Parent, professor and podcaster Kevin Mahoney wears many hats. He’s about to add a new one: political fundraiser and organizer. Not that he hasn’t been organizing for quite some time – Raging Chicken Press came on the scene in 2011 – and his writings and podcast have inspired many a follower to become politically involved.
Prompted by the events surrounding last year’s school board elections in Bucks County, where he lives, and neighboring counties, where many extremists were elected, Mahoney noted that key ingredients to accomplish a progressive pushback include building out a media and social movement infrastructure.
“I’ve been looking for a way to support sustainable organizing for some time,” he said.
Another very key ingredient in this equation is money and, in March of this year, the Raging Chicken Community Fund – a political action committee (PAC) made its debut. Money raised via the PAC is largely earmarked to fuel progressive candidate campaigns in local school board races and fight extremism from the right.
Across the Commonwealth, the 2021 school board elections saw, for the first time, a huge infusion of cash from right-wing PACs, along with direct funding from individual millionaires and even billionaires. That money enabled certain candidates, most with an ultra-conservative agenda, to run highly visible campaigns that would otherwise have been relatively unremarkable.
Collectively, school board directors have an array of responsibilities including the ability to implement policy and review curriculum. They oversee annual budgets, derived, in part, from taxation that has a direct impact on property owners. More importantly, they take an oath and have a responsibility – per the Pennsylvania Constitution (Article III, Section 14) – to promote public education and ensure that every student in a public school has the opportunity to learn and succeed.
We are now seeing the results of the 2021 school board elections and it isn’t pretty. Book bans and anti-LGBTQ undercurrents are on the rise, and a minority is now speaking for the majority.
Mahoney knows one of the ways to fix this is to elect candidates who are plugged into reality and the Raging Chicken Community Fund, a registered 501(c)(4) not-for-profit PAC, is a vehicle geared to help progressive candidates run – and win – school board seats.
Establishing a PAC to raise funds and aid political endeavors creates a slew of legal filings. Additionally, there’s required financial reporting. In other words, it’s complicated. In fact, it can be so mired in complexities that the average organizer may shy away from the process due to the legal expertise required to create and maintain a PAC.
So how is Mahoney able to navigate these channels? He hooked up with Steve Lavine whose brainchild, LevelField, is a game changer because, as Lavine says “the game is rigged.”
Lavine, a technology entrepreneur and attorney, hopes to balance the rich versus regular people equation by handling the intricacies of PAC formation, subsequent financial reporting, along with providing an online presence capable of accepting donations.
Lavine cites the 2010 Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United as being one of the reasons LevelField was created. Since its passage, Citizens United has been a veritable Pandora’s box. It allows money from unknown sources (aka: dark money) to flow into political campaigns and gives the wealthy an unfair advantage.
“Big money has just gained so much influence over the last couple of years that, for a while, I’ve been saying to myself: wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to shift some of this power away from the big money and more toward grassroots,” said Lavine. And LevelField does exactly that, with PACs now functioning in half a dozen states and more in the works.
Utilizing the power of social media, progressive influencers now have the ability, thanks to Lavine, to run PACs without getting stuck in bureaucratic red tape. When asked if a PAC can raise enough money to make a difference, Steve advised that was not the right question.
“The right question,” he said, “is could 1,000 PACs raise enough money?”
Yes, they could, and LevelField can have a legally formed PAC – complete with an online donation webpage – up and running in short order complete with free legal, tech, compliance and marketing support.
Mahoney also emphasized it is critical to engage younger voters falling into the Gen Z category.
“If we want young people to be involved in politics, we have to listen to them and to campaign on issues that matter to them. I talk to a lot of college students and they care about climate change, massive student debt, crappy jobs, and a political system that is out of touch with their needs” Mahoney said. “And, as the 25-year-old Connor OHanlon – former chair of the Doylestown Dems – wrote on Twitter, ‘Some wisdom for folks looking to engage more young people in politics: If the minimum donation to your event is $50, we cannot afford to be in the room and will not show up.’”
Mahoney and Lavine echo each other when it comes to inspiring young people to get involved in politics. One thing’s for sure: today’s first time voter is more likely to be engaged on TikTok, WhatsApp or YouTube versus local, state or national groups from yesteryear. Should a single influencer with 10,000 followers ask for five bucks … well, you can see the potential the Raging Chicken Community Fund may have.
Mahoney has been cultivating a following for more than a decade and hopes his Raging Chicken audience will contribute to the fund – along with their friends, family and colleagues – so that progressive candidates may run effective campaigns and win.
You can make a difference by contributing to the Raging Chicken Community Fund as well as making sure you have a plan to vote this year. Pennsylvania has elections every year and our democracy depends on your participation.