[Updated] Cohen: Emily's List needs to apologize to its members for Tinker debacle

Charlie Burr

[Update: Emily's List has now scrubbed its Web site of all references to Nikki Tinker, including the Tinker news release from months ago linked to in this post. The new error message simply ironically reads, "We're sorry."]

Tn9_flyerCongressman Steve Cohen (D-Tn) talks about the primary, Emily's List, and the defeat of the anti-semitic and racially-charged voter appeals their members financed. From Politico:

After fending off racially and religiously charged attacks to capture a surprisingly big win in his bid for re-nomination, Memphis Congressman Steve Cohen is pulling no punches, suggesting a prominent organization that backed his opponent needs to apologize to its members.

Cohen beat former Congressional aide Nikki Tinker 79 percent-19 percent. Tinker benefited from support from EMILY's List, which helps pro-choice Democratic women running for Congress. "EMILY's List has got egg all over their face, yellow and white both all over their faces," Cohen said on XM Radio's Politics Nation, hosted by your Scorecard authors.

Tinker, who is African-American, ran television advertisements associating Cohen, who is white, with the Ku Klux Klan in a district in which 60-percent of the population is black. Later, Tinker hit Cohen, who is also Jewish, for voting against prayer in schools while a young child recites a prayer, which many thought bordered on anti-Semitism.

"I said it's going to get dirty, there's going to be some things said at the end that are going to be unbelievable," Cohen said. EMILY's List condemned one of the advertisements in the campaign's final days, a move Cohen said wasn't enough. "Their money is what paid for these ads. They raised [Tinker's] money."

The group's president, Ellen Malcolm, reached out after the primary, Cohen said. Malcolm "called me and she was trying to act like she'd done me some great favor by renouncing that [advertisement], and I said, 'You know, the election was over. Your money that you got from your members who didn't know what this race was about, didn't know what my record was, didn't know about this lady, you paid for those ads.'"

"The members of EMILY's List are owed an apology from Ellen Malcolm for not having a better vetting process," Cohen added.

Read the rest here.

Discuss.

Comments

  • phew (unverified)
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    This is the sort of thing that is almost inevitable when we worry more about identity than ideas. When we separate ourselves and build power around who we are, rather than focusing on what we want to do.

  • Plhut (unverified)
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    And oh yeah, Kate Brown, just got $5K more from Emily's list 3 days ago, bringing her total take from Emily's List in this election cycle to $20,000, $15,000 of that to run against pro-choice Democrats in the primary.

    Can we expect her to return it and denounce Emily's list? Here's the rest of the people we should watch to see if they have a shred of personal integrity (totals for 2008 election season):

    Diane Rosenbaum $1000 Regan Gray $4500 Jackie Dingfelder $2000 Linda Brown $5000 Cyreena Boston $5000

    Still waiting on your Charlie to call on Brown and the rest to denounce Emily's list and return the money, as well to as to call out Cowan. Otherwise what's your point except stroking your ego? Or do you have another agenda?

  • (Show?)

    Plhut misses the point here. Emily's List's stated raison d'etre is reasonable and worthwhile, if debatable. Spending money challenging pro-choice Dems in primary races is debatable in it's worthwhileness. But the issue here is their funding race-baiting and religion-baiting. That kind of "advocacy" would be just as vile in a general election race against a Repub as in a primary race against a Dem.

  • Plhut (unverified)
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    Kevin, it is you who misses the point.

    EL's reasons for existence are irrelevant. As an activist political organization it is their overall pattern of behavior, including their lack of judgement, in their grasp for power that matters because that behavior is what plays out in real-life politics. The same is true for those like Brown who willingly consort with them, and who seek their money and endorsement given their actual record.

    Stunted minds like yours and many Blue Oregonians just do everything you can to excuse the pattern of moral abdication we have seen over the last decade or so by focusing on individual (although typically successive) incidents to draw attention away from overall pattern of arrogance, low-integrity and poor political behavior.

    So long as Brown doesn't vigorously publicly denounce, and that includes returning the money, she condones. It's that simple.

    The ball is in your court Charlie: You chose to make this an issue, now you have the responsibility to carry through.

  • (Show?)

