Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Company We Keep

UPDATE: Several people have questioned the accuracy of my claim that Maya hired FLS-DCI, or they've implied that it was a third party, not Maya's campaign, who hired them. The proof is on page six of Maya's July 2006 campaign finance report. I linked to it below, but just to be more clear, here's the URL:

The pertinent line reads:

05/03/06 | Arizona FLS | Phone Bank | $1,451.60


What does a Madison School Board race have to do with Karl Rove?

In yet another odd case of politics making for very strange bedfellows, it turns out that School Board candidate Maya Cole hired a telemarketing company called Arizona FLS, also known as FLS Connect and FLS-DCI, during her 2005 campaign. FLS has a rather exclusive clientele, and it's not exactly what you would associate with a Madison progressive. Their customers include the Bush/Cheney campaign, the Republican National Committee, the Republican Governors Association, Exxon, the NRA, the rather repressive military government of Myanmar (Burma), and, closer to home, the Republican Party of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.

But what really got me was this quote prominently featured on the FLS homepage:
“I know these guys well. They become partners with the campaigns they work with. From designing the program to drafting the scripts; from selecting targets to making the calls in a professional successful way, they work as hard to win your races as you do.” - Karl Rove
One of FLS-DCI's specialties is creating astroturf groups, fake grassroots organizations that are actually paid PR and lobbying campaigns. They've been tied to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the group that attacked Kerry in '04, and Voices for Choices, a front group that lobbies for AT&T (check out this previous post for a little local AT&T intrigue). One of FLS-DCI's more interesting exploits was creating this flash video mocking Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth":

It created quite a stir on YouTube, and fooled a lot people until The Wall Street Journal exposed it as a paid political hit piece.

So why would Maya give her money to an outfit that's basically trying to destroy everything she claims to believes in? My guess is that she didn't have a clue about FLS-DCI, and was just told to use them by one of her campaign advisors.

One of the reasons I'm supporting Maya's opponent, Marj Passman, is that in both her current and previous campaigns Maya has chosen to surround herself with people who represent the exact opposite of the progressive values she claims to stand for. To be fair to Maya, and I do believe she really is a progressive, I know she felt forced to do so because she's been largely locked out of the Madison political machine. But you're known by the company you keep, and I wouldn't be caught dead with some of Maya's current buddies.


Ed Blume said...

Maya attracts people from all across the political spectrum, because they have all been shut out of school board decision-making by the established clique which backs Marj. Anyone from outside the clique gets a punch in the nose if they dare suggest that business services could be run more effectively or that reading fails half of the African-American students in the district, just to name two examples.

If you want to board to keep on punching the public, elect Marj and Beth Moss.

If you want a board that welcomes innovation and input, vote for Maya and Rick Thomas.

Anonymous said...

Split the different.

Vote for Maya Cole and Beth Moss.

Jeff Henriques said...

As someone who supported Maya Cole when she ran in 2006 (not 2005) and who is supporting her again, I am amazed at the lengths to which the oposition will go to smear a candidate. This bullying of anyone who doesn't toe the MTI party line is just one more piece of evidence as to why we need a change in the makeup of the school board.

BTW Having supported such right wing candidates as Jesse Jackson, Ralph Nader, and John Edwards in the past, I find it amusing to be labeled as a neo-con. At the least, it should comfort my Republican mother: she's been worried about my politics for the last 25 years.

Anonymous said...

Attack, what attack?

I guess Maya's inclination to see everything as an attack or a conspiracy extends to her supporters. Nice personality to have on a deliberative body.

What exactly is the objection to MTI except that they don’t support Ms Cole? How are they harming our schools? Don’t say health insurance, because under the QEO how they use the 3.8 is their business.

James Henderson said...

First you say, "My guess is she didn't have a clue about FLS-DCI." Then you say you are voting for her opponent because Maya "has chosen to surround herself" with this group. That's hypocritical. You yourself are engaging in a Rove-like smear campaign.

Anonymous said...

Is Passman even a real progressive? Didn't she just join Progressive Dane specifically for this election? Is she on record as ever having supported any progressive cause?

... said...

