Category Archives: Politics

Live from Charlotte: Distilling the DNC delegates

How much does it cost to write a $15,000 check to the Wounded Warrior Project? Much more than the sum written on the giant check Distilled Spirits Council President and CEO Dr. Peter H. Cressy presented to the organization Monday night.

DISCUS was the host of the Spirit of Charlotte event at the NC Music Factory, which provided a space for select invitees from the Democratic National Convention to relax with lobbyists with free booze.

All of the usual suspects were represented behind the circular bar built on a fountain. Jager Girls occasionally fluttered out from a Jagermeister station in the back of a room, insisting guests sample their liquid wares of honey flavored Jager.

However, nothing spoke greater to the free-flowing grandiosity of the event than the bar in the back corner of the venue which served up free shots of Johnnie Walker Blue Label. A 750L bottle of Blue Label can run on average $170 or, to look at it in lobbying terms, 88 bottles per Wounded Warrior check.

DISCUS wasn’t alone in putting on the event. The list on the sponsors’ sign included biopharmaceutical company Amgen, Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, the Entertainment Software Association, the Mortgage Bankers Association, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the National Association of Home Builders, the National Restaurant Association, and the National Realtors Association.

Cressy kicked off the event by telling the audience that it was their attendance that made the $15,000 check for Wounded Warriors possible. He left the stage to superband Camp Freddy, which featured Dave Navarro, Billy Morrison, Matt Sorum, Chris Chaney, and a slate of guest stars performing covers of everything from Spacehog’s “In the Meantime” to Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.”

This article appeared on dane101.com on September 5, 2012.

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Walker and Ryan double down on Janesville plant closure lies

Last night on the stage at the Republican National Convention Rep. Paul Ryan found out what it would take to make the mainstream media stand up and start calling out falsehoods and lies in a political campaign. The Vice Presidential candidate from Janesville did himself a serious disservice when he trumpeted for the national audience of the RNC an erroneous talking point he’d been using on the campaign trail – that President Barack Obama was responsible for the 2008 GM Janesville plant closure.

Ryan wasn’t the only Wisconsinite trying to foist the blame for the Janesville plant closing on Obama last night. Gov. Scott Walker found himself on MSNBC and being challenged by Rachel Maddow regarding Ryan’s statement. Maddow asked if Walker was saying the auto bailout wasn’t big enough to reopen the Janesville plant.

Walker responded that the plant had two rounds of layoffs and ultimately closed down “just a few years ago.”

The plant, which is in the Congressional district Ryan’s represented since 1999, was closed for production of GM vehicles in December of 2008, a month before Obama was sworn in. It remained open until April of 2009 to finish a subcontract the plant had with Isuzu.

Politifact researched the allegation after Ryan first made it in mid-August and found:

We don’t see evidence he explicitly made such a promise — and more importantly, the Janesville plant shut down before he took office.

We rate Ryan’s statement False.

Walker, who found himself briefly twisting in the wind, was given an out when Al Sharpton and Ed Schultz tried to match Maddow’s challenge by bombastically speaking over the Governor.

The Wisconsin Governor could also share some of the burdens for the Janesville plant closure. In 2011, with GM on the rebound thanks in part to the auto bailout (which Ryan voted in favor of, but later claimed he was misled and the government would never see that money again) the company was looking to dust off some plants that had been shuttered. Janesville was in the running along with Spring Hill, Tenn.

Tennessee made a robust lobbying effort to convince GM that Spring Hill was the right plant to reactivate. Community leaders, politicians, and even the Governor practically moved to Detroit in an attempt to get the plant online and making headlines in their efforts to do so. Nary a news brief was produced out of Wisconsin highlighting any effort the Walker administration may have been making to get Janesville back on track. In the final week of decision making Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam was in Detroit making a closing pitch, but Walker was on a fundraising tour in Kentucky raising money to fight his recall.

The GM plant isn’t the only tall tale Ryan has been taken to task for spinning last night. Fox News summed the speech up overall as being “dazzling, deceiving, and distracting.”

He challenged Obama for taking $716 billion out of Medicare, even though that’s nearly the same amount of money Ryan himself has proposed to take from the program. According to the New York Times, if Ryan is sincere about abandoning his own budget proposal in favor of Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s pledge to restore the $716 billion Obama removed it would only add to the insolvency of the program:

The 2010 health care law cut Medicare reimbursements to hospitals and insurers, not benefits for older Americans, by that amount over the coming decade. But repealing the savings, policy analysts say, would hasten the insolvency of Medicare by eight years — to 2016, the final year of the next presidential term, from 2024.

