With friends like these…
The group working to recall Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, Michigan Rising missed a campaign finance report deadline by a few days this month. Though this isn’t entirely uncommon given the unnecessarily complex and cumbersome reporting methods they use, it was still a black eye to a group trying to prove that it has learned its lesson from the first recall effort and pull off a feat that nearly everyone agrees will be a nearly impossible task.
The group faces stiff opposition in their fight to recall our Republican governor. However, the fight they are getting is not from Republicans, tea partiers, the business community or conservatives.
It’s from a group that describes itself “independent left”.
I’m not kidding.
The group is Reach Out Job Search which has a website with a variety of writers and a podcast called ROJS Radio LIVE Political Talk Radio w/ Monica RW & Autumn S. The two main contributors to the ROJS effort are Ypsilanti Township Parks Commissioner and “job search expert” Monica Ross-Williams and Autumn Smith who ran the unsuccessful campaign to recall House Speaker Jase Bolger. I assisted Smith in her efforts. For example: HERE.
These two women have been on a nearly
year-long eight-month long effort to discredit, defame and ultimately ruin the efforts of Michigan Rising. Their drive to stop Michigan Rising appears to be primarily based on allegations made by a former volunteer and treasurer for the group which was formerly known as the Committee to Recall Rick Snyder (CRRS). This woman, Gail Schmidt, penned a screed on a nearly unknown website accusing the management team of fraud and mismanagement, claiming they have lied about the number of signatures gathered in the first attempt and illegal use of campaign funds. Ironically, it was Ms. Schmidt herself that nearly got the group into trouble when she broke campaign laws when trying to divert the remaining funds from individuals to Kos Media who never gave them the funds in the first place.
Using what they refer to as “radio shows” (which are online broadcasts/podcasts), Smith and Ross-Williams proceeded to engage in a series of episodes that they described as an “investigation”. Most of this investigation consisted of allowing disgruntled former volunteers to come on the show to complain about the CRRS management team.
During the Kick-off Rally for the second recall attempt, Ross-Williams sent me this snarky Tweet (now deleted):
That afternoon, she posted this on her Facebook page:
[For the record, I appear on the First Shift with Tony Trupiano twice a month and am not paid. I raise funds the same way Ross-Williams does: by asking my readers to contribute and through ad sales.]
The “diss” on President Obama she is referring to is when radio talk show host and rally emcee Tony Trupiano introduced a couple of high school kids with this:
Our next two guests represent “Hope” in a way that actually Barack Obama never did. Our next two guests represent the future in a way no politician ever will because they are high school children…and what they have to say is something that you desperately need to hear.
The reference to bloggers comes, one assumes, from Tony’s introduction of me at the rally:
Our next speaker is my brother-in-arms as I am fortunate enough, two times a month, to have him on my radio show. He is and epitomizes what it means to be a citizen journalist. He speaks truth to power in the way no one in the state of Michigan is right now. He has become my go-to source for when I want the truth on what’s happening in this building behind us.
(Watch video from the rally HERE.)
I contacted Trupiano to ask him about this:
Were you “dissing our President Obama” and saying that other Michigan bloggers are “not worth the keyboard strikes on their computers”?
Of course I was not dissing President Obama and that someone would interpret my remakes while introducing two high school freshman as a diss on the President makes one wonder if the people who were receiving this message were actually listening and, if they were, were they listening with an objective ear? Two 15-year old young people showed up at a rally to recall the Governor because they recognize their futures are at risk and if that doesn’t qualify as hope, I do not know what does. I did say they provided hope in a way the President never could because he hasn’t been 15 in some time. I should know because the president and I are the same age! Anyone who has ever heard my show knows my deep and committed support for President Obama and, even on those few issues where he and I disagree, I have never shown this president anything other than the utmost respect. Shame on a “reporter” who was not even there for inferring otherwise. Shame on them indeed. As for dissing Bloggers, I have a track record, again, including having her on my show, to support any accusation made in the opposite. What a silly and baseless ascertation.
The same night, Ross-Williams and Smith giddily announced on their Facebook page that they “could not resist” and would be hosting a special, unscheduled “radio show” to recap the rally. The podcast is HERE.
