I was a senior staffer on US Senator Mike Gravel's campaign when he ran for President in 2008; I told him about Reddit and he'd love to do an AMA.

If you'd like, post your questions for the Senator here and I'll have him answer most or all of them over the coming days. Sound good?

EDIT: We just sent a "hello" tweet from his Twitter: http://twitter.com/MikeGravel which you can also see on the website, http://www.mikegravel.us

EDIT 2: Mike loves this! We just spoke on the phone and he said he'll answer every question he can; if we get a lot of posts I'll send those with the most upvotes to him!

Edit 3: Thanks to the suggestion of redditor vermithraxPejorative, here's a link to Mike's stance on the issues.

Edit 4: Wow! Thanks for all the questions! I'm sending as many of these to Mike as I can, so keep asking. In the near future, he'll do another one of these where he'll commit to spending a few hours sitting at his computer!

12:30 PM EST Update: I sent a pretty large batch of questions to Mike, including, most notably, redditor SuperAngryGuy's question located here. If he doesn't email me back tonight, I'll call him tomorrow morning. I'm really curious about the answer to that question, myself.

1/15/2011 Update: Hey folks, Mike just e-mailed me his responses to some further questions below. I'll post those below!

Comments: 811 • Responses: 23  • Date: 

DipsomaniacDawg461 karma

Did Senator Gravel realistically think he had a chance to win the Presidency, or did he just enjoy the opportunity to talk about issues on the big stage?

I don't mean that in any mean-spirited way, but it was pretty well known he was a long-shot.

skylr507 karma

From Mike:

"You can tell them it was never really about winning. Did I think I could make big changes, shake things up a bit if I won, of course? But I'd still have to deal with a Congress that wouldn't approve of me or my policies. Congress would've been all about politics as usual.

I ran, at first, to spread information about my National Initiative for Democracy. My whole campaign wasn't about getting me power. It was about giving you power. So did I think I could win? Well, we had a good showing after the first debates. People reacted really well to us. But it wasn't about winning. It was about getting a message out there. It was about changing the dialogue. Votes for me were a vote against the status quo, and someone out there had to bring truth to power.

If I had won, you better believe things would've changed."

erfi30 karma

Please answer this one! I've always been really curious about that ad, since it made a lot of people who hadn't heard of Gravel think he was crazy. I think The Daily Show even made fun of it. I assumed it was an attempt at a viral video, but maybe there's a deeper meaning?

[deleted]5 karma

I always thought it symbolized that if he were elected, he was going to make 'ripples' in the United States.

skylr11 karma

From Mike:

"That's the ticket right there. My campaign was all about the ripple effect."

tacoman359276 karma

Mike Gravel was probably the candidate who shared the most views with me of anyone to ever run for president in the United States. Thanks for sticking up for the American people, and even though I don't have any questions, I'm glad there are some liberal senators out there who aren't afraid to speak their minds.

skylr151 karma

It was a really terrific campaign. I've worked on large campaigns since, but nothing quite has the feel of Senator Gravel's.

I think it was because we got a lot of phone calls like yours at our office; we had dozens of calls and e-mails coming in that pleaded for Senator Gravel to stay in the race, to keep up the fight, because he was the only candidate bringing truth to power and the only candidate with whom they completely or largely agreed with.

[deleted]264 karma


skylr285 karma

From Mike:

"That's a lot of questions. With Wikileaks, we're seeing something remarkable. We're seeing technology, the Internet, changing the face of public policy itself. I mean, what is the Internet? It's the most Democratic thing around. It's a forum where everyone is based on the merit of their arguments. Everyone is on equal footing. So with Wikileaks, you have a portal that openly questions government and gives dissenting citizens a place to question that very government. It's amazing. I wish we had it 40 years ago. I don't think that the very same Governments will let it exist for much longer, but I think it's very very valuable. Leaks don't take months and years anymore. They take a little courage, a little questioning, a little patriotism, and a high speed internet connection.

Ralph is a dear friend. I love Ralph. I think he's done what needs to be done in offering an alternative to the two parties. He wrote the intro to my book, as you well know. The new release of Citizen Power.

