Tag: Wisconsin Democratic convention

Wisconsin Democratic convention provides first real sign of Berniementum

Although Hillary Clinton received the most votes among the 511 individuals who voted in the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) Convention straw poll, Hillary received only a plurality of the vote in the straw poll, with progressives mostly united around Bernie Sanders, who came in a surprisingly close (even to a Sanders supporter like myself) second place.

Here are the results of the Wisconsin Democratic presidential straw poll:

  • 1st – Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of New York – 252 (49.32%)
  • 2nd – U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont – 208 (40.70%)
  • T-3rd – Vice President Joe Biden of Delaware – 16 (3.13%)
  • T-3rd – Former Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland – 16 (3.13%)
  • 5th – Former U.S. Senator Jim Webb of Virginia – 8 (1.57%)
  • 6th – Former Governor Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island – 5 (0.98%)
  • 7th – U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (write-in) – 4 (0.78%)
  • 8th – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack of Iowa (write-in) – 1 (0.20%)

Of the 511 straw poll voters, 1 voter, or 0.20% of the total straw poll electorate, did not cast a valid vote for any candidate or write-in candidate in the presidential portion of the straw poll. Of the candidates who received at least one vote, Clinton, Sanders, O’Malley, and Chafee are officially running for the Democratic presidential nomination. A total of 8 candidates received at least one vote. Percentages given for each candidate’s vote total are percentages of the total straw poll electorate.

To say the least, this is the first real sign of trouble for the Hillary Clinton campaign in regards to the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Despite being perceived as the heavy favorite to win the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary couldn’t even get a majority of the vote in the Wisconsin Democratic straw poll, whose electorate usually consists of Democratic diehards in Wisconsin. More importantly, the Wisconsin straw poll shows that Bernie’s campaign is gaining momentum in a huge way, as he received over 40% of the vote despite a near-blackout of Bernie’s campaign by the corporate media and the political establishment in this country.

The Wisconsin Democratic convention straw poll also featured a gubernatorial straw poll, in which no candidate came even close to a majority of the vote, although there is currently a very strong preference for a gubernatorial candidate from the western part of Wisconsin among many of the Wisconsin Democrats who participated in the straw poll. Here are the results of the gubernatorial straw poll, which also saw 511 ballots cast:

  • 1st – State Senator Kathleen Vinehout of Alma – 149 (29.16%)
  • 2nd – State Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling of La Crosse – 89 (17.42%)
  • 3rd – U.S. Representative Ron Kind of La Crosse – 85 (16.63%)
  • 4th – State Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca of Kenosha – 64 (12.52%)
  • 5th – Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson of Kaukauna – 55 (10.76%)
  • 6th – Dane County Executive Joe Parisi of Madison – 11 (2.15%)
  • T-7th – Former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk of Madison (write-in) – 3 (0.59%)
  • T-7th – Former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold of Middleton (write-in) – 3 (0.59%)
  • T-7th – State Senator Chris Larson of Milwaukee (write-in) – 3 (0.59%)
  • T-7th – State Assembly Assistant Minority Leader Katrina Shankland of Stevens Point (write-in) – 3 (0.59%)
  • T-11th – Business executive Kevin Conroy of Madison (write-in) – 2 (0.39%)
  • T-11th – Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ of Jefferson (write-in) – 2 (0.39%)
  • T-11th – Former Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman Mike Tate of Milwaukee (write-in) – 2 (0.39%)
  • T-11th – State Representative Chris Taylor of Madison (write-in) – 2 (0.39%)
  • T-11th – State Senator Lena Taylor of Milwaukee (write-in) – 2 (0.39%)
  • T-16th – State Representative Mandela Barnes of Milwaukee (write-in) – 1 (0.20%)
  • T-16th – Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee (write-in) – 1 (0.20%)
  • T-16th – Madison Metropolitan School Board Member Mary Burke of Madison (write-in) – 1 (0.20%)
  • T-16th – Mayor John Dickert of Racine (write-in) – 1 (0.20%)
  • T-16th – State Senator Dave Hansen of Green Bay (write-in) – 1 (0.20%)
  • T-16th – Political activist Mike McCabe of Madison (write-in) – 1 (0.20%)
  • T-16th – U.S. Representative Gwen Moore of Milwaukee (write-in) – 1 (0.20%)
  • T-16th – Mayor Justin Nickels of Manitowoc (write-in) – 1 (0.20%)
  • T-16th – U.S. Representative Mark Pocan of Town of Vermont (write-in) – 1 (0.20%)
  • T-16th – Manufacturers’ sales representative Neal Plotkin of Milwaukee (write-in) – 1 (0.20%)
  • T-16th – State Representative Dana Wachs of Eau Claire (write-in) – 1 (0.20%)

