Sunday, November 9, 2008

The "Colorado Model" Moves to Michigan

If you have friends or loved ones in Michigan (which I do, since it's my home state), please forward them this post. They need to know that there's a conspiracy afoot to turn their state into the political pawn of radical millionaires and billionaires. Looking to Colorado, which has moved from red to blue in the 6 short years I've lived here, will confirm how effective such efforts can be. Michigan already is reliably blue, it's true, so the conspirators have less work to do than they did in relatively conservative Colorado. But the surreptitious nature of both efforts ought to alarm folks.

In-the-know Coloradoans are by now aware that the state's lurch from red to blue wasn't just happenstance, but the result of a behind-the-scenes effort bankrolled by a cadre of wealthy liberals, including billionaires Tim Gill, Pat Stryker and Rutt Bridges. The veil has been lifted a bit on their "Colorado model" thanks to some solid reporting by The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes, as well as some more recent digging by The Denver Post -- here, here, here, and here -- into the shadowy doings of the innocuously named Colorado Democracy Alliance, which uses a network of 501 c3s and 501 c4s to advance its agenda.

Now, it seems, "The Colorado Model" has become "The Michigan Model," which, according to a report in Friday's Detroit News, is being bankrolled by another Stryker -- "reclusive Kalamazoo billionaire Jon Stryker." He's the bother of "Colorado Plan" architect Pat Stryker. And what he's doing in Michigan sounds eerily similar to what his sister and a few allies has been doing in Colorado, if you simply switch the name "Coalition for Progress" with "Colorado Democracy Alliance."

Here's The Detroit News article in full:

Coalition's help gives a boost to Democrats

Five candidates for state House got nearly $1M from group funded by Kalamazoo tycoon.

Gary Heinlein / Detroit News Lansing Bureau

LANSING -- The Michigan Coalition for Progress provided almost $1 million worth of cable TV ads, mailers, phone calls and canvassing help to five of the nine Democratic candidates winning state House seats in what had been Republican legislative districts.

The group is bankrolled by reclusive Kalamazoo billionaire Jon Stryker. Michigan campaign finance reports indicate Stryker provided a major boost to campaigns that this week increased the Democratic House majority from 58-52 today to 67-43 in January.

Stryker poured $3.8 million into the coalition, an independent political action committee whose aim is to elected "progressive" candidates. Beyond $250,000 from Kenneth and Jeanne Levy-Church, trustees of the New York-based JEHT Foundation, Stryker's contributions accounted for nearly all the coalition's campaign budget for this election.

Republicans have complained Stryker's largess is unduly influencing elections. His donations this year topped $4 million, including money given directly to candidates and support for Proposal 2, the stem call ballot proposal.

That's more than was raised by either major state political party.

But coalition Executive Director Ben Miller said Stryker's contributions simply offset the tens of millions that Republicans traditionally have received from "soft" sources not subject to public disclosure. "The coalition is just leveling the playing field," Miller said.

Stryker gave $5 million to the Coalition for Progress for the 2006 election, when Democrats captured six seats to create their current majority in the House, according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Rich Robinson, head of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, said the Republicans' and
Democrats' campaign funding arms also dumped $1.9 million into the House races, most of it late in the game. That included $110,000 in an unsuccessful effort to prevent Northport attorney Dan Scripps, a Democrat, from winning a northwest Michigan Republican seat.

Traditional sources as unions, Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Club also gave tens of thousands to the candidates. As an independent expenditure committee, the coalition is not limited by campaign finance law and can accept and spend unlimited amounts. Independent expenditures are made on behalf of candidates but candidates have no control over them.

The Democratic candidates who benefited from heavy coalition spending:

• Wayne State professor Tim Bledsoe of Grosse Pointe, elected to succeed term-limited Rep. Ed Gaffney, R-Grosse Pointe.

• Canton Township respiratory therapist Dian Slavens, chosen to replace term-limited Rep. Philip LaJoy, R-Canton.

• West Bloomfield Realtor Lisa Brown, who'll replace Rep. David Law, R-Commerce Township. • Calhoun County Commissioner Kate Segal of Battle Creek, who'll succeed Rep. Mike Nofs, R-Battle Creek.

Scripps, who'll replace Rep. David Palsrok, R-Manistee.

The coalition also spent on behalf of Rep. Mary Valentine, D-Muskegon, who retained her seat.

It put $71,000 into the pre-primary election campaign of Macomb County Commissioner Sarah Roberts, who was elected to succeed Rep. Jack Brandenburg, R-Harrison Township.

It wasn't 100 percent successful. The group bankrolled ads and materials for four Democrats who lost.

The "Colorado Plan" wasn't 100 percent successful either, at first. But Colorado's rapid political transformation attests to the influence the Strykers, their super-wealthy and super-liberal friends, and the front groups they support can have, while operating below the radar screen of average people.

Michiganders and Coloradans need to wake up to the undue influence these "reclusive" but radical individuals are exercising in their state, insist that media watchdogs peel away the veneer behind which they operate, and begin asking hard questions about the agenda being pushed.

The Denver Post did a bit of this in the months leading up to the election, but the digging shouldn't end now. I, for one, have been a bit frustrated with the coverage. The Post refrained from naming more than a few of the organizations in the Colorado network. Most Coloradans already understood that The Bighorn Center isn't really a "think tank," but just a vehicle for advancing Rutt Bridges' political ambitions and agenda. But we're also curious to learn -- to confirm, actually -- what other "non-partisan" groups do the bidding of Tim Gill, Pat Stryker, Doug Phelps, Bruce Oreck, Linda Shoemaker, Tom Congdon and the other puppet masters.

Of special interest, for instance, is their connection, if any, to Colorado Media Matters and The
Colorado Independent (formerly Colorado Confidential), which obviously carry water for the Democrat Party while posing as a media watchdog group and news site, respectively. While both organizations routinely attack the integrity, motives and credibility of the state's legitimate media outlets, and of conservatives, their own sources of support and political agendas remain shrouded.

Human events did a write up on the Michigan situation here, but we all need to know more.

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