Tag: party management

Democratic Party of Wisconsin officials release the party’s own autopsy

A 22-member Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) committee, led by DPW Second Vice-Chairman Jeff Christensen, released its own internal report on the 2014 midterm elections in Wisconsin yesterday. You can read the full report here; it’s a 14-page PDF file.

According to the DPW Administrative Committee, here’s what I’ve interpreted as being the main points in the report:

  • Since 1990, Wisconsin has become an extremely polarized state, with a very strong two-party system and the top-of-the-ticket race in November general elections in Wisconsin having a huge impact on downballot races.
  • The DPW should provide more support to candidates in officially non-partisan local elections in order to build a bench of Democratic candidates for state legislative and statewide elections.
  • The DPW shouldn’t meddle in contested primaries unless it has a very good reason to do so (such as scenarios involving known Republicans/conservatives running in a Democratic primary or a candidate who is clearly unfit for public office running in a Democratic primary).
  • The DPW leadership should explain its proper role in the political process and management of the party more effectively.
  • The Republicans’ message in Wisconsin is to effectively paint the Democrats as the “party of government”, even if Democrats aren’t in power.
  • Democrats should rebut the Republicans’ talking points more effectively.
  • Democrats in Wisconsin have focused too much on attacking Scott Walker and not enough on promoting a positive message of any kind.
  • To use terminology that was used in the report, Democrats in Wisconsin have “played nice in the sandbox”, leading to Democratic candidates who are too defensive.
  • While Democrats should focus heavily on tailoring a positive message to rural voters, both rural and urban voters in Wisconsin regard education, infrastructure, and jobs as three important issues.
  • Election fatigue is becoming a major problem among Democratic activists/volunteers in Wisconsin.
  • In regards to the DPW’s field operations, the DPW should find various ways to optimize voter turnout.
  • Three programs created as part of the “72-county strategy”, regional field organizers, Spring Forward (support for known Democrats running in officially non-partisan local elections in Wisconsin), and Red-to-Blue (support for Democratic state legislative candidates in Republican-leaning or heavily-Republican areas of Wisconsin) should be expanded.
  • The most important point of the report is that “the path to a new progressive era (in Wisconsin) is entirely possible”.

While some of these points are specific to Wisconsin, some of the points also apply to state-level Democratic parties in other states as well.

The report strongly suggested that the DPW should run statewide candidates who can run on a positive, progressive message, as well as relate to both urban and rural voters. However, the report didn’t suggest any potential statewide candidates for future elections in Wisconsin, and there aren’t that many Democrats in Wisconsin who could pull off such a campaign. Lori Compas, who was the recall organizer and Democratic candidate in the 2012 recall attempt against Republican State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, is the first person that comes to mind for me. However, I don’t think that Compas is interested in running for public office again at all. The second person who comes to my mind is Kathleen Vinehout, a state senator from the west-central part of Wisconsin who was the third-place candidate in the 2012 Democratic primary in the gubernatorial recall election. Vinehout nearly ran for governor last year, but injuries sustained in an automobile crash prevented her from running for governor. There’s probably a few others out there as well.

Additionally, while the DPW’s report didn’t touch on any of these points at all, I do have several suggestions of my own:

  • Democrats in Wisconsin should run against income inequality, preferably by using “1% vs. 99%” messaging and supporting ideals such as raising taxes on the wealthy and ending tax breaks and other forms of corporate welfare for businesses.
  • Democrats in Wisconsin should run on progressive ideas and values, and, even more importantly, they should explain how progressive policies would benefit all or the vast majority of people.
  • Democrats in Wisconsin should stop speaking favorably of Republicans, as well as stop ignoring and criticizing progressives.
  • Democrats in Wisconsin should emphasize restoring local control to counties and municipalities over issues that are best dealt with at the local level.
  • Progressive-minded Democrats in Wisconsin should, as much as possible, distance themselves from fellow Democrats who are opposed to progressive ideals and values on many issues, most notably Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele.
  • Democrats in Wisconsin, should, if possible, use the own words of Republican elected officials and candidates against them.

