food costs were the third largest inflationary increase Americans faced right behind housing and health care.  The “all items” inflationary figure for the period was 4.5% and food rose disproportionately at 6.1%.

During the same period, the Bureau of Wage Statistics reports that wages rose a mere 2.3% for private industry workers in 2016 and 2.1% in 2015.

Affordable, healthy food is an issue that affects all people but workers especially.  In rural communities and increasingly in urban communities Community Supported Agriculture organizations, or CSAs, are developing to fill some of the gaps in the need for affordable, healthy food.  Generally, a CSA is an organization that grows a variety of food crops on a small scale and occasionally produces other foods, such as farm fresh eggs.  Subscribers will pay for “shares” to a CSA for a set price which covers the CSA’s operating costs.  A share then entitles the subscriber to a set portion of the productive capacity of the CSA on a weekly or a bi-weekly basis.  What a subscriber gets depends on the season, how well the crops are producing, and how many other subscribers are participating in the SCA.

Surprisingly, there is little in the way of federal support to encourage the development of CSAs in communities that do not currently have them and support CSAs where they are already established.  Generally a membership fee to become a member of a not-for-profit organization that runs a CSA would be tax deductible but share costs are not.  Further, if the CSA is not organized as a not-for-profit and does not qualify as a tax-exempt organization for whatever reason, nothing that is contributed is tax deductible.

One of the first things I would do when I get to Washington is to introduce legislation to amend the Internal Revenue Code to (a) reduce the barriers for CSAs to seek tax-exemption status; (b) provide a deduction from personal income tax for contributions made to CSAs regardless of whether the contribution is in exchange for shares of food or not, and (c) provide a financial structure to encourage the development of CSAs in urban areas through tax credits and to encourage existing rural CSAs to serve urban areas through tax deductions.

CSAs, I believe, are a direct way we as Americans can work to eliminate food insecurity in America.