Volume 1: Issue 1
July 4, 1776 in a small Colonial Pennsylvania Hall the Declaration of Independence was signed by honest men putting the needs of the people first rather than enrich themselves further they risked all they owned and achieved for our then young country.
More than 200 years later, July 7, 2005 at 2:00 a.m. in the morning, the Pennsylvania General Assembly dismissing the example of our founders put their needs ahead of the people and their state, they passed legislation raising base pay by 16-34% for Legislators, Judges and top Executive Branch officials without public comment or hearings. In violation of the state constitution which prohibits raises taking place in the session approved, the legislation allowed for the raise to be effectively immediately as a vouchered expense. Thus the PA State reform movement was formed.
Before RockTheCapital.com existed, Pennsylvania resident Eric Epstein and others founded a Political Action Committee, RocktheCapital and joined with many other groups advocating good government. This coalition had some success in getting the pay raise and other government excess to come into the public light. Pennsylvania (PA) is an interesting state with arcane political processes and diverse expectations among the electorate. Many areas of the state have come to expect their legislators to bring home the bacon and cynically accept the inefficiency of government and it’s quasi-corrupt ways as just business as usual in Pennsylvania.
But the government reform groups learned what we all know. The public has a short attention span and it’s hard to change from the “old ways of doing things”. The movement sputtered and a lot of the groups went away. As these groups were losing steam the information age caught up with PA. The newspapers and other media could no longer cover the goings on in Harrisburg like they used to. Bureaus were either cut to the bone or cut all together. The journalists who were still at the capital barely had time to cover the headlines let alone do investigative reporting. No one was left to watch the hen house. The last thing you want in Pennsylvania is for government to act with nobody watching.
Eric and I are partners in a couple of ventures, the reformer and the banker can be an odd paring but we have also been pretty effective. While talking about the sputtering PA reform movement we started noting some really important stuff.
We noticed that people from all across the political spectrum were concerned about most of the same issues even if their ideology called for different solutions. We saw people could be in fairly close agreement about problems and solutions up until the moment they self identified as Republican or Democrat, Conservative or Liberal. We saw ideology pass for thought and deliberation and most of all we saw nobody was minding the politicians and having civil exchanges about the issues. People were ranting loudly to their own respective choirs but where was the forum for compromise?
So with more confidence than knowledge we decided we were the ones to change the debate and coverage of politics. A few small problems would have to be overcome but what the heck we have been on a pretty good roll lately. Sure neither of us had ever been journalists or worked in the media or really understood the Internet and its technology. Eric did have a sizable following as guest host of a popular AM radio show and I always wanted to write so good enough we would figure it out as we went.
We really like the RocktheCapital name and its logo because that is what we wanted to do: shake people up. Also as Eric and I are both fond of eating we decided that making money was a fine thing and what better way to prove people wanted good civil reporting and dialogue than to create a profitable business doing just that.
In the summer of 2010 for a modest fee we bought the RocktheCapital name and logo from the PAC, formed an unrelated for-profit company and RocktheCapital.com was born.
And that’s where it stands. With one exception, it’s not just Eric and I; it’s now almost 50,000 of you who now want to RocktheCapital. In the scheme of impacting change, that’s still tiny. But when amplified by the tools of new media it is a force.
Eric and myself are two small business owners trying to do good in the work we do and hopefully earn a living doing it. We believe in transparency in government and we try to be transparent in our endeavors. Eric and I are not wealthy investors; we are hands-on working people. We do not have our entire life savings invested in RocktheCapital.com but we almost do.
A couple of months back we were working with our social media gurus on how to increase our following and build our site traffic. At the time we had about 1,200 Facebook Followers and less than 2,000 Twitter followers. We came up with the idea of a T-shirt give away with our logo and the quote from Plato. All of us thought the campaign would be a huge success if we got 300 requests for shirts and added a few hundred Facebook followers and perhaps a hundred or so to sign up for this newsletter.
We were kind of astonished really when we put out a few of our Rock The Capital t-shirts. “The price of apathy is to be ruled by evil men” apparently struck a chord in a few of you like it did Eric and myself.
Have you ever heard the phrase “going viral”? Well, cannot describe the feeling in early September as I watched the requests pour in the, Facebook followers grew by the thousands almost hourly. I was excited at first then almost scared when I realized how big this had gotten.
Eric and I live, die and work on our integrity. It took a couple of weeks to sort everything out but in the end here is what happened. We had over 45,000 requests for shirts, over 28,000 signed up for this newsletter, we added over 17,000 Facebook followers and a 1,000 plus new Twitter followers.
The first batch of shirts went out and a second is going out next week. One of you had the idea of having a “wear your Rock The Capital Shirt Day” sometime and so let’s do that. If you haven’t gotten one or are wondering on the status you can check in here:
RocktheCapital.com is a for-profit business but so far the money out has exceeded the money in by the cost of a four-year state college education. We have been busy trying to get sponsors to help us get more shirts out. So far we’ve found a few and the shirts continue to print. There are a few big sponsors pending who would have no trouble helping foot the bill on some free shirts.
Thanks for all the great Facebook photos and comments of you wearing your RocktheCapital shirt. We love to see that kind of thing. I look forward to getting to know you in the near future on Facebook. Let’s make a pact to continue to open up the discourse, come together even if we don’t always agree. I’m working on Part Two of the Rock The Capital so keep an eye out and as always feel free to make suggestions and leave comments.
Andrew Stein, Co-Founder
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