They spent the first several minutes chuckling and guffawing about the event, saying what an utter failure it was (though they themselves were not in attendance.) They criticized everything from the speakers to the sale of t-shirts and generally mocked the event for an entire hour while simultaneously claiming it was unimportant and would accomplish nothing.
Then, later that week, in a rather astonishing move for a group that calls itself an independent news organization, they went beyond “reporting” and “investigation” and entered the story themselves by filing a formal complaint with the Secretary of State bureau of elections.
ROJS News & Radio has issued the following Press Release:
FORMAL COMPLAINT FILED WITH BUREAU OF ELECTIONS AGAINST MICHIGAN RISING POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE
On May 11, 2012, ROJS News and Radio initiated a formal complaint to the Michigan Bureau of Elections against Michigan Rising PAC Committee ID #515623, the group who is trying to Recall Gov. Rick Snyder.
ROJS News and Radio has investigated Michigan Rising campaign finance reportings over the past five months and found questionable activity occurring with the Political Action Committee finances (http://www.reachoutjobsearch.com/2012/05/michigan-rising-campaign-finance.html).
Michigan Rising failed to file their Tri-annual report which was due on April 25th 2012 (http://bit.ly/J0MTte).
As an arm of Independently financed media, we firmly believe Michigan voters have rights to know the financial affairs of a Political Action Committee (PAC) collecting monetary funds from potential voters donations. With such, ROJS News and Radio has mailed a complaint to the Bureau of Elections-Michigan Department of State regarding alleged violations of Michigan Compiled Laws (MCL’s) and Michigan Campaign Finance Act #388 of 1976.
ROJS News and Radio is an political, OP/ED, informational news site, and weekend based podcast entity founded in April 2010. We strive to provide the latest information from a Independent-Left viewpoint on issues surrounding Michigan & National politics, breaking news, investigative reporting and other stories which impact the unemployed, underemployed and America’s workers. For more information please visitwww.rojsnews.com orwww.rojsradiolive.com.
I say this is an astonishing act because not even conservatives in Michigan have done anything like this with regard to the recall effort. I have spoken with activists involved in the recall of Scott Walker in Wisconsin and they tell me that they received no pushback whatsoever from other progressives on the left. Here in Michigan, there is no organized effort to stop the recall effort from any group except for one on the left.
I ran into Ross-Williams while liveblogging the Michigan Summit this past weekend. She was there as what she described as the “exclusive blogging arm” of the Michigan Summit. I asked her for 5-10 minutes of her time to discuss her complaint but she refused to answer my questions, repeatedly saying it had to be “by email”. I asked her over and over for just a few minutes for some questions but was not successful. Later, she told me I could call Smith but, given her previous response, I had already drafted an email and we agreed to go that way. She did promise to email me a copy of their complaint but then refused to send it.
Here is the interview:
The responses are below and will be kept in our records to ensure audacity [sic] to what’s published at your resource. We have no further information to add, besides the answers below, to your piece.
1. Monica, a bit of background first. What is your position with the Ypsi government? I understand you are an “elected official”. What position were you elected to?
Currently, I serve as an appointed member of the Ypsilanti Township Park Commission, since 2011. In this role, we serve to improve our local parks and address concerns raised by township residents.
This somewhat contradicts Ross-Williams’ LinkedIn page [screenshot] and Facebook page [screenshot] where she refers to herself as “a locally elected Ypsilanti Township Parks Commissioner” and a “Locally-Elected official.
2. What does your complaint accomplish that wouldn’t have happened otherwise? What is your intention by filing the complaint?
As a Michigan citizen and registered voter, Michigan Campaign Finance Act #388 of 1976, as amended, MCL 169.201 et seq., gives U.S. citizens’ the rights to file a complaint. Our complaint was mailed to the Bureau of Elections for the departments’ review.
Since this was probably the most important question I had and her response did not even begin to answer the question, I sent a follow-up email and received the following response:
Will you answer this question please? I asked about what your complaint will accomplish and what your intent is. Surely you had a reason for filing the complaint.
We have no further information to add, besides the answers sent to your email address at 4:09 PM EDT, for your piece. Thank you.
3. I have been in contact with people from Wisconsin and they tell me there was no opposition to their recall effort from other progressives. Here in Michigan, there is isn’t any organized opposition from the conservatives. Yet you, a self-described “independent left” news blog, are working to end this recall effort in Michigan. How do you respond to those who wonder why you are doing the work of the conservative Republicans in Michigan for them?
