Archive for February, 2012

Keeping Snyder on the air: it’s the least they can do.

Posted in Uncategorized on February 22, 2012 by Jim Rosenberg

Interesting doings at 550 Radio in Wausau, where they’ve been running a steady diet of right-wing talk as their format for years. Presiding over the stream of non-stop reactionary yapping — when they’re not running the national menu of Limbaugh, Hannity or Jerry Bader out of the Midwest Communications Green Bay affiliate — is morning host Pat Snyder.

I’ve talked about this fellow before and the way it looks, I’ll probably be talking about him again. Snyder is now running as a Republican for the 85th Assembly District seat currently held by Rep. Donna Seidel, who is challenging Sen. Pam Galloway in the upcoming 29th Senate District recall election. On the plus side, it’s an open seat, Snyder has high name recognition and he should be able to raise money. On the minus side, it’s a blue district and Snyder will come into it with the high negatives that he has earned in spades over his past decade or so in Wausau.

Operations Manager Chris Conley explains how 550 Radio will be approaching this situation in the 550 News Blog (something that often has only a passing connection to news):

“Because of equal-time rules, a political candidate cannot work as a radio announcer within 60-days of a general election or within 45-days of a primary. Pat will remain on-air with WSAU until then. If Pat does not have a primary opponent, he’ll continue in his regular role on WSAU through Labor Day weekend. If Pat does have a primary opponent, he will leave us at the end of July.

“We cannot talk on-air about Pat’s candidacy on-air except in our regular news coverage. If you are a regular caller to the WSAU Feedback program, you can’t talk about Pat’s candidacy on-air either. We’ll be conducting a nationwide search for WSAU’s next morning host. We expect to have that person hired before Pat’s time with us ends, and we expect an orderly transition. We’re glad that we the luxury of time to find the right person, and for a long ‘goodbye’ with Pat.


A long goodbye, indeed. A number of years back – maybe not even under the same ownership, but I don’t recall — the station fired on-air news guy Bob Look when he filed to run for the non-partisan, plain vanilla, very part-time office of Marathon County Board Supervisor. Even under the Snyder regime, the rules haven’t seemed all that consistent. I began doing Friday call-in with other area political folks – none of us paid to do it — back before Snyder ever came to town and also prior to the time that I began serving in city council and Marathon County Board offices in 1998. The 55 Feedback show had been relaunched by Nick Ryan and judging by the calls we received, the audience was fairly balanced across the political spectrum. That came to end when hyper-partisan Snyder came on board at WSAU Radio.

I continued to do the Friday call-in for several years following Snyder’s arrival and I was still there when he had his infamous motorcycle mishap in 2003 (something that’s apparently still a touchy subject – and if you’re waiting for an apology from Graeme Zielinski, get a good lawyer.) Pat did his mea culpas on the air and I believe he was sincere, but it seemed to underline some potential for fairly fundamental hypocrisy at the time. Nonetheless, his station and his fans were more than happy to let him reclaim his unfailingly moralistic high ground going forward.

During election years when I had opposition, I had to go off the air from the January filing deadline until after the April election. Nobody was counting the days; it’s just the way it was done. One year, when I was serving my time off the air and about three weeks before the election, I heard a familiar voice while I was listening to the show. It was my opponent and she was in the studio. So I called in.

“Hey, Pat, you remember that e-mail you sent me about having to go off the air because I was in a contested race?”

“Yes,” he replied.

“Well, it applies to BOTH contestants,” I said, stating the obvious. “So I presume that you’re also inviting me back for my equal time next Friday.”

There wasn’t much he could do but agree, since we were live. The following Friday, I came to the studio and did the show. And when it was over, I walked into the office of Tom King, Snyder’s token moderate every morning on-air punching bag, and I told him that win, lose or draw, I would not be coming back to the show after the election because Pat Snyder runs a crooked game. And that was that. I’m sure Pat didn’t miss me on the show any more than I missed participating in what it had become. Of course, I still did regular interviews with various media and from time to time, someone would tell me Pat had made some negative remark about me on the air. I always felt he was safe to ignore and frankly, having the right political enemies can often be a real asset.

There have been plenty of things that have come up along the way to illustrate that Snyder works an agenda, rather than making any attempt at fairly airing issues. I didn’t ask who paid for his trip to Iraq in 2005, but the timing certainly lined up well with an orchestrated attempt by other local conservative talk radio hosts around the country to sell the Bush Administration’s policy there, at nearly that exact time, for example. In an amazing coincidence, Snyder’s trip followed a very similar format and if it was indeed part of a larger scheme, does it really even matter who paid?