Sarah Palin? She warrants a discussion all to her own. But Sarah is pretty brilliant in what she does. She's good at painting herself as a hometown maverick. I wrote something on the website last year. [You can see that here]

Nobody has the bravery these days. Everyone is too worried about being re-elected. Nobody wants to be a thorn in the side of politics as usual."

mwerte60 karma

If you could do anything to fix the current government, what would you change? Legislative, executive, judicial changes, ect.

What would you change about the election system?

Errr, the title says the Senator is answering questions, the text says a staffer, which is it?

skylr77 karma

I suppose that title is kind of misleading, isn't it?

Mike wanted to do an AMA, but he's in the middle of a move and hasn't been on a computer as much as he'd like. If you post your questions here, I can have him come and answer them sometime soon? Or we can scratch this whole attempt and I can have him do it live.

It's up to you, reddit.

To clarify, I am not Senator Gravel.

mwerte36 karma

It's ok, he can answer those questions when he's free.

To you then: What did you do on a day to day basis? How did you get involved with senatorial staffing? If I call/write my senator, what is the best way to make sure he gets what I say, and is there any way to get him to call me back personally?

skylr45 karma

On Senator Gravel's campaign for President, I was largely in charge of the new media stuff. I produced a lot of the videos we released on the internet, and those I didn't produce, I was in charge of promoting. Near the campaign's end I did a lot of managerial stuff because the scope of the campaign has changed: that included press releases, delegate coordination, standard stuff.

Senator Gravel wasn't in the Senate when he ran for POTUS; he served during the 1970s and gained notoriety for reading the Pentagon Papers into the public record. That said, I've also worked in government (though never for a US Senator) and I know that in the office where I worked, email, not phone calls, were the best way to reach us. I'd forward important e-mails to the representative for whom I worked, though he rarely wanted phone calls to come his way. I really think e-mail (and an organized system for receiving it) is key.

megagoosey17 karma

A lot of those videos were really goofy, as I remember. I think there was one where he stared at the camera for an uncomfortable amount of time then threw a rock in a pond or something.

skylr36 karma

I helped develop a video where Senator Gravel dressed up as Santa Claus. Everyone else on the campaign was really mad at me for that.


megagoosey6 karma

Serious question: did you think these were a good idea for the campaign? I mean, yeah, they're awesome videos. But it seems like those types of ads would do a lot more damage than good when the goal is to do something like run for president.

skylr5 karma

We all kind of questioned the rationale behind doing off-the-cuff YouTube videos, but the whole campaign was really about getting Senator Gravel's name out there. We're a society rotating around Wikipedia and Google; if just one voter googled Senator Gravel and liked his dedication to transparent public service, then voted for him, then everything we did online was worthwhile.

skylr75 karma

From Mike

"We gotta empower the people. I mean, come on. Do we trust people to govern for us anymore? We have the technology now to solve these kinds of corruption problems. It's all about giving you the power. It's all about letting the people decide. That's what I've spent a lot of my life doing, and what I'll continue doing until the day I die. Giving you the power."

[Mike's talking about his National Initiative for Democracy: http://www.ni4d.us]

DFWPhotoguy52 karma

Mike, first off you very much rock. Thanks for your years of service and you record of being for the people.

A few questions.

1) How can a 25-30 y.o. get involved and elected into a position of political power these days without corporate backing? Should we start at the local city level to get our feet wet? Many folks are desperate to get involved but need help knowing what some good first steps are. Most of us don't have access to Ivy league schools with the connections they give and any advice would be appreciated.

2)Along those lines, most of assume that when you get elected to a high position in the government by both lobbying business interests that you feel you can represent and allowing your self to be lobbied something along the lines of:"we will contribute money to your campaign if you vote for us". How hard is it to get lobbiest to donate and how do you keep yourself from becoming a slave to the corperate money?

3)You have said yourself that you were a womanizer in your senate days. Do Washington interns throw themselves at senators/congress-critters or is lobbyist or do you get most of your attention from local constituents?

skylr64 karma

From Mike:

"A lot of my staff was really young. The future of politics, because of things like the Internet, is with your generation. I mean, we see this because I'm having a dialogue on the Internet. Your generation gets that much better than mine.

