Los Angeles: August 11 - 17
(alongside the Democratic National Convention

Philadelphia: July 29 - August 4
(alongside the Republican National Convention)

This summer, while the Republicans and Democrats are holding their national conventions, a team of high-profile political leaders, concerned citizens and activists will gather for their own "shadow conventions" to address key public interest issues overlooked by the two major political parties.

These issues - campaign finance reform, poverty and the growing income gap, and the failed war on drugs - will be brought to the public's attention whether George Bush and Al Gore like it or not.

Principal organizers of the shadow conventions are: Call to Renewal, Common Cause, The Lindesmith Center, Public Campaign, and author and syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington.

Shadow Conventions: Need & Opportunity

At the traditional conventions, each party will assemble its platform, nominate a presidential candidate, and promote the party as the public's champion while casting the other as its enemy.

Beneath the pageantry of these made-for-TV events, however, there will be a serious disconnect between the parties' rhetoric and the real interests and concerns of most Americans. This disconnect has sparked a growing national desire for a new kind of politics.

Glimpses of this desire were revealed recently in the outpouring of support for John McCain, particularly among independents and non-voters, and in the willingness of thousands to hit the streets in protests of organizations they consider undemocratic. In a negative sense, this desire is evident in the growing number of disenchanted citizens turning away from the voting booth. People are both frustrated with our current politics and anxious for something new.


Held at large venues near the party convention headquarters, these shadow conventions will leverage the sharply-heightened media and public attention to politics during this time to build public awareness and support for three critical issues: campaign finance and political reform; poverty and the growing income gap; and the failed drug war, with its corresponding disproportionate incarceration of socio-economically disadvantaged Americans.

Since these are just three of the many critical issues facing our nation, we do not intend to offer a comprehensive alternative issue platform, but rather demonstrate that citizens can come together, reshape the public debate on important issues, and pave the way for change. The shadow conventions are an important step in reasserting the power of citizens in a political process increasingly monopolized by big money.

On the Sunday prior to the opening of each convention, we will hold a kick-off session and rally. There will be introductions by each convening organization, a headline speaker, and live music, food and drink. Each of the subsequent three days will be devoted to one of our three issues. There will be a broad range of speakers that include activists, experts, celebrities and average citizens who have been personally affected. Satire and parody will be used as tools of public advocacy.

While these activities are taking place in the main hall, citizen groups will be set up throughout the convention venue to provide in-depth information and training on how participants can take positive action in their communities. In addition, there will be activities that further "shadow" the major party conventions.

Finally, to share the mood and substance of the shadow conventions with people around the country who cannot attend in person, we will assemble a large-scale and professional media operation, and make as much of the shadow conventions as possible accessible to Internet users through cybercasting.

With 15,000 reporters converging in Philadelphia and then Los Angeles, only to be faced with a vacuum of news, this is a great opportunity to place our unaddressed issues front and center.

Topics & Conveners

Campaign Finance Reform:

Common Cause is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization with more than 215,000 members nationwide. For more than 30 years, Common Cause has worked for open and accountable government, for the right of all citizens to be involved in shaping our nation's public policies, and for a level playing field in our nation's political campaigns between wealthy interest groups and average citizens.

Public Campaign is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization dedicated to sweeping reform that aims to dramatically reduce the role of special interest money in America's elections and the influence of big contributors in American politics. Public Campaign is laying the foundation for reform by working with various organizations, particularly citizen groups around the country fighting for change in their states.

Poverty & The Income Gap:

Call to Renewal's mission is to invite churches and other faith-based organizations to join together in a biblical commitment to overcome poverty, dismantle racism, promote healthier families and supportive communities, and reassert the dignity of each human life. Call to Renewal forges a unified, faith-based and non-partisan voice on the most critical public issues that could shape a more fair and just society for us all.

The Failed Drug War:

The Lindesmith Center is a drug policy institute founded in 1994 to broaden and better inform the public debate on drug policy and related issues. Its guiding principle is harm reduction, an alternative approach to drug policy and treatment that focuses on minimizing the adverse effects of both drug use and drug prohibition. The Center promotes drug policies based upon common sense, science, public health and human rights.

Arianna Huffington is the author of eight books, and a nationally-recognized syndicated columnist who has been published widely on all three of the Shadow Convention issues.

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