Ryan attempted to criticize Obama for not heeding recommendations of the bipartisan debt commission. Ryan was on that commission and he voted down the commission’s recommendations, so they never made it to the President. Did Ryan expect Obama to follow through on recommendations the Congressman didn’t personally think were worth delivering to the White House?

There are many more examples:

New York Times editor David Firestone: Beyond Factual Honesty

Wahington Post’s Editorial Board: Mr. Ryan’s misleading speech

Boston Globe’s Peter Canellos: Paul Ryan’s attacks on Obama may hurt his own credibility

The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn: The Most Dishonest Convention Speech…Ever?

U.S. News and World ReportPaul Ryan Repeats Auto Bailout, Medicare Lies

This article originally appeared at dane101.com on August 30, 2012.

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Total Recall: One flyer, many tentacles

At least one Texan may care quite a bit about helping Wisconsin State Senator Randy Hopper keep his seat. Flyers recently surfaced in District 18 encouraging voters to cast votes for Zombie candidate and anti-Wisconsin businessman John Buckstaff in the Democratic primary against Jessica King on July 12. Buckstaff is running at the behest of the Wisconsin GOP which has also donated $750 to the fake candidate.

The flyer (see below), posted by Greg Sargent at the Washington Post, says Buckstaff will “roll up his sleeves and work with Governor Walker to eliminate special privileges for government unions.”

Obviously, this flyer must have been created by a deeply concerned Wisconsin taxpayer, right? It certainly looks like it was put together using Microsoft Paint. Likely not.

According to the disclosure on the bottom, it was paid for by a group called Patriot Advisors which is registered out of a PO Box in Cobb, Wis. However, they do their banking at Bank of America in Austin, Texas. According to the Shepard Express, not much information is available regarding Cobb’s Patriot Advisors.

Something we do know about, thanks to Karoli at Crooks and Liars, is a conservative Texas group that shares the very same name and also banks in Austin. Coincidence, perhaps, but let’s take a look at that organization anyway as it has many Texan tentacles (and Chicago and DC) that are all over Wisconsin. The Texas-based Patriot Advisors is run by Denis Calabrese and Tim Dunn. Below is how this flyer goes full circle.

1. Calabrese is also a former board member of the Sam Adams Alliance

2. The Sam Adams Alliance is a major funder of the Tea Party via its training arm, American Majority. American Majority’s Drew Ryan once estimated that 75 percent of American Majority’s funding came from the Alliance

3. The Sam Adams Alliance and American Majority were the primary backers of the pro-Scott Walker rally in Madison on February 19.

4. Sam Adams Alliance founder and CEO Eric O’Keefe lives in Spring Green, Wis. (thanks to Abe Sauer of The Awl for this additional information – updated 2:30 p.m. 7/8/11). O’Keefe’s home is a 30-minute drive to Cobb, Wis.

4. The Sam Adams Alliance provided a significant investment of funds to help start the Franklin Center for Government and Policy Integrity.

6. The Franklin Center is affiliated with the State Policy Network, which touts a long list of conservative think tanks, including Wisconsin’s MacIver Institute, as members.

Why are all of these connections important? Note the quote on the flyer from a publication called the Wisconsin Reporter. That publication was founded by the Franklin Center in January of 2011.

The first individual the Wisconsin Reporter hired to write commentary was Senator Ron Johnson’s former research director, Kevin Binversie. His current colleague is the Freedom Foundation‘s Scott St. Clair who made this cherry quote to the Daily Caller when it looked like JoAnne Kloppenburg had come out on top in the Supreme Court race: “I wouldn’t put it past somebody in Wisconsin to be selectively revealing ballots or conveniently finding ballots because this is the kind of stuff we’ve seen in the past before. I think it’s also important to note that Wisconsin and Illinois are neighbors and how they vote in Chicago doesn’t necessarily stop at the state line.”

The most recent list of “Latest News” headlines at Wisconsin Reporter pretty much speaks for itself.

The above isn’t likely a surprise to anyone. That’s how, sadly, political funding works in the United States. If you think about it our campaigns are a lot like the Internet. Anyone with the right amount of money can hide behind an anonymous PO Box, not owning their words.

This article was posted at dane101.com on July 9, 2011.

John Buckstaff Wisconsin Recall Flyer

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Total Recall: Spoiler candidate John Buckstaff’s anti-Wisconsin campaign

John Buckstaff likes fighting dirty. When he disagrees with a Governor he’ll tell businesses to stay out of the state of Wisconsin. When he loves a Senator that more than 20,000 of his neighbors have said should face a recall he’ll happily misrepresent himself simply to trigger a primary for the opposition party.

