Thursday, March 29, 2007

Kathleen Falk: Next Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair?

I ran into something rather interesting as I was perusing Democratic Underground last night:
Draino Thu Mar-29-07 10:36 PM
Kathleen Falk to run for DPW Chair?

Word on the Capitol Square is that Joe Wineke is out and Kathleen Falk has been anointed for DPW Chair. The Big Divider now wants to be a Uniter.

It's questionable whether a candidate who couldn't carry her own county in a statewide race is the best choice to lead the party. Nonetheless, if Jim Doyle has given his blessing, it would bode well for Falk's chances.

This might be a smart political move for Falk. She sorely needs to rehabilitate her image after tanking the AG's race in a year when nearly every race fell for Dems. Falk would have a statewide platform to boost her Dem credentials from and more importantly, accumulate prized contacts while fundraising for the party. Raising money is Falk's strong suit. Expect that to be one of the pillars of her campaign for chair if this comes to pass.
Without knowing who the source is I wouldn't normally give a rumor like this much credence, but I heard a slightly more elaborate version a day or two ago, so it's clearly making the rounds inside the party. Assuming, if only for the sake of entertainment, that's it's true, there are some interesting ramifications.

The first is that Joe Wineke isn't going to run for reelection. Kathleen would only be running for chair if she was Doyle's candidate, so her run would be coordinated with Joe's retirement. This would also indicate that Senator Lena Taylor, the current first vice-chair, won't be running again.

Draino points out some obvious benefits to Kathleen, but it's not clear to me that things would be that simple. There isn't much of a precedent for a sitting elected official also serving as DPW chair, so presumably Kathleen would step down as Dane County Executive. Due to her AG run she already has her ducks in a row in terms of succession on the County Board, so that transition should be relatively easy. But on the far end it might be more difficult. Serving in such an obviously partisan position as party chair might make it harder to appeal to swing voters in a later run for statewide office. It's certainly been done before, Herb Kohl ran successfully for US Senate after serving as party chair, but he took a fairly long break in between and he has more money than God.

There are some factors that could complicate Kathleen's run for chair. Since she hasn't been very active inside the party, she would likely be seen by many Dems, with some justification, as a carpetbagger. Kathleen would have to work very hard to convince party members that she wasn't using the chair simply as a stepping stone for higher office which, given her history, might be a rather tough sell.

There's also the matter of Peg Lautenschlager. Peg was, and is, far more popular inside the party than Kathleen, and a lot of Democrats are still steamed about the AG primary. Those Dems are unlikely to support Kathleen, but a bigger issue is that Kathleen earned a reputation as someone who divides, rather than unites, the Democratic party. That perception will be difficult to overcome.

But none of this matters if Kathleen is the only candidate for chair, and I haven't heard of anybody willing to risk Doyle's wrath by running against his chosen slate. But if a viable challenger does pop up, watch for a bait and switch routine just the like last time when Linda Honold ran as a popular incumbent, was reelected, then stepped down so Joe could take over. If Joe runs for chair and Kathleen for first vice chair you'll know what's coming...

CORRECTION: I made a mistake in the last paragraph. In 2005 Joe Wineke ran for chair and Linda Honold for first vice chair, not the other way around. Linda did step down shortly after being elected, and Lena Taylor was appointed to the position. Sorry it tool so long to fix this, but Blogger has been down.

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.

Monday, March 26, 2007

I Wish...

I can't stand all the presidential campaign crap starting so soon! Wait a minute ... did she say Nader up six? Where's my shotgun!

Click on the image for a larger readable version. Actually, I don't have a shotgun. Too messy for politics. But a Taser might be useful...