On Sunday the Wisconsin State Journal reported that Wisconsin’s largest lobbying organization, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) may be rethinking the tone of their infamous political ads. Who could ever forget the sleazy and misleading ads that they have run, most notably in their state Supreme Court efforts to install empty suit Michael Gableman while absolutely defaming then-Justice Louis Butler? Their ads at that time were found by FactCheck.org to contain many false claims and even the nonpartisan Wisconsin Judicial Campaign Integrity Committee said that WMC’s ads sought to deceive the public.
Perhaps the largely partisan staff that operate WMC were finally caught over-reaching with their despicable and dishonest attacks. Perhaps they didn’t think that they would eventually have to account for them. They obviously thought wrong, as WMC efforts have garnered less than flattering attention both in the state and nationwide. They have also found themselves on the receiving end of much criticism by many distinguished Wisconsinites, the latest being former UW-Madison Chancellor John Wiley. Both before and after their contemptible attacks on Louis Butler, WMC also found itself losing members of its own board. Combine all of these developments with the work of WMCWatch.org, former Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, progressive bloggers, and many other fed up citizens and WMC has a big problem.
It is in this context, that WMC has allegedly decided to consider ‘toning down’ the ads that it may run this fall and beyond. One can’t help but look at this revelation with a skeptical eye. Could it be that some of the more pragmatic people involved with the organization see the political writing on the wall? With the control of the state Assembly in question this fall, could it be that WMC doesn’t want to face the prospect of both a governor and legislative leaders that it has relentlessly attacked? Perhaps the thought has caused some of the more practical to win out over the usual suspects and their hardcore partisanship.
It is also possible that that this new revelation is only a shell game and that WMC still fully plans on carrying out its nasty attacks, but this time through surrogate organizations. For example, ‘WIL the Shill‘ has shown its willingness to carry the water for the corporate interests that apparently run it. After all they are doing a mailing campaign right now in selected areas of the state using all the usual talking points. Where did they get the funds to do such a mailing and are they planning on going on the air with nasty ads? Will WMC quietly contribute to such efforts and then publically pretend that they suddenly care about substance and cooperation? If this proves to be the route taken by WMC, it will only change them from being the ‘sleaze carriers’, (to use the words of WMC President Jim Haney in the WSJ story), to being the ‘sleaze enablers.’ To most people that will certainly be a distinction without a difference.