(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — Nearly sixteen years after its inception, Rock The Vote, the music industry’s youth voter initiative has fallen into nearly $700,000 worth of debt, suffered through major staff cutbacks, and has failed to replace key upper management figures who left after the 2004 election, including the president.
Fred Goldring, a music attorney and chairman of Rock The Vote’s board, told the Los Angeles Times that a lack of donations are to blame.
“We’re like the popular kid who never gets asked out because everyone thinks he already has a date,” Goldring told the paper. “Everyone thinks this group is rich because of our enormous visibility.”
Along with Goldring, the groups board includes MTV President Judy McGrath, RIAA GM Joel Flatow and many other major industry players.
Former board president Jehmu Green told the Times that the organization was plagued with arguments over goals and plans, and struggles with record label executives concerned about promoting their artists over promoting voter registration.
“Board members wanted to use Rock The Vote to give their artists visibility,” Greene told the paper. “But sometimes it was way too expensive, or would send the wrong message, like having a rock band play when we’re trying to register kids into hip-hop.”
The bipartisan group has raised over $10 million since 2000, but outspent itself, especially during the 2004 elections. The organization has also been sued twice in the past year for mishandled funds and unpaid obligations. The staff has been cut back severely in recent times, from a high point of 20, to now employing only two: the political director and a webmaster.
Donations dwindled when political contradictions among Rock The Vote’s corporate backers became another major thorn in the organization’s side.
Rock The Vote founder Jeff Ayeroff told the Times, “It’s normal to have tensions between entertainment goals and political effectiveness. So, yeah, bad decisions were made. But we also bring relationships to the table that can make political involvement glamorous. Show me a policy wonk who can do that.”
Ayeroff, Goldring and others all said the organization can still survive, as long as it can jump-start fundraising. The board is meeting with several potential donors, and also brought in successful TV executive Lawrence Lyttle to fix the broken system, with a salary of $1 per year. –by CelebrityAccess Staff Writers