I tell you, avoid city government. Most city governments are part-time and they're not political jobs; the public policy at the city level is about police, parks, and plowing. Run for the State House. I did, and it launched my political career. State politics is wonderful because you get a taste of what meaningful lawmaking is all about. You cut your teeth and help your constituents, simultaneously. And you can really shake things up at a statewide level. And hey, if I like where you are on things, I'm always willing to endorse."

aletoledo35 karma

Do you feel that the main stream media marginalized you in any concrete (i.e. provably) way? How could we prove this ourselves for you or any other candidate past or future (i.e. smoking gun to media collusion to black ball you)?

skylr100 karma

From Mike:

"That's a good one. We got banned from the debates that GE, well, NBC were having because we didn't raise enough money. Now, this is important. NBC is owned by GE, which has a stake and claim within the Military Industrial Complex. They were able to silence me, someone who was proudly rallying against this country's militarism, and marginalized me. It was also absurd that money was the reason someone would be banned from the debates. It shows that politics at the presidential level isn't about one's positions, but all about the money. It's ridiculous. How could you raise money without being on TV? On top of that, they never gave me any time to speak at the debates. They were scared of me."

therealmikelane20 karma

What an awesome IAmA! I've become so disenfranchised with politics in America but since your campaign inspired me in '08 I have retained some hope. I implore you run again and I hope your base expands, I've done a fair amount of advocation for you here in MA and I would proudly vote for you. Thank you for your honest work, Mike.

So...questions: What's the biggest misconception American citizens have about running for president? Is it really a media dog and pony show? Are you going to focus almost exclusively on grassroots voters next election? How are you planning to become a more relevant figure on the American political stage?

skylr28 karma

From Mike

"I'm glad my campaign was able to reach out to those who were paying attention. My sister lives in Boston. I was just there for Thanksgiving.

Everything about running for President has got nothing to do with reaching out to the people. You think it's Democratic? I gotta tell you, it's not. It's all about who has the most money. You got the dough? You get on TV, you get to speak at the debates. You get Anderson Cooper to look at you. It's not Democratic. It's curtains over democracy I'm not sure if I'll run again or not. If I do, we're gonna use the new internet technology, like this place, that wasn't even around when I first declared.

Right now I'm focusing my energies on a more thorough, citizen-led, investigation of what happened on September 11th, 2001. We've got initiatives running in a ton of states soon. I'm not going away anytime soon. At least, not by choice."

Pudd1nPants18 karma

during the campaign was there ever communication with the ron paul group about possibly running together?

skylr54 karma

I can answer that one:

Senator Gravel respected Congressman Paul and the voice he was bringing into the campaign in 2008. They met in Dr. Paul's Congressional Office once, I believe, and we ran into Paul and his staff a couple of times in New Hampshire.

That said, I don't think that Senator Gravel and Dr. Paul were ever interested in being running mates. Mike ran to promote his National Initiative for Democracy (http://www.ni4d.us) whereas Paul was running on a message of small government. The two ideas didn't necessarily mesh perfectly together.

Mike did go onto run for the Libertarian nomination for President, much as Paul had done early in his political career, and the two men have a lot in common. In my opinion, however, they're more valuable to the country as separate entities.

reddundit17 karma

As an underdog presidential candidate lacking big name recognition, and since we have learned money wins elections, how much mula would you have needed to make things "competitive?" and what was your budget?

skylr27 karma

I can answer that one.

A lot of our staff took volunteer salaries for a while because we believed in the campaign; as far as campaigns go, we were basically broke. We raised about $500,000 and were matched another $500,00 after the campaign ended by the federal government, so about a million total.

To have been more relevant, that is to have been less of an underdog, we would've needed to raise about $5 million dollars. With that we could've pumped much more money to our field staff in every state, which was woefully underfunded.

WilliamChris13 karma

My sister is stationed in Korea at the moment. My family has been worried sick. Could you offer some words of reassurance? I feel as though hearing it from a former senator would give them more comfort than hearing it from their 16 year old son. Thanks in advance :)

skylr37 karma

From Mike:

"You know, I spent some time in South Korea working on an initiative system for that country. It's a great place. I met some of the most talented intellectuals I've ever had the pleasure of spending time with in that country.

