Religious Right's Ralph Reed Field-Tests Plan for Beating Obama
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After the session, I asked Reed why, if the unions are as good at turning out their base as everyone believes they are, did their Democratic allies lose the recall race.
"I think they did their job," he said. "We just did our job better...they worked to get their vote out, we worked even harder to get our vote out...But in '08, they got their vote out and we didn't get our vote out, and Obama won by a landslide. And that's what happens when you don't get your vote out."
Doing 'Better' With a Bit of Help
But Reed had more than a little help in doing his job "better," as he said. First, he was able to deploy sophisticated mobile marketing technology that the other side apparently didn't have. Second, he was able to sync his efforts to those of an old friend, Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity (the astroturf group founded by the Koch brothers) and Reed's former business partner at Century Strategies. (In fact, Reed's public unveiling of his Faith and Freedom Coalition took place at an Atlanta rally, co-sponsored by AFP, staged in opposition to healthcare reform during the 2009 summer of town-hall rage.)
The Wisconsin chapter of Americans for Prosperity was one of the organization's first state-level entities, and was long run by the hard-working but notoriously dirty political operative Mark Block, who left the organization in 2011 to run Herman Cain's presidential campaign. Most of the politicians on Wisconsin's right-wing roster owe all or part of their careers to AFP: U.S. Representatives Reid Ribble and Sean Duffy, elected in the 2010 Tea Party wave, were nurtured under the AFP wing, as was Gov. Scott Walker. Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, is a favorite speaker at AFP gatherings. Reince Priebus, who chaired the state Republican Party before winning the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, at the time it was implicated in a Milwaukee vote-caging scheme executed by AFP in 2010.
When the uprising against Walker's attack on teachers and other public workers began in the state capitol in 2011, AFP launched a "Stand With Walker" campaign that it carried through to the day of the recall vote, organizing rallies and bus tours, and flooding the airwaves with advertisements.
By July of last year, Faith and Freedom Coalition was sending out direct-mail fundraising letters touting its voter canvassing efforts for the Wisconsin recall. In a letter obtained by Religion Dispatches' Sarah Posner, FFC executive director Gary Marx, who co-founded Century Strategies with Reed, used language that virtually mirrored the AFP messaging on taxes and labor unions:
Please join...the fight with 100 plus FFC activists who will be going door-to-door encouraging the Badger State to vote for candidates who share our values of lower taxes, less government, faith, and who will stand up to union thugs who support Obama's tax and spend solutions. We need your financial support to make our Wisconsin get-out-the-vote program work.
A theme common to Walker's campaign and ads from multiple sources was the notion that the recall was somehow anti-democratic, when, in fact, it is about as direct an expression of democracy as one can find. John Nichols, Wisconsinite and labor advocate, writing in the Nation, tells of a ubiquitous ad carrying that message that appeared in the final days of the campaign, paid for by a shadowy super-PAC called the Campaign for American Values. Of the $54,265 in total receipts collected by CAV, per its last FEC filing, $50,000 came from a single donor, Rebekah Mercer, daughter of hedge -fund manager Robert Mercer, who often makes common cause with David Koch. More than a third of those PAC receipts were delivered to Herman Cain Solutions, which is run by Cain (who once famously described himself as Charles and David Koch's " brother from another mother") and Mark Block, the former state director for the Americans for Prosperity Wisconsin chapter. You with me?