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A New Career in a New Town

Well, not really a new career, and DC is an old town for me, but I have changed the place where I do whatever it is I do. After eight years at the Open Society Institute -- spanning a period from just about about exactly the second Clinton inauguration to the second Bush inaugural (or peak-to-trough as the economists would say), I've become a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, where I join such stars of the blog- and book- osphere, respectively, as Steve Clemons and Mike Lind, as well as several other creative thinkers and activists. In fact, many of the ideas that I think represent the liberal alternative to the "ownership society" are housed at New America. It's an organization I've followed since its founding five years ago, and I'm very excited to join it. I'll be trying to develop some new approaches to the issues of reform of the political process, as well as working on other domestic issues I'm interested in, and writing, writing, writing. I'll say more about this as it develops.

But before I do, I should say something about the Open Society Institute, which is George Soros's foundation, and its programs in the U.S., a part of which I helped develop and run. Most of the press coverage of Soros's involvement in the election last year (which, for very sound legal reasons, I had less than nothing to do with), treated it as if this was his first entry into the United States. The basic framework of every story seemed to be that after investing billions to build democracy and other good things in Eastern Europe and elsewhere, now Soros was turning his eyes to the U.S., to unseat the president. Whether the story thought this was a good thing or a terrible thing, rarely was it mentioned that OSI was already one of the largest U.S. domestic philanthropies, averaging about $40 million a year, I think, since 1997.

(The exception to this pattern was in stories that called it an "irony" that before becoming a major political contributor last year, Soros had been a supporter of efforts to reduce the influence of money in politics, putting about $18 million into campaign finance reform since 1997, which I'm responsible for. Some stories even suggested that Soros had deliberately promoted the McCain-Feingold reform in order to create a loophole that increased his own influence. All this ignored, inter alia the fact that most of OSI's support went to encourage public financing such as the Arizona and New York City systems, rather than passing the McCain-Feingold limits on soft money (though we supported them); that the 527 committees that Soros and other donors large and small supported last year existed well before McCain-Feingold; or that the foundation is independent and continued to support efforts to reduce the corrupting influence of money in politics and reduce dependence on large donors.)

OSI has been a terrific place to work because, unlike other large foundations, it has been daring and my colleagues understood that the underlying mission was to reshape the public debate. There are a lot of charitable foundations that play it pretty safe, shying away from controversy or any issue that might seem vaguely political. The guiding spirit of OSI, which comes directly from Soros to a greater extent than anything else about the foundation, has been that the privilege -- perhaps even the duty -- of having money is to take chances. That daring takes many forms -- a massive investment in after-school programs in New York City in the ultimately successful hope that state and local government would want to fund them fully; a willingness to take on issues that are either out of favor, such as reconsidering drug policy, or neglected, such as the treatment of death and dying by the medical profession; or a willingness to support good organizations just to do their work, not only for specific projects. If these sound like fairly disparate activities, that's true -- and that has been one of the historical weaknesses of the foundation -- a difficulty in establishing a sense of coherent purpose across all these initiatives.

The characteristic Soros/OSI approach to an issue has been to look for some point of leverage, almost a trick, where an intensive investment will open up new possibilities. This does come out of OSI's longstanding experience in Eastern Europe, where buying photocopiers for political dissidents and, later, basic Internet connectivity for civil society groups certainly helped broaden the scope of democratic society. In the U.S., the foundation's opening move, in response to Congress's denial of most social benefits to legal immigrants was to put up $50 million to help legal residents become citizens and remain eligible for benefits. That had all the marks of the classic Soros move: the small and apparently neutral act that would fix a bigger problem, without confronting the politics directly. But it was too elegant a solution: There are only so many new citizens the INS could process every year, so our efforts were building up the backlog, and many of the neediest legal residents really couldn't expect to naturalize. (Try learning English at 90.) A relatively small investment in advocacy on behalf of reversing the changes, however, succeeded, and Congress did restore most of the benefits for permanent legal residents. That was an important lesson for OSI in the value of advocacy and ideas over delivery of services, although the foundation continued to do both.

