I’m excited to launch the American Idea Foundation, a non-partisan, non-profit that will work with individuals, grassroots organizations, and lawmakers to expand economic opportunities through evidence-based policies. Learn more about our work here: https://t.co/xx8gubltB2
— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) October 28, 2019
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PAUL RYAN’S GOP OPPONENT IS AN INVENTION
Virginia political operative creates Nehlen campaign
By Mark Belling
July 20, 2016
The Freeman, Waukesha County, Wisconsin
My longtime panelist on my old TV show “Belling and Company” Walter Farrell must have barked every other week: “it’s about the money, Mark. It’s always about the money.” It was hilarious because he was always right. And, Walter’s explanation is the only one that holds water for the weirdest political campaign of the summer – the bizarre challenge in next month’s Republican primary to House Speaker Paul Ryan by an odd duck that nobody has ever heard of and even fewer have ever seen.
The overwhelming evidence is that “candidate” Paul Nehlen’s “campaign” exists almost entirely so a shady operative from Virginia can make money. Let’s follow the money.
Dan Backer, who lists a business address of Arlington, Va., sets up myriad political action committees, or PACs, to support supposedly conservative causes and candidates. By law, these PACs don’t have to disclose where their money is coming from or how they spend most of it. This is different from actual candidate campaigns, which have to spell out everything. Paul Nehlen and his weird campaign against Ryan seem to exist for the sole purpose of allowing Dan Backer to set up a PAC.
PACs can spend money pretty much however they want. Some legitimately pump almost all of their money into supporting specific candidates. But others exist primarily to pay the salaries of the people who set up [the PACs. Dan Backer, by all indications, pays himself a huge pile of money to run all of the PACs he sets up. Fake campaign finance reformer Russ Feingold did the same thing after he was voted out of office six years ago. He set up a PAC and immediately put former staffers on its payroll, essentially paying them to continue to do the political work of Russ Feingold.
The Backer-Nehlen connection gets even slimier. If you look at the sparse federal filings of Paul Nehlen’s campaign, you see a couple of addresses of Alexandria, Va. That’s the same place Dan Backer’s PACs are based. And, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Dan Bice recently reported that Backer is actually the campaign treasurer for Nehlen! So, following the money, Backer sets up a PAC to back Nehlen and then sets himself up as the treasurer of the actual Nehlen campaign. Federal law prohibits coordination between a PAC and a campaign and Backer’s people are quoted in the Journal Sentinel as saying Backer doesn’t know what the PAC he started for Nehlen is doing for Nehlen. OK.
The Journal Sentinel story effectively exposed Virginia’s Dan Backer as the ventriloquist to Paul Nehlen’s dummy. But it doesn’t stop there. Everywhere Dan Backer pops up so do a handful of other figures. Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin has endorsed Nehlen and magically seems to show up in support of other Backer-invented candidates. The Breitbart website, which has veered sharply to the weird since the death of its founder, constantly promotes stories attacking the candidates Backer’s PACs are opposing.
Remember Walter Farrell’s manta. “It’s about the money, Mark. It’s always about the money.” Backer has set up a powerful alliance with prominent voices on the right to promote the agenda he is pushing and the candidates his PACs are backing. A website called opensecrets.org has reported that one of the PACs set up to supposedly back Paul Nehlen has spent virtually all of its money paying the PAC’s staff and expenses.
Where does the money come from? Donors. Of course, we don’t know who the donors are because PACs don’t have to spell them out. No doubt much of the money comes from sincere conservatives who respond to flashy fundraising appeals. These folks probably have no idea that much of the money goes to salaries and expenditures of political operatives and that the actual candidates and causes may exist solely for the purpose of inducing people to give money.