    My problem is not with the grassroots donors across the country who fund Emily's List endorsed candidates. My problem is with the leadership of Emily's List who chose to fund the type of campaign we saw in the 9th Congressional District. I don't think Oregon elected officials should have to return small donor contributions from across the state and country because of the bad decisions made here by Emily's List leadership against the wishes of its local contributor base.

    I agree with Steve Cohen 100 percent: Emily's List needs to address this. I also believe very strongly that Emily's List's statements condemning the last Tinker ad ignores and distorts the reality of what was happening in this race for months. It's simply not credible for them to act "shocked" when they were aware of what was going on in the district. Again, it's very important to understand that the flyer above was distributed before EMILY'S LIST got into the race.

    The bottom line here is that Emily's List played a central role in the most disgraceful, low-life Democratic primary in at least a decade. Their money financed the ads. And from what I can tell, there's no meaningful evaluation happening to ensure future screw-ups of this magnitude.

  • (Show?)

    ...in their grasp for power...

    Politics is inherently a grasp for power. Emily's List could exist solely to give money to Jesus Christ or the Dalai Lama and it would still be a grasp for power, by definition, because politics is 100% about grasping for power.

    Seems to me that you are as damned by your own rhetoric as you think Charlie is for his.

  • Plhut (unverified)
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    Charlie, no one said anything about (possibly sometimes misled) EL donors. But your rationalization will play well with a community that obviously mainly looks for excuses to evade responsibility for holding even the groups, much less the politicians, they support fully accountable.

    So Charlie, I'll bet there are a lot of silent Democratic readers of personal integrity who are at least as concerned about what happened here as you, but a little less about their preserving their own opportunities as a paid political flak like you (you thought about getting EL to hire you to help them with this PR mess?), and who are still waiting for you to quit bobbing and weaving. You have been a paid flak for numerous pols including Republican-lite Ted "I support the war" Kulongoski though, so I think we know what the real score is.

    The question remains on the table: Are you going to call on Brown and the rest to do the right thing? In the meantime, I'm having a really hard time seeing how your double-talking to evade what you have now devoted three posts to doesn't put you in the same class as EL.

  • LT (unverified)
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    "The bottom line here is that Emily's List played a central role in the most disgraceful, low-life Democratic primary in at least a decade. Their money financed the ads. And from what I can tell, there's no meaningful evaluation happening to ensure future screw-ups of this magnitude."

    And this is why some of us will only give money directly to a candidate (Obama seems to be doing OK with some donations well below $100 ) because of the "powergrab" aspect of people who run these operations.

    Like the time an environmental group gave money and endorsement to Bruggere over 2 qualified candidates who had actually been supporting the causes important to the organization long before anyone ever heard of Bruggere. The smart-aleck then in charge (wasn't in charge for much longer) made a crack about "green in the wallet" being more important than "green in their background".

    It would be a great public service if someone would do an evaluation of such groups, who they endorsed, what the money contributed paid for, win/loss record, etc.

  • Plhut (unverified)
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    ...in their grasp for power...

    Politics is inherently a grasp for power.

    Kevin - try to keep up here now since you insisted on responding haphazardly: No one criticized anyone for their desire to grab for power. EL is criticized for their particular pattern of behavior in pursuing that desire, and their supporters and beneficiaries like Brown for not finding that unacceptable by welcoming EL support rather than holding them accountable. Brown got her last $5K, if the reports filed with the State are correct, well AFTER the whole chain of events Charlie is trying to spin like a top here.

    Seems to me that you are as damned by your own rhetoric as you think Charlie is for his.

    I would just observe you might want to remember Charlie, the guy who threw this out there three times but evaded the real questions about Brown and others who court EL's support, like Kari is a paid political PR professional. You might want to consider what HE, like Kari, actually thinks about his own rhetoric. The positions I've expressed consistent with our supposed shared values as Democrats are clear and above board.

    Remember, Brown and the others are being asked to distance themselves from an organization that opposed Cohen, a Congressperson who Charlie himself says is one of the most important progressives in the Congress. The "lapse of reason" in just one case doesn't pass the smell test, as Charlie's bobbing and weaving to this point doesn't when he could just come out and say Brown and the others should renounce EL's support.