Marj Passman's knowledge of the school district is second to none. Cuts are coming, whether people welcome them or not. Marj has the sort of knowledge so she'll know what's okay to cut and what's important to save. The fact that she's campaigning on making the right cuts is very impressive.

Anonymous said...

To know Maya, her beliefs and her interactions with people sent me to vote for Arlene and now Marj.

I admire both women for not sinking to the depths of mudslinging and relying on their strength as candidates and people to win an election.

You are know by the company you keep which is why I support Beth & Marj.

Lindsey Lee said...

I am supporting Maya Cole for many of the reasons that The Capital Times gave when they endorsed her last week. Maya is a very good progressive who is by natural very independent. When we go to referendum at some point in the future it will be helpful to have a school board with such members.

I am sure her opponent would also be a find addition to the school board. But in this instance, Maya Cole is clearly the better candidate. That is obviously the reason why that Maya Cole is one of the few candidates this year to be endorsed by both The Capital Times and The Wisconsin State Journal.

Charnan Simon said...

How is this a smear or bullying? Do you mean that you don't believe Ms. Cole hired Arizona FLS, and that Mr. Wallace invented the connection to make her look bad? Or do you not find the company's involvement in Ms. Cole's campaign to be disturbing? If there's nothing dubious about Arizona FLS, why not come right out and say so? Why should Ms. Cole or her supporters care who knows she hired them? It's a nice distraction to attack Ms. Passman without ever defending Ms. Cole's decision to use Arizona FLS, but the misdirection is lost on me. Again--where's the smear? Where's the bullying?

Steve Watson said...

She didn't hire them; a group who wanted her to get elected did. So no, it is not disturbing. If you took the time to learn about Maya's record, you would know that she's no fan of Karl Rove. The smear is exactly as Mr. Henderson said above.

Anonymous said...

To Mr. Watson

It was not an independent expenditure, it was her campaign. If you can't trust a person to know what her own campaign is doing how can you trust them to govern our schools?

Charnan Simon said...

I received a query from a Maya Cole supporter wanting to know where to go to verify that the Cole campaign hired this company. Her implication was that Mr. Wallace was lying on his blog and that the connection doesn't exist. Could someone point me to the right direction? Many thanks, Charnan

Anonymous said...

Maya's ideas and approach to problem solving are what the board needs and will benefit our kids. She's a practical progressive.

Anonymous said...

Need Documentation go to:
Page 6 of 7
Arizona FLS-
phone bank-

Russell Wallace said...

Charnan & Steve, the proof that Maya hired FLS-DCI is on page six of her July 2006 campaign finance report, which I linked to in my post. The line reads:

05/03/06 | Arizona FLS | Phone Bank | $1,451.60

This was a direct expenditure by Maya's campaign, not by a third party. The date listed is when the campaign paid for the phone bank, not when it actually took place.

I wouldn't have posted this stuff if I hadn't personally verified it was accurate. I suggest any readers who doubt my honesty check it for themselves.

Anonymous said...

"... you're known by the company you keep ...'

That's one reason why I won't vote for Marj Passman or Beth Moss. Their "company" includes MTI leader John Matthews, and I can no longer stand for the way he wields power at the expense of our schools. I have seen how MTI makes it difficult for a school board member to take an independent stand on an issue. I can't expect Passman and Moss to vote according to what they truly believe in when faced with the political arm twisting of Matthews/MTI.

MMSD is hurt by the imbalance of power caused by the behind-the-scenes collaboration between the Admin and MTI. We need strong, independent board members who will truly represent the families and taxpayers of our community.

Don't expect new vision and creative thinking to come from candidates supported by those with an interest in maintaining the current power structure.

Maya Cole will get my vote for daring to stand up to the disparaging tactics that Matthews and others have used against her. And I'm sorry to say that as a board member, she'll likely have to endure more to come.

Steve Watson said...

If the best reason you can come up with to vote for Passman is that her opponent, unbeknownst to her, hired a firm that Karl Rove also hired in a previous election where she was outspent two to one because of special interests contributing to her opponent's campaign, then I'd say you haven't given anyone a good reason to vote for Passman.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad the majority of voters weren't persuaded by this bullshit, although Public Butthole Number 1, John Matthews, apparently was based on his comments on the radio this morning.