One thing is clear from the DPW’s autopsy: The DPW, in its current state, is one of the weakest state-level Democratic Party organizations in the entire country. A Second Progressive Era in Wisconsin is certainly obtainable, although it’s going to require progressives to hold the DPW leadership accountable to many of the points they made in their own report on the 2014 elections, as well as require Democrats to run progressive candidates who can appeal to a wide coalition of voters.

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Wisconsin Democratic chairperson candidate Jason Rae employed by firm founded by individual that provided money to Koch-funded organizations

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I have made edits to the blog post and title to accurately reflect Nation Consulting founder Thad Nation’s use of a 501(c)(4) organization to give money to right-wing organizations and Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairperson candidate Jason Rae’s employment by Nation Consulting.

I’ve found information that proves that Thad Nation, Wisconsin Democratic chairperson candidate Jason Rae’s boss at Nation Consulting, has provided money to at least seven right-wing organizations, including at least four that are funded either directly or indirectly by the Koch Brothers. Nation himself was listed in a 2012 IRS 990 filing as the principal officer of Coalition for the New Economy (CftNE), a 501(c)4 organization that opposes government-run broadband internet services in areas where private-sector firms currently provide broadband internet service. CftNE has also given money to at least several right-wing political groups that have actively opposed Democratic and liberal political candidates, have actively supported Republican and conservative political candidates, and/or have advocated for far-right policies that would have a negative impact on America. Here’s the organizations that CftNE has given money to, according to page 17 of the 2012 IRS filing by that organization:

  • $15,000 for “general support” to the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), a right-wing anti-tax organization that has, among other things, effectively supported allowing the U.S. federal government to default on the national debt. NTU has received a total of $32,500 from the Koch Family Foundations from 1998 to 2008, including $5,000 from Charles Koch’s own foundation in 2008.
  • $5,000 for “general support” to the Center for Individual Freedom (CIF), a right-wing organization that spent $1.9 million in television advertising in an attempt to help Republicans win U.S. House races that were seriously contested by both major parties in the 2012 elections. CIF spent a slightly larger amount of money on a similar effort in the 2010 elections.
  • $5,000 for “general support” to Americans for Prosperity (AfP), a far-right political organization founded by the Koch Brothers themselves. In Wisconsin, AfP spent $866,000 in ads designed to help Scott Walker win the 2014 Wisconsin gubernatorial race and approximately $2.9 million in ads in opposition to the 2012 recall effort against Walker that was strongly supported by Wisconsin progressives.
  • $10,000 for “general support” to FreedomWorks, a far-right organization that has, among other things, ran several anti-union campaigns in states like Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania and supported far-right extremist Chris McDaniel, who, among other things, blamed rap music for many of our country’s problems, in his unsuccessful 2014 Republican primary challenge to U.S. Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi.
  • $5,000 for “general support” to Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI), a right-wing organization that was founded by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) and, among other things, opposes taxation and supports privatizing Social Security. IPI has received $35,000 from the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, which is identified by the Center for Media and Democracy’s SourceWatch as one of the four Koch Family Foundations. IPI is the only one of the organizations listed in the CftNE filing that is a 501(c)(3) organization; all of the others are listed as 501(c)(4) organizations.
  • $15,000 for “general support” to the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA), a right-wing organization that has, among other things, attacked the federal government over the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable, two of the largest cable television providers in the country.
  • $14,740 for “general support” to the 60 Plus Association (60 Plus), a right-wing organization funded by Koch Brothers-funded organizations like Freedom Parners and American Encore as part of a complex web of Koch Brothers-funded organizations. In Wisconsin, 60 Plus ran this advertisement attacking now-Democratic U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin for supporting the Affordable Care Act (ACA), federal legislation that provided millions of Americans with health insurance.

That’s a total of $69,740 that Thad Nation has, through CftNE, provided to right-wing organizations that have supported Republicans like Scott Walker, ran smear campaigns against Democrats like Tammy Baldwin, and have supported far-right policies that would make America a much worse place to live. Thad Nation is also the same person who employs Jason Rae as a senior associate at Nation Consulting, and Rae is running for Chairperson of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. If Rae is elected DPW Chair, it would be at least an apparent conflict of interest for someone like Rae to be the head of a state-level Democratic organization if he were to remain employed at Nation Consulting, because the founder of that organization was the head of a 501(c)(4) organization that gave money to groups that support Republicans and their destructive far-right agenda.

