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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


by capper

The Scott Walker Campaign sent out an email bulletin decrying:

We have learned that a group that calls itself the Thomas Paine Democracy Network has prepared a series of billboards that it will be spending tens of thousands of dollars on placing throughout Milwaukee County.

They then included this link to the Thomas Paine Democracy Network which shows some of the billboards in question. The Walker folks were also kind enough to include this brief video:

The newsletter ends with a plea for contributions and volunteers. It seems counterintuitive to me that if someone is running for political office, that they would want to say, "Hey, look! They're showing how I really screwed things up. Please support me." But then again, I've never accused Walker of being politically savvy.

The political action committee that put up these billboards is connected to Todd Rongstad, an infamous political activist with a spotted past history, including some unsavory attack ads and being sued for his antics.

Well, it appears Mr. Rongstad may not have learned any lessons. As Patrick Dorwin shows us, using some technological savvy that is way beyond me, that Rongstad had used the computer systems of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, at least in part, to produce the web site and the video. In the comments section of that same posting, a commenter named Calvin, also does some good research to find a link between the Rongstad family and how they might have gotten access to the school's computer system.

I sincerely hope that they continue their research and report any illegal activities to the proper authorities. Politics is dirty enough without this kind of garbage being tossed into it as well.

That said, Patrick is wrong on two accounts.

First, he writes:

...They all have little sayings, such as “Cutting Para-Transit Services for the Physically and Visually Impaired” and all of the ads end with “I Blame Scott Walker.” The fact is, para-transit was not cut, and as a matter of fact, the user side subsidy cost to the clients have not even been raised in years.
This is a false statement. Transit routes were cut. And seeing as that the para-transit routes follow the transit routes were then also cut. Patrick is also incorrect with his claim regarding the user side subsidy. While it is indeed true that the passengers of the para-transit system have not seen an increase in years, it is also true that Walker has proposed an increase in every single one of his budgets. Furthermore, it would be a sin of omission not to mention that fact that the main reason that the fairs did not increase, or that the transit cuts were not even worse, is the simple fact that Senator Lena Taylor had gotten millions of dollars from the last state budget to come to Milwaukee County, as event he Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was forced to admit.

The other false assumption that Patrick made, based on the inference made by the Walker campaign, is that Lena Taylor was behind these billboards.

I called her campaign headquarters today, and I spoke with John Zapfel, her campaign manager.

I asked Mr. Zapfel about these billboards, and if the Senator's campaign was funding them. He told me that neither Senator Taylor, nor anyone involved with her campaign, are involved with Todd Rongstad, or with the Thomas Paine Democracy Network.

(Note: Given the nature of the first billboard shown on their webpage, it occurred to me that it could be AFSCME funding this. I have tried to get in contact with PEOPLE, the political activist arm of AFSCME, but did not get through to anyone yet. I will keep the reader informed of any further developments.)

I asked Mr. Zapfel about the Senator's position towards the billboard ads. He told me that the Senator and the campaign are not pleased with the involvement of outside actors in this campaign. He further added that it brought up unpleasant thoughts of last year's race for Supreme Court when WMC wielded so much influence in that race.

He further told me that Senator Taylor will not be asking for the removal of the billboards, as that she cannot influence the way that committee chooses to spend their money. He also stated that they are expecting other outside influences to weigh in against her campaign. He said that Senator Taylor's campaign will continue to use their strategy to win this race on the issues and her plans to bring a brighter future to Milwaukee County.

For those of you who feel that Senator Taylor should still distance herself from these billboards, I would also expect that you would demand Scott Walker condemn the racist remarks made by Mark Belling in his GMToday column dated January 23, 2008.

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