Friday, March 10, 2006

Caveat Lector

Some of you may have read a diary on Daily Kos entitled “Steve Filson and the question every Democrat needs to answer” on January 8. It was a superficial piece attacking Jerry McNerney full of all sorts of strawmen about the campaign. And the author, these5janks, simply refused to back up his assertions with anything of substance. But don’t bother looking for it now. The diary has been deleted. Which makes sense because the author is Steve Filson’s new Finance Director Colin Bishopp.

Now the entire diary started its life as a comment on another diary, and therefore it has been preserved for posterity. In fact, the comment included one telling sentence that was omitted in the diary. Since it started as a comment, I think it’s fair enough to post it here (the sentence in italics is the one omitted from the diary).

Pombo is done. The guy is ripe for a beating and we've got to give it to him. The guy to do it is Steve Filson. Both Pelosi and Tauscher support him and are working to transform him into a powerhouse. So what if he hasn't yet figured out how to navigate the blogosphere? So what if he's not a proficient Kos-poster? He will be soon.

We all know this race is critical. We need to back a candidate who can win in Alameda County, Contra Costa County, and San Joaquin County. That candidate is Steve Filson. We all need to understand that this isn't about who has the "right" to run or which candidate "deserves" the party nomination. This is about winning. The fact is Jerry McNerney cannot win. He is a dedicated and quality human being who simply cannot win votes in San Joaquin county [sic]. Steve Filson can and will. Indeed, I am so sure that he will I am moving out from Chicago so that I can be there to help him.

This McNerney/Filson noise is the typical Democratic Party bull. Everyone's logging
on to their blog to whine about this or that and wants the world to recognize how perverse and unjust it is that centrist Democrats "neglect" the party's base principles. The Republicans figured out a long time ago that winning is what matters. We need to stop talking about how good a guy Jerry McNerney is and start talking about winning.

In every corner of the country, dedicated, life-long Democrats are going to have to accept that in order to take back the House and Senate, they will have to step aside. This will hurt, but it's the truth. We need to rally behind the best candidate in every race even if it means that a good guy has to take the back seat. I'm sorry Jerry. You're a good guy but you're not the best candidate. Steve Filson isn't a perfect candidate, but he, too, is also a good guy. He's also a life-long Democrat and a quality human being. But what is critical is that he can win. Pelosi and Taucher [sic] obviously think so and so do I. And I'm willing to spend the next eleven months
of my life doing everything I can to see that he does.

I have just one question for the Kos community: What's more important, patting McNerney on the back for running an uphill campaign two years ago or beating Richard Pombo? Democrats all over the country need to start asking themselves this question and they need to start now. And they better come up with the right answer soon, or the Republicans will continue to run things around here for a very long time.

The reason I bring this up is two-fold. First of all, this is pretty typical of Filson’s outreach to the netroots. You get people attacking McNerney and failing to engage in a substantive discussion about Filson, all while hiding behind their aliases. To be clear, people are allowed to have their beliefs and they are allowed to express them anonymously or pseudonymously. But I think it is outrageous that all of this effort is spent criticizing McNerney and criticizing other bloggers instead of actually putting forth substantive arguments for Filson. In any event, this diary is more egregious because it was written by one of Filson’s top people. And yet when asked about his connection to Filson, Colin Bishopp dissembled.

Note, when the diary was deleted, the comments to the diary were deleted as well. But I have a hard copy of the diary and a lot of the comments.

A member of Daily Kos using the name Wu Ming responded to both the comment and to the diary itself. Wu Ming was suspicious of the tone of the diary and Bishopp’s unwillingness to address certain substantive issues about Steve Filson. This prompted Wu Ming to ask, “How much are you being paid? Or are you coming from Chicago to volunteer?”

These5janks responded (emphasis mine):

Wu Ming: I came to Chicago for grad school and am coming back to California
because it is home. No one is paying me anything. I will walk precincts and make phone calls for Steve Filson for nothing. If I can do more, I will. But I plan
to help other Democrats too. I just happens that I hate Richard Pombo and I want
to contribute to his defeat in any way I can. I’m young and not tied-down so I
can afford to move around and start from scratch.