Of the 511 straw poll voters, 25 voters, or 4.89% of the total electorate, did not cast a valid vote for any candidate or write-in candidate in the gubernatorial portion of the straw poll. I am unsure about which municipalities Joe Parisi and Mike Tate live in; as a result, I listed either the county seat of their home county (for Parisi) or their birthplace (for Tate). Some sources list Mark Pocan as living in either Madison or Black Earth; Pocan’s campaign website lists him as a resident of the Town of Vermont in Dane County. WisPolitics.com misspelled the name of Justin Nickels on their online results sheet; they listed Nickels as “Justin Nichols”, likely due to the individual who wrote-in Nickels misspelling his last name. The only information I could find about anyone from Wisconsin named Neal Plotkin is from a 2012 article in The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle that listed Plotkin as a manufacturers’ sales representative from Milwaukee, so this is presumably the Neal Plotkin that the individual cast a write-in vote for. A total of 26 candidates received at least one vote. Percentages given for each candidate’s vote total are percentages of the total straw poll electorate.

While the race for the Democratic nomination for Governor of Wisconsin hasn’t really begun to take shape three and a half years from the next gubernatorial election in Wisconsin, there is already a strong preference for a candidate from the western part of Wisconsin. While Kathleen Vinehout got a plurality of the straw poll vote, she didn’t even come close to a majority of the vote, and the top three candidates, which received a combined 63.21% of the vote, all come from the western part of Wisconsin.

If I had been a Wisconsin resident, a delegate to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin convention, and a participant in the straw poll, I would have voted for Bernie Sanders in the presidential portion of the straw poll and would have wrote-in Lori Compas in the gubernatorial portion of the straw poll (I would never write-in my own name in a straw poll, even though I would be open to the idea of running for Governor of Wisconsin in 2018 if I move to Wisconsin before 2018). Of the candidates who received at least one vote in the gubernatorial portion of the straw poll, I have a favorable opinion of Parisi, Feingold, Shankland, Chris Taylor, Barnes, Hansen, McCabe, Moore, and Pocan, with McCabe, the head of the progressive group Blue Jean Nation, being my favorite of those.

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BREAKING NEWS: Martha Laning elected Wisconsin Democratic chairwoman

It’s official…former Wisconsin State Senate candidate Martha Laning is the new chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. According to Shawn Johnson of Wisconsin Public Radio, here are the official results:

  1. Martha Laning – 721 (53.45%)
  2. Jason Rae – 428 (31.73%)
  3. Joe Wineke – 191 (14.16%)
  4. Stephen Smith – 6 (0.44%)
  5. Jeff Smith – 3 (0.22%)

A total of 1,349 valid votes were cast for a chair candidate by delegates and alternates who were elevated to delegate status prior to the vote. Of the five chair candidates, Jeff Smith dropped out of the race right before the DPW Convention and officially nominated Laning, however his name remained on the ballot.

Laning ran on, among other things, identifying the cause of lower turnout in midterm elections, promising a more inclusive Democratic Party of Wisconsin, providing more financial and technical support to county-level Democratic organizations in Wisconsin, encouraging Democratic candidates in Wisconsin to use values-based messaging based at least loosely on George Lakoff-style messaging (more on that here), and helping candidates use foreign-language materials to reach out to Wisconsin voters who don’t speak English as their first language. In short, Laning has promised a stronger, more inclusive Democratic Party of Wisconsin, and I will hold her accountable to her promises.

