CCI Action and Camp Wellstone unite!

Ross Grooters, Iowa CCI and CCI Action Fund member, attended Camp Wellstone the first weekend of August. We thought it was about time that Camp Wellstone came back to Iowa (so, we hosted it!) and so did the nearly 50 folks that attended this training dedicated to achieving a political system that puts people first.

That weekend was an extremely unique opportunity to gain practical skills in progressive political action, so we wanted to hear from this now Wellstone alumn!

Can you give us an idea of what Camp Wellstone is all about?

Camp Wellstone is an event organized in the memory of late Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone for people who wish to organize for change within the political realm. It’s a training to learn the skills need to wage progressive campaigns both inside and outside of our governing bodies. The three tracks introduced at the training are community organizing and issue ballot initiatives, managing a campaign, and running for office. At our training the groups for managing a campaign and running a campaign were combined.

Why did you participate?

For as long as I can remember I’ve been interested in politics, so I went to learn skills I could use alongside skills I’ve learned working with Iowa CCI Action.

Did Camp Wellstone meet your expectations?

I didn’t know what to expect going into the training, but I found it very engaging. Although the three day training involved some long days, time moved very quickly. Over the course of three days we had a lot of information passed on, and I learned a lot about managing and running a grass roots campaign for political office. The first rule of running a Wellstone campaign is applicable to many things in life; if it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist. What this means is you must have a plan, a roadmap, and it must be a living document which is something you can show your staff, your candidate, and your key donors. It’s your plan to win. Another key piece of the training was applicable to grassroots organizing – fundraising. You’re going to need money to wage a successful bid for office, so you’d better learn to get comfortable asking people for money. This effort starts with your friends and relatives, but quickly expands. Another take back from the training which is also very critical in grassroots organizing is working with earned media; fostering the relationships can turn the media into allies along the way.

What track did you do? Can you describe it a bit?

I attended the track designed to teach me skills which could help us win the kinds of progressive policy we want to see for the state of Iowa and the country as a whole.

Before Camp Wellstone, what did you think about the late Senator Wellstone? Did that weekend confirm your feelings in his legacy?

I didn’t know much about the legacy of the late Senator Paul Wellstone. I was impressed to learn he was one of only 23 Senators to have the courage to vote against the authorization of the Iraq war in 2002. We also learned about how, while being outspent, he won an issue driven grassroots campaign. Once elected, he continued to use his skills as an organizer and build a movement from inside of Congress. Camp Wellstone is a direct result of his organizing efforts.

How did you feel when Camp Wellstone was over?

The training was held at the Olmsted Center on Drake campus (the same place we had our Iowa CCI convention in July.) I couldn’t help but connect the words of Keith Ellison, “we’re in a movement moment,” to the training which was occurring in the same location a couple weeks later. I think running a progressive grassroots campaign is a lot like building a movement. It occurred to me after Camp Wellstone, our efforts at Iowa CCI are a natural extension of the skills needs to wage successful electoral work. The skills we learn as members, leaders and organizers at Iowa CCI and Iowa CCI Action overlap the skills needed in electoral politics. At Camp Wellstone I was just learning how to apply these skills in a different way. As a CCI Action Fund member, I enjoy holding our elected officials accountable for their actions, and challenging them to do better.

What are you planning to do with what you learned in terms of being a CCI Action Fund member?

After Camp Wellstone I have some insight into helping candidates win elections which I think are better suited for championing our issues at all levels of government. I hope to put the Wellstone training to work electing into office Iowans who share our vision of a government of by and for the people, not of by and for big money interest groups.