Let me finish this post by saying two things about Rae and his supporters. One, Rae’s supporters are some of the most vile people I’ve ever interacted with online. Two, Rae completely lacks the temperament to be in a Democratic Party leadership position of any kind.

Purported Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairperson candidate Martha Laning ran ad praising Republicans during failed state senate campaign

If you thought the consultant class’s candidate for Chairperson of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, Jason Rae, was bad, it’s being reported that, believe it or not, a candidate who is arguably as bad as Jason Rae is going to enter the race for DPW chair.

Martha Laning, who lost a Wisconsin State Senate race in the Manitowoc/Sheboygan region of the state last year by a huge margin to far-right Republican and corporate media hack Devin LeMahieu, reportedly intends to announce a bid for DPW chair sometime later today at the DPW County Chairs Association (DPW CCA) meeting in Plover, Wisconsin, and that political fundraiser Mary Lang Sollinger will drop out of the race at or around the same time Laning announces her bid for DPW chair. This is being reported by two authors of the Wisconsin-based progressive blog Blogging Blue, citing unnamed sources.

During her failed state senate campaign, Laning ran a campaign that was completely out of touch with reality. Despite all of the damage that far-right Republican Scott Walker did in his first term as Governor of Wisconsin, including busting unions, forcing Wisconsin women who wish to have an abortion undergo a forced ultrasound, repealing Wisconsin’s equal pay law, giving out corporate welfare to political cronies, and gutting public education, Laning ran a TV ad for her state senate campaign in which she praised Republicans and bizarrely claimed that Republicans have good ideas:

Having watched the ad on YouTube at least once during her state senate campaign that I can remember (I don’t live in Wisconsin, so the only way I can view Wisconsin-based political ads is if the candidates themselves upload them to a website where non-Wisconsinites can view them), watching that ad nearly made me vomit, to be honest with you. I’ve never seen a Democrat run an ad that was as out of touch with political reality as the one Laning ran in her Wisconsin State Senate campaign last year.

Steve Carlson of Blogging Blue reported that Laning moderated an event that was billed by Laning and 3rd Congressional District of Wisconsin Chairwoman Lisa Herman as a Democratic forum in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, and it appears that someone was pulling quite a few strings for Laning:

What’s interesting about this impending announcement is that Laning made an appearance not quite two weeks ago in Stevens Point, not far from Plover, at what was billed by both her and 3rd congressional district Chair Lisa Hermann as a Democratic Forum, ostensibly held to chart a path forward for democrats across Wisconsin. But here’s where it gets curious.

Laning moderated the event the entire day, which lasted maybe seven hours. Not Lisa Hermann, a long time democrat and CD Chair, not Penny Bernard Schaber, who was in attendance, nor any of the other long time democrats who were in attendance, but Martha Laning, a woman whose engaged involvement with the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, as far as I know, consists of a single run for state senate over the last couple of years. And she was up in front of the crowd the entire day. Hmmm.

And what’s even more curious is that all of the announced candidates for Chair of the DPW were encouraged to attend, and most of them did, but they were informed in advance that they would not be allowed to speak to the assembled gathering, nor were they to hand out any literature regarding their respective campaigns. Hmmmmmm.

Furthermore, Zach Wisniewski of Blogging Blue reported that Laning’s yet-to-be-announced candidacy for DPW chair is backed by the “money people” within the DPW who want a chairperson who will serve them and not rank-and-file Wisconsin Democrats, and that Laning herself is not strongly progressive when it comes to labor unions, economic policy, and abortion:

According to my source, Laning’s candidacy would represent efforts by the “money people” within the party to elect the DPW Chair they want. “They want to make someone chair who has been a member for less than two years and is totally unreliable on labor, economic issues, abortion rights, etc. It’s unbelievable,” said the source, noting Joe Wineke, Jeff Smith, and Jason Rae are all reliably progressive while in the opinion of my source Martha Laning isn’t as reliably progressive.