For a while, it appeared for quite a while that Jason Rae was going to win the chair’s race easily. However, many of Rae’s staunchest supporters attacked Laning, me, and everyone else that opposed Rae in any way, shape, or form, and Rae himself had a royalist mindset throughout his campaign. Another problem that gave Rae nothing but trouble during his campaign was his affiliation with Nation Consulting, a Milwaukee-based political consulting firm. As I wrote about a month ago, Thad Nation, the head of Nation Consulting and Rae’s employer, used a political front group to give tens of thousands of dollars to right-wing political organizations that have strongly opposed Democratic and progressive causes. I’m not sure how many delegates I managed to persuade to vote for a non-Rae candidate with that blog post, if any, but I can say that it certainly didn’t help Rae’s campaign at all.

Additionally, Laning benefited from the implosion of the Jeff Smith campaign for chair. About a week or so before the convention, Jeff Smith sent a letter to delegates, which was received by at least one DPW official that I know of, in which Jeff Smith offered Laning a job if he had been elected. Laning responded by criticizing Jeff Smith for using campaign literature to tout a job offer without her permission. That ended any chance of Jeff Smith being elected chair, so he bowed out right before the convention, and, in a move that helped solidify Laning’s “party unity” credentials, Laning allowed Jeff Smith to officially nominate her for chair.

Initially, I despised Laning and her candidacy. When I first heard that Laning was going to run for DPW Chair, I thought that she’d be a terrible candidate for DPW Chair, as I initially viewed her as a candidate of appeasement towards Republicans. However, when Jeff Smith dropped out of the race, I reviewed Laning’s plans for the DPW, and I quickly realized that Laning would be the best candidate to lead the Democratic Party in the state that could be the most critical to a national Democratic victory next year. I sincerely apologize to Martha Laning and her supporters for my criticisms of her campaign prior to Jeff Smith exiting the race for DPW Chair.

One person I will credit for Laning’s victory (other than Laning herself, who obviously deserves most of the credit), is Lori Compas, a professional photographer and the organizer of the unsuccessful, but valiant, recall attempt against Republican Wisconsin State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald in 2012. While the endorsement of Wisconsin State Senator Kathleen Vinehout was the first noteworthy endorsement that Laning received, Compas endorsed Laning early on in her campaign, and, when Compas endorsed Laning, that was the first time I viewed Laning as a serious candidate for DPW chair. Laning’s coalition of support represented a cross-section of the DPW, ranging from ultra-progressives like former Madison Common Council member Satya Rhodes-Conway to centrists like Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris. For all the talk about Vinehout’s political instincts, nobody in Wisconsin has better political instincts than Lori Compas, and Laning’s victory is an example of that.

Martha Laning is going to have a lot of pressure to lead the Democratic Party of Wisconsin to victory next year, because Wisconsin is probably the one state that is going to decide control of the White House and the U.S. Senate in the 2016 elections.

ANONYMOUS GUEST POST: How the Washington Generals learned to stop worrying and love the Harlem Globetrotters

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The following blog post was emailed to me by an individual who I will not publicly name, but is a resident of the State of Wisconsin who I will refer to as Progressive Activist A. The blog post is almost completely unedited (I did make a slight edit to remove a reference to a graphic that was not provided in the email) and not originally written by me, but written by Progressive Activist A with help of unnamed Milwaukee County (WI) Democratic Party members. The blog post compares the Republican Party of Wisconsin to the Harlem Globetrotters and the current Democratic Party of Wisconsin leadership to the Washington Generals. Below this author’s note is the blog post, and below that are my notes about the blog post.


