Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Illegal Racine Campaign Fliers Smell Of "City Hall Malcontents"

The JT reported yesterday and today about the appearance of strange campaign fliers in Racine, specifically targeted against Common Council candidates, Blanca Webbers and Jim Kaplan.

Of course campaign fliers are nothing new and in Racine we've grown accustomed to issue ads paid for by various dark money groups that sound grassroots and positive: "All Children Matter" or "Citizens for a Better Public Education."

We know who those groups really are because in Wisconsin you have to register as a campaign committee to do that kind of thing. You have to disclose how much money you spend, who gave it to you and you have to be careful about what you say.

These mysterious fliers didn't follow those rules - in fact, they didn't follow any.

Created by a group that calls itself "Concerned Citizens for a Better Racine," it is not registered with either the state or the City Clerk's office. No treasurer, no address, no website. Nothing that adheres to legal campaign activities - because it's not. They are a hit piece and as illegal as you can get in the world of campaigning.

The subjects of the fliers, however, are very telling.

Blanca Webbers, owner of Casablanca Restaurant on Main Street and current Tavern League President. Webbers has been the subject of inflated suspicion on the creepy and unreadable "Racine Exposed" blog. Webbers was targeted because of her association with the Tavern League.

Kaplan, the subject of a failed recall last year, has also gotten the "Exposed" treatment.

(If you haven't read it, "Racine Exposed" is a City Hall OCD burn-book crossed with the excitement of reading land variances. Seriously, page after page of tax records, Common Council minutia and crypto-conspiracy rhetoric that after two posts you won't care if any of it is true. It's like revenge-porn, except instead of looking at naked people you were forced to alphabetize an endless supply of index cards while wearing an itchy sweater. The only comic relief are the misspelled comments from super-fan Wayne Clingman.)

"Racine Exposed" is the document repository for the "Racine Equality Project" which seemed to rise out of the CAR 25 debate, morphed into the tavern license scandal and the organization of a recall effort of Jim Kaplan, and then into the "documentary" film and website, "Pattern or Practice", which led to a filing of a federal discrimination lawsuit against the Mayor, several Aldermen (including Jim Kaplan), and people involved with the Tavern League.

Don't let the complexity fool you - it's all the same people. Jim Spodick, for one. His featured guests in this tall but thin case against the city is Thomas Holmes (of the shuttered Park 6 fame), Ken Yorgan (who serves as the "face" of the Equality Project), their lawyer, Vince Bobot, Ken Lumpkin (who has basically abandoned his newspaper to pile on with the creation of his newer publication - "Racine Communicator" an anti-City Hall paper). Bit players have been Keith Fair, Eric Marcus and sometimes Kate Remmington.

From the outside, one might think this was Tammany Hall all over again if you didn't know these websites and activities were created by the same several people with long histories of failed businesses, foreclosures and lawsuits of their own.

It's a grotesque grudge-match which has turned out to be expensive and embarrassing for everybody.

Up until this point, everything from the gang at the "ExpoEquaPracTern" faction has been doggedly relentless - but legal. Their federal lawsuit may or may not prevail, but they will get their chance to prove it.

The fliers, however, are quite illegal and really bad form. Of course, no name is on them - no name is is on anything these guys do. No one knows who writes "Racine Exposed" even though sources attribute it to Spodick. Who knows?

It is quite a coincidence that the subjects of these illegal fliers should be so closely associated with the targets from another ongoing negative effort - so much so it basically rules out their opponents. The last thing the "ExpoEquaPracTurn" folks want is anyone who they think is a friend of John Dickert winning a Common Council race.

Jeopardizing a federal lawsuit with a punk move like this seems a bit childish - but we're not talking about rocket science here either.  

Webbers (who by the way is is a minority bar-owner), will file a complaint and perhaps the person who printed them will come forward. This town loves to talk - so we may find out the truth behind it in the end.