Project Wonderful

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Gingrich to FEC: "GFY"

Gingrich is all about fiscal responsibility, unless of course it's his own. The FEC has sent a second letter to the Gingrich campaign requesting "information essential to full public disclosure of your federal election campaign finances." The first letter, sent Oct 29th warned that failure to expand on the broad categories in the campaign's initial filing, including $88,000 in travel reimbursements to the candidate, "could result in an audit or enforcement action."

"You can gauge the level of terror this threat instilled by... [Campaign Treasurer Lisa] Lisker's casual, contemptuous, two-paragraph reply: Nov. 29. Lisker replied that the Gingrich campaign had concluded that "no further itemization is required" for the expenses and so none was forthcoming. Having informed the commission that she could not care less about its preoccupation with campaign finance details, Lisker concluded, "Thank you for bringing these items to our attention.""

You think he'd be able to afford his own travel expenses, what with all the money he saved on cancer bills and alimony that he neglected to pay. Newt Gingrich is to classiness as Jeremy Lin is to being bad at basketball.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Rep Rebbe? Shmuley Boteach's Run for Congress

I first heard about Shmuley Boteach (Pronounced Bo-TAY-achk) when a friend posted an article about his book, Kosher Jesus, on my facebook wall. The article was Rabbi Boteach's rebuttal to (what he alleges were surprising) attacks on the "heretical" nature of the title by other Chabad rabbis. A quick Google search determined that this Rabbi was no stranger to notoriety. His other titles, such as Kosher Sex, had provoked similar if less virulent attacks, not to mention his television show, "Shalom in the Home," or his role as the late Michael Jackson's spiritual adviser. Two things were clear 1) This man liked being in the spotlight and 2)He was an incredibly charismatic speaker.

My interest was piqued and I was excited when I found him on the roster for Limmud NY, a Jewish learning conference I attended the following week. I was explaining what I knew about Rabbi Boteach to my conference companion when her more religiously devout brother came over to say hello. "You'd never heard of Shmuley Boteach?" he asked incredulously, as if he had walked in on me saying, "Have you heard of this Lady Gaga character? Apparently she makes quite the dance music." "Well," he said "the man knows how to sell a book."

We decided to attend his lecture (which was scheduled to be about greed but wound up being about "The Rebellious Man of Faith") and I think it's fair to say we were both pretty impressed. To anyone who grew up even remotely Jewish, Boteach has a certain avuncular charm and a warmth that I'd imagine is universal. Here was an Orthodox Rabbi joking about smoking pot, railing against anti-feminist forces in religion and promoting a doctrine of tolerance and acceptance. Yes, it was clear that Rabbi Shmuley enjoyed courting fame and controversy, but years of working around politicians had taught me to forgive these qualities in those who are intelligent and captivating.

So it should have come as no surprise when a few weeks later Boteach announced his intention to run for Congress, and for what it's worth, as a Republican.
"Why would a rabbi run for Congress? Because the problems we’re seeing in our great nation are not caused by an economic downturn but by a values erosion, and I intend to be the values voice that Congress so desperately needs."
Boteach offers a refreshing perspective on family values and one that, in part, I agree with.
"If I hear one more thing about same-sex marriage, I’m going to eat my yarmulke,” he said in an extended telephone interview. “It’s been a massive distraction.”
"The values that have dominated the American political landscape for decades are the American obsession with gay marriage and abortion, to the exclusion of nearly all others, which explains why our country is so incredibly religious yet so seemingly decadent. It’s time to expand the values conversation and policy agenda. Let’s begin with really saving the institution of marriage by focusing squarely on the outrageous 50 percent divorce rate. I will promote legislation that will fight marital breakdown by making marital counseling tax-deductible."

But for all his independence, the conclusions Boteach draws about the moral imperatives of our financial crisis are the myopic assertions of a man who has been able to rationalize his own financial success (and others' poverty) and still spends his time in a relatively insular community.
If there's one liberal philosophy I would expect of an empathetic religious leader, it's caring for the poor. It is at best naive and at worst destructive to claim that our financial problems can be solved by
"recreat[ing] an American Sabbath so parents have an incentive to take their kids to a park rather than teaching them to find satisfaction in the impulse purchase....Beyond helping the family this will also help counter the growing materialism that continues to poison the American soul leading to the near-collapse of a $10 trillion economy just three years ago when we had homes that were never large enough, cars that were never new enough, and designer labels that were never fashionable enough."
And there's another issue at play. Boteach, despite his warmth and good intentions, is a bit of a loose cannon. I don't know that a man who deigns to be Michael Jackson's spiritual adviser or who intentionally incites controversy in his own community is the face I want on Jewish politicians. There are several Jews on the national political stage (Barbara Boxer, Al Franken, Bernie Sanders...) but the most vocal about his Judaism is Joe Lieberman and we all know how that worked out for the Democrats and the Jews.

Finally, at a time when religion is again on the rise in our political discourse (ahem, birth control) I would be just as pleased for Jews to sit this one out the side of religion creeping its way into politics. I don't suddenly oppose separation of Church and State just because the church is a synagogue and I like the rabbi.