ROJS News & Radio is a blog and radio show that covers Michigan and National politics from a Independent Left point of view. We accept no political candidates, political organization, or Political Action Committee paid advertising. With such, we present information based on our research on stories we cover. Michigan Rising via their website states the campaign is a non-partisan based effort. “Michigan Rising is a non-partisan Political Action Committee that is dedicated to restoring the balance in the legislature in the state of Michigan,” Michigan Rising About Us Page.
4. I am assuming you have spoken with representatives from Michigan Rising about why they missed their filing date. What did they tell you?
Michigan Rising has refused contact with ROJS News & Radio. Officials from the committee have been invited numerous times on ROJS Radio LIVE publicly to dispute any of the investigations and, will continue to have an open platform to do so.
It turns out that this is incorrect. I spoke to Bruce Fealk, Communications Director for Michigan Rising. He informed me that “Monica has never contacted anyone in the leadership committee about the late filing of the triannual report.”
What they would have learned, had they contacted Michigan Rising, is that, as soon as MR leadership realized they were going to be late, they immediately began working with the Secretary of State’s office to navigate the reporting site and to correct the problem promptly. At no time was there deception or anything untoward and the SoS was fully engaged in helping correct the situation.
5. Is it your belief that Michigan Rising intentionally did not file their campaign report?
Please refer to the Bureau of Elections Department of State website notification for Michigan Rising Committee ID #515623-7 on May 1, 2012. ROJS News & Radio can’t determine Michigan Rising’s intent.
6. Have you sent your press release to the major media outlets (Detroit News & Detroit Free Press, etc.)? If so, have they picked up the story (I haven’t seen anything yet.)
A press release was sent to professional journalistic organizations on May 11, 2012.
7. How can you call yourself an independent news organization when you are actually making news and participating in the story?
ROJS News & Radio is a blogging arm and podcast radio show. As Michigan citizens, bloggers and registered voters, Michigan Campaign Finance Law #388 of 1976, as amended, MCL169.201 et seq., gives U.S. citizens’ the right to file a complaint to the Bureau of Elections-Department of State.
All the best,
ROJS Radio-Executive Producer/Host-on Blog Talk Radio
Based on Ross-Williams “answers” to these questions, and I used quotes because most of them are actually non-answers, there is absolutely no way to determine what Ross-Williams and Smith are trying to accomplish with their complaint. The Bureau of Elections already knew about the lateness of the filing. In fact, it was because of their letter to Michigan Rising that Ross-Williams and Smith knew about it since it was posted on the Secretary of State’s website.
So, what could their intention be?
I asked this question of Tony Trupiano with regard to the comments she made about him and his answer may provide some insight into Ross-Williams’ and Smith’s motivations:
I cannot imagine why a real journalist, and I am not suggesting that her blog represents real journalism…would have made a remark like that without asking for clarification, which thankfully Eclectablog did, and I must point out she did not. In fact, I read about her comments on my own Facebook page, which I have selflessly allowed her to use for a year now to promote her work. Interestingly, I was very supportive of her efforts early on and had her on my show to showcase her story and her commitment to helping people who felt lost without a job, but I am not sure why she has decided to go in this direction. Anyone who knows me knows my commitment to truth and research and accountability and I have even admitted when I have erred; it’s what professionals do. It surely makes her look bad to attack someone who has a reputation for truth and accessibility, which she herself benefited from. I find her behavior odd and alarming and it also weakens whatever credibility she might once have had.
It was not only Ross-Williams who appeared on the First Shift radio show. Because of introductions by me and my advocacy of Smith’s Bolger recall effort, she, too was on Tony’s show to promote her work.
Christine Barry from Blogging for Michigan had this to say:
Progressives have too many battles to fight, particularly in Michigan, to be attacking each other. It really is sad; it doesn’t have to be this way.
Ross-Williams and Smith are clearly working against one of the many allies in these fights and they are disrespecting some of the loudest voices in Michigan progressive politics. Sooner or later, they will lose all credibility in the progressive movement in our state. This may, in fact, already be happening. Last weekend Congressman Hansen Clarke was scheduled to be on their show and pulled out at the last minute. True to form, Smith spent over five minutes on the internet broadcast castigating the Congressman and calling him things like “unprofessional”.