The clear implication is that he is going to volunteer for Filson, not that he’s moving back to California to join Steve Filson’s staff.

I, for one, find this type of diary really unhelpful. And I’m not the only one. In case you think that I’m the only one who thinks this diary was out of line, I’ll refer you to a couple of comments.
RonK Seattle wrote: “Better diary if you told us something about Filson. Anything. Just sayin’.”

Elwood Dowd wrote:

Please note. I follow politics reasonably closely. I hadn’t heard of Filson or
McNerney until this post.

Thanks to you, my first impression of Filson is: this guy is running a negative campaign against another Democrat, and is touting his endorsements.

With friends like you…


Hilltopper wrote:

Diary No [sic] helpful.

I live near CA-11 and plan to contribute time and money to whichever candidate wins the primary. At present, I am listening to both democrats and seeing is there is a reason to support one over the other.

Your diary gives us nothing. I suggest that you tell us about Filson’s background (navy pilot, United pilot, active with the United union) and tell us where he stands on some important issues. We may also enjoy hearing a few facts about Pombo while you are at it.

In any event, it’s completely consistent with the level of behavior I expect from Steve Filson’s team. There is a lot of unscrupulous stuff happing and I cannot discuss most of it. But it’s maddening to see it.


Anonymous Rick said...

The tact displayed in that post was amateur at best, and certainly didn't benefit Filson. Which dovetails into the next point: How did you verify that Colin Bishopp was indeed the author?

8:36 PM, March 10, 2006  
Blogger babaloo said...

Just click on the picture at the top of the story to enlarge it.

9:00 PM, March 10, 2006  
Blogger babaloo said...

And just to clarify, the diary was written by these5janks. Here is a link to the original comment which was appended to another diary. Pretty clearly, Colin Bishopp and these5janks are one and the same.

9:16 PM, March 10, 2006  
Anonymous Some Other Guy said...

Sure, its not the best post. However, I think it is important to note that 1) given the date of that post, Colin was not paid staff yet and perhaps was not even officially hired at that point and 2) how does that illustrate unscrupulous behavior on the part of Filson's staff?

I make the first point because Colin was not officially part of Filson's staff and, thus, was not speaking "officially". Additionally, it was quite possible that he was not hired and, if he was hired, perhaps he was not offered any salary at that point.

Secondly, how is this indicative of ill-behavior on the part of Filson's staff now? You have alluded to bad things being done by the campaign numerous times, yet you have never offered any examples. I understand and respect the desire to not give the Repubs any ammunition to use against Filson, but I am desperately curious.

10:24 PM, March 10, 2006  
Blogger Matt said...

Some Other Guy:

Look, I'm trying to be fair about this. In his personal communication with me, Bishopp has told me that he had been offered and accepted a position in Filson's campaign prior to "early January," by which time he had already sold most of his possessions in anticipation of his move to California. So although he might not have written the diary under Filson's express direction, it is certainly untrue that "no one [was] paying [Bishopp] anything." We'll be able to look at the FEC reports come April 15 to see when Bishopp first received his salary. So it is possible that he had not yet received any money from Filson when he wrote the diary. But I am confident in my own mind that he knew he was moving to California to work for Filson.

Now there is a bit more of a back story that makes me feel like this is more illustrative than maybe others will accept. Bishopp is an ex-campaign staffer for Ellen Tauscher. So it's not like he was some random schmo who didn't know what he was doing. Furthermore, right now Bishopp is, as far as I can tell, one of only three Filson campaign staffers (the other ones being Rob Kellar, the Campaign Director, and Samantha Galing, the Field Director).

So the real question to me is: Do you think a campaign is responsible for something written on behalf of the campaign (but perhaps not on the order of the Campaign Manager) by someone who has been hired by the campaign but who has not yet officially been paid by the campaign? And let's narrow the question down by keeping in mind in this case that Bishopp is one of three staffers (or a small number in any event) and that he has represented the campaign in various capacities while on staff.