Representative Jess King is seeking to face State Senator Randy Hopper in a recall election on August 9. First, she’ll face Buckstaff, who entered the open primary due to the GOP hoping to buy more time for their incumbent to introduce himself to his constituents.

Buckstaff is no stranger to politics. In 1986, shortly after a tax audit regarding items he donated to charity and the DNR dinging him with a lawsuit over emissions (he was acquitted), he started an organization called B.O.W./W.O.W. (Businessmen of Wisconsin/Words of Warning). He used that organization to publish an ad in the Wall Street Journal telling businesses to “Escape from Wisconsin.”

Buckstaff’s organization also targeted taxes in the state of Wisconsin as being too high. However, he also claimed in the very same article that public sector budgets being cut was costing his furniture company business.

Harold Bergan, Governor Anthony Earl’s policy director, said of Buckstaff, “There`s been a rare, bipartisan, public sector-private sector consensus about Mr. Buckstaff. Everybody thinks he`s a jerk.”

Buckstaff also wasn’t making allies in his hometown of Oshkosh. The local Chamber of Commerce was perplexed as to why Buckstaff never contacted them if he was having problems with his business. Tim Casey was Executive Director of the Chamber when the ad ran and he was paraphrased in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as saying, “The negative nature of the ad counteracted a lot of effort that has been made to promote Wisconsin as a good place to do business.”

Local radio station WOSH tried their best to kick Buckstaff out of the state with a one-way ticket to Nome, Alaska. Talk show host J. Alan Schmidt, who called Buckstaff a “sissy,” started a fundraising drive to buy the ticket. Meanwhile, station President Phillip J. Robbins attacked Buckstaff in an editorial saying the businessman was gutless for not attaching his name to the ad.

Buckstaff even raised the ire of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, an organization perpetually critical of Wisconsin’s business climate. While WMC didn’t disagree with the context of the ad it did, in 1986, disagree with his tactics.

Buckstaff has now joined a sextet of zombie candidates to trigger fake Democratic primaries that will cost municipalities in the state of Wisconsin nearly $500,000. Election clerks in Hopper’s district estimate the primary costing taxpayers more than $80,000.

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Scott Walker’s emails and the Flying Monkey Brigade

I didn’t personally understand the initial email outrage. Even if Governor Scott Walker was being a typical hyperbolic politician regarding the emails, simply citing that he was basing decisions off “8,000 emails” should have been enough for critics. It is, after all, barely one-eighth of one percent of the population of Wisconsin. However, now that we have the data, and because I like data, it’s worth analyzing how and why there was such a massive shift in the number of emails Walker was receiving in a 36-hour period.

Isthmus, the AP, and the Wisconsin Center of Investigative Journalism have all released their takes on the emails sent to Governor Scott Walker in response to the “budget-repair bill.” Walker had said during a press conference on the evening of February 17 that his office had received “over 8,000 emails” with the majority telling him to stand firm. On February 18, he said that number had more than doubled to “19,000” with the majority still in favor.

The Associated Press analyzed 26,000 emails from the date Walker announced his controversial plan to the time he said he had received “over 8,000 emails.” The findings concluded, “By the end of Feb. 16 – the eve of a planned vote in the state Senate and a day in which Madison schools were forced to close due to high number of teacher and staff absences, presumably to protest at the Capitol – Walker had received more than 12,000 emails in all, and they ran roughly 2-to-1 against the bill.”

By the time Walker took to the podium at 5 p.m. on February 17, “the governor’s office had received nearly 5,900 emails of support that day to roughly 1,400 against. Still, at that point, the overall tally was split roughly down the middle.”

By the end of the day, the Governor had received 9,400 emails in support, “three times the number of messages of opposition. The final overall tally through the end of the day: 54 percent in support, 43 percent against.”

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism factored in emails from February 18 in their findings. In all they discovered at least 47,752 unique email addresses. Of those, they analyzed a random sample of 1,910. They found that in emails received over that time period “62 percent supported it, while 32 percent opposed it.” When they removed out-of-state emails the margin wasn’t much different from AP’s analysis that only included up until February 17 and also included out-of-state emails: “55 percent favoring his bill and 42 percent opposed.”

Why did the emails not only shift dramatically but also double in 24 hours what was received in seven days?

The media and the rallies. By the time Walker’s February 17 press conference started the Capitol had already borne witness to four rallies of increasing size. The Madison school district had been shut down by a teacher sick-out and the 14 Democrat Senators had fled the state in an attempt to give taxpayers more time to consider what was in the bill. While it is true that one or all of these things could have shifted some undecideds into the “support Walker” column, the combination of these events did something even more important. The media was suddenly paying attention to Wisconsin and the protesters were in control of the narrative. The conservative PR machine was clearly caught off guard and their messaging was easily two days behind.