In Wisconsin the Democrats are getting ready to practice democracy. In just over a week the Democratic Party of Wisconsin will be holding its annual, statewide convention.  There they will ask their delegates to vote to select a new Chair, or leader, for the statewide party.
The firmly blue, democratic leaning city of Milwaukee is the site of the convention. Milwaukee, the city that is surrounded by a collar of white suburbs that voted in Scott Walker as County Executive and then backed it up by voting in Tea Party darling in democratic clothing, mouthpiece and pawn of the uber-right Bradley Foundation, Chris Abele.
Oh well, democracy is a relatively new concept and is not yet perfected.  But still sometimes one has to wonder. Shouldn’t we be at least slowly moving towards a more perfect form of democracy?  As I look around it seems that not only are we no longer moving towards a more perfect democracy, but rather that we are running and leaping away from a more perfect democracy.
Most people by now should know that it is possible to become President of the United States by losing the popular vote (the vote of the citizens of the U.S. who cast ballots in elections) and winning the vote of the electoral college. But that rarely happens so most people shrug it off.  “That’s just politics” they say.
Most people by now should know that the combined Republican Party and Tea Party (or GOTea) has been working to prevent a great many Americans from voting.  Or at the very least, making it very hard for non-White, upper class Americans to vote.  This practice is called voter suppression and when you bring it up in discussion, most people shrug it off.  “That’s just politics” they say.
Between extreme redistricting and voter suppression techniques, the GOTea has sought to create a playing field for itself so tilted in their own favor that they can’t lose.  We have even seen them in Wisconsin pick their own judges in court cases who have allowed GOTea defendants to willfully destroy evidence and get away with it.
Kind of like the basketball team, the world famous Harlem Globetrotters.  You are all familiar with the Harlem Globetrotters right?  The Globetrotters are beloved and dazzle audiences as they…..well….trot all over the globe. Using trick shots, well practiced stunts and not to mention confetti, ladders, garbage cans and other props not allowed in the regular game of basketball, the Globetrotters delight their audience by essentially out-playing, out-tricking and out-cheating their perpetual counterparts, The Washington Generals.
The Globetrotters also bring to the show with them, their own referees who are part of the whole stage show. Referees who turn their back on the play off the game to watch confetti being sprinkled by one Globetrotter as the rest of the Globetrotters set a ladder up under the basket and practice a slam dunk, fire drill and score twenty points in five seconds. All the while their counterparts in the Washington Generals helplessly look on.
Everybody wants to join in the fun and be a Harlem Globetrotter. Nobody wants to be a Washington General.  Except in Wisconsin that is.  In Wisconsin there are some folks within the Democratic Party of Wisconsin who apparently have watched the Globetrotters decimate the Washington Generals by a typical score of say…..242 – 16. They watch and say, “man, it must be really nice to be a General!”
They probably don’t like the perpetual losing part as much as they love and adore the idea of having steady, lucrative work for life that doesn’t involve the risk of injury, the hard work and practice, the devotion required of players in the NBA.
They probably don’t tell themselves “I love to lose” but rather, they spin it into something like “It sure would be easy if all I ever had to do is show up and automatically end up in second place, just one step away from total victory.”  In other words, they think they would like to pursue being perpetual silver medalists, to use an Olympics metaphor.  They are refusing to realize that coming in second out of two is total and absolute failure.
And it is all about coming in second….as in second class citizens.  These would-be Washington Generals either haven’t thought about or don’t care about the people in Wisconsin who would become, have nearly become, second class citizens to the ultra rich and powerful.
And although there are five current candidates running for the office of Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, they are divided into two basic camps. Those who would learn from our past errors as well as the oppositions past victories and switch away from our previous losing ways in favor of a new winning plan.
And those who enjoy, indeed they profit from, the old status quo system.  It may mean that the citizens of Wisconsin lose and lose big, but by golly their jobs are secure as the old two party system is the only game in town.  Sure it may not have all the perks of winning every game, of being the Harlem Globetrotters.  But it does carry incredible job security to be a Washington General.
Under outgoing, current Chair Mike Tate, the DPW went from supporting, at least to some extent, all its candidates for legislative office in Wisconsin, to hitting up all its legislative candidates for cash for the DPW itself. They spoke of a 72 county plan but instead they concentrated on the heavily populated counties of Dane and Milwaukee which contain the cities of Madison and Milwaukee, and largely ignored the rest of the state as well as those who bravely entered the political ring as Democrats.
Also recently, the DPW has had only had one simple piece of advice for its candidates for legislative office.  And that message was “money, money and more money.”  The only way to win the DPW would say was to outraise and outspend the GOTea candidates.  Money was the answer to everything, the alpha and the omega.
One problem though, the GOTea has always been the party of corporate interests.  At a time when the GOTea is pushing for a nationwide takeover of American and state governments by the corporations, how in the world do you expect Democrats to be able to outraise and outspend the Republicans???  Farmers and factory workers, teachers and union members have all been financially decimated by Republican policy. They can’t donate more than the trillion dollar corporations and their billionaire owners.
But still the DPW kept saying that big money was the only possible solution to the problem of big money in politics. Democratic candidates had to have big money to pay for professional campaign staffers to come work for them in Wisconsin where the shiny suits and New Jersey accents stuck out like sore thumbs.  Folks in rural Wisconsin like anywhere else, don’t like people from out of state coming in and telling them how and who to vote for.
Mike Tate’s DPW kept telling candidates that big money for wardrobe specialists and hair stylists was the only way to win. Candidates would ask for the DPW’s VAN list, which is the list of democratic voters in their district and Tate’s DPW would say sure, for a couple of thousand dollars we will hit the print button on our computer for you.