Certainly, I do think it's inconvenient for Filson's campaign that Bishopp did this, but I do not think they can completely avoid any sort of association with the piece. And I think this is magnified because instead of coming out and saying that he was going to be part of the campaign but that in the piece he was only representing himself, he lied about his association with the campaign.

11:11 PM, March 10, 2006  
Anonymous nicholas said...

Not going to get into the politics of this post but I do want to share my own take on posting.

I originally started on the McNerney campaign as the acting campaign manager. Because of my sales management experience (owned my own mortgage firm and was a sales manager for Pacbell/SBC/Cingular..hey i've I had stayed I would enjoyed one more name change into ATT...oy the headaches of that campany..but i digress) I was asked to be Jerry's Finance Director.

Even though I had zero political campaign experience...even though I was (and still am) a volunteer staffer I have always posted with the understanding that I was representing the campaign...non-officially unless otherwise stated.

Heres the interesting thing about the internet. The old school "whisper" campaigns dont seem to work anymore. If Rove tried to pull a whisper (anne richards is a lesbo) act today, some idiot republican supporter would be posting it on a blog and it could would be traced right back to rove. and we could have all been bush free...

well, not sure about that..but a boy can dream, right? ;-)

6:22 AM, March 11, 2006  
Anonymous Max said...

In fairness, the comments that you posted were only arguing with the substance of the diary, i.e., Filson v. McNerney. They weren't questioning anyone's ethics. To me, it’s an important discussion within the Democratic Party who we decide to nominate in critical races. Whether the diarist's points convinced anyone substantively, it seems clear that they were meant constructively. While one of the comments said Filson was going negative, it is clear from the diary that there was nothing negative about McNerney except that he wasn't the best candidate the party has to offer. And this doesn’t seem at all to be a “whisper” campaign – he didn’t say anything bad about McNerney that isn’t just part of routine campaigning. At the end of the day, Pombo is a crook, and either Filson or McNerney would be dramatic improvement. I happen to agree with the diarist that Filson is a better bet to winat this point but there is ample room for legitimate disagreement and I could even be convinced otherwise. What I don't really understand is why it matters whether someone who is for Filson is being paid now, started as a volunteer and now is being paid, or isn't being paid. Who really cares? And I don't mean that rhetorically or confrontationally. I really am curious as to why this is a big deal. I'd rather try to figure out who to nominate to get rid of crooks like Pombo in a calm and constructive way instead of questioning motives, character, of two good men whose goal is the same. I don't disagree that the diary wasn't particularly substantive and there needs to be a more detailed discussion about the qualifications of the two men. But I don't think questioning each other's ethics and character is going to help us get rid of Pombo. Thanks.

9:35 AM, March 11, 2006  
Anonymous nicholas said...

max, not the set up of my post:

"Not going to get into the politics of this post..."

It was just a general statement about how the internet and the blog has changed the dynamics of political post was not a specific responce to this blog entry..more something that popped into my head as i read everyone's comments.

10:06 AM, March 11, 2006  
Anonymous nicholas said...

rats...not=note above..


10:07 AM, March 11, 2006  
Blogger Matt said...

In fairness, the comments that you posted were only arguing with the substance of the diary, i.e., Filson v. McNerney. They weren't questioning anyone's ethics.

I think that the first part of that assertion is wrong and the second part is beside the point. The comments I posted both either implicitly or explicitly criticized the diary for a lack of substance. The first commenter told the author that the author was hurting Steve Filson by writing the diary and the second commenter told the author that his diary was not helpful. If you still miss the normative criticism aimed at the person who wrote the diary, I'm not sure I can make it any more explicit for you.

Furthermore, it makes sense that nobody would question the ethics of a random diarist on Daily Kos. It's a much more interesting question when the author is part of a campaign, and consequently an agent and representative of a candidate.

Whether the diarist's points convinced anyone substantively, it seems clear that they were meant constructively.