They have also recently locked down their Facebook fan page saying that only those with “verifiable pictures” will be allowed due to “trolling”. The fact that they are facing so much pushback that they have to lock down their page suggests that there are many progressives in Michigan unhappy with their actions.
I am a supporter of the recall effort but have a number of progressive friends who do not. We agree to disagree on this but what we do not do is attack each other.
In their rally day “radio show”, Smith said this about Michigan Rising:
It’s a big, big money scam. Don’t get involved in this recall, it’s not going nowhere.
Ross-Williams said this:
This crap that happened up in Lansing today? That’s not important. That’s not gonna change anything… This is just a joke, it’s a joke. For Michiganiers [sic] to take part in this joke when they don’t know…that this crap is a joke and they still playing a joke on the Michiganian [sic] people – shame on you, shame on you and shame on radio hosts that are part of this joke.
Christine Barry is absolutely correct. We DO have too many battles to fight to be accusing each other of such bizarre, irrational and illogical actions. We don’t all have to agree on the strategies and techniques other groups use. But neither do we have to attack our supposed allies simply to make a name for ourselves. That is counterproductive and hurts the cause in general.
No other group is working to thwart the recall of Rick Snyder. Not the Republicans. Not the conservatives. Not the tea party. Not the business community. Only Reach Out Job Search who say they are “independent left” are doing the recall opponents’ work for them.
Those who engage in attacking allies (and both Ross-Williams and Smith claim they want Rick Snyder recalled) instead being part of the overall solution lose credibility as Tony Trupiano said. And, in the case of Monica Ross-Williams and Autumn Smith of Reach Out Job Search, I believe they HAVE lost credibility through their actions.
UPDATE: from the comments:
I did not get to attend the kickoff rally, but I was listening to the pod-cast throughout the day. I was very impressed with the speakers and was feeling very pumped. At that time, I still had ROJS as a “friend” on my page. I first noticed the “Attention all Michigan Bloggers” comment, which was both shocking (because I had been listening and I heard the speech) and upsetting. I replied to the comment, saying that I thought there was a misunderstanding, and that I had not gotten the same message out of what was said, at all. Then the second comment quickly followed, (100 people and a bad comedian comment). There was another person on-line also replying with a different point of view at the same time as myself. I confronted them on that comment, sayig that their comments were based more on opinion than fact, and asked them “What is your agenda here?” They did not like that question, and as it turned out, they accused myself and the other commentor of “harrassing them”. And the next day, on their radio show, they implied that we had harrassed them. When a different point of view, and a question about your agenda is “harrassment” that doesn’t seem professional, or unbiased in any way. I believe I made a comment to that affect. I also attempted to refer people to the live pod=cast, and made it clear that I wanted no more to do with their “business”. I got a comment about how I could go ahead and delete them because I was about to get banned. Sadly they deleted all of our comments, which gives them the ability to imply that they were “being harrassed” or whatever they are trying to imply.
All in all their comments on the web were completely biased, and their behavior is about as far from professional as any I have ever encountered. I have to say that I do not believe that they are on the left, since generally those on the left are more open to seeing both sides, they lean toward respecting the rules of journalism, and toward supporting grass-roots efforts (those that are run by every day people, like you and me) and to protecting democracy, fighting the enemy and working for the common good.
The people running the recall are not professional “recall runners”. They have no experience in running a recall- do you? They care enough about this state and the democratic process to try- against all of the odds. Are they doing that for the advancement of a career or for the “glory”…? They are doing this because it has to be done- because Michigan needs it to be done. Why not offer to help? Why not realize how difficult this process is and how hard it must be for a few ordinary, every day people to try? Why not applaud their efforts and recognize their courage? I support the recall effort, and in doing that I volunteer to get signatures, I work hard to find people that also support the effort and direct them to the people they need to see. I talk to others in the group, try to lend my support or help when and where I can. go michigan rising. Keep fighting the good fight!
Facepalm CC image credit: Alex Proimos | Flickr
Autumn Smith image credit: courtesy of Google images
Monica Ross-Williams image credit: courtesy of Google images]