Locally, individuals such as Ann Althouse and Vicki McKenna were on top of things. The duo, who could never be bothered to call out the Tea Party movement for hoisting racist signs or images portraying President Barack Obama as Osama bin Laden or Hitler, started talking and writing posts acting like the Walker/Hitler signs (which I’ve personally denounced as being inappropriate unless you’re actually protesting Hitler) were unique to the movement unfolding at the Capitol.

Conservative intellectual Michelle Malkin leeched onto McKenna and Althouse’s words and images and raised them to the next level. FOX News began using weasel words to suggest Madison had been taken over by “thugs” and people were “rioting.” Ignoring the truth that the protests were not only peaceful but also oddly celebratory of the fact that so many neighbors were showing up to participate in what they saw as important for the Republic.

Once the disinformation campaign was in full swing, the Tea Party bloggers began calling for emails of support to be sent to Walker’s office.

As the 17th crept toward Walker’s 5 p.m. press conference more organizations began joining in. An hour before Walker’s news conference started the Patriot Action Network called on all of its members to email Walker. By the time his press conference was over the South Florida Tea Party had put up a Facebook page telling people to email Walker. An hour after the press conference Malkin had officially called on her readers to email Walker and the 19 Republicans in the Senate by posting the email that was being sent around to Tea Party activists.

More Tea Parties and branches of Glenn Beck’s 9-12 Project began telling members to email Walker. The Kentucky Club for Growth sent an alert to members to support Walker so that likely means other Club for Growth organizations did the same. And finally, Americans for Prosperity set up a form letter page making it as easy as pie to contact Walker. The Koch Brothers are founders of both Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity.

Prior to these national organizations mounting their campaign it’s fairly clear that those in Wisconsin who felt an email was the best way to express their support or dissent were nearly evenly divided, but either way, even when emails from the out-of-state Flying Monkey Brigade were removed the results are clear – the emails did support Walker, but they don’t reveal much.

What has been revealed with Walker trumpeting the emails is a troubling double standard and dismissive attitude toward his fellow Wisconsinites.

The Governor essentially used the emails as an argument that a Wisconsinite who bundles up and heads down to the Capitol to have her voice heard shouldn’t be considered as much as someone who fires off a message from his home computer before climbing into bed.

The Governor also suggested that the taxpayers demonstrating at the Capitol and the taxpayers opposing him as he travels around the state are mostly bussed in. Not only was this suggestion wrong, it is also a double standard. During two press conferences, he referenced the emails as speaking for the majority of Wisconsinites even though thousands of those emails came from out-of-state supporters taking their cues from at least one FOX News pundit, the Club for Growth, and Tea Party Patriots.

Walker has also touted the Americans for Prosperity funded “Stand with Walker” bus tour as evidence that the majority of Wisconsinites support him, again while dismissing the hundreds of people that show up to greet him whenever he visits a municipality. Those people came on foot and by car from their places of work or their homes. They didn’t show up in a tour bus.

If the AP and Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism are correct in their extrapolation, then that means roughly 29,000 people emailed Walker in support over eight days. Nearly 3,400 of those emails were from out-of-state. That means Walker is holding up the input of less than half of one percent of Wisconsin taxpayers as more important than the voices of tens of thousands that have followed him all over the state.

This originally appeared at dane101.com on March 23, 2011.

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Hitler signs are never okay unless, maybe, you’re a time traveler protesting Hitler

I’ve been covering the rallies at the Wisconsin Capitol building since they started on Monday. The majority of signs have been straightforward and often amusing. A small sample has been straight up geeky hitting a special place in my heart (Ex: “Walker Can’t TriForce“). On Wednesday I saw the first unfortunate sign that hit a different place in my heart, the part that handles sorrow and disappointment. I saw a sign being held over the side of my State Capitol’s rotunda equating Scott Walker to Adolf Hitler.

This morning I decided I’m not going to let it slide. I wasn’t okay with it in April of 2009 when the Tea Party filled the Capitol lawn with signs making the same connection between Hitler and Obama and I’m not okay with the same connection being made to Governor Walker. One of the biggest complaints I heard throughout the Tea Party rallies was that no one on that side was calling out the obnoxious signs (now, of course, they have no problem calling out the signs – the woman being interviewed here is the same woman I saw with the sign).