No, Bishopp refused in the comments to engage in any sort of substantive discussion about the race. And it's not at all clear that his comments were meant to be helpful. I diary is full of straw arguments about why someone would support McNerney and all sorts of assertions about Filson that are never even given an offer of proof. I know Colin Bishopp studied philosophy at Cal. I studied philosophy at Cal too. I know he knows how to write a good argument. This falls so sort of a good argument, and he consistently failed to answer the calls for more substance in the comments. So I do not see his diary as constructive to the discourse on Filson v McNerney.

What I don't really understand is why it matters whether someone who is for Filson is being paid now, started as a volunteer and now is being paid, or isn't being paid. Who really cares? And I don't mean that rhetorically or confrontationally. I really am curious as to why this is a big deal.

I agree with you (in a part of your comment that I did not quote above) that this isn't tantamount to a whisper campaign. But this diary was still really insulting and dismissive to the concerns of other Democrats. The whole point is that Bishopp never argued WHY Filson would be a better candidate. Instead he simply asserted THAT Filson would be a better candidate. Instead of engaging in a discussion as a member of the Daily Kos community, Bishopp simply tried to write a manipulative diary in order to market Filson to the Daily Kos community. And when confronted about his ties to Filson he lied. Are you saying that you see nothing wrong with campaign staffers lying to the electorate? I mean, we're all adults and why know it happens. But it's not a tactic I find honorable and upstanding.

I'd rather try to figure out who to nominate to get rid of crooks like Pombo in a calm and constructive way instead of questioning motives, character, of two good men whose goal is the same. I don't disagree that the diary wasn't particularly substantive and there needs to be a more detailed discussion about the qualifications of the two men. But I don't think questioning each other's ethics and character is going to help us get rid of Pombo.

Well I have two responses. First, character and ethics matter. From Day One I have been concerned about Steve Filson's method of campaigning. You cannot expect everyone to come together after the primary without also expecting that the campaigns will exercise some self-restraint. I'm sure McNerney's campaign is above this type of thing. But I do know that this type of thing really pisses off McNerney's supporters.

Second, to be frank, the type of diary written by Bishopp is all we tend to get from Filson's side. With the exception of Chris Filson, who posts comments here from time to time, the argument FOR Filson seems to run: a) Jerry McNerney cannot win and b) Steve Filson can win, so c) Steve Filson is a better candidate. This is just a rubbish argument when simply asserted as fact.

And to the degree that there have been supporting arguments profered to support the premises, they have focused on why Jerry McNerney allegedly cannot win.

Steve Filson has hung his hat on the notion that he is more electable than Jerry McNerney. This has become one of the central arguments in his campaign. But this "more electable" idea can be supported by building Filson up or by tearing McNerney down. I have seen a lot more tearing down than building up from Filson's side. And that really bothers me.

10:38 AM, March 11, 2006  
Anonymous Vicki said...

I too am a (nearly) full time volunteer staff person for Jerry. At no time, do I ever feel that since I'm not on his payroll, that I have the right or the freedom to attack Filson or anyone else. Nor do I feel it represents my candidate, or this race in general, to post anything that could come back to haunt either candidate.

I will just say that the reason I give so freely of my time ( life even) is that this country is in a crisis, or several crises. We are addicted to oil. The president admits it, Pombo admits it, everyone knows it.

I think it's time we start electing people to offices such as Congress who have the knowledge and expertise that can actually go about solving this problem. Jerry has devoted his life to alternative energy and has actually DONE something about relieving the oil jones and it's effects on our planet. To me, this makes him uniquely qualified for the position of Representative of California's 11th District.

I'm just tired of seeing people elected to offices because they know someone or they have more money. I'm tired of repesentatives who are beholden to this politician or that industry and I want to see more people elected that actually have a vision for how to solve some of the problems we face and the ability to implement their vision.

I'm tired of holding my nose and voting for the least awful candidate and I know many others are too. It's what keeps them away from the polls in droves.

