Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Who will be the next inappropriately featured person on AFC lit?

There are several competitive primaries in Milwaukee right now and recent events have certainly made them "interesting" to watch.  Maybe I'm paying particularly close attention to this because one of them is happening in the Assembly District where I live.

I've already written about why I am supporting and voting for Mandela Barnes.   I personally feel that Jason Fields takes his job for granted and I get the sense that he has lost touch with many of his actual constituents.  Why else would he spend so much effort and time with right wing special interests like the American Federation for Children (AFC)?  They appear to be paying him back for his representation of their interests by essentially conducting his entire lit operation this year.

Early last week I received literature from AFC touting Fields and pretending to care about "Democratic values".  The original lit piece was so highly deceptive that it brought a great deal of attention.  Not the least of which was the inappropriate and perhaps fictional comments from popular Milwaukee Democrats.

Later in the week I got yet another lit piece from AFC pushing Fields.  Again it had the deceptive rhetoric pretending that this rabidly right wing organization gave one rip about "Democratic values".  And again this latest AFC lit piece used what appears to be an inappropriate and deceptive photo.  It features a large photo of Rev. Jesse Jackson posing with Jason Fields.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm sure that they may agree on many things but I don't believe for a second that Rev. Jackson is on board with the extreme AFC agenda.  That is a relevant point because it is AFC's entire reason for backing Jason Fields so hard in the first place. It is also deceptive because as far as I know Rev. Jackson has not endorsed Jason Fields or anyone else in this primary.

I am fairly certain that Jason Fields will not speak out against these very deceptive AFC lit pieces.  He will not do so because they are essentially running his entire lit operation right now.  He will also not speak out against the AFC deceptions because he has a very cozy and most unfortunate relationship with this right wing special interest.

Since I am positive that we will continue seeing deceptive literature coming from AFC in this Assembly District primary, I'm only left wondering who will be inappropriately featured on the next one? If you have a guesses (funny or serious) please leave a comment below.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Why a Mandela Barnes sign is in my yard

I've never made a habit of formally endorsing candidates on my blog, especially in fairly competitive Democratic primaries.  Then again there have not been many competitive primaries that directly impacted me on a local level.  But in August that will change as my current state Rep. Jason Fields is getting what appears to be a strong challenge from community organizer Mandela Barnes.

The other day I received a piece of literature encouraging me to "vote for" Jason Fields.  The lit wasn't sent from Jason Fields' campaign, instead it was sent from the right wing organization American Federation for Children Action Fund.  Their primary goal is school privatization and to otherwise divert critical public funds away from public schools. 

What I find particularly amusing are some of the following statements coming from such a right wing (Michigan/D.C. based) organization:

"protecting our rights and our community."
"understands what Democrats stand for" 
"fights for our Democratic values"

Yeah, I'm really sure that this right wing out-of-state group knows exactly what "Democrats stand for" and I'm sure that they know precisely what this community wants as they view it from their Milwaukee P.O. Box.  Give me a break.

The mailing goes even further by actually talking about "Republican attacks" on workers, voter rights and giving away our tax dollars to big corporations.  Wow, these AFC people are truly shameless and they will say anything to promote politicians that are willing to carry out their agenda.  The people funding and running this right wing organization don't really believe in most of that rhetoric.

It bothers me that my state representative willingly accepts the assistance of such shameless right wing interests. I know that he technically can't control what an independent group sends out but he could certainly speak out against it if he really cared.  But to the contrary he was busy attending the AFC Policy Summit this year. He actually spoke at the event and he also was busy posing for photos with Juan Williams, one of the higher profile speakers.  I wonder if he similarly posed for pictures with any of the speakers from the AFC summit last year - like Scott Walker for example?

Republican and former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen has long been an adviser to this right wing group. In fact it appears that Jensen is the registered lobbyist for the group.  Jensen has also been a direct contributor to Jason Fields campaign.  Other right wing funders that have given to Fields include members of the Walton family among others. I'm not surprised that an organization bent on essentially privatizing schools would support Jason Fields, just last year he signed on to voucher bills with the likes of Leah Vukmir, Robin Vos and others. 

