So, Politico Ran a Hit Piece About Our Revolution …

hit piece, smear job, Politico, Bernie Sanders, Our Revolution, Nina Turner, Tezlyn Figaro, 2018 midterm elections

On May 21, 2017, Edward-Isaac Dovere wrote a hit piece on Our Revolution, a group founded by former Bernie Sanders staffers. In his article, Dovere used internal struggles within the less-than-2-year-old organization to take aim at Sanders and one of his surrogates, Our Revolution President Nina Turner. While it was firmly established that the organization was independent of the Independent senator from Vermont …

Sanders, who is legally separated from Our Revolution, does not keep up with its day-to-day activities and has expressed discomfort with attacks by affiliates of Our Revolution against some politicians.

Dovere still tried to establish that the organization was a reflection of Sanders and that its stumbles could hurt him politically.

Bernie Sanders’ top operatives formed “Our Revolution” after he lost the 2016 primaries to keep his army organized and motivated — and potentially prepare for another presidential run in 2020.

Beyond that, Dovere decided to highlight comments and whispers that Turner was using the organization to promote her own interests. Some bits of information sounded bad at face value. For example:

  • Our Revolution was pulling in less money than it did during the same period in 2017.
  • Some candidates, board members, and state chapters were frustrated with the endorsement process.
  • Dovere said the group was affected by Nina Turner’s personal aspirations.
  • Allegedly, there was a dustup over Turner’s decision to hire Tezlyn Figaro, Turner’s personal consultant.

Are any of these things true? Most of this is a stretch. Now, I would like to pull select quotes from his article, so I can counter the weakest points Dovere made and break down the anatomy of a smear job.


Dovere Sounded an Alarm About Our Revolution’s Fundraising

In his article, Edward-Isaac Dovere said that Our Revolution was falling behind in fundraising, compared to 2017 figures, despite having access to Bernie Sanders’ vaunted emailing list. (The email list is coveted by the Democratic National Committee, which just wants Sanders to hand it over, although it paid millions of dollars for Hillary Clinton’s list).

  • Monthly online fundraising totals have plummeted to just one-third of the group’s take a year ago, based on an analysis of processing fees reported to the IRS by Act Blue, the tool Our Revolution uses, and verified by several people familiar with its finances. Our Revolution maintains that it’s still running a surplus and that repeat donations are steady.
  • Amid the poor fundraising, Our Revolution earlier this month filed paperwork to launch a PAC so Sanders can help it raise money directly and so the group can coordinate directly with campaigns.

However, Dovere brushes over the fact that this is a mid-term election year. Also, fewer people have been donating to progressive causes overall. Fewer people are involved politically in non-presidential years and many of those who are have elected to directly donate to candidates.

Dovere also made extrapolations about the reason why Our Revolution started a super PAC. The organization needed to rectify a problem that existed at the time of its founding. The organization is registered as a 501(c)(4), which means that it doesn’t have to disclose its donors. The organization’s registration also means that it cannot coordinate directly with campaigns.


Dovere Questioned the Board’s Endorsement Process

Dovere painted a picture in which the national organization overruled state chapters for endorsements or made them without consulting state chapters.

One former Ohio Democratic official who watched the race closely said the episode reflected poorly on Sanders, despite his separation from Our Revolution.

“The process in which they chose Kucinich was not at all transparent, and the anemic performance and turnout for him — even though [Sanders] didn’t endorse — added up to something that undermines his own brand,” the person said.

In other cases, some candidates, aides, or Democratic operates said that candidates like Andrew Cuomo, Doug Jones, Connor Lamb, Ralph Northam, and Tom Perriello were being overlooked or snubbed.

Democrats have also complained about a lack of a regular endorsement process (complete with interviews and questionnaires).

The last part might be true, but it’s nothing special. Jane Kleeb, Our Revolution’s treasurer and the Chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party, acknowledged that the organization had growing pains. The group is still young, so it has room to grow. However, the other charges about the group’s lack of transparency are fallacious.

Our Revolution was founded by former Bernie Sanders staffers and its purpose is to bring the political revolution he started with his presidential run; thus, it makes sense for the organization to only support progressives. Those Democrats who weren’t supported by the organization were moderates (Jones, Lamb, and Northam), frauds (Cuomo), or they were insufficiently progressive (Perriello).

In other cases, there may have been a conflict of interest. Laura Eastman just won her Democratic primary in Nebraska with no endorsement from Our Revolution, but again, Kleeb was the Chairwoman of the Nebraska Democratic Party. Progressives have been complaining about the Democratic Party interfering in the nominating process, so …


Dovere Takes Aim at the Organization’s Track Record with Candidates

Dovere wanted his readers to think that Our Revolution was floundering because most of its preferred candidates lost.

Kleeb, who also serves as the Nebraska Democratic Party chairwoman, argued, “We have about a 50 percent win record, which I think is a miracle given the fact that we usually endorse the underdog, or a woman, or a person who comes from a community of color.” (The win record is closer to 40 percent.)

Regardless if the winning percentage of the candidates, 40%-50% if very good range, especially for such a young organization and for first-time, unknown candidates. Of course, the groups involved shouldn’t get all of the credit for a candidate’s success. The candidates have to do much of the work on their own. Still, 40% if nothing to scoff at.

In fact, Dovere’s reasoning is destroyed by a tweet made by Hillary Rodham Clinton shortly after the small wave of Democratic victories in November 2017:

But-but-but, it’s not 50%!


Dovere Questioned Nina Turner’s Motivation

Dovere tried to paint Nina Turner as an egotistic, dismissive leader who held higher aspirations.

Board members and Sanders presidential delegates from 2016 have raised questions about whether the group’s president, Nina Turner, is using her position to prepare for a presidential run of her own, and to settle scores with the Democratic National Committee from 2016.

To be sure, Turner has raised her profile since 2016, namely as a surrogate for Sen. Sanders, but every time she speaks, she has criticized the Democratic leadership or tried to steer the conversation toward the issues many progressives care about. She does so at a risk to her political livelihood, although she has the respect of board members and journalists, including Jake Tapper.

It has never occurred to me that Turner actually wants to run for president, although I listed her as a possible Democratic presidential candidate. The last time she held public office was 2014 when she was an Ohio State Senator representing the state’s 25th District. It seems that she relishes the opportunity to speak to progressives and help them through the organization she leads.

Beyond that, she is more of a surrogate for Sanders and she recognizes him as the leader of this political movement:

Asked if she’s interested in a White House run, Turner said she is supporting Sanders. “I hope he runs again; I am right with him,” she said.

But what if he doesn’t? Turner took a long pause.

“If he doesn’t, we’ll see what happens with other candidates,” she said.

If she has any personal aspirations, she is weighing the possibility of becoming Cleveland’s mayor in 2021.


Dovere’s Worst Attacks Concerned Tezlyn Figaro

In. the article, Tezlyn was accused of saying that Trump was “shaking things up” and made questionable comments about immigration.

Two weeks ago, the group’s board of directors nixed Turner’s attempt to install her personal political consultant and friend as her chief of staff, even though the person had no experience in political organizing and had praised President Donald Trump repeatedly and attacked immigrants on Fox News.

Board members flagged Figaro’s frequent appearances on Fox News praising Trump. She has said on the network as recently as the end of April that the president’s critics mostly don’t like that he’s shaking up the system. And last year she said immigrants are “coming into the country and getting benefits that Americans do not get,” and getting away with crimes while African-Americans go to prison.

Figaro’s presence was allegedly part of the reason one board member, Lucy Flores, resigned in April 2018. For her part, Flores was concerned that Our Revolution wasn’t doing enough to reach out to Latino candidates or promote issues important to Latino voters.

Dovere also called Tezlyn woefully inexperienced and made it seem that her employment was based on nepotism.

In a conference call two weeks ago, the board’s executive committee overruled Turner’s attempt to install her consultant and friend Tezlyn Figaro as the group’s chief of staff, according to people on the call. Not only had Turner sprung the decision on the board, but Figaro had no experience building a political organization.

However, Dovere didn’t give readers links to any of the claims.

Where Dovere Might Have a Point

When I was looking at tweets concerning this story, I saw some tweets that had screenshots of statements Figaro made about illegal immigrants. Sadly, it didn’t occur to me to save the links, but I found another tweet that led me to a Facebook comment.

Someone who claimed to have been fired by Turner (over the immigration issue) wrote a long post and attached comments with images of tweets Figaro made in the past. [1][2][3][4]

On January 30, 2017, Figaro wrote this message:

Tezlyn Figaro, Twitter, immigration

On February 4, 2017, Figaro wrote this message:

Tezlyn Figaro, Twitter, immigration

On February 5, 2017, Figaro wrote this message:

Tezlyn Figaro, Twitter, immigration

On February 8, 2017, Figaro wrote this message:

Tezlyn Figaro, Twitter, Immigration

Tezlyn Figaro, Twitter, immigration

Now, the third message from Figaro isn’t exactly an endorsement for the wall. But on their face, the other tweets will offend those who are fighting to help undocumented immigrants within the United States.

This is what’s happening here, though: Figaro is in this trap of making the plight of undocumented immigrants an either/or with the rights of Black Americans. She is primarily concerned with improving conditions for Black folks and she feels that when people focus on illegal immigration, it gives them another excuse to ignore the plight of Black Americans. You can disagree with that view, but she isn’t alone in that thinking.

Also, when I look at what has happened with talk of a clean DREAM Act, the Democrats almost prove her point because they didn’t handle the issue correctly this year, either. Hence, it looked like a distraction because there was no chance the Republicans would pass a clean DREAM Act and they could use the issue to say that Democrats were pitting illegal immigrants against Americans.

That said, Figaro apologized for making statements that may have offended others.

I can’t defend Turner if she fired someone over immigration, though.

What I Found About Figaro’s Career

When I looked into Figaro, I was unable to find any of the other things Dovere mentioned. In fact, her track record shows that she is pretty active as a communications director and a politically independent thinker.

  • Figaro served as the National Racial Justice Director for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.
  • Figaro worked as a communications director who helped to raise the profile of the Daniel Holtzclaw case. Holtzclaw was a white police officer who raped numerous black women; he ultimately was sentenced to 263 years in prison.
  • Figaro also worked on a communications team for the Trayvon Martin case and after the Pulse nightclub shooting took place.
  • Figaro is also a military veteran who owns her own communications company.

Girlfriend is hustlin’ (in the positive sense).

Did Figaro Praise Trump?

It looks like that was a falsehood. When I looked at the videos where Figaro went on Fox News, she never praised Trump at all. But she makes appearances on different outlets, so she can raise her profile and raise awareness for her causes. She talked about all this when she appeared on Tim Black’s program and she has listed videos she appeared in on her LinkedIn profile.


Here’s Why This Article Is So Bad

Dovere’s article was because he did not elaborate on some of his own points. Overall, he distorted the facts, left out key information, or spun it to fit his purpose. In particular, Dovere was acting like OR was an extension of the Democratic Party, which was misleading. This was a hit piece and he was rightly criticized for it.

In the future, I would like people to know how to recognize a hit piece when they read one. Thus, I will discuss the characteristics of a smear job right here.

Hit pieces contain or rely on most of the following:

1. An emotional Headline That Tells Its Own Story

Most professional writers must know how to make emotional headlines, but hit pieces need to have specific headlines because most people will only look at the headline and not read the content.

2. An Overtly Negative Tone

Of course, all stories are about framing. If you want leaders to feel bad about someone or something, you have to put them in an unflattering light.

3. Guilt by Association

This article was rife with it. First, Dovere connected Our Revolution to Bernie Sanders in order to discredit him. Then he connected Figaro to Trump in order to discredit her.

4. Extrapolations

Whenever you read a hit piece, the writer will always draw conclusions based on little or no information. And they often do this without consulting the person they’re targeting.

5. Open-Ended Assertions

This is where the writer leads the reader to draw their own conclusions, based on little to no information to go on. This is done by making misleading statements and incomplete statements.

6. Omissions

This is also used to get readers to draw their own conclusions. Often, the writer will leave out key information if they have it or arrange crumbs to allow the reader to go in one direction.

7. Misquotes

In some hit pieces, I have seen writers cut off quotes in order to make it look like someone said something sinister. This is done to reinforce a negative opinion.

8. False Pretenses

If the writer of the piece does talk to the person they’re writing about, they may mislead that person in order to get an interview. This is what happened to Anoa Changa, a progressive activist, a managing editor of Progressive Army, and a YouTube creator. She was interviewed by a local NPR affiliate in Atlanta, Georgia under false pretenses. He then twisted her words and painted her as a Russian bot.

This is also another example of guilt by association.

9. Unreliable Witnesses

The easiest way to get a negative quote about the subject of a hit piece is to find people who hate them. While the person being interviewed may well be telling the truth, they are only telling from their point of view and they will be jaded because of how they feel about the person they’re talking about. There are two sides to every story and those who refuse to give their side can hurt their case. Yet the writer of the hit piece is only concerned with answers that support their preformed conclusions.

10. A Sourcing Problem

Hit pieces suffer from one of three problems (online): They may have no links, too few links, or too many links.

Writers of smear pieces may feel the need to source their claims (or key claims) because they’re confident that most of their readers will not even bother to do further research — or they’re rushing to get something out. The work may be poorly researched, but those who hate the target of the article will not care.

Now, if someone writes an article with 50 or more links, they may be confident that the readers won’t bother to follow every one. And some of the links have nothing with what’s being discussed, so it is easier for the reader to be fooled. In this case, the article looks authoritative, but who wants to follow all of those links? I sure as hell don’t.

BTW, Dovere’s piece suffers from the second sourcing problem.

11. Timing

Yes, this is what’s it all about. Depending on who wants the article and when a hit piece will be made to stop the momentum of a person or a cause.

Right now, there are primaries that are being held in numerous states where newcomers are trying to unseat incumbents. Republicans have been primaried for years, but this is a relatively now “problem” for incumbent Democrats because of the civil war within the Democratic Party. As a response, the Democratic establishment has circled the wagons for incumbents and centrists, at the expense of newcomers and progressives. In lockstep with the party’s leadership, legacy outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post and other mainstream outlets like MSNBC and yes, POLITICO, have come out to help incumbents and centrists by painting the upstarts as unrealistic, disorganized, weak, and bigoted.

These hit pieces are being made to hurt Bernie Sanders and those aligned with him because this is an election year. Sure, Democrats are trying to take at least one house of Congress from the Republicans, yet the Democrats still manage to find time to take digs at their progressive base. The point is to make progressives feel hopeless when the hit a setback and to beat them into submission — even though Democrats need more voters from their base to show up this year. This is madness.


Conclusion

Basically, Edward-Isaac Dovere’s hit piece was made to help the Democratic establishment by demeaning people progressives admired. While this piece might work on some progressives, the overwhelming response from progressives was ire toward Dovere, for good reason. This is meant to get them to put their heads down, but how smart is that when Democrats need all the votes they can get?

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