Corporate Democrats like Mary Burke and Martha Laning tried a strategy in 2014 of praising Republicans and running away from progressives, labor unions, and the middle class at nearly every opportunity, and it failed miserably in Wisconsin and many other states because it did nothing to win over persuadable voters while turning off progressives to the point that many of them didn’t vote in the November 2014 elections. Either Jason Rae or Martha Laning would be as big of a disaster, if not even more of a disaster, as DPW chair than Mike Tate has been for the past six years. Given how important Wisconsin is to the 2016 elections, Wisconsin, and, for that matter, America, can’t afford a DPW chair candidate who would run the same failed strategy or an even worse strategy.

PROVISIONAL ENDORSEMENT: Jeff Smith for Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairperson

I’m provisionally endorsing Jeff Smith’s campaign for Chairperson of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW). Please note that my endorsement of Smith for DPW Chair is only a provisional endorsement and not a full endorsement at this time, since I’m only endorsing Smith provided that a potential candidate for DPW Chair, Lori Compas, does not enter the race for DPW Chair. If Compas runs for DPW Chair (which is not likely, since it’s been a while since she stated that she was considering a run and hasn’t said anything about whether or not she’ll run since then), I will pull my endorsement of Smith and endorse Compas instead, while, if Compas does not run for DPW Chair, my provisional endorsement of Smith will automatically become a full endorsement of Smith.

Smith has some excellent ideas for reviving the currently moribund Democratic Party of Wisconsin, which is barely relevant in Wisconsin politics nowadays due to current DPW Chairman Mike Tate and others in the failed Democratic establishment badly mismanaging the state party, and making the party, whose list of former statewide elected officials includes people like Gaylord Nelson, Bill Proxmire, Pat Lucey, Tony Earl, and Russ Feingold, great once again. Some of Smith’s ideas include more support for Wisconsin College Democrats chapters to help the party reach out to young voters more effectively, making the DPW’s messaging more progressive, and making the DPW less dependent on political consultants who are more interested in getting payoffs from the party and its donors than doing anything to actually help Democratic candidates.

Mike Tate, who is not running for re-election for DPW Chair, is one of many individuals in the DPW who are responsible for the DPW being in so much disarray. Tate was the one who hand-picked corporate hack and Jim Doyle crony Mary Burke to run against Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker last year, and, in the process, Tate single-handedly turned Burke, who tried to run for governor as a political outsider, into the ultimate political insider, which destroyed what little chance she had of defeating Walker. Sadly, that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Tate’s mismanagement of the DPW.

While I’m not a Wisconsin resident (I live in Illinois, and we could certainly use better, more progressive Democratic leadership here, although trying to pry the Illinois Democratic Party out of the hands of Mike Madigan is nearly impossible), the election for Chairperson of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin has massive national implications, because Wisconsin could very well determine which party wins control the White House and the U.S. Senate in next year’s elections. Of the candidates currently running, I believe that Jeff Smith is the best candidate for DPW Chair, and that’s why I’ve provisionally endorsed Smith’s campaign. This year’s DPW Convention, which will select the next DPW Chair, will be held on June 5 & 6 at the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino in Milwaukee, and DPW members who are selected as delegates to the state convention by their home county’s Democratic Party chapter will be able to vote for DPW Chair.

Joe Wineke proposes brilliant plan to rebuild the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

With Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) Chairman Mike Tate leaving office later this year, there’s two candidates already running for the office of DPW chairperson.

One of them is Jason Rae, a Democratic National Committee (DNC) member from Milwaukee. There are several red flags that pop up in my head when I think about Rae’s candidacy. First off, the fact that he’s a DNC member means that he’s associated with a national party that lost complete control of Congress over the past four years under the failed leadership of Tim Kaine and Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Secondly, Rae’s Wikipedia page states that Rae’s lifelong goal is to be President of the United States (this is sourced to a 2004 Boston Globe article that is behind a paywall), which tells me that Rae is more concerned about gaining more political power for himself than actually building the Democratic Party in Wisconsin, a critical swing state in modern American politics. Thirdly, Rae, unusually for a candidate for a state party office, has a full-fledged campaign website, and, while I like the use of online resources to campaign for party offices, Rae’s campaign platform is full of the typical Mike Tate-style talking points that Wisconsin progressives have had to put up with for the past six years, such few specifics about how he’d run the DPW and a ton of empty rhetoric about reenergizing the party and winning over rural and suburban voters, two things that the DPW has been terrible at under Tate’s failed leadership. Last, but certainly not least, the front page of Rae’s campaign website is a splash page that includes a link to donate money to his campaign for DPW chair, which tells me that Rae is trying to buy the DPW chair, and I fear that, if Rae is elected, he would run the party in a corrupt manner.

