PART 1 OF 2CHAPTER 3
A month after their first Maui gathering, the members of the core group journeyed to the mountaintop hotel once again. Warren had arranged for a light supper, during which he suggested that they all retire early to be fresh for an intensive day's work tomorrow. Not a chance. The dining room was abuzz with lively exchanges about the events of the previous month, the diners too engrossed in their conversations to think of sleep.
"Warren, please, a man needs to shmooze," said Sol, and returned his attention to Bernard and Yoko, who were discussing ways of popularizing the Seventh-Generation Eye symbol.
Warren threw up his hands in mock despair and went over to see what Max was talking to Bill Gates about so intently.
At a corner table, Cosby and Newman were deep in thought over nearly untouched plates of lomi salad. They'd been stunned by the response to their telethon, which had been a huge success even though it flew in the face of what an adoring public expected of them. Now the need to take the next step was gnawing at them, but they still hadn't hit on an idea.
Paul speared a chunk of salmon. "Dead money," he said.
"Don't you play poker, Bill? It's what's in the pot from the guys who fold. Just think of all the vast fortunes lying around in some trust, or in stocks, bonds, money markets. They're dead, inert, going nowhere in terms of the needs of the world, or even worse, passively serving oppression. Dead money is just money making money, instead of making things people need or making things happen. We've got to find a strategy for jolting dead money into live money, something that goes beyond simple charity or donations to political campaigns that get seedier by the year. We've got to resurrect dead money!" Paul finished with a plate-rattling bang on the table.
Bill, a chronic philanthropist who'd put his own money to work funding educational projects and outreach to inner-city youth, had been listening to all this with mounting excitement. "Amen, brother!" he said. "I hear you. I'm with you now. Dead money is like a stagnant pool breeding mosquitoes. Live money is like a gurgling brook full of marine life and on its way to join a river. But you're right, charity isn't enough. Remember those 'I Have a Dream' commitments where wealthy folks pledged to pay for the college educations of seventh graders if they hung in and made it through high school? Okay, that turned dead money into live money for those kids and their futures, but against the needs of millions of children, it was a drop in the bucket, just like the money the two of us give to this or that cause."
"Yes, there's no doubt that live money can make a real difference to individuals, but the challenge is to direct it toward fundamental change. There are some good development models out there, like one I saw from the UN Development Program on the enormous jump-start effect of some forty-five billion dollars on health, nutrition, and drinking water in impoverished areas of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. That's live money on the scale we're going to need here if we're going to succeed. For starters, consider how much it would take to follow through just on Leonard's idea from our last meeting about funding congressional elections."
Across the room, Warren stood up and yawned loudly. "I don't know about the rest of you Maui mastodons, but I'm turning in."
Paul and Bill exchanged a look. "Wait a minute," Paul called as they pulled their guitars from under the table, tuned up, and broke into "This Land Is Your Land.' All joined in on the chorus.
"Great way to end the evening," Warren said. "I only wish I'd brought my ukulele. Good night, everyone. Sleep well so we can get started catapult-style at eight after the best breakfast you'll have had in a month."
With that, they all repaired to their rooms, and the star-studded Maui night descended on the slumbering future earthshakers.
The next morning, Joe was awakened by a commotion in the hall. "What the hell?" he said as he jumped out of bed and flung open his door to see Ted grinning like a maniac and shouting, "Get up! Don't let America down."
Sol's door opened. He stood there in his pajamas for a moment, taking in the scene with a scowl. "Everybody's a comedian," he said, slamming the door.
After a buffet breakfast that exceeded Warren's prediction, the group assembled around the table in the conference room.
"Good morning, all," Warren said, "and special thanks to Ted for rendering our alarm clocks unnecessary. I want to begin by saying how impressed I was by the energy and ingenuity each of you displayed during the month between our last Maui meeting and Punxsutawney Phil's unfortunate sighting of his shadow the other day. Our first order of business is a status report on your initiatives so that we're all up to speed on the latest developments. Ross, will you start us off?"
