Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Winning At Any Cost

Yesterday when Boise City Councilman TJ Thomson issued what amounts to a retraction of a critical comment he made on a Facebook page about Congressman Walt Minnick's bigoted campaign ad, it was readily apparent that he'd been spoken to by Minnick's campaign or someone supportive of Minnick's campaign. Chances are Councilman Thomson received the very "fact sheet" that the Minnick campaign has been using in the press to defend the disgusting ad and was asked to please walk back his comment. Rather than allow the Labrador campaign to use Thomson's comment against Minnick, Thomson told the press that he had since found the ad to be accurate and suggested that Labrador's campaign spend less time on Facebook. No matter the order of events yesterday, the Minnick campaign got exactly what they wanted out of TJ Thomson.

The incident yesterday with TJ Thomson was not the first of such incidents that the Minnick campaign "cleaned up" and it probably won't be the last.

Now, rewind to August 6, 2009. This blog posted a complete summary of Walt Minnick's voting record. As we were about the see, that particular August would become chaotic as members of congress departed D.C. for their districts to talk about health care reform. Town hall gatherings all over this country went viral as the Tea Party began screaming about socialism and Obama's plan to kill grandma. Minnick was known to be wavering on health care (something he eventually voted against) and he agreed to meet with Tea Party Boise during the break. To stem the reaction of Idaho Democrats who were disappointed in Minnick for his obvious pandering, the Minnick campaign started talking up the votes Minnick had taken that supported the Democratic majority. This blog posted the complete summary of Minnick's voting record in response to the effort his campaign was making to convince us all that he was in fact a Democrat.

After I posted the voting record summary, I started receiving comments on it that were incredibly detailed and ultra-supportive of Congressman Minnick. I was chastised for my "flawed logic" and one particular commenter continued to assert that Minnick was the best Idaho Democrats could do. Like the argument Sisyphus has been making of late, a commenter by the name of idaho-dem stated that Minnick is good for Idaho Democrats because no Republican representative would have voted for the Lilly Leadbetter Fair Pay Act, hate crimes legislation or an extension of SCHIP. While idaho-dem continued to attack my arguments and further those of Minnick's campaign, I noticed in my blog stats that the internet service provider for idaho-dem was the U.S. House of Representatives. Eventually I narrowed it even further and found that idaho-dem was not just any another Idaho Democrat like myself, but a member of Minnick's congressional staff commenting from a computer in one of Minnick's congressional offices. In politics this is what you would call astroturfing.

Once I had figured out that this fierce defender of Walt Minnick was astroturfing on my site, I spoke with John Foster of Minnick's office (now campaign spokesperson for the congressman). Prior to that summer, I had had a good working relationship with Foster and didn't realize that he was as opportunistic, manipulative and calculating as his boss. Foster talked me down and assured me that he would do something about this congressional intern who was commenting on my blog. After we discussed the situation, we discussed my criticism of Minnick and Foster reminded me that we Idaho Democrats needed to stick together because "we're family." By the end of that August day, I had closed comments on the post, removed all comments for viewing (something that has since been reversed, all comments are available here), and wrote a post discussing the situation. That August day, like the situation with TJ Thomson yesterday, John Foster and the Minnick campaign got out of me exactly what they wanted.

Not only did I have the experience of the Minnick campaign getting me to go along with their antics last August when I summarized Minnick's voting record, I had it again almost a year later when I co-wrote an expose about Walt Minnick. By spring of this year, I had given up hope that Walt Minnick would ever support the progressive ideals he ran on in 2008 and I had become a thorn in the side of John Foster and the Minnick campaign. Once the expose ran, I wasn't contacted by John Foster like I had been the previous August, I was contacted by someone I respect who had been contacted by John Foster and asked to speak to me. I stood by the expose then and I stand by it now. I wasn't about to let Foster and the Minnick campaign get their way again.

In the days following "The Walt Minnick You Don't Know" running here and at the MountainGoat Report, we both took heat for our criticism of Minnick. Over at MGR, she started receiving comments from two members of the Canyon County Democratic Party. The comments questioned her criticism of Minnick and questioned both of our devotion to Democratic politics. One comment by an officer of the Canyon County Democrats, Matthew Greene, insisted that MGR remove the link she had to the Canyon County Dems in her sidebar. She, like I, eventually started seeing a pattern in the comments she was receiving. The internet service provider was the same for Matthew Greene and another commenter who purported to be just another Idaho Democrat. The same would be true of Thaddius Wenderoth and another commenter who also purported to be just another Democrat. We who deal with politics call this astroturfing.

What does the incident with Matthew Greene at the MountainGoat Report have to do with what happened to me or what happened with TJ Thomson yesterday? The Minnick campaign turned around and hired Matthew Greene. They apparently didn't learn a thing from astroturfing on my site, in fact, they must condone astroturfing because they turned around and hired a Canyon County astroturf pro.

From an email they sent out about campaign workers:

And, from Minnick's campaign expenditures we see that Minnick's campaign office is paying Matthew Greene:
The Walt Minnick campaign, led by John Foster, will do whatever it takes to win and they have no qualms about using people to get what they want. They did it to me, they did it to TJ Thomson and they're now paying Matthew Greene for it. However, this isn't about Matthew Greene or even about TJ Thomson, this is about holding our elected officials accountable and expecting more from a man who, like it or not, wears the 'Democrat' label.

I don't know how the supposedly "too liberal" Huffington Post got hold of the story about Labrador wanting to send Idaho Guardsmen to the southern border between deployments, but I would put money on someone in the Minnick campaign shopping it to them. It also wouldn't surprise me if Thom George, chairman of the Kootenai County Democrats, came to Minnick's aid yesterday at 43rd State Blues with the Huffington Post story because he was asked to. This is simply how the Minnick campaign operates. Win at any cost.

As much as I would like to blame the entirety of what is happening with the Minnick campaign solely on Foster and Minnick himself, the Idaho Democratic Party and the Idaho press are enablers. The Idaho press has taken Minnick at his word on every part of his biography, on his voting record and on everything else he wants them to write about. It's despicable and unethical. Thankfully, Vickie Holbrook of the Idaho Press Tribune apparently can't be told what to do (at least not by John Foster and the Minnick campaign) and is calling for Minnick to stop airing that bigoted campaign ad.

The Walt Minnick campaign: Winning at any cost. Is this man really what is right for Idaho?
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Update (9/30 9:48 a.m.): I knew of this, but didn't want to say anything without MG's permission. This is what I find the most despicable about the "win at any cost" strategy of Minnick & Foster:

1 comment:

MountainGoat said...

I didn't get the "come to Jesus" phone call. Nope, I just got outed to a half-dozen or so reporters and God knows who else. Yep, Foster freely distributed my name and personal contact information -- something I had only entrusted to a total of four people -- in retaliation for daring to challenge a sitting congressman's version of the truth.

And I did get a flurry of comments suddenly appearing on my blog from former Congressman Larry LaRocco. Can't convince me that Congressman LaRocco wasn't called in to do damage control and to try to intimidate me.

Yep, dare to disagree with Minnick and Foster and you'll end up on their political enemies list. Win-at-all-costs Walt sure learned a few things from Tricky Dick Nixon.