Also the DPW kept telling candidates that they, like the DPW itself, needed the big money, corporate spin doctors of firms like Nation Consulting.  A huge player in the public relations business if they wanted to win their elections, it was the only way. Pay our specialists, pay our consultants, pay our hairdressers and image people.  Money, money, money and spend, spend, spend.
Guess how that worked out?  All three branches of Wisconsin government are firmly in GOTea control.  In other words, the big money, spend, spend and spend some more plan did not work.  It did not work at all!  In fact it worked so poorly that Mike Tate knew last year that he was going to have to step down as Chair of the DPW.
And so we will be saying goodbye to Mike Tate as Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.  And in all honesty Mike Tate is a good person with a very democratic heart. Things just came apart under his watch, not all of it his fault by any means, but things really came apart for his party in Wisconsin.
But in some ways, depending on who wins the election to replace Mike Tate, it could end up as essentially we have a new Tate.  Consider it Mike Tate version 2.1.  We may be stuck with the status quo, to keep trying to raise big money to give to the consultants, campaign managers from out of state, old friends and career cronies.  In other words we could all end up with a big plan to stay the same, which is to concede that the GOTea will always be the Harlem Globetrotters and the Democratic Party of Wisconsin should remain as it has, the Washington Generals of Wisconsin politics.
And this is why a good many people are very concerned about the candidacy of Jason Rae.  Jason Rae has been part of the big money, spin doctoring business  And Jason Rae many people scared that he is going to copy Mike Tate’s plan from the last election.  That seems to be how Rae plans on winning his bid for Chair of the DPW. Only this time there is a huge difference, this time focusing on Milwaukee County and forgetting completely about the rest of Wisconsin could actually work out for the Jason Rae big money machine.
You see, under the election rules of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, the Chair will be elected from among 5 candidates by plurality after a single round of voting. This means that getting 21% of the vote is all you need to win.
And guess what? Under the current (but hopefully not the future) way that the DPW chooses delegates to vote for its Chair and other officers, Milwaukee alone has enough votes to take it all.
And so Jason Rae and the staff of Nation Consulting have been focusing on Milwaukee with a fevered interest.  They know there is big money at stake for themselves in Milwaukee, even if it is only second place, Washington Generals money.  Hey its the only game in town folks.
And a big part of the Rae/Nation machine has been focusing hard, daily, on claiming for itself, the Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.  We have received so far, thirteen requests by Milwaukee County Democratic Party members to use this blog to let people know that under Rae/Nation, that the Chair of the Milwaukee County Dem Party is choosing their delegates to the state convention based on how much they support Jason Rae.  If you do not support Jason Rae and pledge to vote for Jason Rae, then you don’t become a delegate and you don’t get to go to the convention and vote for your candidate of choice.
Democracy?  Democrats?  Check the definitions at the top of this page again if you need to.  Because these tactics hardly represent the concept of democracy or the mission of the Democratic Party.
Now technically by the bylaws, charter and constitution of the DPW, Chairs are allowed to subjectively screen party members to find the best, most active people and reward them with delegate/voting status at the convention.
The system was not meant to be used to push for one candidate and one candidate only.  But the loophole exists and Rae/Nation is pushing it for all its worth to promote their own interests which are of course, going to be mostly financial in nature.
So under the current system, which most of the party seems to want to change to be more inclusive, our next Chair could be elected with the support of only 21% of the delegates over the opposition of 79%. This is not a recipe for party unity. This is a recipe for party implosion and even death.  And that would mean the complete and final decimation of any reasonable quality of life for Wisconsin’s citizens for as far as anyone can see into the future.
And Nation Consulting and its people in the Democratic Party are out to make it happen.  Big names in party politics, seemingly unconcerned about the DPW becoming the perpetual losers in Wisconsin politics, the Washington Generals of the badger state.  They are looking after their own interests first and let the rabble be damned is what is happening if you judge them by their actions and not their professionally spin doctored words.
Not that Thad Nation, owner and bossman of Nation Consulting has reason to care about the Washington Generals, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin or any of the state’s citizens.  Although Thad Nation is a known political insider to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, he is a huge financial supporter of the GOTea.
It sounds quite insane when you hear it altogether, doesn’t it?  Get rid of Mike Tate because his plan didn’t work out at all but hire his Jason Rae to maintain the losing plan so that the big dogs and insiders can maintain a lucrative lifestyle.  Why would anyone vote for that?
Let me ask you again….why would anyone vote for that?  There is no darn good reason to, not a one!  At a time when Wisconsin is not only socially but economically and politically torn apart, now is the worst possible time to maintain the status quo, to stick with the plan that so far has never worked.  Now is the worst possible time to stick with big money in government, special interests and shady, backroom deals.
Now is the best possible time to return to open and transparent politics in Wisconsin which are to the benefit of everybody. Now is the best time to return to politicians being held accountable for their actions and being made to work for all citizens of the state, not just their donors and the lobbyists.  Now is the worse time to maintain the status quo as our state sinks lower and lower in the rankings, as our standard of living lowers, as our people flee to other states in search of work and security.
Now is the worst time to vote in favor of the recent status quo.  Now is the worst time to give up on ever being a Harlem Globetrotter.
Thank you to the members of the Democratic Party of Milwaukee County who reached out to us and trusted us to write and promote this article, we hope we have done right by you all.