"Sure, Warren, happy to oblige. My TV presentation brought in just over five million calls, letters, and e-mails from old Perotistas -- I have to admit that I always kind of liked people calling themselves that -- and from whistle-blowers and folks with all sorts of utopian schemes, personal complaints, and good solid ideas. I've opened a small office to process them and distill the serious from the whimsical. And I'm glad I denounced the Iraq war and went to bat for POWs and MIAs, because now the veterans' groups, at least most of the ones I've heard from, will go to bat for us." Ross went on to tell his colleagues how his growing distaste for the war had drawn him closer to the Smedley Butler Brigade and their still very timely analysis. "Which reminds me," he said. "Should we consider bringing a military man into our deliberations, for credibility on issues of defense and national security?"
"I've been wondering about that too," said Paul, who'd served as a Navy gunner during World War II.
"Yes, might be a good idea," Warren said. "Someone like Anthony Zinni would be perfect. He's a retired four-star Marine general and an outspoken critic of the war, with a service record and a chestful of medals that make his patriotism unassailable. But let's table this matter for now and take it up when we've all had a chance to think it over. Meanwhile, who's next?"
Phil pulled a letter from his jacket pocket. "This is an offer from the head of NBC. He wants to give me a national talk show, and get this -- he specifically wants me to deal with injustice, hard solutions to the nation's problems, bold doings among ordinary people, and the plight of millions of Americans who get pushed around or shut out while they do the essential, grimy, everyday work that keeps the rich and famous sitting pretty on top. He says NBC wants 'a new Dr. Phil for the new burgeoning civil society.'" Phil smiled as he neatly folded the letter into a paper airplane and sailed it toward Warren. "Too late, big suit. The train has left the station. We've got much bigger fish to fry, including him. Right, Barry?"
"You bet, Phil. I had to pull some strings to get Paul and Bill's telethon on the major networks, but pretty soon we won't need them at all. Remember what A. J. Liebling said? He said the only way to have a free press is to own one. My corporation already owns a bunch of TV, cable, and radio outlets, and my staff is working on buyouts that will give us a national network of stations with strong local and regional loyalties, like WTIC in Hartford and WCCO in Minneapolis. Not that I'm buying these particular stations, but you get the idea."
Sol cleared his throat. "Me, I still prefer a good newspaper, and that ad I took out in the big dailies really paid off. For a while there, my office looked like we were running a bingo tournament," he said, and described the parade of mega- wealthy oldsters who had descended on him in San Diego, earnest men and women who were bored, depressed, resigned to leaving this Earth in an ungodly mess, until they read his message and respected the messenger. Sol was no dot-com tycoon in his forties appealing to the cane-and-wheelchair set to give back. "I've asked my staff to collate their names according to likely areas of action, geographical location, and amount pledged."
"Did you know --"
"Did I know what, Mr. Squawk-Like-a-Parrot-at-the-Crack-of-Dawn?"
"Did you know," Ted said over the laughter that erupted around the table, "that a dozen of your guys joined Billionaires Against Bullshit? We started out with thirty, and now we've got fifty-five. There'd be more, but we screened all the applicants to get rid of the ones who were too compromised by bullshit investments or just wanted to join as an ego trip. We also turned away a few foreign billionaires because they're not US citizens, but we told them to stay tuned."
"It's extraordinary, isn't it," said Bill Gates, "this desire of the older rich to make a difference in the world? I think we're really on to something here. In my own fundraising during the past month, I drew heavily on my longstanding group of wealthy men and women opposed to the repeal of the estate tax. I selected the most likely large contributors, met with them or made a personal call, and explained our undertaking in general terms, indicating that specifics are coming. Then I declared my donation and asked them to do likewise as a pledge. I was pleasantly surprised by their impatience with the stagnation of our country and by their agreement with our judgment that purposeful upheavals and realignments are long overdue. One of them, a very successful retired investment banker, and a prominent advocate of public campaign financing, even said, 'Only if the effort is full throttle, Bill, only if it's full throttle. I'm not interested in due diligence.'"
"I got some good results from friends and associates too," Yoko said, "but I also got some chronic poor-mouthing from very rich people who keep discounting their acquired wealth every year as if they're starting from scratch."
Bill Cosby was nodding in assent. "That's just what Paul and I were talking about at dinner," he said, and recounted their conversation about dead money. "We think it's a vital concept, and we're going to commission an economist to give us some hard numbers."