This is not about supporting our troops, by the way. I spent a half dozen years in the military myself and if nobody was any the wiser, some good probably came from the well-intentioned area citizens who generously sent their goodwill along on the excursion. But if it was news, why not send a journalist? And if it wasn’t, then what exactly was it?

And as is so often the case in politics, the same old friends keep popping up again and again. The Move America Forward group that organized the ‘it’s working’ in Iraq initiative with conservative talk show hosts in 2005 was co-chaired by Howard Kooligian, who later moved on to another ultra right-wing political enterprise, the Tea Party Express. Kooligian was so anxious to show Iraq as a success that he ran a photo on his blog the following year to prove it. (Unfortunately, it was actually taken in Istanbul.)

Snyder has been a regular with far-right groups like Americans for Prosperity and also served for a time as an officer in the Republican Party of Marathon County, until insightfully (eventually) concluding that it might actually be kind of a problem. He’s put a steady parade of extremist guests on his show for years. I don’t necessarily have anything against partisan hacks and plenty of people would probably say that I happen to be one myself. But here’s the difference: I’m not pretending to be some kind of honest broker of news and information while I carry water for a partisan agenda. There are plenty of honest conservative pundits who don’t necessarily conspire off the scene with political parties and special interest groups. Pat is not one of them.

It would be difficult to think of anyone in this region who has done more to promote incivility and intolerance in the public discourse than Pat Snyder. He is truly in a class by himself and if the people of the 85th Assembly District elect him to be their representative, then they will have a professional angry extremist that the Koch brothers will be very happy to see in office. Pat Snyder is the poster boy for what people like me think is wrong in Wisconsin right now.

Any station that has to tell you that they’re “fair and balanced” several times an hour usually isn’t, but even the FOX television network takes a far more, ah, conservative approach toward allowing potential candidates on the air. I can’t imagine any of our local television stations adhering to the lame fig leaf of following the absolute minimum federal standard to leave a partisan candidate for office on the air to talk about political issues during a good share of his campaign. I don’t think the Wausau Daily Herald would ever try to rationalize leaving such an individual as a daily staff columnist on the editorial page.

So thanks for following the rules, Midwest Communications — and especially for doing the very least that you could possibly do to comply. And be sure to let us know if you should ever become mildly interested in the subject of media ethics.


Bob Look, who is cited as someone who was taken off the air at WSAU Radio when he ran for Marathon County Board, commented on the Wausau Daily Herald story this morning:

“Seems ironic that in 2000 I decided to run for a seat on the Marathon County Board while doing the same job as host of the WSAU Morning Show. When it became known I filed nomination papers I was taken off the air immediately. That election was over 4 months away and ownership took me off the air and then later fired me. Now this was for a non-partisan part-time Supervisor position on the County Board. So why the double-standard? Simple…I did not “parrot” the views of ownership and management. To say these are the “public airwaves” is a joke! To say that this broadcast operation serves the community and allows equal access to views and opinions on both sides is just not true. According to the Citizens United ruling “corporations are people”. Really!!! It is more like manipulating people. It doesn’t bother me that Mr. Snyder wants to run for political office, but it does bother me that a double-standard is used in regards to treatment of a person’s employment based on their political views. It’s a dangerous path to follow.”

Is Tom Barrett the Mitt Romney of the Wisconsin recall race?

Posted in Uncategorized on February 21, 2012 by Jim Rosenberg

Wisconsin Democrats currently have two candidates running in a gubernatorial race that has yet to be set, but I don’t know too many people who think that Kathleens Falk and Vinehout will be the only people running in the all-but-certain Democratic primary. There are other state legislators, including Sen. Jon Erpenbach and Rep. Peter Barca, who have vocal bands of supporters. There is U.S. Senator Herb Kohl, who probably isn’t running, but won’t rule it out just yet – a position also held by former Congressman Dave Obey. There is Russ Feingold, who insists he is not running, but who would also become the instant frontrunner if he happened to change his mind.

And then there is Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. While he is currently up for re-election in April, it is all but certain that he will easily win a third term. It doesn’t make sense to announce for governor with an election already in play. Barrett is doing everything but SAY that he is a candidate for governor and if Wisconsin wants a do-over on the November 2010 gubernatorial election, then Barrett would be the man. His most recent comment is that he is “seriously considering” running for governor.

There is no question that Barrett can win elections. He served a decade in the U.S. House of Representatives, following four terms in the Wisconsin Assembly. Statewide races have been a different matter. In 2002, he came up four points short in a three-way primary that ultimately sent Jim Doyle to the governor’s mansion for two terms. He lost 52-47 to Scott Walker in the 2010 general election, but there is ample reason to believe that Walker’s support has been eroded by more than a year of acrimony in Madison and possible fallout from the steady drip of the “Walkergate” scandal.