Here’s some of my own notes regarding the blog post:

  • Chris Abele is the current Milwaukee County Executive, first elected to that post in a 2011 special election to replace Scott Walker, who vacated the post to become Governor of Wisconsin. Abele has governed Milwaukee County in a very conservative manner, in fact, he’s a political ally of Scott Walker despite being a Democrat.
  • Although not mentioned by name in the blog post, the Milwaukee County Democratic Party Chairwoman is Marlene Ott. The blog posts references Ott, who has endorsed Rae, trying to fill her county’s delegate slate with as many supporters of the Jason Rae for DPW Chair campaign as possible.
  • The blog post contains a large number of grammar errors, which I’ve left in the blog post because I’m not the one who originally wrote it.
  • Actually, 20%+1, not 21%, would be the minimum percentage of delegates that a candidate for DPW Chair in a five-way race would need in order to be mathematically able to win.
  • The reference to That Nation being a funder of Republicans is a reference to Coalition for the New Economy, a political organization led by Nation, giving money to right-wing political organizations that have supported Republican candidates and/or right-wing causes.
  • The Milwaukee County Democratic Party members who helped write the blog post were not named by the person who sent me the blog post.
  • The blog post is displayed without lines between paragraphs due to a bizarre technical problem that I’ve not been able to fix.

