Joe Trippi is one of the most sought-after political strategists and an enduring figure on the presidential campaign circuit. He worked for Ted Kennedy, Walter Mondale and Gary Hart and turned Howard Dean into an unlikely front runner in 2004. A former Silicon Valley consultant, Trippi was the first political operative to appreciate and then realize the potential of the internet, and as such the strategy, tactics and tools he created in 2004 have become the foundation for the many of the successful campaigns of today and tomorrow.

12 April 2011 ~ 42 Comments

Kam Kawata

I first met Kam Kawata in Maine in 1983. He was working for Senator Alan Cranston’s campaign for President, and I was working for Walter Mondale. And we were both running around Maine in a ridiculous “straw vote” convention campaign – running up and down the state of Maine like we were in the fight of our lives.

We were both young and full of life – and Kam’s dry wit made me fall in love with him even though he and his boss were a mortal threat to the Mondale campaign at the time.

Through the years we would cross paths repeatedly — working together in 1986 on Alan Cranston’s Re-election Campaign – through late last year seeing him in the “spin room” at a debate between Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown where we both shared stories and poked fun at each other for being sucked into another Jerry Brown adventure. He was so happy when Jerry won.

I loved Kam Kawata. In a business with too little honor there was nothing but a sense of uncompromising honor around him.

He was generous to a fault. I hated to be on the other side of him in a political fight. He just calmly went about his work to defeat you – but never in anger or in a way that angered.

I was shooting commercials and was jumping a plane home when I heard that Kam Kawata had passed away. At 57 Kam left at far too young an age for someone who was such a positive force in the political world.

For some reason his death hit me really hard – I am hearing that same remark from other friends who knew him. I think its because Kam was larger than life. Its just hard to imagine showing up at any California political event and not seeing him there. I am staring at my screen in disbelief.

My thoughts are with Kam’s family and friends who have lost one of the biggest hearts, best political minds and generous of friends one could ever hope to know.

11 April 2011 ~ 12 Comments

Nigerian Elections Off To A Strong Start

FULL DISCLOSURE: As someone who has been active in both advising on and overseeing elections in Africa and Nigeria, I have worked for several pro-democracy candidates in Nigeria, including President Goodluck Jonathan.

International observers have been understandably wary about the elections in Nigeria. In a country where political intimidation and violence have marred every election since they gained independence, many were expecting this election to follow suit.

But thanks to a herculean effort by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan, the Nigerian elections that kicked off over the weekend looked nothing like elections past. And those same observers who voiced concerns in recent weeks are now hailing the vote as a major turning point for the country:

“It is off to a good start. We have to acknowledge the good work of Jega and the work of Nigerian youth corps members. Nigeria should be extraordinarily proud of these young men and women who managed this process in a fair way” – US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Johnie Carson

“We observed an overall encouraging conduct of the elections, in a generally peaceful atmosphere. Our observers reported that the majority of visited polling units were operational, and that accreditation and voting were mainly conducted in a timely manner.” – EU Chief Election Observer Alojz Peterle

“It was a real election, and it was a real vote” – NDI President Kenneth Wollack

“In our experience the National Assembly elections generally took place in a peaceful and orderly manner. The required staff and stakeholders were present and the various stages of the electoral process on polling day – including accreditation, voting, counting, tabulation and declaration of results – broadly proceeded smoothly and transparently…We believe that an important step forward has been taken in Nigeria with the successful conduct of the National Assembly elections.” – Festus Mogae, former President of Botswana and Chair of the Commonwealth Observer Group

Without doubt, there is still work to be done to shore up the democratic system in Nigeria. The Presidential and Gubernatorial elections will be held in the coming weeks…and then there’s the task of governing. But both the Electoral Commission and President Jonathan have shown that they are ready and willing to do the hard work of transforming politics in Nigeria from a system that exploits ethnic and religious divisions and fears to one that ensures all Nigerians have the security and freedom to voice their views.

23 February 2011 ~ 32 Comments

Celebrating volunteerism

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by the Points of Light Institute – which was founded to promote volunteerism and civic engagement.  As part of the run-up to an event they’re hosting next month honoring President George H. W. Bush for his commitment to service, I was asked to create a video tribute to someone whose dedication to volunteerism has inspired me.  Billy Shore – the founder of Share Our Strength – immediately came to mind.  

Watch my tribute to him below and post your own tribute to someone who has inspired you:

20 January 2011 ~ 54 Comments

Going Cage-Free in Washington?

Yesterday, Washingtonians for Humane Farms, an organization supported by the Humane Society of the United States and Farm Sanctuary filed a proposed ballot initiative and started a campaign in Washington state to halt the use of battery cage confinement in egg production. It’s an exciting moment for Washington and for the entire animal welfare and cage-free movements. As Humane Society CEO, Wayne Pacelle puts it, this is to help correct a serious moral failure in Washington:

We are generally reluctant to proceed with ballot initiatives, and prefer negotiated agreements, as we achieved not too long ago with agricultural leaders in Michigan. But when talks fail, we are left without other options. There is a major moral issue at stake here. It is cruel and inhumane to cram and crowd together for life laying hens in small cages. The birds are so tightly packed that they are unable to move much at all and entirely unable to nest, dust-bathe or perch. It is a life of privation and frustration.

Perhaps the key point is, there is a commercially viable alternative: cage-free production. Many egg producers maintain cage flocks and cage-free flocks, so they know they can raise animals without keeping them locked in tiny cages. With so many retailers, such as Burger King, Safeway and others increasing their share of cage-free egg purchases, or going entirely cage-free, like Whole Foods, it’s clear that this is the trajectory of this industry. A stubborn refusal to change old and inhumane ways is not going to help the industry. All industries must adapt and innovate with changing times and attitudes, and the writing has been on the wall for a long time with this industry.