Given this background perhaps I shouldn't be surprised that Jason Fields was the only Milwaukee Democrat that didn't offer a single amendment to Walker's union busting Act 10. Maybe I equally shouldn't be surprised that Fields didn't bother to sign a Walker recall petition.  Was he too concerned about offending his right wing friends at AFC ? One would think that a "representative" would be more concerned about representing his actual constituents.

Maybe these are some of the reasons that Mandela Barnes signs are popping up all over the district.  I can tell you without reservation that these are precisely the reasons that a Mandela Barnes sign currently stands in my front yard.

UPDATE: I just noticed that Capper at Cognitive Dissidence also has a new blog posting about Jason Fields and his Republican funders and friends. 

UPDATE 2: Who knew that this would be such a popular topic today? Also check out the following:
Barnes Gathers Aggressive Support to Unseat Jason Fields
Recent GOP backers weigh in for Democrat

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Cullen's Actions Defy Rhetoric

As a result of the recall elections Wisconsin Democrats thankfully took control of the state Senate and they provide a much needed check on Republican abuse of power. During this entire process Senator Tim Cullen endlessly talked about cooperation.  Many tired of the kumbaya shtick and found it rather sanctimonious and unrealistic given the gleeful abuse being exacted by power-crazed Republicans.

No matter how you feel about Cullen's rhetoric over the last year-plus, his actions yesterday defy his words. He didn't get the committee chairmanship that he apparently coveted so his reaction was to leave the Democratic Caucus? How can you create cooperation with radical Republicans when you can't even stop yourself from creating petty self-serving divisions in your own caucus?

Senator Cullen claimed in an email that he was not sufficiently valued based on not getting the committee chairmanships that he personally wanted.  However he was offered the chairmanship of the extremely important Committee on Small Business Development and Tourism.  Just because it is not his personally preferred committee doesn't mean that he wasn't valued.  Perhaps this was a moment where Sen. Cullen could have put his year of words into actual practice from within his own caucus.

I happened to come across an old story that has given me some historical perspective on Cullen's apparent ability to promote himself - sometimes at the expense of others.  Back in the 1980's Cullen served as majority leader for Senate Democrats.  He eventually left the legislature to join Republican Governor Tommy Thompson's administration as the Secretary of the Department of Health and Social Services.

At the time that Tim Cullen headed DHSS there was an ongoing dispute between the state and former insurance giant Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wisconsin.  According to a 1991 report the insurer owed years of debts to the Medicaid program.  In 1984, prior to Cullen taking over, the state rejected a proposed settlement of $1 million because many believed the debt to be much higher.  In fact the Audit Bureau estimated that the debt stood at at least $3 million. But after Cullen took over the department he signed off on a settlement of only $150,000.  Within weeks of Tim Cullen signing that settlement agreement he was offered and eventually took a vice president's job at Blue Cross.  The president of the company said that he hired Cullen despite his lack of experience in the insurance business because he is "a good golf-course salesman." 

In the same article I also found a particularly interesting comment from Tim Cullen's former deputy at DHSS. Apparently Cullen fired him and the deputy claimed it was because he was "too independent for Cullen". I only find this accusation interesting because now we have Tim Cullen using the very same excuse for why he didn't get the committee chairmanships that he most wanted.

In Tim Cullen's divisive email yesterday, he relies heavily on his experience as a reason for getting exactly what he wanted.  But based on some of the interesting revelations from the above cited article, I actually think that much of that experience should be prohibitive to some of the assignments that he most wanted.

In the end Tim Cullen had an opportunity to put his year of rhetoric into real action.  Not only did he fail his own test but he sadly failed it from within his own caucus.  Instead of actually implementing a higher road approach he chose to sow even more division by seeking self promotion over the common good.  That kind of approach didn't help the state in 1988 and it certainly is not helpful today.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Any Walker Role in Senate Primary?

Pardon me as I take a moment to totally speculate.

