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Sic Semper Tyrannis

Monday, June 04, 2007

Because I Haven't Pissed Off Enough Republicans Lately...

I’ve been sitting on this story for a few days now because I’ve been trying to figure out the truth. Basically, something is likely to happen within the next few weeks, but I have utterly divergent opinions on the motivations behind this thing. So I’m going to tell y’all both stories and let you cogitate on it yourself.

There is a group of powerful Republicans who are planning to form a group to actively impact Republican politics in Wisconsin. These people include Jim Klauser (Tommy’s former right-hand man), Bill McCoshen (Tommy’s former Secretary of Commerce and current lobbyist for the Road Builders), and John Gard (former Assembly Speaker). There are others involved too, but these examples give a hint to the kind of firepower lining up behind this potential group. At this point I don’t think they’ve decided on a particular type of organization (527, 503c, etc.)

Story #1

As several Republicans watched the GOP get clobbered in last year’s election, they noticed the effective impact that several Democrat groups had on the election. Groups like One Wisconsin Now and FAIR Wisconsin were effective in doing opposition research, organizing grass roots, and helping to drive their issues. These kinds of groups don’t really exist for Republicans.

This thought process was underlined after the Ziegler election, where One Wisconsin Now’s research into Justice Ziegler’s judicial record effectively knocked the campaign off message and into a defensive posture.

So these Republicans decided that it would be a good idea to create and fund a group to be active in tight races with opposition research and such in order to help get more Republicans elected.

Story #2

A cabal of former Tommyites are frustrated with the current Assembly leadership for their failure to control the caucus. The conservatives in the Assembly who refuse to toe the leadership’s line are getting in the way of passing a budget that would pump money to the road builders. The road builders think that they got screwed by Republicans when they repealed the automatic gas tax increase and are throwing all of their weight behind reshaping the Assembly GOP Caucus into something more acquiescent to their goals.

The road builders would pump money into this new group in a long-term strategy to get “their people” elected and put in leadership.

What do I think?

I think the truth is somewhere in the middle, but leaning to story #2. I think that some of the people involved are operating under the rationale of story #1. But there is a major flaw with this line of thinking. There are already a few groups in Wisconsin who are working the grassroots in just this manner. Club for Growth Wisconsin and Americans for Prosperity come to mind. If these leading Republicans want to do this, they would be better off pumping money into these existing groups and gaining the benefit of concentration of force.

This leads me to think that the real issue is that of control. These Republicans don’t want to put money into existing grassroots groups because they want control. There’s nothing wrong with that, but why would they control? What are these groups doing that the new group would do differently?

It occurs to me that both Club for Growth Wisconsin and Americans for Prosperity are decidedly conservative organs. Both organizations are very active with the grassroots and have been effective in moving people in support of conservative issues – particularly fiscal issues.

This leads me to conclude that the Republicans who want a new group must want to push a different brand of Republicanism – more Tommy’s brand than Reagan’s. When one looks at the cast of characters involved, it includes a number of people who have never been unkind to the road builders and other big government ideas.

Like I said, I don’t know the whole truth - even my tentacles only reach so far. But given what I know, I tend to think that story #2 is closer to the truth, but that there are good people being sucked in with story #1. I would encourage the Republicans behind this to not diffuse resources and channel their money and activism through groups that are already on the ground.

Cross posted @ B&S