Raise $10 million for Clinton campaign debt, urge her return
By Andrea Shea King
More than two million angry Democrats are rejecting Sen. Barack Obama as the likely Democratic nominee for the presidency this year, according to a new protest organization.
“I hate to use this word but it’s fascist, and that’s the approach they’re taking to silence any Hillary Clinton supporters,” Will Bower, co-founder of PUMA/Just Say No Deal, an exploding coalition of voters who say they have raised $10 million in just days to pay down Clinton’s campaign debt.
“Barack Obama wants to give his acceptance speech in a stadium because he intends to minimize any pro-Hillary supporter dissent. It’s not because he wants to include more people. He knows that if they pull any shenanigans at convention, the Hillary delegates will walk out, and they don’t want that to be seen or heard. They’re bringing as many Obama supporters as they can to fill that stadium. It’s fascism,” he said.
The voters who still are supporting Clinton are doing everything they can to make sure that doesn’t happen, raising an estimated $10 million since Independence Day to retire her debt.
Nearly 18 million people voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2008 presidential primaries and many of them believe their candidate was cheated out of being the Democratic nominee for president.
Now more than two million, based on donation and other records, are determined to protest the nominating process and push for an open convention in Denver this August.
“The seeds of discontent for the birth of the PUMA/Just Say No Deal movement were planted during Barack’s poor performances at the debates, the media assault on Clinton after Iowa, Obama’s arrogance on the campaign trail, and the DNC’s selective application of its own rules,” Bower explained.
“We said we are not falling in line just because Obama and (David) Axelrod and the DNC were saying ‘All right, this is over, let’s all get behind Barack Obama.’ There are plenty of us out here saying, ‘No this is not over. You have treated us very unfairly and in fact, anti-democratically,'” he said.
Bower said Hillary supporters were so incensed with the DNC’s action they wrote about it at their blogsites. The issue went viral, spreading rapidly across the Internet. One irate blogger came up with the acronym PUMA after blogging “Party Unity, My A**.” The abbreviation eventually evolved into the puma cat logo used at multiple sites.
It took only days for PUMA and dozens of other grassroots organizations and political activists to discover one another and convene a conference call. They agreed to band together and call the movement Just Say No Deal.
“We formed this coalition to give people time to say ‘Look, everything is still on the table. You still have months before November to make this decision’ ” Bower explained.
PUMA/Just Say No Deal now represents and gives voice to more than 230 grassroots organizations, blogs and millions of self- professed PUMAs intent on one mission: NOBAMA!
“On June 8th the coalition was born and within 24 hours we were on Fox News,” Bower said. Since then, he and several other coalition members have done dozens of television, radio and print interviews. And they’ve met with the Republican presumptive nominee, Sen. John McCain and his campaign advisor Carly Fiorina.
“We felt reassured after that meeting that come November, we’d be voting for McCain, but we still haven’t made that choice. We want him to work for our vote,” Bower said.
PUMA/Just Say No Deal members are pushing varying agendas and voting strategies, but the factions are united in their unwavering decision to not “fall in line” in supporting Barack Obama. For many of the disenfranchised Democrats, the choice will be John McCain. For others, it will be a third party candidate, a write-in, or no vote at all.
“A lot of us still want Hillary to get the nomination, but we all agree that none of us want Obama to be the next president,” Bower said.
“We’re letting the Democratic National Committee and other party leaders know that PUMA/Just Say No Deal members are serious. We’re not going to take this lightly and we’re prepared to vote for John McCain if need be.”
Bower said he believes his group is creating an impact with the Democratic National Committee.
“They are worried. They saw these past few weeks how much money we’re still raising for Hillary Clinton. Originally they said ‘Hillary has until the convention to pay off her debt if she wants to be on the roll call.’ Well, then we started making money for her. And then they moved it up to July 15th. So we started making a lot of money for her.”
“We started an initiative just before the 4th of July to raise money for Hillary, and so far we’ve raised approximately $10 million. Sources tell us that’s less than $5 million away from being in the black. By this weekend Hillary’s debt will be finished.”
Bower makes it clear that Sen. Clinton has not asked the organization to do anything. “We’re doing this on our own. We don’t want the DNC to use her debt as a strong-arm tactic to keep her or her supporters from having a voice at the convention. All of us are contributing what we can. None of us want Barack Obama to be the next president.”
Coalition members donate in increments of $20.08. “That way they know it’s from us,” Bower explained.
It’s not just the money giving the DNC angst.
“Some of their superstars are now having to spend all of their time addressing us specifically,” Bower said. “Donna Brazile’s (superdelegate and DNC rules committee member) job now is fighting the PUMAs. Ed Rendell created a group called Hound to address the PUMAs. So some of their best people are having to devote all of their time and energy just to address us.”
Money raised by PUMAs also doesn’t go to Obama’s campaign or the DNC coffers.
Bower also pointed to polls indicating shrinking support for Obama.
“CNN did a poll at the beginning of June that showed 1 of every 5 Clinton supporters would not vote for Obama. Well, just one month later that’s now 1 in 3. So we’re getting our numbers up and we’re growing strong. And if the DNC’s not worried about us, then they’re clueless as to this movement.”
They also credit Obama with helping their effort.
“In the last two weeks we’ve seen Obama go back on his campaign promises – FISA, campaign finance, especially the Iraq war,” Bower said.
“There is a movement afoot,” Bower confided. “It hasn’t hit the ground yet, but we want to target down-ticket Democrats who have been complicit in the DNC’s dealings these past few months. You’ll probably be hearing more about that soon. Some of Obama’s original supporters are leaving him. Eight super-delegates left Obama this week. People are realizing Obama will be a dead weight to them and that’s why these eight delegates have switched back over to Hillary’s column. And I’m expecting there’ll be more to follow.”
“He’s only the presumptive nominee. And he’s doing everything he can, the DNC is doing everything it can, to shove Hillary out of the process when she has received more votes than any primary candidate in history,” he said.
The coalition believes the Democrat leadership in Congress is supporting Obama because they want a weakened executive branch and Obama is an inexperienced, manufactured candidate who’ll have to rely on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
“Hillary won’t do that,” Bower assured.