“Grassroots or insiders?” How about insiders & insiders?

Earlier today I received an email from the campaign of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Kathleen Falk titled, “Grassroots or Insiders?”

In said email, Falk notes “the insiders of Wisconsin politics are trying to mow us down and make sure that only their voices are heard on Election Day,” going on to write that her campaign “isn’t a campaign of political insiders or elected officials.” Later in the same email, Falk doubles down on her grassroots rhetoric (while also taking a shot at other campaigns), noting, “Our coalition may not be the collection of insiders that have come to define other campaigns…”

However, while Kathleen Falk’s campaign wants to hit all the right “grassroots” notes about how her campaign isn’t full of political insiders, here’s a little reality check. In a February 2, 2012 press release found on Falk’s gubernatorial campaign website, her campaign staff was announced as follows:

Meagan Mahaffey, Campaign Manager. Mahaffey has extensive statewide experience, most recently as Executive Director of United Wisconsin, the grassroots organization that led the collection of the more than one million recall signatures. In addition to other work, Mahaffey has led the statewide grassroots organization Advancing Wisconsin, served as Executive Director of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and worked on the campaign of U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore.

Scot Ross, Communications Director. Ross has served as communications and research director for numerous statewide Wisconsin candidates and campaigns. Most recently, Ross was the Executive Director of the statewide progressive advocacy group One Wisconsin Now. Previously he worked as a communications director for Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, U.S. Rep. Ron Kind and state Sen. Jon Erpenbach.

Brittani Garner Worringer, Finance Director. Garner Worringer previously worked as finance director for organizations including United Wisconsin and Advancing Wisconsin. She has also served a fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin.

Brita Olsen, Scheduling Director. Olsen has worked for various organizations including the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and Advancing Wisconsin. Olsen has also worked for the Wisconsin State Legislature.

Paul Maslin, Polling Director. Maslin, of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (FM3) is Wisconsin’s leading Democratic pollster and one of the most respected strategists in the country. He has worked for Senators Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, and was Kathleen Falk’s pollster in her 2006 campaign for Attorney General and 2009 re-election campaign for County Executive.

John Kupper and John Del Cecato, Media Consultants. Kupper and Del Cecato are partners at AKPD Message & Media, a national consulting firm that served as President Barack Obama’s lead media firm in the 2008 election. They have a long history of involvement in Wisconsin politics, including serving as Sen. Herb Kohl’s media consultants.

Ben Coffey Clark, New Media Consultant. Clark is a partner at Bully Pulpit Interactive, a firm formed by staffers from Obama’s 2008 campaign that is the largest digital marketer of the Democratic Party and brand. He is a veteran of several political campaigns and first got his start in Iowa working for Gov. Howard Dean in the 2004 primary. Since then, he has played a role in several high profile campaigns including Rahm Emanuel’s recent mayoral campaign.

By my count, that’s six high-level staffers within Falk’s gubernatorial campaign who each have extensive political campaign/general political experience, a fact that flies in the face of the Falk campaign’s latest assertion it’s simply a “grassroots” campaign and not a “collection of insiders.”

Kathleen Falk’s campaign is every bit a campaign of political insiders as the campaigns of Tom Barrett or Scott Walker, and the fact that her campaign was endorsed by the leaders of AFSCME and WEAC before the entire Democratic gubernatorial field was set reeks of the kind of “insider baseball” that’s so common in politics and political campaigns.

What’s more, having spent nearly a decade and a half as Dane County Executive (with this being her third statewide campaign), Kathleen Falk is hardly the grassroots political outsider her latest email tries to paint her as being.

Here’s the entire email:


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20 thoughts on ““Grassroots or insiders?” How about insiders & insiders?

  1. While it is true that no one would run a serious campaign of this magnitude with political novices, what they mean is that most of the entrenched politicians in the state have endorsed Barrett. Although I think that speaks more of Vinehout than Falk.

    Secondly who cares that they endorsed Falk before everyone got in? They talked to everyone before they made the endorsement, so everyone had the same chance to wow WEAC, AFSCME, etc… and earn their endorsement. By the way what was everyone(meaning Barrett) waiting for? the day that we turned in almsot a million signatures everyone in the country knew the recall was on.

    Finally, what Megan Mahaffey did, in running the United WI field operations in gathering an unprecedented amount of signatures means(to me) that wherever she goes they can claim grassroots.

      1. LIke I said no one in their right mind would let a bunch of political novices run this important of a campaign, how ever they were clearly referring to the old guard that is supporting Barrett. You have to admit there is a huge difference between the politicians supporting Barrett (Obey, Kind(my fave, Kohl, Gwen Moore, etc…) and the ones supporting Falk (Kyle Richmond and Jennie Dye).

        Everyone in the dem primary has the same basic principles so they all need to find different ways from distinguishing themselves. To be honest I get so many of these I did not even pay attention to this one. Personally I woulod just hammer away at his love of Rahm Emanuel which in my mind is reason enough to stay away from him.

        1. Ah okay….so now we’re parsing which politicians’ endorsements are okay (anyone who endorsed Falk) and which ones aren’t (anyone who endorsed Barrett). So is Jon Erpenbach not grassroots enough for you Jeff? What about Lena Taylor? Both endorsed Barrett, and I’d argue both have been stronger advocates for this grassroots movement than anyone who’s endorsed Falk.

          As for Tom Barrett’s supposed “love” of Rahm Emanuel, I’d love for you to cite an example of Barrett professing his “love” for Emanuel. One fundraiser together does not constitute “love,” at least not in my opinion.

          Also – you keep focusing on elected officials who’ve endorsed Falk and Barrett, but what about all those insiders working for Falk’s campaign? If her campaign is truly a grassroots campaign (and not a campaign of political insiders, as she asserted), then why isn’t her campaign full of bright-eyed political neophytes instead of seasoned political hands?