Environmental, public health and animal cruelty violations in Washington battery cage operations date back more than a decade. In 1999, Amberson Farms was fined by the state’s Department of Ecology for discharging Salmonella-polluted runoff into a salmon-bearing tributary of Lake Stevens while plaguing the neighboring community with swarms of flies and a stench that affected nearby schoolchildren. Fecal bacteria levels in the afflicted waterway were 15 times the state’s contamination limit, leading the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to threaten the egg factory with penalties of up to $27,500 a day. A cruelty complaint led sheriff’s deputies to the ghoulish discovery of thousands of hens dead or dying of starvation in a rat-infested shed with inoperable feeding and watering systems. The owner pleaded guilty to animal cruelty, yet paid only a $500 fine.

Though Amberson Farms is now gone, the problems associated with battery cage operations continue. At one massive cage facility designed to hold 1.8 million birds, Washington State University researchers found: “The fly population was rated 5 on a scale of 1 to 5…A score of 5 reflected a fly population so high that the workers could not talk to each other for fear of flies getting into their mouths.”

The status quo in Washington is bad for the birds, bad for consumers, bad for the environment, and bad for the workers. It’s time for change. We succeeded in California (Prop 2) just over two years ago, and we can do it in Washington this year. But we need your help to gather over 300,000 signatures and put together a full-scale campaign. Go to to get involved.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I consult with the Humane Society of the United States on ways to expand their online community to protect animals and confront cruelty — something very important to me and my family.

13 January 2011 ~ 31 Comments

Protecting Prop B

As I wrote a few weeks ago, the Missouri legislature is stumbling towards public outrage by threatening to overturn a citizen-backed backed ballot initiative. The proposition, just passed in November, will protect hundreds of thousands of puppies and breeding dogs ensuring basic standards like veterinary care and the ability to move around; that is, if the Missouri legislature doesn’t pass a politically misguided, anti-democratic repeal effort.

Yesterday, Humane Society of the United States CEO, Wayne Pacelle, was in Missouri making the (pretty obvious) case to Missouri lawmakers:

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said the new dog-breeding law offers more protection for the animals and has the imprimatur of voters. He said it would be unfair for lawmakers to overrule their constituents’ decision only a few months after it was approved and before the law takes effect.

“We believe that commercial dog breeding is an acceptable enterprise,” Pacelle said Wednesday. “But we insist that it be done humanely, that the animals get veterinary care, that they have enough space to move around and that they’re protected from the elements.”

The law approved by voters limits people to 50 breeding dogs and requires that the animals are fed daily, provided annual veterinary care and given unfettered access to an outdoor exercise yard. Dogs also cannot be bred more than twice every 18 months.

The law, which takes effect later this year, makes violations a misdemeanor carrying up to 15 days in jail and a $300 fine. It was approved by 52 percent of the vote in November.

Several lawmakers have filed bills this year focused on the law, including an outright repeal or exemption from the new requirements for the state’s current dog breeders.

If you’re in Missouri, tell your legislature to defend the will of the people and Missouri’s dogs. You can get involved here.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I consult with the Humane Society of the United States on ways to expand their online community to protect animals and confront cruelty — something very important to me and my family.

12 January 2011 ~ 273 Comments

Redistricting threatens a progressive powerhouse

For those of you who read this blog often, you already know that I’ve been a friend of Dennis Kucinich for a long time. He’s one of the few progressive leaders in Congress who has had the courage to stand up again and again for what he thinks is best for his constituents and his country, regardless of the political consequences.

Now Republicans in Ohio are targeting his district, hoping to erase it from the map when the redistricting battle begins. But Dennis isn’t just waiting to see what tricks the Republicans will pull, he’s already reaching out to his supporters to get them involved in the fight.

From POLITICO today:

Just before the end of the year, Kucinich sent an e-mail to his supporters headlined “My Congressional District May Be Eliminated,” warning: “We are going to have to prepare for a different kind of election, possibly in a different place because my district may be eliminated. We are going to have to organize in a different way now.”

Over the past several weeks, the former Cleveland mayor and city councilman who has never won reelection with less than 53 percent of the vote has also embraced a campaignlike approach, attending a string of city club meetings, festivals, political lunches and inaugurations of local elected officials.

…The congressman told POLITICO in an interview that he decided to get a head start on redistricting and alert his supporters to the political realities he faces. He said he expected to send another e-mail to his nationwide list of supporters in the coming days.

“My life has never been about waiting for things to happen,” Kucinich said. “The wrong thing to do is to wait until December. My district might be eliminated, and I need to start thinking about it now.”

Please join me and help support one of the few true progressives left in Congress. Sign up to stay up to date on the re-districting battle and help keep Dennis in Congress:

DISCLOSURE: I do occasional consulting work for Dennis Kucinich and am lucky to count him as a friend.

10 January 2011 ~ 96 Comments

The Sometimes Tragic Price We Pay to Live In a Free Society

Cross-posted from

Since the tragic events in Arizona unfolded on Saturday the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the six victims who were killed and the 14 others who were wounded has quickly become politicized. My own view is that it’s a mistake to politicize this attack.

One of the problems of a free society is that one crazy person can do something like this.

If we took all the steps necessary to prevent this attack we would either not be able to meet with our elected officials or a lot of people we only think are crazy would be in jail — locked up.

All this talk of “watching our language” in public debate runs counter to freedom of speech and ignores the fact that in a country of 300 million people there was only 1 person who didn’t grasp that speech is speech — that you don’t use a gun in a debate.

We can not create a free society in which there is no chance of a tragedy like this.

Joe Trippi is a Fox News contributor and political strategist who worked for Ted Kennedy, Walter Mondale and Gary Hart and turned Howard Dean into an unlikely front runner in 2004. For more visit