Did Hitler bust trade unions? You bet he did, but he also embraced a distorted view of the trade union model. He wrote about this at length in Mein Kampf and after destroying trade union leadership in 1933 he forced the remaining labor organizations to merge with the state-run trade union the German Labor Front. Last I checked Walker isn’t rounding up union leadership and forming a state-run labor party, but he won’t announce his budget until Tuesday, so maybe Nazi sign lady knows more than I do.

This is also one in a litany of reasons why the Tea Party equating Obama to Hitler was so very wrong. Obama has yet to smash independent unions in this country and form a national labor party. While Conservatives often try to portray the U.S. labor movement as this massively organized beast working in tandem it is in actuality, quite fragmented. In fact, its well known that the International Association of Firefighters is traditionally a conservative union, which is why having the Firefighters stand with other public sector unions is being treated as such a big deal at the Capitol. It wasn’t expected.

How else is Walker not like Hitler? Again, I haven’t seen any of his future proposals, but I’m willing to bet my farm that he isn’t going to make a list of “race enemies” and send them to camps. Just sayin’.

If historical comparisons don’t convince you to put down your Hitler sign consider that as soon as you paste Hitler to that poster board you’ve lost your argument. No one is going to take you seriously and you’re simply giving the opposition fodder so they don’t need to talk about the real issues. You lose.

Scott Walker is not Hitler. Barack Obama is not Hitler.

This editorial originally appeared on dane101.com on February 18, 2011.

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The First Amendment only applies to me

I can’t figure out if the last two weeks have revealed a massive misunderstanding of the First Amendment on the part of the American public, or if it has revealed a massive selfishness regarding it. The First Amendment is not a one-way street.

Let’s start with Dr. Laura Schlessenger.

Dr. Laura, as most of you know by now, is quitting her radio program. She is doing so to “regain [her] First Amendment rights.” Last week Dr. Laura, host of a popular talk show where she is allowed to spout her opinions every day, said the word “nigger” 11 times, claimed that black people voted for Obama because he was black, and told a caller not to “NAACP me.” People weren’t happy about this tirade and because we live in the United States they used their First Amendment rights to express that they didn’t like what Dr. Laura said. Apparently, though, by expressing an opinion about the content of her program you are stepping all over Dr. Laura’s First Amendment rights. Poor, voiceless Dr. Laura. She isn’t suffering from a misunderstanding of the First Amendment, she is suffering from an overwhelming sense of privilege.

If you are feeling sorry for Dr. Laura, please don’t, because she isn’t really going anywhere. Once her contract is up I suspect we’ll be hearing plenty from the good doctor as she writes books, tours the lucrative talking head circuit, and is called upon as an expert by the cable networks.

Dr. Laura, one of the great things about this country is that when we disagree with something someone says, we get to say so.

The other big First Amendment issue over the last two weeks is the debate surrounding the mosque/Islamic community center that might be built two blocks away from the Ground Zero site in New York City. This is an outrageous debate that should leave any citizen of this country that believes in the First Amendment lowering their heads in shame. The First Amendment protects the freedom of religion. Our founding fathers and mothers risked their lives crossing the Atlantic Ocean so they could have the freedom to practice their religion of choice. We’ve fought wars to defend the principle of First Amendment rights.

The individuals wishing to build the Islamic Community Center have passed all of the required legal hurdles in New York City. They have received endorsements from their neighbors, from local community groups, and from leaders of neighboring religious organizations. To attempt to block and politicize the right to build this community center due to an extreme minority loosely affiliated with their religion bringing down the World Trade Center is hypocritical. Those men were cowards who violated every tenet of Islam.

The worst part about it is that the argument against the center is a complete distortion that most of the media have bought hook, line, and sinker. There is already a mosque four blocks from the World Trade Center site. There is a space for Muslims to worship inside the Pentagon at the location where it was hit on September 11. The community center is more than two blocks from the site and you won’t even be able to see it from the street. Muslims died on September 11. Muslims died rescuing people. Muslims died as passengers in the planes that were brought to the ground. Muslims have served our country while fighting al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

We are better than this. Opposing the center makes us appear to the rest of the world as petty and small. It doesn’t matter if it hurts your feelings that Muslims want to build a community center near Ground Zero because their right to do so is protected by the Constitution.

If holding up a handful of evildoers as the representatives of an entire religion is to be the new standard then it needs to be applied evenly and equally. It should be assumed that until every Catholic priest that has ever terrorized and violated the innocence of a child is purged from the clergy and rightfully brought before the law no more churches can be built within two blocks of where children live.

The First Amendment is a two-way street. You don’t get to decide who gets to criticize you or who gets to practice their religion and who doesn’t.

 

This article originally appeared at dane101.com on August 19, 2010.

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