"Speaking of hard numbers, let's see where we stand with our finances." Warren passed a stack of cards around the table. "Over the last month, the Secretariat has collected the names of the superrich you contacted and the amounts they agreed to contribute contingent on what you yourselves offered to put up. Those contingent pledges, I'm pleased to report, total six billion dollars. Now if you'll all indicate your own contributions on these cards and pass them back, I'll do the math."
Warren collected the cards, jotted some figures on a notepad, and looked up with a broad smile. "Nine billion dollars. That gives us a total of fifteen billion for our first operating budget. Not bad," he said, thinking to himself that if his own contribution was the largest, he was also the richest, and that these people were dead serious. He'd chosen well.
"As to the nuts and bolts," he continued, "all funds donated will be forwarded to a trust escrow account within seven days. The trust will then establish two accounts under proper IRS rules, one for charitable purposes and one for lobbying and political purposes, the former deductible and the latter definitely not. Allocations from the escrow account will be based on the priorities we set as we proceed. So shall we proceed?"
"Let's," said Leonard, self-designated street person. "As you know, twenty-five thousand strong turned out for the Wall Street rally. We had sign-up tables all over for those interested in further action, and we collected about three thousand names. Of those, we've identified a hundred or so born or seasoned organizers for future events. We've analyzed in detail all the feedback from the rally -- the impressions of our people on the ground, the overheard talk in the crowd, the water- cooler reaction of the stockbrokers in their offices, the press coverage and commentary -- and I can tell you that you haven't seen anything yet. We've planted the seeds of mass rolling demonstrations, marches, and rallies across and up and down our country."
"The People's Court Society is on the move too," Joe said. "There's a wonderful flood of litigation underway, and the law schools have really gotten on board. I'd originally thought of this as a nice extracurricular activity for the students, but deans and professors have embraced it as a welcome addition to their for-credit clinical programs. As just a taste of what's in store, two hundred small claims suits have already been filed against major corporations. The law students were already trying to advise their poor clients in other clinical programs, so it was a quick shift from begging to litigation. The legal press has yet to take much notice of the coming shockwaves, but it won't be long."
"Hey, people are corporations too!" Bill Gates said to another wave of laughter. "They've been flooding my office to incorporate themselves under Delaware's generous laws, and in the process, they've learned firsthand about the double standard between corporate status and citizen status. Corporations have all kinds of privileges and immunities. For starters, as nonvoters, they can deduct their expenses when they sue and when they lobby. Citizens who are voters cannot. More on this later. For the time being, thousands of people are having fun naming their corporate selves, and the local press is having a field day covering this 'corporate explosion' in their midst. As for the other project, the one to run five corporations for public office, it's still in the planning stage, with the advisory committee preparing for their third intensive meeting. We've had inquiries about potential candidacies from a number of small corporations, but we haven't yet filtered them to see if they're just practical jokers. Initial commentary on my news conference was rich with satire and ridicule on the issue of 'personhood,' but the media braying has since abated."
"If I can jump in here," Bernard said, "there's been considerable interest from parents and teachers in my Egalitarian Clubs, but what's really engaged people is the whole issue of the public schools as instruments of corporate propaganda and commercialism. That's touched a much more sensitive nerve than corporate abuses involving consumer harms or environmental damage. We've got big companies refusing to pay their fair share of property taxes, demanding and getting abatements, and starving the local school budget; big companies advertising in the schools themselves during the twelve-minute Channel One period, pushing sugar, fat, soda, and junk food; big companies pouring garbage entertainment and violence into the minds of kids after school. There's lots of repressed rage coming from beleaguered parents who realize more and more that big companies are raising their children while they, the fathers and mothers, are at work, putting in longer and longer hours."
"But there are still plenty of kids who haven't been brainwashed," Yoko said. "Some of my favorite letters asking for CFLs were from kids who said that they knew how hard their parents worked and wanted to help them save money, or that they wanted to save energy so there'd be more for kids in other parts of the world, or that they thought the Eye was 'way cool' and loved what it stands for."
"So all in all, Yoko, how many Americans will it take to screw in your lightbulbs?" asked Ted with a Turnerian twinkle.
Yoko smiled. "All in all, Ted, my office has subcontracted for the shipment of more than three million energy-efficient bulbs, and we've got the names and addresses of everyone who requested them. That's a good list to have in terms of our other initiatives, especially those concerning energy and sustainability."
"I hope you've all seen the letter Yoko sent out," Warren said. "Even apart from the brilliance of the Eye design, it's a masterpiece. And so is your letter, Jeno."