I think Jerry McNerney offers this feeling of hope and vision to the residents of the 11th District. I've dropped everything in my life to see that he gets a chance to put that vision to work.

Nicholas and I put in hundreds of hours to Jerry's campaign. I can't speak for Nicholas, but for me, I have very little to gain for what I'm doing. I can't even vote for Jerry unfortunately. I do it because it's something I strongly BELIEVE in. I do it because Jerry shows me that if we work hard enough, we can elect people that actually deserve to govern our country because of what they know about solving our countries problems.

The McNerney campaign has no NEED to go negative. We have too many positives to work with, and we will continue to work on the shortcomings of this campaign so that when the voters go to the poll in June and in November, they will have the choice of voting for someone that is quailified for the position they are electing him to.

11:47 AM, March 11, 2006  
Anonymous nicholas said...


my family and friends all live in stockton...while i live in jack london square at the moment i do plan on returning back. i spend most of my off time in stockton. and i plan on moving back to stockon one day because of the fore mentioned..and i want a congressman that will fight for the wellbeing of my younger family..not against them..

and for this passion i have been labeled (on this blog) a white, extreme berkeley liberal...(seinfield moment.."not that there is anything wrong with that".)...but is this a valid responce to why i support jerry?

and im sorry folks, but the type of campaigning ive seen from filson has yet to make me feel comfortable that he is any better then pombo. i hope that changes soon..i really do. and i hope his campaign team prints up my comments and take them constructively, and CHANGE.

In the meantime...I keep doing what im doing..our campaign keeps doing what its doing...we have ran charity races...we have voluntered at homeless shelters...why? because we ant a positive enviroment within our campaign..and we want to feel as if we are making a difference in this world...not only by electing Jerry into Congress but by improving our own lives in the process..

nicholas out...out!!

12:10 PM, March 11, 2006  
Anonymous nicholas said...

darn..typo #2

wmfm=wifm (whats in it for me)


12:11 PM, March 11, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As McNerney says on the front page of his web site:

My commitment to you:

* Integrity
* Honesty
* Accountability

These values are what we have always expected from our elected officials and it's time that they be restored to the 11th congressional district.

That's also what we expect from our candidates.

1:36 PM, March 11, 2006  
Anonymous Max said...

Matt, first off, thank you for your thoughtful response – it did clarify some issues I was curious about. But I didn’t miss the general point of the post and I agreed that the criticism is valid so far as it is that the diary was not particularly substantive. And I also agree that Filson shouldn’t win this race by simply saying he his electable without a substantive discussion. On that point we are, I think, in total agreement. I also understand why it is silly, to the extent that it is accurate, to fudge about ties to a campaign. But I don’t see why (a) it’s a particularly big deal; or (b) how it’s productive to get into arguments about this kind of extremely tangential issue. I realize that your position would be that he started it by posting an unhelpful diary and obscuring his ties to Filson, but let’s end it and talk about issues rather than about whether Colin or Steve Filson or anybody else is a jerk. And that brings me to my main point: I don’t think that anyone can point to anything in the diary that was “negative” or a “smear” or a “whisper” about Jerry McNerney. However, in response, there has been a long list of insinuations that Filson and his staff are lacking in “character and ethics.” But I think there’s been a bit of a straw man set up here about Filson and his staff going negative and being unscrupulous. I would be the first one to be ticked off if I saw Filson or his staff attacking McNerney’s character and ethics. I just don’t think that’s what we have here and we’re veering into the territory of the opposite – McNerney supporters questioning Filson’s character. I suggest that we focus on the thing that we all agree on: let’s have a substantive discussion.

9:44 AM, March 12, 2006  
Anonymous nicholas said...


when you havent taken positions..when your an unknown commodity then the only thing folks have let to judge you on is the tone or culture of your campaign.

its all of our jobs to judge a candidates character...there is nothing wrong with that..

ownership to define ones self is the responsibility of the candidate...and thats the good news for filson. he can still do that.

nicholas out!!!

9:06 AM, March 13, 2006  

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