Monday, May 11, 2009

“Throwing Money at it Won’t Fix it”

How many times have we heard Republicans complain that we can't fix things by throwing money at it? That seems to be their tired retort anytime we want to invest in our future, our kid's education, or ensure a proper safety net for the most vulnerable among us. National Republicans are trying to fix their branding problem by trotting out all the same old guys, purging themselves of moderates, and pushing the same old failed strategies. It appears that Wisconsin conservatives are picking up on some of the same elements while also adding a "throw money at it" approach.

Over the weekend the Wisconsin State Journal reported on a right wing effort to copy the progressive infrastructure in the State of Wisconsin. The story reveals a conservative plan called the "Wisconsin Prosperity Network". Apparently they would like to create some 14 new (read artificial) right wing organizations that make all of the same arguments and push all of the same old right wing policies that the country has now moved past. And who are the people behind this "new" multi-million dollar effort in Wisconsin? It appears to be all of the same old guys that have been pulling strings and/or getting in trouble in Wisconsin for years. It is a who's who of the old Republican guard in Wisconsin: GOP big wig and former Tommy! aide James Klauser, right wing sugar daddy Michael Grebe, Mark Block who was famously on the wrong side of elections laws a few years back, and Scott Jensen who is still awaiting his second criminal felony trial.

Here is a hint to the right wing in Wisconsin: when you are trying to do something new, you may want to avoid using the same old guys pushing the same old policies backed by the same old money bags. Just look at one of the "newer" right wing organizations that now appears to be defunct, the Wisconsin Institute of Leadership. It was very clearly formed to be a knock off on the successful progressive organization One Wisconsin Now. After having right wing dollars pumped in and being initially hyped, it doesn't appear to actively exist anymore. The only accomplishment that I can see from its existence is running a few ads and sending out some direct mail during one single legislative election cycle. The right wing money bags threw cash at it but was it worth the investment? I don't think so, but then again I don't have money to burn.

The first official organization that the WSJ story lists as being part of this "new" effort is the stumbling bumbling MacIver Institute. All of these old guard guys behind this effort with all of their money and influence and they couldn't even get this thing launched properly. They seemed to rush their official launch, they lied about Scott Jensen's real ties to it, they have been operating for much of their existence with an invisible staff, and they haven't really produced anything real by themselves. If this is their official start to this 14 organizational network, so far it doesn't seem to be an ideal one.

Republicans in Wisconsin can try to artificially replicate progressive success all that they want, but they really should keep a few things in mind before fully taking the big plunge. Using all of the same old guys, pushing all of the same old tired policies is not a winning model no matter what you plan on paper. This is one perfect example where I can fall back on an old right wing mantra; "throwing money at it" just won't make up for all of these major flaws in your plan.

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