Everyone knows that if you want to put on a music festival, you don’t need to actually have a plan. All you have to do is make an expensive commercial in the Bahamas with world-famous Instagram models, promise a lot of stuff you can’t possibly deliver and rely solely on your social media savvy to compensate for your gross incompetence and negligence. It will all work out somehow. Fake it till you make it, baby!
That’s at least what rap artist Ja Rule and con-artist Billy McFarland thought when they tried to pull off their ill-fated Fyre Festival caper. Unfortunately for McFarland, the scheme landed him in federal prison for six years after the rich brats he conned took him to court after being housed in emergency tents and treated to cuisine that, to say the least, was a far cry from gourmet sushi.
What does Fyre festival have to do with a fledgling political organization promising to take on the two party duopoly, you might ask. Quite a lot actually.
The Movement for a People’s Party (MPP) sprang from the loins of Nick Brana, a William and Mary alum, low-level political staffer and burly, rugged outdoorsman with a penchant for flannel shirts.
After a series of low-paying or non-paying internships and political gigs with the likes of Senator John Kerry and Governor Terry McCauliffe, Brana scored his big break in 2016 by landing a position as National Political Outreach Coordinator on Bernie Sanders’ presidential run. In 2017, Brana spearheaded Draft Bernie for a People’s Party which failed to earn Bernie’s support, but later evolved into MPP. According to its website:
Our vision is a major new progressive populist party that will deliver what regular people take for granted in so many other countries: single-payer health care, free public college, money out of politics, an infrastructure jobs program, a $15 minimum wage, financial regulations, and more.
Elsewhere, mainstream publications like the Guardian have described MPP as a leftwing party, a notion belied to a great extent by its own messaging and the posturing of some of the celeb-left primadonnas who sit on its unelected advisory council and exercise great sway on the future course of the organization as expressed by outspoken former volunteers.
Initial interest in the MPP was strong and the organization attracted thousands of enthusiastic volunteers who were fed up with the state of two party politics and felt a burning desire to contribute in any way they could to building a viable third party. This group talked a big game, promising ballot access in all 50 states and to field congressional candidates. They even expected to run a presidential candidate by 2024.
The tremendous influx of volunteers had much to do with its 5 hour virtual convention on August 30, 2020 featuring luminaries such as Cornel West, Nina Turner and Chris Hedges among others. Selected speeches from the convention can be seen here. Oh wait, my mistake. That’s the Fyre Festival promo.
In any case, the stellar speakers the MPP managed to attract gave many the impression that this group had its shit together. Joe Cheray, a disability rights activist who became involved shortly after the convention, said:
I decided to get involved in MPP after their big 5 hour convention last year because I thought they had finally gotten their act together enough that I felt comfortable looking more into them and possibly volunteering with them. Due to the caliber of speakers they had I did have high expectations of them. I expected them to be highly organized. This would not be the case.
However, if you are considering joining the MPP there were a lot of red flags from Day 1. Just to be a member you have to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement, which as the months went by grew more and more restrictive. This cartoonishly onerous NDA reads as if it could have been drafted by Michael Cohen and gives you the impression that you’re not joining a party, but that you just had unprotected sex with Donald Trump. While it’s totally unenforceable and meant to scare prospective members from talking about the party, it does reflect the contempt the leadership has for its members as well as their paranoia.
In August and September 2020, when many new volunteers signed up, they quickly became aware that the organization had no toolkits for political outreach and that everyone had to make up their own system on the fly. What’s more, the MPP had no plan at all for gaining ballot access. Some states, such as New York require third parties to run a gubernatorial candidate and earn 2 percent of the vote to qualify for ballot access, no mean feat and something, it appears, the leadership of MPP never stopped to consider.
Despite this, volunteers like Renee Johnston offered to help in any way they could and carried out monumental organizational tasks. “I expected the organization to be further along than they were,” she said. “I didn’t realize they weren’t actually organized in New York, but I was willing to do the work to get a hub active here.I mostly expected there to be an actionable plan in place and a path for us to follow toward what MPP said they were going to be.”
Kamilah Harris, another volunteer, noted that since early organizing took place at the height of the pandemic, volunteers largely had to organize via Slack, Basecamp, Zoom and a variety of other online platforms. While the MPP appeared dysfunctional, many new members chalked that up to the fact that it was new. By last November and December, however, some of the hardest working volunteers couldn’t make excuses anymore.
While joining an organization purporting to represent “the people,” many volunteers felt totally shut out of the process and taken for granted, having no input into the policies and future of the organization and being made to feel like they were mere servants of the preening leadership. Harris even mentioned that working groups were referred to as “fan groups” by leadership. Johnston expressed dismay at being asked to conduct outreach on behalf of Black voters without having any meaningful input into a Black agenda for the party.
Cheray also felt used and taken for granted by leadership. “As the leader of the people with disabilities outreach circle I couldn’t see how we were to focus on outreach without talking about policies that affect people with disabilities every day,” he said. “I soon realized we were grunts working to help build Nick’s clout-chasing portfolio.” A common concern among many volunteers was the cavalier and dismissive attitude shown by leadership toward volunteers and the undue influence of “celeb-left” personalities who, like Brana, were unelected.
One such unelected grandee is alleged comedian Jimmy Dore. He frequently played fast and loose with the facts, like when in one hysterical and sensational stream he asserted that Our Revolution Los Angeles was “breaking with” the Democratic Party. Dore neglected to mention that Our Revolution is organized by chapter and that Los Angeles is a big city with many chapters and that this particular chapter, through luck of the draw, got dibs to use the name Our Revolution Los Angeles and thus sounded more authoritative than it actually was.