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.

Legendary progressive activist Lori Compas considering running for Democratic Party of Wisconsin chairperson

Looks like the race for Chairperson of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin could get very interesting.

You may remember Lori Compas, a professional photographer from Fort Atkinson in Jefferson County who became a legendary figure in Wisconsin politics by attempting to recall Republican Wisconsin State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald in 2012. Well, I don’t want to get anybody’s hopes up, but I have it from a reputable source that Compas, who is currently the executive director of the Wisconsin Business Alliance, a progressive business organization in Wisconsin, is, in fact, considering running for the state chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, and that she’ll think about whether or not to run over the weekend. I have not been authorized to disclose my source.

Compas is considering running run on a platform of making the party’s operations more transparent, reducing the DPW chair’s annual salary, articulating a positive, progressive vision for the DPW, and running a true statewide strategy.

If Lori Compas runs for DPW chair and progressives get control of most of the delegate slots at the 2015 DPW Convention, she could very well end up being the favorite for state party chair, as all of the other candidates who are either running or considering running are establishment political figures, whereas Compas would clearly be the progressive candidate for DPW chair. Additionally, if Compas were to run, I will endorse her candidacy. While I’m a lifelong resident of a neighboring state, Lori is a nice, caring, intelligent person who is passionate about Wisconsin progressive values and is one of the most brilliant political activists I’ve ever heard about. I think she’d be a fantastic leader for a state Democratic Party organization that badly needs a different kind of leadership at a time where Wisconsin could end up deciding control of the White House and the U.S. Senate.

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.

 

Mike Tate NOT running for another term as Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman

After a dismal six years at the helm of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW), Mike Tate, the chairman of the DPW, will not seek another two-year term as DPW chairman and does not intend to publicly endorse a successor.

This could result in a potentially wide-open race for DPW chair, in fact, former DPW chairman Joe Wineke, who served two terms from 2005 to 2009, is already running for his old job. While Wineke actually has a winning track record, he’s a former corporate lobbyist, which won’t play well with many on the left in Wisconsin. Additionally, Wineke told Daniel Bice of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that “as many as nine people” are considering running for DPW chair; Bice revealed that two of them are Democratic National Committee (DNC) member Jason Rae of Milwaukee and Democratic fundraiser Mary Lang Sollinger of Madison. Rae is viewed by many on the left as Mike Tate 2.0. Regarding Sollinger, I know virtually nothing about her.

It’s not clear who four of the other seven who are considering running for DPW chair are, although I do have information about three of these individuals.

One of those who are considering running is Washington County Democratic Party chairwoman Tanya Lohr. Lohr’s tenure as the chairwoman of the Democratic Party in Wisconsin’s most Republican county has been awful, as she, apparently under Tate’s orders, sabotaged an attempt by Nick Stamates to get on the ballot in the upcoming 20th State Senate District of Wisconsin special election. Since Stamates didn’t obtain enough signatures to get on the ballot, the special election will have no Democratic candidate.

Another possible candidate is former two-term State Representative Jeff Smith of Eau Claire. Smith stated that he is considering a run for DPW chair in an interview by Zachary Wisniewski of the Wisconsin progressive blog Blogging Blue last month; you can read the interview here.

Another possible candidate is former State Representative Amy Sue Vruwink of Milladore. Vruwink hasn’t made any public statements regarding the DPW chair’s race that I’m aware of, although I’ve seen online comments from a couple of people with knowledge of Wisconsin politics social media contacts that Vruwink is considering running for DPW chair. The DPW sent out a pro-Scott Walker mailer featuring Vruwink in the 2014 elections, and Vrwuink lost re-election to a far-right Republican.

I have no clue regarding who the other four people Wineke was referring to are, and, if somebody who I did not name is considering running for DPW chair, please let me know by leaving a comment on here.