But that might not be all. It’s hard not to notice that virtually every politician Backer attacks is a prominent Republican. John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and now Paul Ryan are among Backer’s targets. There’s nothing wrong with going after leaders of the Republican establishment who don’t advance a conservative agenda aggressively enough and I have spent much of my own career doing just that. But the reality is that the people who benefit most from constant demonizing of Republican leaders are liberals. How much of Backer’s money is coming from leftist interests? It’s a legitimate question and one that could win some intrepid reporter a Pulitzer Prize if they actually started digging into who is giving money to self-styled “tea party” and other groups that purport to be conservative but do nothing but attack actual conservatives.
Sincere conservative individuals are donating their money to groups that claim to care about their interests. Some of these groups are above board and do outstanding work. But others, dubbed “scamPACs,” exist to make money for their operators and attack the leaders of the conservative movement. There’s a reason nobody knows anything about Paul Nehlen. He’s essentially a mirage. He’s an invention of a guy who is in it for himself.
(Mark Belling is the host of a daily WISN radio talk show. His column runs Wednesdays in The Freeman.)
Robert Woodson has an editorial in the Wall Street Journal today, a rebuttal to recent attacks by Ann Coulter on Jack Kemp and Paul Ryan.
What racial provocateurs of the right and left don’t understand about how to fight poverty.
Kemp went on to generate more than $52 million in private and public support, which let resident-managed properties be renovated as a precondition for their sale to residents. One of the resident-group leaders, Bertha Gilkey of the Cochran Gardens development in St. Louis, tallied the achievements made possible by Kemp’s efforts in remarks a few months after his death at the inauguration of the Jack Kemp Foundation on Oct. 21, 2009:
“We took failed businesses, turned them around. We took people off welfare in large numbers and put them to work. We took gang members out of gangs and made them husbands and fathers and responsible citizens who now are giving back to the communities not taking away from them.”
In his last days, Kemp arose from his sick bed to attend a meeting of the board of directors of Howard University, for which he had helped raise funds.
Kimberley Strassel has an editorial about Governor John Kasich in the Wall Street Journal today. She is discussing the Governor Kasich approach to government, and the approach that Jack Kemp and Paul Ryan would pursue. Take a look:
Big government conservatism isn’t big-hearted, despite the sermons from a few presidential hopefuls.
Of course, there is another approach to compassion. It’s the version made popular byJack Kemp, and embraced by House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan—and a growing list of converts. It holds that there is nothing whatsoever compassionate about consigning low-income Americans to a government health-care system that delivers second-class outcomes. There’s nothing compassionate about making today’s working poor pay into a bleeding Social Security system or finance middle-class tax perks. There’s nothing compassionate about propping up a federally run poverty industrial-complex that spends most of its money on itself.
The Kemp-Ryan view knows that government is the problem, not the answer—not in any form. The answer is to devolve the money and power back to states and communities, where it can do the most good for the people who most need it. As a governor, Mr. Kasich ought to understand this argument better than most—especially given any number of smart state-level reforms he’s done to help underserved communities in Ohio.
Mr. Kasich has a mostly impressive conservative record. He has political skills. He has energy and optimism. Imagine if he were to apply all that to a Kemp-Ryan approach, to spreading the gospel of smaller government, in the name of helping those most vulnerable. He’d be a force to reckon with.
Kim Strassel’s piece in the Wall Street Journal today is really good. Enjoy!
Bring Back the Jack Kemp GOP
Republican presidential candidates should embrace the anti-poverty initiatives championed by Kemp and Bob Woodson.
Some 30 years ago, an influential congressman named Jack Kemp gave a call to Bob Woodson, and in doing so became a Republican model for empowerment politics and minority outreach. A high-profile group of conservatives is staging a revival, looking to finally engage the modern left on the politics of the poor. Republican presidential candidates, pay attention.
As Hillary Clinton was rolling out her economic plan Monday—bashing Republicans as callous to the plight of struggling Americans—influential conservatives were taking to their own stage to respond. They know Democrats will make inequality a driving theme of the 2016 race, accusing the GOP of wanting to slash government funding for the needy, of driving policies that hurt the poor.
What they billed as an “anti-poverty summit” in Washington on Monday was a road map. Up on stage, three decades later, was none other than Mr. Woodson, a titan in conservatism on poverty issues. A veteran of the civil-rights fight, Mr. Woodson became disenchanted with the left’s devotion to failed government poverty programs. He started the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, which transforms low-income areas from the inside out.
The philosophy is that low-income individuals and neighborhood organizations must play the central role in fixing their communities, and that these efforts benefit from free-market concepts like competition, entrepreneurship, efficiency and metrics. His first federal partner was Kemp, who embraced and evangelized the Woodson approach starting in the 1980s, using it to pass smart reforms, to champion innovations like “enterprise zones,” and to give his party a model for inspirational, anti-poverty politics. (A model his party quickly forgot.)
Joining Mr. Woodson on stage was (who else?) House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan, a Kemp protégé who a few years ago became awed by CNE’s remarkable track record. The Wisconsin Republican worked the method into a new policy agenda, including his proposal last year to combine and transform federal poverty programs into “opportunity grants” that go to the states, and allow local administrators to get money to groups that actually work.
The message has meanwhile found a broader voice in a new conservative news site, Opportunity Lives, run by John Hart, a former staffer to retired Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn. Its mission is to cover and hail conservative solutions, and it has already produced a high-quality, seven-part documentary called “Comeback” that features inspiring real-life stories out of the Woodson model. More than a half-million people have watched it.
Monday’s event featured all these players, as well as a celebrities such as NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, opinion-makers like National Affairs editor Yuval Levin, and scholars like the Manhattan Institute’s Fred Siegel. It follows a mid-June event at which House Speaker John Boehner offered a private screening of “Comeback,” attended by more than a dozen influential Republican leaders and members. Politicians nationally have requested briefings, and the concept is working its way into political discourse across the country.
The attraction is first and foremost great policy. Federal poverty programs fail because they are one-size-fits-all bureaucracies that keep recipients in dependency. As Mr. Woodson told me in an interview this week, this is because the left has created a poverty-industrial complex, in which most federal dollars go to “those providing the services—the social workers, the drug counselors. That entire structure is hostile to helping the poor, because these folks have their own financial interest.” The Woodson approach works because it is local, tailored, volunteer-oriented and gets money to the needy.
The Woodson approach will also resonate with most Americans, who live and serve in local communities, and understand the power of that over government handouts. It’s also a rebuttal to Democrats like Mrs. Clinton who claim Republicans don’t care. For the Jeb Bushes and Marco Rubios, orienting their campaigns around opportunity, this deserves central billing.
It’s even an inroad to minority voters, though Mr. Woodson warns that Republicans need to go beyond rhetoric. “I keep telling Republicans: Stop assuming the only way to appeal to blacks is through the race door. The untapped opportunity is the broken policies in these urban centers that are strangling the poor. Roll up your sleeves, go into your districts, meet the legitimate leaders, minister to their needs. Recruit the businesses that fund your campaigns to help. Democrats inherited these votes; Republicans have to earn them.”
Mr. Woodson points to politicians like Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who drove reform making it easier for post-prison offenders to get their occupational licenses—and thus a job—and who won 25% of the black vote when re-elected in 2014.
The Kemp drive was influential in the GOP 1990s embrace of welfare reform, and the pity is the party retreated from that space. The 2016 race is a chance to re-embrace it, and give Mrs. Clinton a run for her own rhetoric.
Like any Republican with his sights on the White House, Ryan pledges fealty to Ronald Reagan. Although Ryan’s invocations of Reagan are genuine, his real hero is Jack Kemp, a legendary congressman from Buffalo, N.Y. The link is not farfetched. Ryan worked as an aide to Kemp in the interregnum between Kemp’s service in the Bush administration and his being named as the GOP’s vice presidential nominee in 1996.
Reviewers of “The Way Forward” have picked up on Ryan’s admiration for and affiliation with Kemp.