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Posted: 2/7/2006 1:13:11 PM EDT


www.latimes.com/news/printedition/front/la-fi-rockthevote7feb07,0,22341,full.story?coll=la-headlines-frontpage

Rock the Vote Is Stuck in a Hard Place

By Charles Duhigg, Times Staff Writer

For more than a decade, the youth-and-civics group Rock the Vote has been the coolest kid on the political playground.

Founded in Los Angeles in 1990 with the goal of politically empowering the MTV generation, Rock the Vote quickly became a cause celebre among Democratic and entertainment power brokers. At rock concerts, on college campuses and with ads featuring a near-naked Madonna, the group helped register millions of young voters.

But as it moves into its 16th year, Rock the Vote itself is being rocked by crisis.

Saddled with about $700,000 in debt, the group has cut its staff from more than 20 people in 2004 to just two today. Its president, who left last summer amid disagreement about the organization's direction, has yet to be replaced. And last month, Rock the Vote was sued for the second time in just eight months.

Fred Goldring, a music attorney and chairman of Rock the Vote's board, says dwindling donations are to blame.

"We're like the popular kid who never gets asked out because everyone thinks he already has a date," said Goldring, who presides over a board of more than 20 people, including MTV President Judy McGrath, Recording Industry Assn. of America general manager Joel Flatow and, until recently, Viacom Chief Executive Tom Freston. "Everyone thinks this group is rich because of our enormous visibility."

But lackluster fundraising is just one of Rock the Vote's problems. The organization has typically recruited young executives who embodied its mission. But according to more than half a dozen people familiar with the situation, Rock the Vote's staff did not have the business acumen to manage a large nonprofit.

Rock the Vote's former president says the group's priorities are too often buffeted by board members — many of them top music industry executives — who appear to care more about promoting artists than registering voters.

"Board members wanted to use Rock the Vote events to give their artists visibility," said Jehmu Greene, who left the organization after leading it for three years. "But sometimes it was way too expensive, or would send the wrong message, like having a rock band play when we're trying to register kids into hip-hop."

Rock the Vote was formed when Jeff Ayeroff, then co-chief of Virgin Records, hit upon the idea of using the marketing power of the music industry to register 18- to 25-year-old voters.

Music's biggest stars embraced the group, volunteering to film public service announcements that aired on MTV. Companies such as Motorola and DKNY became sponsors. Rock the Vote buses crossed the nation, signing up voters.

It's unclear what effect Rock the Vote had. In 2000, a decade after the group's founding, 9% fewer young people voted in the presidential election than had eight years before, according to the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement.

However, in 2004 — when U.S. Sen. John Kerry challenged President Bush — youth voting surged by 11% to more than 20 million ballots. Rock the Vote registered 1.4 million voters that election cycle.

That recruiting cost a lot of money, and according to filings with the Internal Revenue Service, Rock the Vote often spent more than it had raised.

From 2000 to 2004, Rock the Vote's annual fundraising grew 69%. The group raised a total of $10.4 million in that period, IRS documents show. But in the same period, the organization spent more than $11.1 million and ended two of those years owing more than it had in the bank.

"They basically ran out of money," said Mark Weiner, president of Financial Innovations, a Rhode Island-based merchandising firm. Weiner says he does not expect that the group will pay the $50,000 it owes him.

Given the cyclical nature of campaigning, political organizations often overspend during presidential election years. Still, it is unusual for a group as established as Rock the Vote to live so close to the edge.

For instance, fundraising at the League of Conservation Voters, an environmental advocacy group, fell 60% in 2003 to $1.4 million, but the group significantly scaled back spending and ended the year with $575,000.

By comparison, Rock the Vote's fundraising fell by a comparatively modest 22% in 2003, to $1.3 million, but the group spent $1.66 million, ending the year $241,000 in debt.

According to Ayeroff and other board members, the group's financial problems worsened last year, when it relocated its annual fundraising gala — typically held during Grammy week in Los Angeles — to Washington. The event drew lawmakers from both parties, but spiraling costs consumed most of the donated funds, Ayeroff said.

Just days after the gala, Rock the Vote was sued by fundraising firm ConklinScott, which the group owed $25,000. Both parties declined to discuss the pending suit.

Then last month, Los Angeles County sued Rock the Vote over a 2002 contract. The county had paid Rock the Vote $320,000 to develop an anti-discrimination public education campaign. But the organization mishandled the campaign and impeded its success, the county alleges. The suit, which seeks unspecified damages, is pending.

Aside from Goldring and Ayeroff, Rock the Vote's board members — the ultimate overseers of the group — were loath to speak on the record, if at all. Because the board includes executives from Warner Music Group, Sony BMG Music Entertainment and other music companies, those who agreed to speak requested anonymity, fearing they would damage business relationships. Several did not return repeated phone calls.

Some of those who spoke, however, attributed Rock the Vote's missteps to its staff, particularly its former president, the 33-year-old Greene.

Two current board members, one former board member and a vendor who worked closely with Greene at Rock the Vote said that she was a tireless booster whose personal story exemplified many of the group's values. Greene voted for the first time after Rock the Vote registered her at a concert.

But, those same people said, Greene failed to keep spending in check and is partially responsible for mishandling relationships with ConklinScott and Los Angeles County.

