Courage Campaign Success Stories

Learn the critical role Courage Campaign members played in passing prop. 30 and defeating prop. 32

How we did it: Courage's role in the 2012 election


The Courage Campaign was proud to play a historic role in the November 2012 General Election, from passing Proposition 30 — bringing critical revenue and groundbreaking tax fairness to California — to defeating the right wing, Citizen’s United unregulated secret money machine by beating back Proposition 32, to tremendous wins on marriage equality, including Washington State, to shaping the narrative on Romney’s record on LGBT issues. Courage Campaign members have so much to be proud of, together we have changed the course of our state and our country.

Courage Campaign members played a transformative role in these key fights, here is a summary of our work over the last few months to cross the finish line together.



Educating and turning out the base. That’s how Courage Campaign made a difference in these fights. We used our extensive online capacity and reputation as a trusted progressive organization to educate base voters, help them understand what is at stake, and get them out and voting down-ballot on Election Day. In total, Courage reached at least 323,960 likely California voters in this campaign season.
Courage Campaign always polls its hundreds of thousands of California members before taking a position on any California ballot measure. The initial polling email serves both to gauge our member's opinions and inform them about the upcoming election. Often, members are not even aware of all the various ballot measures, so the poll email also serves as an important notification. In response to this poll, our members voted overwhelmingly to support Props. 30 (93%), oppose 32 (94%) support 37 (88%), as well as Prop 34 (76%). We had our mandate to take action.
On September 13, Courage hosted it’s fall election California Progressive Convening, which was attended by dozens of groups from across the state to share information and work together to win on all the propositions and key races across the state.
On October 8 — the day before mail-in ballots began hitting the streets — Courage Campaign released our California Progressive Voter Guide. Studies show that the majority of those who vote by mail either vote immediately or wait until Election Day. The guide contained (a) the recommendations of 14 different progressive organizations (b) important deadlines, including those for voter registration and vote-by-mail requests © a version in Spanish (d) a mobile-optimized version for voters to easily access on their mobile phone to carry into the voting booth with them. 
The California Progressive Voter Guide is one of our most popular actions for each major election, as many Californians are confused about the numerous ballot measures and what they do. We feel that because the guide included not only Courage Campaign’s recommendations, but also the recommendations of 13 other progressive groups that come from a variety of backgrounds, the guide has immense value as a third-party validator for many voters.
Courage Campaign secured the participation of trusted allies such as CREDO Action, Bend the Arc: A Jewish Alliance for Justice, and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) to push the voter guide out to their membership as well. Over the course of the campaign, the Progressive Voter Guide was viewed more than 252,365 times.
We reached out to progressive and undecided voters statewide though advertisements on via Google AdWords and Facebook. We reached 1,769,586 Californians on Google and 1,896,740 Californians on Facebook for a total of 3,666,326.
On Facebook, more than 1,030,350 people interacted with one of our election-related posts. At least 59.2% of them were female and at least 18.7% were between the age of 18-34 — some people don't make their gender or age publicly available.
Courage Campaign is also known for its provocative videos, which were viewed more than 37,113 times. The most popular of these featured actor Bradley Whitford of The West Wing and explained in detail what was going on behind Props. 30 and 32, later featured on The Ed Show on MSNBC. Another ad, A Child’s World Without Prop. 30 ran in the Los Angeles media market with funding from our membership. A satirical take on the Koch Brothers and their support for Prop. 32 gathered media attention, and lastly a sly “mockumentary” about Charles Munger Jr. rounded out our efforts.
A number of well-known activists and celebrities authored emails from Courage Campaign. This is an effective tactic for convincing people who are overwhelmed with email traffic to stop and take a closer look at an email from Courage Campaign. Our authors included Kiefer Sutherland (Prop. 34), Edward James Olmos (Prop. 32), Sandra Fluke (GOTV), and Sal Rosselli (Prop. 32 for LGBT members).
Rick Jacobs personally authored four Huffington Post blog posts about the election. In one, he made the case for LGBT voters to fight Prop. 32 due to labor’s past support for LGBT causes. In another, he took on Charles Munger Jr. and the obscene spending that the wealthy have engaged in during this election cycle. And in his last, he called out a Koch-funded astroturf organizer and the media complicit in granting coverage of fake grassroots activism.
Courage Campaign is proud to have a trusted reputation as a source of voting recommendations for California progressives, and to have worked hard with our members to energize and turn out the base on these important ballot measures. We specifically targeted young voters (18-35), women, and voters in Los Angeles County. Early exit polls show that these demographics provided the margin of victory to pass Prop. 30 and defeat Prop. 32.
The Courage Campaign also joined together with an impressive coalition of grassroots activists known as the Reclaim California’s Future Coalition, an unprecedented statewide grassroots campaign to educate and turnout infrequent, minority and disenfranchised progressive voters to provide the margin of victory for Proposition 30 and to defeat Proposition 32. Courage was the online backbone of the Reclaim coalition and hosted a clearing house of 316 different events, from phone banks, to precinct walks, to rallies. Volunteers could easily search for the type of event to attend, anywhere in California and RSVP in seconds. It was the online machine that helped the coalition work. 
“Reclaim California's Future”  is a broad coalition of community groups, faith-based organizations, educators, and unions committed to restoring critical funding for schools and universities, essential services for seniors and disabled persons, and public safety, and to rebuilding the state’s crumbling roads, bridges, and economy. Steering Committee members include:  Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) Action Fund, Asian Pacific Environmental Network Action (APEN Action), Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, California Calls Action Fund, California Federation of Teachers, California Partnership, Courage Campaign, Mobilize the Immigrant Vote Action Fund, PICO California, and SEIU 1021.


Washington State

Courage Campaign, powered by our members across the country is committed to legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. With four state ballot measures pertaining to same-sex marriage and our limited capacity, we knew we could only devote a critical amount of attention to one. We wanted to focus on one measure and do it well. As a member-driven organization, in August 2012 we launched a survey of our members, asking which state they prefer we focus our biggest commitment on in November. Washington won the most support by a substantial margin and we had a mandate. Some highlights of our efforts to approve Referendum 74 and allow same-sex couples to begin to marry are:
Fundraising. Courage Campaign promised to raise at least $25,000 in direct fundraising for the campaign with the most support in our survey. We accomplished this and also raised an additional $20,062 to fund our get-out-the-vote effort. More than the fundraising numbers, we are most proud of energizing and driving members to become more active in the campaign. Courage Campaign members made up 51.5% of all contributions received by the campaign on ActBlue – an important metric of grassroots support. We are most proud of this because many campaigns seek small donors as they are “super-actives” who are willing to phone bank, post social media actions, and more.
Call-out-the-vote and Facebook-out-the-vote. Reprising our role from the May 2012 Amendment 1 fight in North Carolina, when Courage members made over 75,000 calls from home to get-out-the-vote, Courage members helped the campaign drive 116,720 GOTV calls on Election Day alone. We also collaborated with Washington United for Marriage to drive our members to use an innovative tool that matches Facebook “friends” to the daily-updated list of voters who have mailed in their ballots (Washington is all vote-by-mail), and then encourage those who have not to approve Referendum 74 and get their ballots in.
Team Courage goes to Bellevue. Courage’s online staff recruited members willing to travel to get-out-the-vote on the ground in Washington, including veterans of the 2009 No on 1 fight in Maine. Courage’s field staff vetted these members and arranged transportation and supporter housing. We collaborated with Travel for Change and one of our members on staff at JetBlue to help them get to Washington State while using our get-out-the-vote funds to cover flights, rental car, gas and other expenses. Despite Hurricane Sandy throwing a wrench into the travel plans of many, by Election Day we had a dozen volunteers working in the suburb Bellevue, in heavily Asian, fiscally conservative, but socially moderate precincts just across the lake from Seattle. Bellevue is part of King County, considered the “base” county for progressives in Washington and about 30% of the overall votes statewide. By Election Day, Courage Campaign members from San Francisco, East Bay, Fresno, Pittsburgh and DC knocked on 2,712 doors across Bellevue and made 682 phone calls to voters from the campaign office.  As of Election night, King County voted 65% to approve Referendum 74 — extremely strong numbers. We had a wonderful experience collaborating with the extremely professional Washington United for Marriage and HRC field staff on the campaign in Bellevue. As of this memo, we are cautiously optimistic on the result and ahead by about 68,000 votes, but because Washington votes by mail and ballots need only be postmarked by Election Day, there are still about 400,000 ballots yet to be counted. We’re crossing our fingers!



Mitt Gets Worse

Courage Campaign Super PAC partnered with American Bridge 21st Century to form Mitt Gets Worse, a campaign to show America how Mitt Romney is arguably even worse than George W. Bush on LGBT issues. Among our highlights:
Stories placed in such outlets as the Boston Globe, US News and World Report, Yahoo News, ABC News, MSNBC/NBC First Read, PBS, ABC's The Note, Politico, HuffPo Hill, Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Beast, Pam's House Blend, ThinkProgress, The Advocate, Raw Story, Towleroad, MetroWeekly, SDGLN, Queerty, and After Elton among others to help get our message out to undecided voters as well as energize the base.
– “one-stop shopping” Facebook Timeline on how Mitt Romney got worse on LGBT issues since 1994. American Bridge's research term undertook vast amounts of research to create the timeline while Courage Campaign engaged its vast online audience to share the tool with friends and the media, which used it as a resource over the course of the campaign.
-The Mitt Gets Worse "Oral History Project" showcasing real stories on how Mitt got worse during his political tenure in Massachusetts, from a Senate candidate in 1994 to the end of his term as governor. Courage Campaign identified compelling storytellers through colleagues and allies in Massachusetts while American Bridge managed terrific production and editing and shaped the message with our staff. Videos included stories from Rep. Barney Frank, MA State Senators and community activists who fought Romney on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, state organizational leaders who fought Romney on his efforts to abolish the LGBT Youth Commission and HIV/AIDS cuts, among others.
campaign to persuade the Log Cabin Republicans to withhold their endorsement of Mitt Romney given his horribly anti-LGBT record. While we did not persuade LCR, over 30,000 Americans co-signed our letter which garnered major media attention on Romney's anti-LGBT record, and resulted in Log Cabin Republicans holding off on their endorsement until it largely didn't matter any more just a few weeks before the election.




In Conclusion

Courage Campaign set the stage for a conversation about fair taxation and revenue over the long term, and helped make history on marriage equality. We have an immediate challenge in front of us to address the “fiscal cliff,” and we hope to bring the lessons learned in California around Prop. 30 to Washington and finally end the Bush tax cuts, bringing fiscal sanity to our nation. On marriage equality, with history made, it's time to take the next step and end DOMA and for the Supreme Court to grant equality for all of America's citizens. Courage Campaign will be front and center in those fights with the power of 750,000 members.