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The Right Targets San Diego

While conservative organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have coordinated takeovers of state legislative agendas across the country�a reality documented in our report, Governing the Nation from the Statehouses � they are usually helped locally by a range of organizations and political networks that the rightwing have been funding for years.

One of the best recent documentations of this process of local operations was a report by San Diego's Center on Policy Initiatives entitled Target San Diego: The Rightwing Assault on Urban Democracy and Smart Government. Increasingly, urban regions are becoming the testing ground for a whole new range of tactics and CPI's report gives local leaders a blueprint on what to expect.

Along with detailing how ALEC, local think tanks like the Claremont Institute and the Pactific Research Institute, the Project for California's Future and the Reason Foundation have coordinated campaigns against progressive government in the city, the report highlights a new institutional component of the rightwing�private companies laundering federal and state government grants into rightwing lobbying campaigns.

The key player in this game in San Diego is the Performance Institute, receiving millions in federal grants, money that undergirded the Performance Institute's reports in support of Governor Schwartzenneger's privatization campaign in 2005. PI's head Carl DeMaio also set up the San Diego Citizens Budget Project to derail progressive initiatives by the recently elected progressive majority on the city council, an effort backed by a well-funded 527 committee and coordinated media operation to push its agenda.

As the CPI report details, the problem for progressives is that while they often have lots of vibrant, if under-funded local organizations, they "tend to be fragmented and uncoordinated, and in many cases completely unaware of what local or citywide right wing think tanks are doing." Reading Target San Diego is a good place for progressives to get a guide to how these right wing groups operate at the local level and how to better coordinate our response to them.