"Thanks, Warren. For those who haven't had a chance to read it, I'll try to summarize. I wrote to the tens of thousands of businesses that signed up for the People's Chamber of Commerce, and began by cataloguing one grievance or dissatisfaction after another that many businesses have with their Washington-based trade associations. These associations have a bureaucratic drive of their own. They inflate all the terrible things the government will inflict on the industry if the money doesn't keep flowing into their coffers. They concoct outrageous demands for privileges, subsidies, and tax loopholes from Congress to justify larger budgets. They manufacture hinterland fear and frenzy, as they did with the right to sue in court, despite having no factual basis for their hype. And these trade lobbies never support national interest agendas. Shouldn't they be using their muscle to get the energy industry and the auto companies to refine their products for greater efficiency? Isn't that in their own economic interest? My letter cited example after example of how narrow, craven, and self-seeking these trade associations are, when the interests of the people of the United States should come first and foremost. But in the long run, our history demonstrates that displaying foresight and espousing principles of fairness, justice, and democracy, as the PCC intends to do, lifts all boats."
Peter raised his mug of coffee. "Hear, hear! I read your letter, Jeno, and it's a knockout. With your permission, I'd like to send a copy out to some business associates."
"Same here," came a chorus of voices, Ross describing the letter as "a clarion call," Max as "a prospectus for the future," Sol as "a challenge to the conscience of the merchant class, perfectly tuned to the audience."
"You're a hard act to follow, Jeno," Max said, "especially since I haven't had the time to expand on my experiments with civic arousal, other than to review all the popular and scholarly commentary. The anthropologist and the psychologist aren't getting along because they differ radically on the explanation for the behavior of the two audiences in Los Angeles. I told them to stop arguing and finish their reports ASAP, and then I'll decide on my next move."
Warren turned to Peter. "And what about those verbal thunderbolts you hurled at the insurance industry's tepidness or deliberate inaction on protecting lives, property, and health through loss prevention?"
"Well, after their PR flacks got done denouncing me from pillar to post, a low roar was heard, and now it's beginning to sound like an approaching typhoon of outrage from policyholders, firefighters, employees in the workplace, people all throughout the insured economy. I think I gave them a way to articulate their concerns, and I think they trusted what I said because I criticized my own golden goose. And miracle of miracles, the Senate Commerce Committee has perked up from its well-compensated slumber and announced five days of public hearings, to begin in a month. Maybe it's because the chairman is facing a rare closely contested election this year, but in any case, they've asked me to be the lead witness, and they've assured me that the committee is prepared to use its subpoena powers in abundance. That could lead to a real shake-up, especially if our group takes advantage of the coming thunder and lightning."
"Bravo, Peter." Warren consulted his notepad. "I think we've heard from everyone now, except for you, George. You got global coverage for your debate with Sedgwick, and I'm still seeing clips of it on the news. Had any takers for another debate?"
"Not a one," George said with an expressive arch of his eyebrows. "No news here, except that I'm told Sedgwick bought a spread in New Mexico and is raising ostriches."
"Good, he can put his head in the sand with them," Warren said, "and on that note we'll adjourn for lunch. There's a cornucopia of fruit, banana bread, and coconut pudding awaiting you in the dining room."
''I'll have the pastrami on rye," Sol said.
After lunch, as everyone was settling in for the afternoon meeting, a tall, dapper man in a suit and bow tie strode into the conference room.
"My friends," Warren said, "allow me to introduce Patrick Drummond, director of our Secretariat, a managerial wizard and one of my closest associates for the last twenty-five years. It's Patrick who deserves the credit for the smooth workings of our closed-circuit conferences, and it's Patrick who's been receiving all your communications for the last month. I've asked him to join us this afternoon to take notes on our discussion and collate the results."
After a cordial exchange of greetings, the group got down to hard tacks to set an agenda for action during the coming month. Hour after hour, the roundtablers worked at a furious pace, refining goals, setting priorities, allocating the human and material assets assembled during the past month's work, and deciding who would take primary responsibility in which areas. They interacted like smoothly meshing gears, expressing strong views without acrimony. They had checked their egos at Warren Buffet's door. Already predisposed to action, knowing what they wanted, drawing on their boundless entrepreneurial energy, realizing that collectively they had an unprecedented capacity to effect change, they were determined to get moving, to get the job done -- at least their part of it -- within a year. They knew that if it took longer, the opposition would have more time to mobilize and their chances of success would diminish.
