by Peter Freyne
It's started out over three years ago as "Dean for America," and has evolved and grown into "Democracy for America" with an H.Q. in South Burlington, Vermont, outposts in 49 states [all except Wyoming at the moment], and 600,000 members!
They called it "Birthday Bash 2007" - Friday evening's Happy Three-Year-Old Birthday Bash/Fundraiser at the ECHO Center on Burlington's waterfront. The event drew about 80 folks from near and far who have contributed time, effort, money and energy to former Gov. Howard Dean's national political star.
The 2004 presidential hopeful from Vermont did not win the Democratic Party nomination, but he is the current chairman of the Democratic National Committee [DNC] and a household word coast-to-coast!
That's Ho-Ho's younger brother James H. Dean, DFA Chair, and DFA Executive Director Tom Hughes [right] at last night's event. Not hard to tell Jim and Ho-Ho were cut from the same cloth.
Tom Hughes is a UVM grad who volunteered for Michael Dukakis back in 1988. He did advance work for Vice President Al Gore before a stint in 1998 as Executive Director of the Vermont Democratic Party. Managed Doug Racine's gubernatorial disaster in 2002, too. Can't win 'em all.
Unfortunately, the two political "stars" who were pitched as attractions in the fundraiser's invite - Sen. Bernie Sanders and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch were no-shows.
Ol' Bernardo had been described as "invited," whereas Welchie's appearance had been a sure thing. At least until Vermont's congressman ran into plane trouble in Washington. Word was Pedro the Congressman was stuck on the tarmac with the aircraft door closed, thereby preventing even an audio appearance at the Democracy for America fundraiser via cellphone.
Jimmy Dean explained to us that older brother Howard wasn't there because DFA is "a political action committee" and the event was "a fundraiser."
Older brother Howard chairs the DNC, which Jimmy explained, is also a PAC.
Apparently there's some sort of conflict in that, which would make Howard's attendance awkward, though Jimmy couldn't nail down clearly and concisely just what the conflict was. Something about an appearance of favoritism by someone in a role that demands neutrality.
Jimmy Dean also told us that DFA will be endorsing a candidate for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination by year's end. DFA will have an endorsement vote among its membership, he told the gathering at the waterfront fundraiser.
At present, DFA is busy with its "activist training program," said Dean the Younger. The key ingredient, he said, is teaching activists to communicate one-on-one effectively. That means training people to be able to communicate a message using "27 words in nine seconds while making three points."
"At the end of the day," said Dean the Younger, "it's all about leadership development."
And, oh yes, the DFA Fundraiser attracted a few impeachment supporters who had hoped to see Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch.
Though those guys were no-shows, Eliza Earle of Richmond [center], said they had plenty of "good conversation" with folks passing by both for the DFA Event and the Chew-Chew Festival.
They said they hope to catch Welch on Sunday at another Democratic Party event at the St. John's Club in Lakeside on Burlap's South End.