The other candidate in the race so far is Joe Wineke of Verona, who served two largely successful terms as DPW chair from 2005 to 2009 and is running for a third non-consecutive term. Not only does Wineke have an actual winning track record, he also has a detailed plan to rebuild the Democratic Party of Wisconsin from the bottom up, which is how a political party should be run:

First…let’s quit playing defense all the time.

The public agrees with us on the issues, but we are constantly letting Republicans define the message, and by definition, defining us.  We do that by playing offense.

Second…we do that through messaging.

Message matters.  We need to create an “Opportunity Agenda” based on putting people first.  Our “Opportunity Agenda” will be based on economic, educational, and equal opportunity for all.  In musical terms, we must create a symphonic message based on these themes.  Variations to our symphonic theme will be based on:

  • Economic Security: People know they are falling behind.  We, as Democrats, have not given enough people the belief that we will help them succeed.  Supporting the working class is paramount to their security.  Better wages, reducing student loan debt, support for the right to collectively bargain, making housing more affordable and attainable need to be key to that effort.
  • Educational Opportunity: Democrats need to stand behind public schools.  Let the Republicans side with the rich and powerful on this issue.  We need to remind people that public dollars should go to public schools…period.  Rural schools in Wisconsin have reached a crisis point.  If we quit playing on the edges and show the public whose side we are on, we can win this issue.  We are currently losing it.  I believe that the Democratic Party renaissance will begin in rural Wisconsin and the issue is education.
  • Equal Opportunity: Political parties must stand powerfully behind core issues.  Equal opportunity for all, whether one is straight, gay, black, white, Native American, or anything else must be defined by Democrats.  Republicans have been allowed to pander to prejudice for too long.  Let it define them and define us.

If handled properly, the core issues of the “Opportunity Agenda” will rise to a message crescendo that will help lead us to victory in 2016 and beyond.  Of course, there will be other issues that will matter in our fight to reclaim Wisconsin, but it is far better to stick to a handful of powerful issues than to get bogged down in a hundred battles at once.

Third…we need to rebuild our Party from the bottom up.

Neither a “top down” Party, nor a “top down” message, resonates with average people.  We need to create a better message, more effectively using modern communication mediums on social media, like Facebook and Twitter.  I propose the creation of a Social Media Advisory Council within the Party to create a daily message based on our “Opportunity Agenda”.

Fourth…there is an old saying that states, “You can’t beat somebody, with nobody”.

When I was Chair, we fielded a variety of candidates in every legislative and local race we could, not just competing in the “so called” competitive seats.  Not to mention, we were pretty darn successful in doing it, filling the vast majority of seats for the Assembly and Senate.  In 2014, we left 31 of 60 Assembly Republicans off with “free rides”.  If I am elected Chair, those days are over.  We won’t win a lot of those seats, but we might just steal a few.  In addition, it is a smart way to build a local party base that will likely increase our percentages in GOP counties enough to get a few more percentage points at the top of the ticket.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (MJS), a bastion of media bias in Wisconsin, published this piece about Wineke and Rae entering the race for DPW chair which featured Rae’s announcement prominently and only made a passing mention of Wineke’s announcement. Given that MJS has long been in the tank for Scott Walker and other Wisconsin Republicans, that’s a clear indication that they think that Rae will continue Tate’s legacy of being an asset for the Republicans.

While I don’t live in Wisconsin, it is indisputable that Wisconsin is one of the more important states to the Democratic Party, mainly due to Wisconsin being a swing state in recent years, which is why I’m writing about the DPW chair race.

While I do have a few qualms about Wineke, such as the fact that he was once a corporate lobbyist for AT&T, Wineke is, in my opinion, the best candidate for DPW chair among those currently in the race because of his winning track record and solid plan to build. Because there is the possibility that one or more other candidates could enter the race, I’m not going to publicly endorse a candidate for DPW chair yet.