  • Bill R. (unverified)
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    The solution is for EL members to leave EL. Who cares if EL apologizes?

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Emily's List is like so many other politically-oriented organizations that are obsessed with some particular agenda and pursue it without regard to ethics or state and national interests. The same can be said for the Democratic and Republican parties that routinely place party interests ahead of the nation's.

    To repeat a story from the JFK election and the question of dead voters in Chicago, a visitor ask a Chicagoan how the people of that city could elect a crook. The answer was, "Because he is our crook." On a national level it helps to explain the charge that the U.S. Capitol is the biggest and most expensive whorehouse in the world.

  • (Show?)

    I stopped contributing to Emily's List and NARAL during the Kerry campaign. Further, I am disappointed in Plhut's tiresome call for Charlie to call on Kate Brown for accepting $$$ from EL. Kate is an astute politician who will carefully measure the contributions she accepts and it is she, not Charlie, that will assume responsibility for her choices.

  • (Show?)

    Well said, Paulie.

    The issue isn't that EL gives money. It's whom they gave money to and under what circumstances the money was used that is at issue.

    Now, if EL gave money specifically to fund bigoted campaigns then whether Kate Brown took money from them would be relevant. But they don't and she isn't.

  • Grant Schott (unverified)
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    EMILYS List plays for keeps and going negative is always on the table. Case in point was the Rahm Emmanuel vs. EMILYS List cand. primary in Chicago in '02. The story I heard was that Rahm showed up at the EL office after it was over, demanding to see Ellen Malcom and let her know what he thought of her after they went negative on him.

  • Plhut (unverified)
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    Further, I am disappointed in Plhut's tiresome call for Charlie to call on Kate Brown for accepting $$$ from EL

    paulie, you're not disappointed, admit it. The choice of the adjective "tiresome" belies that you are ticked off because the people you want to identify with are being called out for their failure of principle and you know you don't have any defense for Brown or Charlie.

    Frankly, I'm tired of the low-class hypocritical face superficial Democrats like you, Charlie, and Kevin present to the people who should be Democrats, but who have rightly lost respect for our Party.

    The issue isn't that EL gave money

    Yup, Kevin you're right even as you dig yourself a deeper moral hole. The issue is that Brown at least so far with her cowardly silence shows she apparently doesn't care about the political company she keeps, just so long as they give her money. In this case, it includes people who Charlie has repeatedly accused here of being anti-semites.

    And it isn't just that she has just taken the money and has remained silent (the ugly TN campaign was going on as she accepted EL's money), but even as Charlie has chosen to beat the drum as the political hit man he is, he doesn't call on those like her whom he claims to share his values to do the right thing.

  • Plhut (unverified)
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    To be accurate, I'm sure Charlie is going to splutter he hasn't accused EL of being anti-semites, he has in fact stated EL members and leaders have financed "anti-semitic and racially-charged voter appeals".

    The real question is what relevant moral distinction justifies Brown's silence, Charlie's refusal to call on her to disassociate from them (talk is cheap and "we're sorry" doesn't cut it until they prove they have changed and re-earned the right to be welcome in polite political society), and the debased rationalizing of people like paulie and Kevin?

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    The issue is that Brown at least so far with her cowardly silence shows she apparently doesn't care about the political company she keeps, just so long as they give her money.

    Gee, an organization which exists to help women get elected gave money to a woman. Oh, the horror!!

    In this case, it includes people who Charlie has repeatedly accused here of being anti-semites.

    Which of course he hasn't done.

    To be accurate, I'm sure Charlie is going to splutter he hasn't accused EL of being anti-semites, he has in fact stated EL members and leaders have financed "anti-semitic and racially-charged voter appeals".

    Wow! I'm surprised that you caught your own steaming pile of conflation. But I'm much less surprised at the weaseling way you try to lamely back away from it by taking the same low road that demagogues always have in trying to impugn the person ("sputter") as if that will somehow divert attention from your own intellectually vacuous accusations against him and against Kate Brown.

    The real question is what relevant moral distinction justifies...

    Your rank demagoguery while accusing Tinker of reprehensive morals? I'd like to hear that answer too 'cause I'm not really seeing a large moral difference.