Goldring, the board chairman, generally described Rock the Vote's staff as "a bunch of really enthusiastic and passionate young people who have experience in the political world but don't have a super amount of business experience." Greene, he added, "did the best she could with the resources she had."

But after the 2004 election, the board and Greene mutually agreed to part ways.

Greene says she is proud of her tenure, during which the group enjoyed heightened visibility, fundraising growth and increased voter turnout.

Greene also said that Rock the Vote's identity — and its funding — were drawn largely from an entertainment industry in which the need to maintain business relationships can impede political organizing.

One source who requested anonymity because of an ongoing relationship with the board said Rock the Vote's board members sometimes asked that it participate in time-consuming corporate partnerships that registered few voters.

In one instance, this source said, Ayeroff, then a top executive at Warner Bros. Records, asked Rock the Vote to split the $120,000 cost of flying the Warner Music band Green Day home from an Asian tour. In return, the group would headline a Rock the Vote concert. The organization declined to pay.

Record executives say such arrangements are commonplace. But Ayeroff acknowledged that commercial motives sometimes compromised Rock the Vote's loftier goals.

"It's normal to have tensions between entertainment goals and political effectiveness," he said. "So, yeah, bad decisions were made. But we also bring relationships to the table that can make political involvement glamorous. Show me a policy wonk who can do that."

Will Rock the Vote survive?

Ayeroff, Goldring and others say yes, as long as they can jump-start fundraising. Board members are meeting with donors, and the group has brought in a successful television executive, Lawrence Lyttle, to fix what's broken for a salary of $1 a year.

But Lyttle says he has no fundraising experience. And the group's political director has announced he may take time off in the coming year. Unless more staff members are hired, Rock the Vote will be left with only one full-time employee: its webmaster.
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 1:14:19 PM EDT
Fuck them... Rock the Cock I say.
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 1:19:27 PM EDT
Thank God,
one less brainwashing medium
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 1:20:49 PM EDT
HA HA HA HA

I like the way they try to spin their failure into something positive.
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 1:21:27 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/7/2006 1:21:41 PM EDT by bastiat]
p puff diddy daddy will just have to pick up the slack.
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 1:37:17 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/7/2006 1:37:46 PM EDT by warlord]
--this is a paid political announcement--

I would like to point out how difficult it is to be a non-profit organization, that is the reason why the NRA must constant have fund raisers.

The NRA does not have the benefit of support by the general news media and the enterntaiment, and so must work twice as hard as organizations like Rock the Vote to stay afloat. The NRA was in that same boat a few years back also ie deficit spending.

Many of us dread the fact that the NRA fills our mail boxes with fund raising solicitations, but it is fact of life that they must do that otherwise they will perish like Rock the Vote.
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 1:38:18 PM EDT
ROCK ON
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 1:39:28 PM EDT

Originally Posted By bastiat:
p puff diddy daddy will just have to pick up the slack.



If there ain't no coin in it, you won't see him within a country mile....
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 1:40:44 PM EDT
They can't rock the vote because younger people are starting to wake up.
More younger folks are converting to so called country (american rock) a kick ass proud of your country form of music. instead of bash America. Rock the vote has a problem, fuck'em.
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 1:53:54 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Airwolf: Rock the Vote was formed when Jeff Ayeroff, then co-chief of Virgin Records, hit upon the idea of using the marketing power of the music industry to register 18- to 25-year-old voters.
Bwa ha ha ha ha! The 18-25 yr. olds who have their act together will register and vote on their own anyway. The only ones left are mush-heads who will watch the music industry's dog-and-pony show, but they won't show up because they're afraid of being busted for drugs by cops at the polling station.
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 1:55:07 PM EDT
It's the Bush Administration suppressing free speech.
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 1:56:04 PM EDT

Originally Posted By easy610:

Originally Posted By bastiat:
p puff diddy daddy will just have to pick up the slack.



If there ain't no coin in it, you won't see him within a country mile....



ya feel me?
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 2:38:05 PM EDT
I hope they go under.

Personally, I don't think anybody should vote before they are 21. Even that is too early for most.

Most young people at that age, don't have a clue of what is going on in the world, country etc.

Let them eat cake.
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 2:44:18 PM EDT
Maybe Soros should donate a few million to them.

Maybe we should first take them over
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 2:46:29 PM EDT

Originally Posted By ArmedAggie:

Originally Posted By easy610:

Originally Posted By bastiat:
p puff diddy daddy will just have to pick up the slack.



If there ain't no coin in it, you won't see him within a country mile....



ya feel me?



Can ye smell it?!
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 2:47:17 PM EDT
Eat it, libtards!
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 2:49:45 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/7/2006 2:51:06 PM EDT by Bubbatheredneck]

Originally Posted By Airwolf:


The organization has typically recruited young executives who embodied its mission. But ....., Rock the Vote's staff did not have the business acumen to manage a large nonprofit.




Guess the only thing the libtards do well is spend other peoples money...too bad they can't make it when the .gov doesn't give it to them.


Link Posted: 2/7/2006 2:50:00 PM EDT
Because they were trying t o push libtardian goals and agendas under the guise of young voter recruitment. Even a stoned out drunken teenager could tell.
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 2:56:27 PM EDT
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 4:04:31 PM EDT

Originally Posted By bastiat:
p puff diddy daddy will just have to pick up the slack.





Vote or die, beeyatch!
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