That leaves a couple of questions. The first is whether Barrett can win in a re-match with Walker and the second is whether he can get through a Democratic primary to have that shot. If you believe Walker is trouble, then you have to believe there might well be enough buyers’ remorse across the Badger State for Walker to lose to Barrett. He may be the strongest potential candidate for the Democrats and whatever he may personally lack in motivational power, Walker may now be able to provide.

That said, Barrett to the Democrats is looking a bit like Mitt Romney to the Republicans. He may not be quite as inevitable, but like Mitt, he is staid, stable, looks the part, has been a candidate of sorts for the office for a long time — and, most importantly, he has a significant base in his own party that appears to be strongly opposed to his nomination, despite some solid support among some of the old guard. State union head Marty Beil has made no bones about not supporting Barrett and the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s largest teachers union, has already endorsed Kathleen Falk. On the other hand, Barrett bested Falk in a Democratic primary for governor in 2002 and he made his way to the head of the Democratic field in 2010.

Clearly, it will take more than union support and anti-Walker sentiment to win against Walker. On the other hand, the election likely wouldn’t be happening at all but for the untiring efforts of union foot soldiers and their supporters who went out and collected the signatures to force an election. And what makes it unique is that it is truly rooted in the concept of unseating Scott Walker; accomplished without any comparison to any particular opponent.

Barrett has a fundraiser scheduled for March 28 at the Italian Community Center in Milwaukee with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and tickets range from $400 to $2,500. That’s a lot of money for a mayor’s race that should essentially be in the bag by then. Barrett can use anything he raises toward a gubernatorial run by simply amending his campaign registration. With a fresh four-year term in front of him, he would enter the governor’s race with more job security going forward than Walker, recall or not. That is about as free a shot as anyone gets in this business and it could make for a very interesting speech the night of April 3 in Milwaukee.


Kathleen Falk: Can she win?

Posted in Uncategorized on February 8, 2012 by Jim Rosenberg

Sounding progressive themes before a labor temple audience, Kathleen Falk spent much of her time fielding questions and hearing concerns from those who came out to see her last night in Wausau. If the discussion was any indication, jobs remain the Number 1 focus of voters by far – something that Scott Walker campaigned on but has not been able to deliver upon. Falk hammered on the fact that Wisconsin is the only state in the country to have lost jobs for six months straight; the entire run of Walker’s first budget, so far.

But the big question that recall petition signers and others who are tired of GOP rule will have to answer over the next few months is whether Falk can win. This will be her third run at statewide office and Team Falk is hoping it will be the charm. In 2002, she captured 27 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary for governor. Jim Doyle picked up 38 percent and Tom Barrett 34 percent in the race that eventually gave Doyle two terms as Wisconsin governor. In 2006, she took the Democratic primary for attorney general and came within fewer than 9,000 votes – less than one percentage point of difference out of more than 2.1 million votes cast — of winning in the general election against Republican J.B. Van Hollen.

But it was that 2006 primary that some in the Democratic fold found troubling. Word was that former attorney general and then-governor Jim Doyle had prodded his Justice Department colleague and former gubernatorial primary rival Falk to run against Democratic incumbent Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, his successor in that office. Lautenschlager had picked up a drunken driving citation in her state car, after taking the vehicle into a ditch in Dodge County in February 2004 – very damaging stuff for the state’s chief law enforcement officer.

I like Peg Lautenschlager a lot, but I supported Falk in that race because I felt it was the correct political call; that Peg would be unable to defend against the Republican challenger, given the baggage. Others saw Lautenschlager as a hero – both as a woman who won a high statewide elected office and for her courageous struggle with breast cancer, which also began in 2004 and from which she emerged successfully. She had served in the Assembly where she made a lot of good friends. She came within six points in a 1992 congressional race against longtime Republican Tom Petri, when she was only in her mid-30s. It was hard to give up such a promising rising star over one incident, as serious as it was.

It didn’t help for Falk when Van Hollen ended up being elected anyway. But if you put in your closer in a tie game with no outs and two men on base, you’re not always going to get the win. Regardless, the rift that ensued from that race may not necessarily be entirely a matter of bygones for everyone, even now. Walker won’t pick up any votes from those folks, but it creates the opening for other Democrats enter the primary to run for governor and it could also mute some of the enthusiasm for Falk if she ends up being the nominee. That’s something that Democrats can’t afford in a very intense and well-funded race by Walker to hang on as guv. Throw in four GOP senators up for recall simultaneously in a contest where the Dems will do well to take two and you have a very interesting political backdrop in play. There is also the possibility that even with many millions to play with, the polarizing nature of Walker’s governorship and continuing revelations in Walkergate could leave him in no position to defeat any credible Democratic challenger by election day.

