No blank check for Wall Street: announcing “an open letter to Congress”

No blank check for Wall Street is a group of people demanding accountability for Wall Street for its role in the 2008 financial crisis. We welcome those who oppose a bailout as well as those support a bailout with accountability.  Please see our website for more.  Our Facebook page and #nobailout on twitter are the best ways to follow events.  For earlier posts in this series, please see Jon Pincus’ page on Pam’s House Blend.  Help get the word out!

Executive summary

Partnering with MixedInk, we’re going to be working on two open letter on the Wall Street bailout

  • is addressed to Congress, with our recommendations for legislation, to be delivered this week — so please get involved now!
  • next, we’ll write a follow-on letter to the presidential candidates, with our reactions to any legislation that’s passed and thoughts about next steps, and deliver it on October 14 — the day before the presidential debate on domestic policy.

As we make progress on the letters, we’ll be using Facebook as well as other mechanisms to make sure that politicians hear our feedback.  We think they’ll listen.

Please get involved — and please help get the word out about No blank check for Wall Street!


As An Assessment of Bailout Bill Options from a Former Congressional Staffer on Naked Capitalism (ooh!) makes abundantly clear, there’s no good way to predict what will happen next with the Wall Street crisis.  In the short term, the ball’s in Congress’ hands: the next vote’s expected Thursday or Friday, and public support for a bailout is dropping.  Even if some legislation passes, that doesn’t mean the crisis or the discussions are over — an obvious next milestone is the upcoming Presidential debate on the economy, and there’s talk about a lame-duck session of Congress in December.  Looks like No blank check for Wall Street might be around for a while.  I hope the web stays up.

In last post Now what? I talked about the wiki page I set up to start letting Congress know what we think should be done.  First of all, for those who don’t know me well, I loooove wikis (1, 2), and over the last couple of years I’ve spent a lot of time experimenting with how to use them for collaborative writing.  This started at Microsoft, when the Ad Astra group did projects like an open letter to CTO Ray Ozzie and Harry Potter and the Future of Think Weeks.  Last May, at Computers, Freedom, and Privacy, I led Dear POTUS ’08.  And then of course there was Get FISA Right, which did several open letters — the first (the one Barack wrote back to) in Google Docs, subsequent ones on our wiki.

Technology moves forward, though, and lately it’s become clear that there’s a better tool for jobs like this than wikis.  MixedInk’s Netroots Platform Project involved over 150 people, and I thought the results were extremely good given the difficulty of the problem and the fact that people had never worked together before.  I participated some as part of Get FISA Right’s involvement,* and came away believing that MixedInk’s functionality like recommendations, merging planks, and voting, the software really does help people reach consensus.  Of course there were some glitches — the software’s still in beta — but I was very impressed.

So after yesterday’s post, I sent mail off to the MixedInk people and asked if we could use their platform for a couple of open letters: the first to Congress this week, and then a second one to the presidential candidates to be delivered on October 14 — right before the debate on the economy. And I’m delighted to say they said yes.  Whee!

The goal of the letter to Congress is to influence any votes this week, so it’ll focus narrowly on what we think they should do now.  Some of the early ideas that have been tossed around so far include principles like “Don’t buy bad debt with our tax money, but take assets for the people” and process suggestions like “No Secy. of Treasury involvement at all, but all through a new independent agency, w. oversight by Congress.”**  What MixedInk will help us do is take these early-stage ideas and refine them, add more, and gauge which have more or less suport in our group.

To get things going on with MixedInk, I seeded it with a suggestion from Brad DeLong that I thought was interesting: reconvene Congress after the election.  I gave it a rating of 7, “pretty good” — the wording’s not great, and there’s certainly lots of room for improvement.  Other people can rate it, edit it, add notes, or propose a revised version — and contribute their own suggestions as well.  To see it for yourself, and hopefully join in, go to the open letter page, and click on the “browse” link.

It’s always exciting for me to kick off one of these collaborative writing projects, because there’s no way to know just what the the final result will be.  Michael Glass of MixedInk said much the same to me in email: “We’re excited to see what people come up with.”  Yeah, really.

Of course once we get the letter done, we have to get people to listen to us.  Here’s where our Facebook presence will be key; as I said in the call to action:

Most politicians’ Facebook pages are usually fairly quiet. When they start seeing 10, 20, 50, 100 messages a day … they’ll take notice — and so will the media.

Even with “only” 725 people in the group, we’re not so far away from being able to do this selectively: our thread on Nancy Pelosi’s profile already has 20 posts.  As always, it’s hard to predict how rapidly we might grow; it’s currently about 20% a day without a lot of links, so that would put us up over 1000 by the end of the week.  Can we mobilize 5-10% of our members for a concerted Day of Facebook Action and recruit enough new folks to get things to go viral?  Will enough people to get it to the front page on digg?  It could work …

And maybe this’ll give us people a reason to cover us.  Of course there’s a lot of other high-profile activism going on; still, hopefully the collaboration between the #1 site in the black blogosphere (according to Electronic Village), one of the organizers of this summer’s highest-profile social networking activism campaign (me, with Get FISA Right), over 700 people on Facebook, and now the folks behind the Netroots Platform (MixedInk) will catch people’s attention.  I’ve been waiting for something interesting enough to update my press contacts about No blank check, and I think this fits the bill.  We shall see.

The important thing to notice, though, is that even if we don’t catch fire this week, we’re in an even better position for our next iteration, with the Presidential candidates.  We’ll have more people involved, and more experience with MixedInk; the press and bloggers I update will have heard about us one more time; the viral email will be continuing to percolate.  That’s the great thing about net movements: they just keep getting broader and stronger over time.

Want to be part of it?  Please get involved … and help get the word out!


*  jawboneblues led the Get FISA Right involvement, and Ronit Aviva Dancis’ Reflecting on the Platform Draft on the Huffington Post looks at whether this had any influence on the platform.

** Hmm, that one should appeal to the Fire Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Facebook group 🙂