It's a safe place. North Korea is doing what North Korea has always done. North Korean threats of invasion are old news for residents of the Republic of Korea. Your sister is safe, so long as the United States doesn't try to police the world.

I have nothing but thanks for your sister and your family for her service."

smpx11 karma

Does Senator Gavel ever watch the West Wing? It's a TV show about the white house. What's his opinion of it?

skylr31 karma

Mike does! I'll make sure to send this one to him.

I remember once he pulled me aside at a debate and said "If we win this, you can be my Charlie. Every President needs a Charlie."

smpx13 karma

Charlie dated Bartlet's daughter, he might be telling you something.

skylr28 karma

The Senator's daughter Lynn was an instrumental part of the campaign! She's great!

manofsticks10 karma

What were your thoughts on Dennis Kucinich? Especially him saying he saw an alien?

skylr8 karma

From Mike:

"Saw an alien? Maybe he spent a lot of time on this website."

[I'll see if I can get him to flesh out a real answer.]

bashobt9 karma

Is it possible to become president without 'owing' favors to numerous powerful special interests? (eg. tobacco, insurance, banking, satan)

skylr9 karma

From Mike:

"When you're elected, to President or any other office, I'd say a majority of your time is spent worrying about getting re-elected. Those lobbies raise money, and mind you, money is key. Without money, you can't get elected. And you can't get money without owing special favors. The President should serve one six year term. Then he can really Legislate, instead of play politics."

shortname1118 karma

Sorry, two questions.

First, who would you have picked as your vice president?

Second, as a former senator from Alaska, what do you think about the current political situation in the State after Sarah Palin quit from her governmental post?

skylr5 karma

From Mike:

"Lincoln Chaffee would've been one of my top picks if I had won the Democratic Nomination. Otherwise, Michael Jingozian."

malnourish8 karma

I have a question for you, sir senior staffer:
I am deeply interested in politics, in the near future pursuing a Poli Sci/Public Policy double major. How did you go about making the connections (and education) to work in the field? Any tips or suggestions?

skylr13 karma

That's a good one.

I think just maintaining an interest in what's going on in your community is a great way to start. I managed a Mayoral campaign when I was 15 because I set up a meeting with the outgoing mayor about what I could do to help. Before that, I interned on a state rep's campaign by calling the number on campaign lit and offering to volunteer.

You make a lot of connections by being good at what you do. Work hard, even on something small, and your networking grows exponentially. I worked for Senator Gravel just by calling the national office and offering my services. An education doesn't hurt, but it's really all about the talent you have and what you can offer.

Does that help? I'm happy to answer any other questions.

thegreathal6 karma

Hey, Team Gravel. Met you a few times, I'm very much a fan.

I'm not sure if you still follow the Senate at all. So much good legislation dies there--what do you think can be done to speed up the process or simply make the Senate functional? Can you elaborate on what kind of disruptive tactics work best?

skylr4 karma

Hey! Where'd you meet us? Maybe I remember!

eggsofamerica865 karma

Tell me about the structure of the campaign. Did the Senator do a lot of call time? How many personnel were eventually hired? What kind of field and finance operations did you guys set up and what kind of response did you get? How much interface was there with the other Democratic campaigns?

skylr5 karma

I can answer this one! It sounds like you know your way around a campaign or two.

We had a small staff. At the start of the campaign there were probably around 10 full-time staffers handling the national office. As the campaign waged on and we weren't raising enough money, a lot of people left, and we got some new staff on a volunteer basis. At a state by state level, most of our State Directors weren't paid much, but they were some of the most dedicated staff around. Field and Finance was all coordinated from the national office, but each State Director was charged with raising money on their own. All of our SD's had a lot of power over how the campaign was managed in their respective states.

Mike spent some times on the phone. Obviously, not nearly enough to please most of the staff, but he raised some money on the phone. Around June 2007 we decided to shift to a mostly online fundraising model, which had debatable success.