As for Falk, she served 14 years as Dane County executive and also a dozen as Public Intervenor in the Wisconsin Dept. of Justice, until Tommy Thompson eliminated the position in 1995 at the behest of folks like WMC. (They likely didn’t appreciate her previous work with Wisconsin’s Environmental Decade, Inc. either.) So her resume shows plenty of experience in environmental themes that are important to the Democratic base (think mining legislation) and she’s been prominent in the recall activities. Some have tried to chalk her recall presence off to simple opportunism, but that doesn’t match her long track record of activism and it should give her an edge with labor over someone like Tom Barrett in a race for which labor issues figure so prominently. In addition to serious political chops, Falk draws the stark, night-and-day contrast with Walker’s agenda that Democrats will want. Nobody will be able to say she’s not eminently well qualified.

So back to the big question: Can Falk win? The answer: Absolutely. But since other shoes are likely to be dropping in this one, it’s way too early to say if she will.


And just as Kathleen Falk was bringing her road show to Eau Claire this morning:

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Democratic state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout of Alma says she is running for governor if a recall election is ordered against Republican Gov. Scott Walker.


Vinehout is one the “Wisconsin 14” — the Democratic state senators who fled to Illinois last year for three weeks to stop a vote on Walker’s union-busting proposal. A farmer, (and a PhD, too), Vinehout was first elected in 2006 and narrowly won re-election in 2010 during the GOP wave.

Attempt to ACORN Planned Parenthood fails

Posted in Uncategorized on February 4, 2012 by Jim Rosenberg

Remember ACORN? The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now essentially closed in 2010, after what they called “a series of well-orchestrated, relentless, well-funded right wing attacks.” Despite that, Fox News was still trying to blame ACORN for Occupy Wall Street last fall. One of the greatest sensations in the ACORN saga was a fraudulent video that purported to show a pimp and a prostitute being assisted in their business by an ACORN representative. Fox even reported a fake ACORN murder story as fact, in 2009.

In 2002, the Oxford English Dictionary added Bork as a verb, defining it this way: “To defame or vilify (a person) systematically, esp. in the mass media, usually with the aim of preventing his or her appointment to public office; to obstruct or thwart (a person) in this way.”

It’s named after Robert Bork, a 1987 Supreme Court nominee of President Ronald Reagan who failed to gain Senate confirmation, eventually leading to the appointment of Justice Anthony Kennedy. The opposition to Bork began within an hour of his nomination and it went on to include things like his video rental history. Sound familiar? (Check out “Why Romney’s ‘dog on car roof’ story makes him unfit to be President.”)

I’m suggesting that we now consider adding the verb ACORN and define it as essentially the same thing as Borking, only instead of directing it at a person, it is the systematic vilification applied to an organization to prevent it from pursuing its mission. That is exactly what Republicans have been trying to do to Planned Parenthood for years now. And as heartwarming as it was to see the apology from the Susan G. Komen foundation yesterday for getting sucked into carrying water for the right wing like a bunch of Tea Party rubes, this fight is probably not over.

Maybe we don’t really need a new word, since organizations like this tend to be incorporated and as Mitt Romney will tell you, corporations are people, too. But if ACORN ever catches on, I want everyone to remember who came up with that little chestnut. (It took 15 years for the verb Bork to make the dictionary, so I still have until around 2025 or so.)

The Susan G. Komen fiasco came off much like the Verizon Wireless attempt to install a $2 “convenience charge” last December. It went viral on the web, the backlash got some legs and voila, the organization had to walk it back. The Komen organization can now decide if they’re really better off for hiring Sarah Palin-endorsed Karen Handel as their senior vice president for public policy, since they’re not doing so well with the public or their policy these days. She’s probably being retroactively Borked right now.

While constantly claiming persecution themselves, conservatives have no problem when it comes to trying to ACORN things like labor unions, the United Nations, Girl Scouts, the ACLU and other groups that don’t buy into their dogma, such as Planned Parenthood. All the while, they decry “the liberal media” for not joining them in their crusades. Some are even trying to get Ellen DeGeneres fired as a J.C. Penney spokesperson because she’s gay. Penney’s isn’t bowing to the reliably intolerant bigots in the misnamed ‘family values’ crowd and it’s good to see the pushback. Because giving in to the constant carping of right wing talk radio mouthpieces, Faux News and front organizations is just plain nuts.


UPDATE: We have been informed that the verb “ACORN” was actually cited 11 months ago by one, Jane Isay, of New York. Interestingly, she also named another group that is being ACORNed by the right: National Public Radio.

UPDATE: Insiders finger Karen Handel as the driving force behind Komen PR disaster with Planned Parenthood. (Free advice: This is when you fire your public policy VP for putting her own views well ahead of the interests of your organization…): 

UPDATE — Karen Handel Resigns: