Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Welcome to the Dystop-acratic Party! Part III

"What we wish, we readily believe, and what we ourselves think, we imagine others think also."       Gaius Iulius Caesar 

"Any resident of Manitowoc County, at least 16 years of age, who subscribes to the progressive principles of the Democratic Party is eligible for voting membership and shall become a member upon payment of dues and receipt of such dues by the county unit."  

ARTICLE III. Membership - Constitution of the Manitowoc County Democratic Party

"I'll believe anything you want as long as there's a paycheck in it."  

                 Winston Zedemor - the 4th Ghost Buster

Part III: 
Todd Holschbach, 
Political Man of Mystery:

It is not possible to tell this entire story without first telling the story of my contacts and conflicts with Todd Holschbach.  While it is not the seminal event that drove me from membership in the Democratic party it has been part of my education in how the Democratic Party of Manitowoc works (or fails to work) and perhaps an early indication of just how wide spread the problem is and why we can't field a viable candidate who holds true to the things we say we believe.

I first met Todd Holschbach IN 1988 shortly after moving to Manitowoc from our farm at Collins.  He moved into a house a few doors down from our place on North 8th.  He had come around and said he was running for state assembly and had heard that I was a Democrat and could he please put his sign in my yard.  "Sure!" I said.

Todd was running against Bob Ziebelbauer who I had heard through Democratic circles that at best a card carrying Democrat and little more.  It was clear that the party faithful didn't like him.  Todd was young and fairly self assured and came off well in a personal conversation.  From our conversation I felt had at least some Liberal leanings although I do not recall talking about policy in depth.  He is the son of Vern Holschbach, the multi-term Dem legislator so the assumption or at least the hope was that he was a for-real Dem though I didn't know much about Vern either.  Collins at that time was in a different district so I had little experience with him.  It was clear enough that he was critical of Bob for not being a true Democrat.

Todd was attacked pretty hard with claims that he was just attempting to ride his father's legacy into office and had moved back to Manitowoc (from where I dont know) expressly to use his family legacy to take the office.  I had no idea if that was true or not and in fact it didn't bother me that much.

I voted for Todd.  He lost.  For what it's worth he didn't stay in that house very long.  He moved away (some said to Madison) shortly after.

I didnt see him again for a long long time.  I only became aware that he was again living in Manitowoc when I began my run for assembly, someone said to go talk to him and told me where he lived.  I did learn that he had become the Wisconsin lobbyist for The Nature Conservancy - an environmental group which fairly strong Liberal support so I had at least some hope for an endorsement from him if not from his employers.  I had already received similar endorsements from several state and national environmental groups including Clean Wisconsin, League of Conservation Voters (LCV) and the Sierra Club.  I went to his house a couple times and while the garage door was usually open nobody came to the door.  I got his email and contacted him that way.  He was unable to make my invite to meet and promised to "chat some time" but never followed through.

The next time I saw him was a the Manitowoc Democratic Party's annual meeting.  I did not recognize him but he introduced himself and things began cordially.  His name was on the agenda as being nominated for an at-large committee position.  I had asked to be placed on that agenda too but it had not been done.  When nominations were opened up to the floor a friend nominated me and we were both along with Jim Brey, voted onto the committee.  I had no idea what I was in for.

We met again the following month at the very first meeting of the new committee.   The meeting itself was uneventful but what came during dinner would set the tone for our relationship from that point forward.  Out of the blue Todd launched into a verbal tirade over a blog item I had written that apparently accosted a friend of his.  Of course, I assumed that he was referring to alleged Democrat Jim Brey who was not present.  Why else would a Democrat attack another Democrat over a blog post?   I had written a lot about Jim and I was used to taking flack for taking my shots at Jim.  But, when I began to defend my take on Brey he stopped me and said that he wasn't talking about Brey.  It was not a Democrat.  It was Right To Work advocate, Republican assembly candidate owner of Mike Howe Builders.... Mike Howe.

Source:City of Manitowoc website

I was so taken back by this that about all I could do was point out that Howe was a Republican and had been involved in a wrongful death suit after an illegal alien had gotten killed on one of his work sights and because his wages had been laundered through a fake sub-contractor with no tax ID, had no workman's comp or SSI survivor's benefits for his family.  When I asked him why he would be defending someone like that he stated quite plainly that Howe was his personal friend and as such I had no right to attack him...  

Excuse me?  One can perhaps take exception to my opposition to Brey as a matter of party unity and all that but I was shocked by the notion that I should consider the wide ranging personal relationships of ever other (alleged) Democrat I ever met as somehow off limits for criticism, especially when that individual is diametric opposition to the most basic and ingrained values of the Democratic Party - worker's rights.

The others present seemed incredulous I think because they were as blind sided
The significance of mingled Nickels and Howe signs
would become clear over time
as I was.  Some began to question the veracity of my piece though they had not seen it.  A few understood what I was talking about and when I got home I forwarded a link to the article and provided some additional supporting information including the county court case number and the names of other parties like Mr. Mares - the fake contractor, himself an illegal who has since skipped town.  That seemed to settle it with them but not with Todd.  He stormed out of the balance of the meeting.

Shortly after this I learned that Holschbach wasnt just taking exception to my blog.  He was actively supporting Howe for city council over long time Democrat and party member James Langnese.   Langnese may be a bit of a rough neck but he is a Democrat.  That's not debatable.  He supports labor and opposes Republican tax schemes and has always been there for Democratic candidates including me.  He might be rough but you can bet good money that he will always makes the right call in the end.  That is significant as the issue of party unity and supporting our own people would come up again, this time with Holschbach on the other side.

When I've been critical of Democrats it has been because they have thrown Democratic values, if not the entire Democratic platform under the bus.  What Republicans I have supported have been the ones like Senator Schultz who joined Democrats in opposing the mining bill.  Even so my criticisms of pols like Jim Brey have been taken by some as somehow destructive to party unity.  While I think that's debatable, openly supporting a Right To Work Republican against a dues paying member who holds true to party values has met with remarkably little criticism from the same corners.  But, disrupting a party leadership meeting with an angry and vitriolic verbal attack was over the top, or so one would have thought.  It was largely ignored.

It has also become plain that Holschbach had supported Brey in the primary and that the two were working together.  That's hard to comprehend given all the Liberal slack that Todd has been given.  Never mind Brey's public opposition to nearly every party platform plank imaginable, not just the inherently Liberal ones.  When asked in his Wiseye interview what particular issue he finds most important he volunteered his opposition to the Federal Clean Water Act which resulted in what he calls and "unfunded mandate" for the City of Manitowoc to control it's storm water run off, a project that as Alderman he has steadfastly blocked ignoring frequent flooding issues on Calumet Drive.

But remember that Todd is the Wisconsin Lobbyist for the Nature Conservancy whose hot button issue is THE CLEAN WATER ACT and all related issues.  Excuse me again, but does anyone else see a problem with this?

Through all the subsequent meetings (and although neither Brey nor Holschbach regularly attended) every single proposal I made to advance the presence of the party in the public eye was summarily shot down by one or the other or both of them with the quick acquiescence of chairman Kerry Trask.  I had revamped the party web page and wanted to publish the monthly newsletter there.  They opposed it.  Use video and other multi-media?  No!  Revitalize and use facebook and web page public comments?  "That's can of worms!" (Jim Brey).  Participate in parades in off election years?  "No, that's only for candidates.  All the while membership continued to dwindle and age with few new young faces.

Later, when I published the unflattering blog post about Brey pointing out his support for Act 10 and poking fun at his public image Holschbach and Brey (and two other local pols who I will name later) conducted a six month long campaign to have me removed from the committee.

Here is the real kicker:  Todd Holschbach was NEVER A PAID MEMBER of the Democratic party - a direct violation of the State Party Constitution.

Let me repeat that so there is no mistake... While sitting on the Democratic Party executive committee of Manitowoc County and actively campaigning against a paid party member AND lobbying to have me, a dues paying Progressive Democrat removed from the committee, Todd Holschbach was allowed to sit on the committee without so much as paying his dues.

The question must be asked... Who is Todd Holschbach, really?  Is he a Democrat?  Is he an environmentalist?  The resume and pedigree say one thing.  The reality seems to say something quite different.  As it turns out this is not uncommon on the ladder to Democratic public office.  We know all too well that Bob Ziegelbauer masqueraded as a Democrat for decades while obstructing every Democratic value and platform plank the party had.  When Joe Bauknecht ran for clerk of courts he stood in my office and swore that he was a genuine Democrat and not at all like Bob.  Shortly after he left office to become the movie mogul of Manitowoc, placards for right wing candidates began appearing on his properties.  For reasons I can't begin to explain in a single post, the career path for young pols in Manitowoc today is increasing through the Democratic party shell while privately shedding those representations in private elite circles.  

I believe that this (and many other recent events) demonstrate that there is an inherent expectation that support is based not on party and ideological loyalties but on loyalties developed within an elite local ruling class that exploits the Democratic Party in particular as a facade of respectability that has no other purpose except to advance the careers and prestige of those accepted into its crony based social membership.

There is much more to this and will be addressed in future releases but one has to ask if the Democratic Party still exists in this county in any meaningful way.  And, whether efforts of the membership to part with their time and treasure to support these candidates has any value if the party cannot at least enforce its own rules or even exercise discretion in endorsing candidates who claim party fealty while thumbing their noses at it in private.

--- To be continued ---

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