Ezra Pugh, a friend of mine, had this to say about Our Revolution Los Angeles “I was treasurer of ORLA for awhile. It’s total bullshit. It’s like five people.” That didn’t stop Dore from blowing this out of proportion and making a less than insignificant episode look like the Third Estate storming out of the Estates-General and declaring the National Assembly. This should confirm that every word that comes out of Dore’s mouth is suspect and that he is not to be taken seriously.
This is merely one of hundreds of examples of Dore’s shrill, belligerent and mendacious clout-chasing style of commentary, comedy, coverage or whatever he calls it. He is also attracting controversy for picking a fight with other left media types and coming off as a grade-A slimeball, like in this clip where he boasts about sexually harassing Ana Kasparian.
After countless hours working to build the party but with the MPP hemorrhaging members, several volunteers decided to take action. They began an effort to circulate a petition and negotiate with leadership for basic reforms that would give the organization a modicum of transparency, democracy and political coherence. It soon became clear, however, that by having the temerity to request basic reforms they had made enemies with the top brass, who slandered them as house wreckers and Democratic Party infiltrators.
During the negotiation process, an incident occurred on Slack in which a White member asked if it was appropriate for Whites to use the n-word. A number of Black volunteers argued that it was not, but debate raged long into the night. The Black volunteers who argued that it was not appropriate were barred from the organization’s Slack channel and later from the MPP itself. The White member who actually used the word was also removed, but another White member who believed Blacks can give “an n-word pass” was allowed to speak on an upcoming national volunteers call.
As the petition drive was coming to a head, Kamilah Harris’ involvement put her at odds with Jimmy Dore and cost her a job:
I was in charge of PR, social media management, and other promotions of the event. As PR Director of KRTD Media, I was responsible for a lot. Brand management, PR, social media management and moderation, marketing planning and management. I was also given responsibility to write their employee handbook, work on hiring promotional projects, take meeting minutes as clerk at their meetings, and also work on their Board of Directors.
On the Thursday prior to the US Solutions Summit, I got an irate phone call from Shane Coughlin who is the Executive Director of KRTD Media. He claimed that I did something wrong when, after investigation, turns out that I did not but I was being punished anyway. Stef Zamarano, Jimmy Dore’s wife, threatened to not be on the panel she committed to be on with the Summit unless I was fired. Why? Because on my personal Twitter page, I was doing something she did not like.
I was doing what I had been doing since January when I got purged from MPP. I was whistleblowing and social media protesting on Twitter where MPP has over 80k followers that deserved to know the truth about MPP.
Just like the public in general.
KRTD Media cared more about appeasing Stef than standing up for me as their worker. That’s what summarizes all that I went through. Jimmy Dore co-signed my firing and have been trying to indirectly mischaracterize me through his interviews when MPP is brought up.
The volunteers who in many cases worked the hardest and were steadfastly trying to salvage the organization were rewarded for their efforts on January 13th, 2021 when they were unceremoniously purged from the party and removed from all digital platforms without notice.
To this day there are no bylaws and there is no meaningful transparency concerning how money is appropriated. The only thing that gives a hint to the MPP’s finances are its IRS filings, which are shocking.
Mind you, this is a group that claims it will be able to field a large number of congressional candidates in 2022. The average cost for a single congressional election is just under $2 million. From the looks of this chart, it appears that they have about $80,000 cash on hand. DSA and the Green Party regularly rake in millions per year, but that won’t stop the sad jokers at MPP from strutting and pretending they know better.
While $80,000 is peanuts for a national organization, it’s still far, far more than this organization can use responsibly. However, it’s kind of a lot for some dude with no accountability. Brana’s father, Rodrigo, runs the MPP’s finances, so who are we lowly plebes to ask questions about how it’s using the funds? After all, it’s a family business. Why doesn’t the public keep it’s prying eyes away, it’s not like it’s a party that claims to represent the people!
Others have tried and failed to get to the bottom of MPP’s finances. For my part, Brana did not reply to a request for comment. If he wants to put the rumors to bed he can do more than the bare minimum and actually disclose how his organization is spending its donors’ hard earned money.
Movement For A People’s Party is listed as a tax-exempt 527 organization. It regularly advocates for a third party, asks for donations and is nominating candidates. As such, it is required to register as a party with the FEC and abide by state guidelines. As of now, it has not done so, which is sketchy. The MPP is so sketchy, in fact, that the Washington State People’s Party wants nothing to do with it and has resisted its calls to affiliate with it at the national level.
Why should people care about this trainwreck pseudo party grift? Well, as the MPP is fond of pointing out, 62 percent of Americans desire a third party option. Nevertheless, starting a third party is hard work. Ask the Greens, who have fought tooth and nail for ballot access over the course of decades. It’s not Fyre Festival.
It should be clear by now that the MPP is a third party few Americans want. It squandered the time, money, hopes and sincere commitment of its volunteers and delivered zip. But all this is even worse than the Fyre Festival because instead of Ja Rule, you get Jimmy Dore.
One final thing. I identified Nick Brana as the Bernie 2016 campaign’s “National Political Outreach Coordinator” because that’s what is listed on his LinkedIn. But it appears from this that he may started off in that position but finished the campaign as an intern. So, in addition to everything else Brana apparently misrepresented his work on Sanders’ campaign to appear more impressive. Looks to be a total bullshitter.