    EL may well be guilty of over-zealotry in it's quest to elect feminists. They may well be guilty of justifying it to themselves by the usual "the ends justify the means" rationalization that always seems to be lurking behind these sorts of sordid political tales.

    But the morally repugnant tactics were done by, for and on behalf of candidate Tinker, not by, for or on behalf of funding source EL. Thus,

    1. the call for EL to apologize to its members for not having exercised better judgement in who they gave money to, and

    2. the condemnation of candidate Tinker for having employed anti-semitic, religion-baiting and race-baiting tactics.

  • (Show?)

    Phlut should probably go pet a kitten...watch a butterfly...have a beer....do something to get his horribly cynical mind off of this and leave it to wiser heads to actually debate a some real issues.

  • (Show?)

    Phlut: I've responded to you about Kate Brown and other Oregon candidates who've been endorsed by Emily's List, even if you don't like the answer. If small dollar donors want to support a Democratic woman for Secretary of State, great.

    To Grant, I'd note that playing rough and being effective aren't the same thing. The decision to jump into this Democratic primary is a pretty good example of why Emily's List only won 11 percent of their races last cycle.

    Emily's List's involvement in this race was predicated on a profound misreading of voters. It didn't help that they refused to listen to their local Emily's List members and allies. That's the type of arrogant, top-down decision making that gives you a 60 point blowout and pissed off donors from coast to coast.

    I don't consider the low-life anti-semitic tactics of the Tinker campaign to be just another example of "going negative". Watch Jesse Helm's 1984 "White Hands" commercial against Harvey Gant here and then Tinker's "Our churches." It's not really a lot better. Or for that matter, the KKK ad Emily's List financed isn't really a lot better than the Saxbly Chambliss' ad linking Max Cleland to Osama Bin Laden.

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    Ted "I support the war" Kulongoski

    This is off-topic, but needs saying. I'm still looking for hard citation, but I'm fairly certain that Kulongoski was the first Governor in the country to come out AGAINST the war.

    From January 2005, the AP:

    "If you tell me the exit strategy is five years, it's probably four-and-a-half years too long," the governor said in an interview looking at the year ahead. Kulongoski, a former U.S. Marine, has attended the funerals of more than two dozen Oregon soldiers who have been killed in Iraq. He said the task is becoming more emotionally draining with each new casualty. "It's a very tough issue to deal with, and I have to tell you, it's becoming more and more difficult for the public," he said. "People want to know what the end game is. And what is the exit strategy."

    Full disclosure: My firm built Kulongoski's campaign websites in 2002 and 2006, but I speak only for myself.

  • (Show?)

    Charlie... The "We're Sorry" message on the Emily's List website should not be construed as an apology. Rather, that's the message that appears on their site for any URL that is 404 File Not Found.

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    Kari-- Yes, it's obviously an error message and not an actual apology. I noted it above because it was unintentionally appropriate. I've struck the word "simply" and added "ironically" so no one confuses the meaning.

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    I think it's important to distinguish between the national leadership of Emily's List and the Oregon chapter. As it is in any large body, there is often a huge difference in management style, and even opinion, between Washington D.C. and the country's grassroots. And so far, I have found absolutely nothing objectionable about the decisions made by Emily's List here.

    In fact, much like the way Howard Dean and his supporters helped renew the DNC, I hope that local Oregon chapter of Emily's List, along with other state chapters, push for needed changes in their national leadership. That would put this whole episode behind them.

  • amorality trollette (unverified)
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    Why won't you purity trolls stop your whining? All that matters is women winning. You're either with us or you're with the misogynists.

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    Steve, do you know if the EL support for Kate Brown was decided locally or nationally?

    EL's intervention in an Oregon primary involving another equally qualified woman candidate seems problematic to me. Debatable, but problematic. Maybe less so if it was a local decision, I'm not sure.

    If Kate Brown were to return the EL donations over their backing of a bigoted campaign, it would send a pretty powerful message.

  • (Show?)

    I don't specifically know who approved the Brown endorsement. I do know a couple of state rep candidates, like Jessica Adamson, were approved of locally. ( Given that her opponent spent the night in jail for beating the crap out of his kid, I don't think that was too controversial. )

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