A powerful new human force was being unleashed in that conference room, contrary to all cultural and psychological expectations about the rich, famous, and successful, contrary to the conventional view of human nature as greedy and self-serving. On top of that wondrously endowed mountain in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Warren's warriors felt giddy with hard-headed hope. They worked on into the evening, until Warren stood to adjourn the meeting. "I thank you all for your labors, my friends," he said. "And now, supper, silence, and sleep."
In the morning the group rose without help from Ted and gathered around the familiar round table for a working breakfast. Warren opened the meeting by passing out agenda sheets that he and Patrick had prepared overnight.
"What you see here," he said, holding up his own sheet, "is a list of the major Redirections distilled from all our previous discussions and exchanges. I continue to use the word 'Redirections' because it connotes flexibility and a sense of learning as we go. It also connotes, however unexciting, the absence of dogma, rigidity, and isms. The excitement will come in other ways, you can be sure. Your names appear next to the Redirections for which you volunteered to assume either primary or secondary responsibility during yesterday's meeting.
"These ten Redirections were chosen with an eye to their potential for amassing additional human and material assets, arousing the downtrodden, securing positive media attention, provoking reaction from the vested interests, motivating the young, highlighting solutions, cracking the mind-suppressing paradigms of the intellectual classes, enhancing countervailing challenges to the power structure, redefining patriotism in terms of civic duty, and fast-tracking some long overdue practical improvements in the lot of millions of Americans. As we move on to implementation, let's all remember the importance of replication dynamics and leveraged velocity, as discussed during Maui One."
While Warren was speaking, his colleagues had been studying their agenda sheets with evident approval.
REDIRECTIONS ACTION AGENDA
1. First-Stage Improvements (economic inequality, health, energy, food, housing -- a just society and fair economy): Max, with Jeno, Sol, and Bill C.
2. Congress: Bernard, with Leonard and Peter.
3. Electoral Reform (voters, candidates, parties, shaking up incumbents): Warren, with Bernard and Max.
4. Posterity (children, school budgets, youth clubs): Bernard and Yoko, with Ross, Paul, Bill C., and Warren.
5. Promotions (media buyouts, people's networks, staged events, theater, spectacle): Barry, Ted, and Phil, with Paul, Yoko, Bill C., and Bill G.
6. Credibility Groups (veterans, civic organizations, women's clubs, etc.): Ross, with Paul, Bill C., and Peter.
7. Sustainable Sub-economy (breakthrough companies, progressive business organizations): Sol and Jeno.
8. Access to Justice: Joe and Bill G.
9. Mass Demonstrations (rallies, marches, teach-ins, etc.): Leonard and Barry.
10. Citizens' Utility Boards (massive expansion of dues-paying civic advocacy groups): George, with Jeno and Max.
"I think each Redirection is largely self-explanatory," Warren went on, "but perhaps I should say a few words about two of them. Unlike existing Citizens' Utility Boards, our CUBs won't restrict themselves to the big power companies, but will address a broad range of consumer and public concerns. We're using 'CUB' generically, since these groups will certainly be of utility to our citizens. The Promotions Redirection represents what Patrick and I heard from all you media and performance types who kept harping on the need to dramatize our efforts in ways that will appeal to mass audiences.
"Now let me suggest a few organizational principles. First, each Redirection project will have one manager and one clerk -- that is all. Their function will be to keep things moving, locate glitches, and report any crucial logjams or opposition to the Secretariat for higher-level action. Keeping the staff slim accords with a managerial philosophy of devolution, which means always pushing the work and energy down to the community or to the best real-life platform. Otherwise we'll end up building a top-heavy apparatus, and we all know where that leads. As for support services, our Secretariat will work out budgets with your single manager and single clerk, and will arrange for task-specific teams to gather data and prepare reports as needed. The Secretariat remains the back-and-forth communications hub.
"Obviously there will be much experimentation in the coming month. Let's hope that exuberance doesn't breed too many blunders. The Redirections are designed for minimal error, with no catechism, no doctrine, just an open source philosophy with intermediate and goal-targeted compasses. Remember too, over the next month, to make waves, not tsunamis. Be very attentive to feedback and subsequent refinements. You won't have much time for this, but you ignore it at your peril. Reflexivity, right, George?