          The point you seem to be missing here is that it’s an absolute farce for Falk to attack other campaigns for being full of political insiders when her own campaign is chock full of the very same types of political insiders.

          1. No everyone is allowed to endorse, its fine with me and really holds little water with me. It is unfortunate in my mind that some of them did endorse Barrett, Senator erpenbach and Barbra Lawton among them. It is not surprising that Senator Taylor did since they worked together to undemocratically take over the Milwaukee schools.

            I would say having a fundraiser with Rahm as the main guest, the night before you announce shows a respect or love that is enough for me. It would be like ted Thompson getting together with Matt Millen the night before the NFL draft. of course Rahm was one of the ones pushing the donors in the state away from Lawton and towards Barrett the last time thus ending any chance we had for a real primary(Sorry Tim John). That is enough of a relationship to me to disqualify any support I would have of Barrett.

            1. Jeff, someday you’re going to re-read what you’ve written in your comments here and realize that your defenses of Kathleen Falk in this situation are simply off-base.

              Kathleen Falk is as much a “grassroots candidate” as Tom Barrett. If you want a real grassroots candidate, then you should be supporting Kathleen Vinehout.

              1. I support Kathleen Falk because i see her as hands down the most progressive candidate in the race. I actually supported her the last time in the three way primary.

                1. Jeff, when I read “I support…the most progressive candidate in the race” I can’t help but remember the Republican Primary and the giant “rush to extremism” as GOP candidates engaged each-other in a pissing match over who’s more “conservative”.

                  If the choice is between a progressive and a regressive “conservative”, I’ll pick the progressive every time. But I’m curious. Is this an idealistic matter for you? Just wondering.

      2. I’ll take Sinicki over Rahm any day, though really I am curious who Tammy Baldwin or Russ Feingold might support. I think the real difference is that Barrett’s supporters are the national Democrats more worried about November than June. That is the “inside” that makes me nervous. You have a long list of people (not all but many) who were never a public part of the Recall who come out to support Barrett and a lot of local level people, county and school board types, coming out for Falk. Sure, both candidates have a staff of experienced political operatives working for them, who do you expect to be working a campaign at this level? The difference is in who has support from the people who have to live with the consequences of ACT 10 and the rest of Walker’s budget and that seems to be Falk.

    1. Jeff: Stop deflecting from the point. Your pretense is wearisome and doing Falk no good. Of course, Falk ought to have hired experienced staffers and lined up insider endorsements.

      But she can’t lie and claim that they’re not insiders and get away with it. That’s what’s done in Walker’s style of politics, with his dozens of lies. His lies are a major reason for signing recall petitions for many of us, so we’re certainly not going to countenance the same from a replacement.

      Progressive principles are important, but basic principles of honesty and transparency transcend Progressivism and are the measure of the character, not just the agenda, of a politician. She needs to own her campaign rather than, like you, lie about it. And such a stupid lie, because as you say, no one expects her to run it like a PTA.

        1. Again:

          That is not the point of the post.

          Enjoy your conversation with yourself, in some thread in your head. It’s not this one.

        2. Tom Barrett was there at the protests. I know because I talked to him, but unlike most he didn’t seek attention while he was there.

  2. Thanks for this post, Zach. This whole pissing match over who is more “grassroots” reminds me of Sarah Palin claiming that there’s a “real America” and “real Americans.”
    It’s not just candidates who do it, either; individuals and organizations claim to be “more grassroots”, too.
    It’s silly, it’s not helpful, and it’s getting old, in my opinion.

  3. So the bottom line is that everyone’s angry at Falk for giving credit where credit is due to the grassroots people (like me) who came up with more or less the same idea, and have been working to oust Walker while hiring professionals to run her campaign? Seriously?

    Speaking as a grassroots participant, I never intended to support the campaign of amateurs. I haven’t met a single grassroots recall worker who’s lobbying hard for fielding a disorganized campaign to put up against Walker. The whole reason why we’re spending our personal time recalling Walker is to replace him, so OF COURSE we want an even playing field!

    When I have a major contract, I send it to a lawyer before signing it. Does that make me a lawyer? Or some sort of sell-out? No, it makes me wise and prepared. I want the next Governor of Wisconsin to be wise and prepared too.

    1. I’m not angry at Falk; I just think it’s laughable that she’s trying to attack her opponents for having campaigns full of political insiders when hers is no less full of political insiders.

      1. Thanks Zach. I looked at the PNG image of the e-mail again, but still can’t find the part where “the insiders of Wisconsin politics” are named. No doubt it’s in there somewhere, but since I can’t “zoom” the text or do a search I had to give up when my eyes started to hurt.

        Falk is lucky that you even saw her photo-mail. After 20 years doing corporate IT I only look at the text portion, since spammers and script kiddies use HTML embedding. Spamassassin may suck, but one thing it does well is send all e-mail without a “Content-Type: text/plain” part to the bit bucket. I wonder if someone should tell her about that? 😀

  4. Let me straighten this all out. Falk is an insider, Barrett is an insider, Walker is an insider. It is ridiculous to pretend otherwise, and why would anyone want to? The issue is why are we having this recall to begin with? Falk and her backers are the ones who told us why. Barrett did not. As someone who never bought the idea a recall was even remotely justified, I would have to support Barrett if it came down to Barrett versus Falk. But then I have Walker to vote for and will. As for the rest of you, the issue is not insiders versus grassroots. It is whether you will campaign honestly on the need to explain why this unprecedented disruption of normal democratic process is so vital and justified. Barrett is incapable of doing that given that he has readily made use of the useful things Scott Walker did for him. So you are all stuck with an ineffectual honesty or an only partially more effective dishonesty. Good luck.

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