Recent polls show that Eric Hovde's deep pockets and endless ads are making a difference in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate.  That dynamic has also created increasing hostility between the Tommy Thompson and Hovde campaigns.  I imagine that the shots will only increase as Hovde continues to spend his fortune.  If this remains a close two person race all the way until the primary then any development could change the outcome.

Lately I've been wondering where Walker and his cronies come down in the Republican primary. Obviously I don't expect Scott Walker to endorse anyone in a Republican primary but there are subtle moves that could signal his cult-like following to go one way or the other.

Going into this primary I've just assumed that anyone associated with Walker would work against Tommy Thompson.  It isn't a secret that Walker and his cronies were not big fans of Tommy & Friends.

  • Going all the way back to Walker's time in the state legislature, he was known for being more interested in promoting himself rather than actually getting things done. He had a history of repeatedly undercutting Governor Thompson's agenda.  He was more interested in getting publicity and flaunting his stubborn toddler approach to public policy (some things never change).  
  • That toddler approach quickly endeared him to the loud mouths on right wing radio.  Back in those days Walker's PR firm at Journal Inc. began their practice of constantly promoting his political career.  We all know that his PR agent, Charlie Sykes, was not a fan of Tommy Thompson either.  Remember when Sykes wrote a very nasty column in 2006, saying that Tommy should "Know when to fold 'em"? 
  • Some referenced this Tommy vs. Walker rift when longtime Thompson aide Jim Klauser did everything he could to recruit and promote anyone but Walker for governor.  The Walker cult viciously attacked him for doing that and he later surrendered. 
When Eric Hovde got in the race I assumed that Walker and his cronies were probably supporting him in the Republican primary.

So will Walker and his oldest cronies take this opportunity to stick it to Tommy Thompson one last time or will they sit by and let things simply run their course?  After all, many of the same corporate elite in Wisconsin that supported Walker are now supporting Thompson (including fawning billionaire Diane Hendricks).  In addition the Walker administration did bring on more Tommy-era people, sometimes at the perceived expense of his most loyal cronies.  So who knows for sure?  But one thing is certain, in an increasingly hostile two person race any Walker role could make a big difference.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

PAC Contributions to Tommy Thompson

Below I've listed selected Political Action Committees that have given to Tommy Thompson's campaign for the U.S. Senate.  Take a look at these special interests and draw your own conclusions about why they are supporting D.C. lobbyist Tommy Thompson.

American Health Care Association: $1,000 on 11/2/11
Bayada U.S. PAC: $1,500 on 10/27/11
BGR PAC: $2,500 on 11/30/11
Dakota PAC: $2,500 on 12/14/11
Deloitte Federal PAC: $2,000 on 12/31/11
Distilled Spirits PAC: $1,000 on 11/10/11
Eisai Inc. PAC: $1,000 on 11/10/11 & $1,000 on 11/21/11
Eli Lilly and Company PAC: $1,000 on 12/15/11 & $1,000 on 2/13/12
Haley's PAC (as in Barber): $5,000 on 11/10/11 for the primary & $5,000 for the general
Homecare and Hospice PAC: $2,000 on 10/7/11
LA (as in the state) Healthcare GRP EMP Federal PAC Inc: $1,000 on 10/7/11
National Association of Spine Specialists PAC: $5,000 on 12/5/11
Novartis Political Action Committee: $1,000 on 12/9/11
TDS Telecom PAC: $1,000 on 11/10/11 & $500 on 12/22/11 & $250 on 3/28/12
Tenn PAC Inc: $1,000 on 12/28/11 & $4,000 on 3/31/12
Winston & Strawn LLP: $1,000 on 12/12/11
Chesapeake Energy Corporation Federal PAC: $1,000 on 2/17/12
Ohio USA PAC: $5,000 on 3/23/12
Capital PAC of Indiana: $1,000.07
Corinthian Colleges Inc. PAC: $1,000 on 3/23/12
US Bankcorp PAC: $5,000 on 3/30/12
VISA USA Inc PAC: $1,000 on 3/31/12
HUCKPAC (as in Mike Huckabee): $1,000 on 3/31/12
Rust Consulting Inc Administrative Excellences PAC: $1,000 on 1/17/12