"I see that I'm making a speech here, but I can tell from your faces that you're all satisfied with our Redirections agenda. I think you'll agree that our work here is done, so with your indulgence, I'll go on with my closing remarks.
"Some of these Redirections are bucking broncos, others are slam dunks, and still others are just plain fun. They should all eventually become sheer joy. Some of them are tools for building power, while others are forms of direct pressure for substantive change like a living wage.
"Speaking of joy, I've talked to each of you privately about bringing on board Bill Joy, formerly of Sun Microsystems, which he cofounded. He's the most imaginative technical futurist thinking and writing today, and yet he's completely grounded in reality. He is not an elder like most of us, but he's wealthy enough, and without objection I'll call him to make the invitation. He is the great antidote to these techno-twits who are imperiling us with their contempt for the ethical and legal framework necessary to contain future Frankensteins. We have many skills around this table, but science and technology -- with apologies to computer wiz Max, who now calls himself a Luddite -- are not among them. That is what Joy brings to us, along with impressive foresight and an alert energy.
"One last reminder. I'm sure you all saw David Roader's column in the Post speculating about a possible connection between the recent activities of certain billionaire oldsters. Well, if that's all the astute, well-connected Mr. Roader knows, then I think our secret is safe for now, but be careful. It's fine if people make connections between us as individuals -- in fact, we want them to -- but please safeguard our acting as an entity for the time being. Public disclosure of this group would galvanize our opposition. The time will come when the opposition builds to such a point that we'll step forward in our strength and unity and enter the fray for the showdown. By then we will not be alone."
Whereupon they all drank a toast to their mighty endeavor, took leave of each other, and boarded two business jets supplied by Warren and Ted for the journey back to the mainland. The next day, a short paragraph in the Hollywood Reporter noted a sighting of Paul Newman and Bill Cosby at the Maui airport.
Monday morning in New York City, George Soros summoned his three-person action team, which he'd put on high alert well before he landed at JFK. He wanted a meeting within twenty-four hours with the prime advocates of the CUB model, Robert Fellmeth, a dynamic, prolific law professor from San Diego who'd written a report on the subject a few years back, and John Richard, a longtime CUB proponent who knew intimately the kinds of arguments used against them. By noon, George's team had made the invitations and put together a memo on the two main existing CUBs, in Illinois and San Diego, as well as all the CUBs that had been proposed but rejected. They'd also compiled a list of CUB sectors to be rapidly developed: banking, investment, and brokerage; auto, health, home, and life insurance; postal services and utilities; Social Security and income taxation; consumer, tenant, and voter rights; and anticonsumer (as in credit and software) standard form contracts. Attached was a description of the CUB structure: membership, dues, elected boards of directors, staffs of organizers, publicists, attorneys, economists, and other technically skilled people. Those solicited for voluntary participation would be reached through selected mailing lists and demographically targeted mass media, in keeping with the principle of closing the loop on the ground.
George devoured this information and waited impatiently for the four o'clock deadline for his team's report on available mailing lists and the best estimates on costs and rates of return. That's what successful, self-made people of wealth are like -- big on detail while keeping the big picture in mind. They are chronically averse to procrastination -- one definition of an entrepreneur is someone who never does anything today that could have been done yesterday -- and that trait alone gives them a major advantage over their competent but slower-paced peers.
George's team also prepared a report on how the existing CUBs had adjusted to the Supreme Court's split 1986 decision prohibiting laws or regulations that required companies to place invitational inserts in their billing envelopes. At the time, Justice Rehnquist delivered a blistering dissent in defense of the California regulation requiring such inserts, and rejected the narrow majority's ruling that the regulation violated the electric utility monopoly's First Amendment rights, specifically its right to remain silent! The tortured logic here is that if the inserts were allowed, the utility would have to rebut their consumer-oriented content. After the decision, the San Diego CUB had to go to less rewarding cold mailings, but the Illinois CUB secured passage of a law requiring state government mailings above a certain number to enclose such inserts.