OSI was/is entrepreneurial -- or, I should say, it encourages entrepreneurship and individual initiative -- in a way that is unprecedented in philanthropic operations and all but a very few non-profits or think tanks. (New America is in this sense a close parallel.) In many cases, OSI had a program on a particular topic largely because Soros or the board found a particular person compelling and gave that individual -- such as Ethan Nadelman on drug policy or the brilliant doctor Kathy Foley on care for the dying -- a relatively free rein to design a program around his or her vision. I'm neither as single-minded as Ethan nor as expert as Kathy or my other colleagues, but their presence contributed to a spirit of enthusiasm and conviction that made all of us more imaginative and forward-looking. The entrepreneurial spirit sometimes made for a chaotic structure, and one that was difficult for outsiders -- that is, people and organizations seeking financial support -- to figure out how to access.

I don't mean to engage in the self-congratulation that is all too common among grantmaking foundations. Foundations often don't seem to recognize that they don't do things, they just make it possible for other people to do things, which is why ultimately I was ready to do something else. But it was a great perspective from which to see the world of progressive politics and political reform, and I learned a lot about the many different ways in which Washington advocates, community organizers, membership organizations, well-designed research groups, and idea-generating public intellectuals can change the terms of public debate.

Posted by Mark Schmitt on January 28, 2005 | Permalink


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Congrats, Mark. New America is getting plussed up.

Posted by: praktike | Jan 28, 2005 6:17:18 PM

Congratulations Mark - it will be great to be able to read more of your insights, perhaps some in more extended form than the blog.

Posted by: paul teske | Jan 28, 2005 6:45:27 PM

This is very nice, Mark. And let me take the opportunity to thank you, along with the tributes I have written to your time at OSI in various internal fora, for trying to keep us humble for eight years while at the same time giving us less to be humble about, given the truly influential role you have played in movements for democracy and economic fairness.

Posted by: Gara | Jan 29, 2005 11:32:56 AM

Congratulations Mark!

Posted by: Dan | Feb 1, 2005 9:00:18 PM

I am really worried about the medications of many people use... thats the reason because show that theme to you... The Drugs like the amoxicillin

the most important things about amoxicillin

Amoxicillin is used to treat certain infections caused by bacteria, such as pneumonia;
bronchitis; gonorrhea; and infections of the ears, nose, throat, urinary tract, and skin.
It is also used in combination with other medications to eliminate H. pylori, a bacteria
that causes ulcers. Amoxicillin is in a class of medications called penicillin-like
antibiotics. It works by stopping the growth of bacteria. Antibiotics will not work for
colds, flu, and other viral infections.
Amoxicillin comes as a capsule, a tablet, a chewable tablet, a suspension (liquid), and
pediatric drops to take by mouth. It is usually taken every 12 hours (twice a day) or every
8 hours (three times a day) with or without food. To help you remember to take amoxicillin,
take it around the same time every day.

In the same calification we can find drugs like

Vicodin is a pain killer most commonly seen as a white tablet with the name “Vicodin, is
most commonly prescribed for persons experiencing pain after surgery or intense
pain. It helps calm a person down and increases their ability to relax and forget about
painful ailments (which speeds up recovery)

the Xanax ( Alprazolam ) is an anti-anxiety agent benzodiazepine used primarily for short-term
relief of mild to moderate anxiety and nervous tension. Alprazolam is also effective in the
treatment of activity depression or panic attacks. It can also be useful in treating
irritable bowel syndrome and anxiety due to a neurosis,

The Ativan (Lorazepam) is a benzodiazepine with CNS depressant, anxiolytic and sedative
properties. Peak serum concentrations of free lorazepam after oral administration are
reached in 1 to 6 hours.

you can find more information about vicodin at www.crdrx.com, 10/325 at www.10-325.com, vicoprofen at www.1vicoprofen.com and lortab at www.1lortab.com

Have a great day

Posted by: dalia | Dec 21, 2006 10:59:06 AM

Nice read i realy love your blog, i have bookmarked it so i can enjoy it on a later date.



Posted by: Carol Jansen | Feb 14, 2007 8:12:15 AM

If you were going to buy a golf club, you wouldn't walk into a store and buy the first one you see, would you? Of course

not; especially if you want to improve your golf game! You'll want to hold the club, take some practice swings, hit some

balls if the store has a practice spot, and look at the price, of course. If you are considering buying running shoes,

you need to go through a similar process and take the time to find the perfect shoe.

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