RightOnline: The Other White Meeting

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
June 17 2011 1:34 PM

RightOnline: The Other White Meeting

MINNEAPOLIS -- For the fourth year, a conservative online conference, sponsored mainly by Americans for Prosperity, has set up shop right next to Netroots Nation. The relationship between the two conferences is usually just jokey, but it's more brittle this year. And there's a reason for that which I can go into later.

But the gist: RightOnline is smaller (around 1400 people to 2500+ for Netroots) and more strictly strategy-focused than Netroots Nation. There are no panels about movement history or ethnic coalitions as there are at NN; there are forums on how to tweet, how to Facebook, how to film videos. The latter session is titled "Left Exposed: Where Investigative Reporting Meets Online Activism," and the expert is James O'Keefe.

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As near as I can tell, a lot of the media interest is directed at the premiere of Steve Bannon's Sarah Palin film, "The Undefeated," and about the appearances of 2012 candidates at the plenary sessions -- Pawlenty, Bachmann, Cain, and if we want to count him, Thaddeus McCotter. And the Palin movie is a big deal, with 1000 tickets snapped up and a long waiting list. But the meat of this event is the training. I attended a panel on FOIAs, where Kansas Watchdog's Earl Glynn went into the nitty gritty of how to get documents from states. The panel, in a room for 100, was completely full, and attendees took detailed notes about what sites to use (the Sunlight Foundation), who to get advice from (use the #FOIAchat hashtag on Fridays!), and how to pay as little as possible.

"When I wrote a letter to the Texas attorney general," said Glynn, "I didn't have to, but I felt I should explain what I was looking for."

"There's a law in North Carolina that says they can't charge you more than you'd pay at Kinko's," offered one activist."

"Our attorney general in Kansas waives fees all the time," said Glynn.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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