On Tuesday morning, Robert and John arrived at George's office promptly at nine. George told them what he needed, fast. First, a draft invitational letter containing the basic message; he'd have his writing experts add the flash. Second, all possible leads for recruiting the best possible directors and staff for each CUB, these positions to pay good upper-middle- class salaries with benefits. Third, a plan to get the CUBs underway immediately, for an interim period of eight months, to allow the structure to get on track before the members took over to elect a board and assume other governance duties as befitted a grassroots association. Fourth, liaison with the tiny existing citizen organizations that had been working for years against various companies' abuses. All these tasks would be budgeted immediately, George said. Both men agreed to take them on.
John foresaw logistical needs that required immediate attention -- offices, legal and promotional services, a whole infrastructure for establishing enduring institutions. George, already on this, said that a three-hundred-room Washington hotel was available to house the national CUB offices. The hotel wasn't doing well, and he knew the CEO of the chain, who would sell for a reasonable price. The rooms would become offices, each with a bath. There were several conference rooms, as well as cooking and exercise facilities for the staff. Perfect. Modest renovation could be accomplished within a month.
On his flight across the country, Robert's encyclopedic mind had outlined a substantive agenda for each of the CUBs, with starting times for the items staggered and backup strategies attached. George was impressed. It wasn't even noon. He ordered lunch and champagne. The material assembled by his team of three the day before now had to be digested in detail.
Working outward, the group discussed the five-year budget line, the websites, the preliminary announcements, the estimated paid memberships over five years, the initial actions -- petitions, lawsuits, agency interventions, public hearings, reports, articles, conferences, rallies, and other kickoff activities -- and the short- and longer-range objectives, hammering out the details with precision. Robert proposed a two-year average membership objective of 1.5 million for each of the fifteen different CUBs -- some would be larger, some smaller -- with average dues coming in at $50 a year. John proposed a central service organization to handle media, accounting, Internet facilities. legal advice. etc., and to be lodged in the hotel so that the CUBs could concentrate on their substantive missions, especially intensifying member activism back home. George said to himself, "These fellows are the kind of talent and experience lying in wait that we can expect to find everywhere -- mature, experienced, short on funds, but hanging in there year after year."
The last question to be resolved was when liftoff should be and whether all the CUBs should launch at once. Everyone agreed that each CUB should have its day, with the announcements spaced two days apart to allow time for media coverage and for the opposition to get their licks in and help make even more news. The millions of letters mailed out for each CUB would be timed so that the bulk of them arrived in the middle of the national news focus and the launch of the website. George expressed hope for a 5 percent return, an unusually good number. As for liftoff, it would be in thirty days sharp, meaning right after Maui Three, though of course George didn't mention that.
Over at the Congress Project, the agenda was nowhere near as self-executing. In their initial huddle, Bernard, Leonard, and Peter tried to reduce this enormously indentured institution to human scale. The 535 men and women of Congress all had offices in DC and in their home districts or states. They had dozens of staffers enabling, scheduling, and shielding them with varying degrees of sycophancy and sincerity. Bernard and his colleagues had many years of contact with members of Congress and their top staff. Not much of it was useful for the task at hand, except to underline the importance of the multibillion-dollar buyout to replace the money of the lobbyists.
But before getting to that blockbuster foray into the real political wars, the three men attended to the infrastructure necessary to change such a mired behemoth. Money is the lubricant of incumbency, in that it helps sitting members to ward off challengers in both primary and general elections, but votes, not money, get politicians to Washington, DC, so it starts with the people back home. What do they need to know in order to elevate their expectations of congressional performance and take matters into their own hands to make it happen? Make what happen? The three agreed on this one: replace all who do not meet a minimum standard of heeding the interests of the people. Bernard estimated that fewer than 15 percent of those in Congress would survive such a cut. But what standard? That started them down a line of thought about standards of performance: standards of empowering the people back home; standards of informing the people back home through studies, website information, oversight hearings on the executive branch, and scores for voting records; standards for judicial confirmation; standards of accessibility. If, for example, more than a third of a legislator's time was spent raising campaign money during an election year, that would fall beneath the standard of accessibility. Admittedly, such standards could not be mathematically quantified, but at least they would shine a nonpartisan and institutionally focused light on Capitol Hill. The men knew that these standards, once written, would be fodder for the numerous citizen groups in Washington that were information sinks. The Congress Project would need special budgetary support for a crash effort. They called the Secretariat. Done.