There's a good chance Boteach won't make it past the primary and even if he does that he'll miss in the general. I hope for both our sakes that this is the case. Better the rabbi I'm surprised to love than the politician I'm loathe to hate.

That's One Way to Do It

Recently a good friend asked me HOW with all the (mis)information out there one can responsibly can choose a candidate. I'm working on a piece on the subject, but the gist of the matter is to pick a way and go with it. The first story in the clip above is how one of my favorite authors solves the problem.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Absolutely Not.

I know everything about campaigns. Well...I like to believe that I do. It hurts me, literally pains me, to hear anyone try to tell me how campaigns are run, especially if I think they don't know what they're talking about or worse, if I think they don't know that I do. I recognize this is mostly a "me" problem and one I need to work on. I held my kept my hand down in class when EMILY's List was described as a bi-partisan organization. When a classmate declare that field organizers don't get health insurance because she had worked on a campaign for two weeks, I held my tongue. And I pep-talk myself through Campaign Management class because, my Professor (typical cocky political consultant that he is) actually does know more than me and, well, I knew what I was getting into when I signed up for a class called "Campaign Management." Worst of all, I need to remind myself that just because someone's experience is different from mine (ahem, OFA), doesn't mean it's invalid. But this, this I will not abide.

Battleground, is a Hulu original sitcom about people on the "front lines" of a campaign. Long have I waited for a television show that romanticizes what I do, to field questions about my job much the way my laywer friends do when I watch an episode of Law and Order, but this one gets it (almost) all wrong. Maybe I was so disappointed because there was so much potential to help fill he gaping hole left in my heart, but mostly it was just painful. To keep you from experiencing similar pain, here's the rundown.

My first impression about ten seconds into the pilot is "why are all these people so good looking?" Forget Campaign Goggles, which by the way, is a real phenomenon, it's TV so in general people will be more attractive, but the staff is dressed up like it's a business office. Why are so many people wearing suits? Okay, it's election why doesn't anyone look disheveled?

The real breaking point for me comes when a volunteer, Ben, shows up and is immediately ridiculed by the candidate's adult stepson and made to stand in the parking lot of the campaign office to reserve his parking space. Next, our volunteer encounters the campaign manager, Tak, who is visibly annoyed by him. In fact he only allows Ben, who has moved to capital just to help out with the race, to participate in the campaign when he reveals that he is "Julie Werner's brother" a name that we are lead to believe has some nostalgic significance for Tak. A volunteer comes into the office and is openly mocked and almost rejected? If I were the Field Director on the race, fire would be shooting out my ears at this point. Of course, I WOULDN'T be the Field Director because they have no discernible field program, or finance director or staff beyond five people even though the series claims that they are running a competitive if underdog campaign one month out. So obviously Ben is not making phone calls. He is following around the campaign manager, who, wouldn't ya know it, adopts Ben's strategic suggestion of tricking the other side into believing that their candidate won't show up for a he did in a fight in middle school. I'll forgive this kind of plot point of West Wing, because you know, it's West Wing, but not of you sir.

Battleground left me wanting to run a serious GOTV campaign,literally, GET OUT OF MY TV.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Organizer Store- Valentine's Edition

Whoever stuck Presidents Day and Valentine's Day next to each other on the calendar must have had yours truly in mind.Red and pink cardstock does nothing for me, but red, white and blue bunting? Be still my heart. If your lady is a campaign staffer, she absolutely deserves a romantic and relaxing Valentine's, candy, the works. Who can appreciate pampering more than an organizer? Lucky for you I have some ridiculous finds that combine her two great loves.

1)The Vote Necklace
The next time I need to treat myself, this is what I'm buying. Any jewelry is a romantic gift, but this necklace shows her that you love her for all that she is. As if it weren't already the perfect gift, the vote necklace is available on Each purchase donates 50 cups of food to hungry families in Africa and the United States.
2. Funderwear
A word of caution...when purchasing election-themed novelty undergarments, consider the staying power (no pun intended) of your message. Imagine if you'd purchased "Vote for the Hottie" underpants featuring a picture of John Edwards in 2008. Looking back that's just WRONG and not in the way you had intended. Ahem...not that that happened to anybody you know. Anyway this Democrat g-string may not display the cleverness of 2004's Axis of Eve series, (which featured slogans like "Fire Bush" and "My Cherry for Kerry"), but at least you know the party advertised will last at least as long as the fabric. I found this pair on

3)Vote Me Valentine
This Valentine's Card, also from Etsy was the inspiration for today's post. I mean really what could be more perfectly themed for a field organizer Valentine's Day? If Etsy asks you didn't hear it from me, but with a little effort you could probably make something similar on your own.

Here's hoping Cupid stuffs your ballot box with Valentines!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Racist Campaign Ad Airs During Superbowl

Ironically I was doing my reading for Race Statistics class when I noticed a link to this ad pop up on facebook.

Wow. Remember when I posted The Most Sexist Campaign Ad and said it was also pretty racist? Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a winner.