Saturday, July 12, 2008

Iowa and an Obama Campaign Thug

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By Kirk Tofte

I learned from personal experience–and earlier than most–the lengths to which Obama supporters will go to stifle opposition to their candidate. My exposure involved a Des Moines attorney, Gordon Fischer, who is a past chairperson of the Iowa Democratic Party. Perhaps it is no coincidence that he is also a native of Illinois where he must have learned to love hardball politics.

Fischer was interviewed by the media extensively prior to the Iowa caucuses. He is most recently famous, however, for his untoward remarks about President Bill Clinton of a few months ago. After Clinton has the audacity to use the words, “McCain, patriotism and Obama” in the same sentence, Fischer wrote at the political web site he maintains ( that the former president had left a stain on his own reputation “bigger than the one he deposited on Monica Lewinsky’s dress.” As an Obama supporter, Fischer is now calling–of course–for Democratic Party unity. He offered a lame apology in the interim but it’s not hard to see the way this guy thinks.

At the time Fischer was the Iowa Democratic Party chairman, one of my oldest daughter’s best friends from high school was a full-time staffer within the organization. She arranged for Fischer and me to have lunch last June in Des Moines (he bought) and I pitched him on supporting Hillary Clinton for president. Fischer remained uncommitted at the time.

In August Fischer wrote the Des Moines Register to advise them of a renewed launch of his political web site. He vowed to keep his comments “100 percent positive” at all times and to focus especially on campaign finance reform.

In early October Fischer announced with much fanfare at the Obama campaign that he would be supporting Illinois’ junior senator for the presidency. In a joint conference call from Obama headquarters in Des Moines coincident with this announcement, Fischer questioned Hillary’s progressive credentials and the favorability ratings that he considered unacceptably negative for her at the time.

I sent Fischer an e-mail reminding him of his pledge to keep things “one hundred percent positive” and questioning his motivations for backing Obama. Fischer immediately called Hillary’s state campaign director, Teresa Vilmain, to complain about me as one of Hillary’s volunteers.

About a month later I was visiting Fischer’s web site in vain attempts to find something…anything… positive he had to say about Hillary Clinton. I noticed a tab at the web site entitled “contributions.” I wrote Fischer to ask him how he could be soliciting contributions for his web site under current campaign finance laws when this venue was so obviously now an extension of the Obama campaign.

Although Fischer did not write me back, the next time I went to his site later that day the “donation” tab had been removed. I wrote Fischer again and noted this fact. I also told him that I was considering the filing of a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against him.

Later that night (on a Sunday) I received an e-mail from Teresa Vilmain demanding that I meet with her to talk about Fischer. Obviously, he had been in touch with her once again to complain about my private correspondence with him. I refused to meet with Vilmain on the matter which I felt was between Fischer, the FEC and me.

The next day on his web site Fischer posted an item entitled “Iowa True Blue Makes No Cents” in which he ridiculed the “rants” that I had sent to him the previous day. He went on to belittle my open, honest and—until that time—private communications with him.

On the following day Fischer posted yet another item about me at his web site. This one was entitled “Honest.” He maintained in this piece that I was interpreting his actions as threatening to me and a form of intimidation. Yet Fischer has never attempted to explain the purpose of his calls to Vilmain or posts at his web site about me, let alone the intent behind them. I did write Fischer to ask if he, as a practicing attorney, routinely argues legal matters on blogs via the Internet.

A few days later I filed my FEC complaints against Fischer. I suggested that he had broken campaign finance laws and had compounded his problems by trying to keep me from filing my claims against him. As a practicing attorney and former head of the Iowa Democratic Party, I maintained in my complaint that Fischer should be held to the highest possible standards with respect to Federal Election Commission laws.

Within a couple of weeks, I received an acknowledgement of my complaint from Jeff S Jordan, a Supervisory Attorney at the FEC. It is now referred to as matter “MUR 5949.” Unfortunately, I have heard nothing since about this situation since November 6, 2007.

On October 29, 2007, Mark Daley of Hillary Clinton’s Iowa campaign staff asked me not to make appearances any longer at their offices in Des Moines. Daley was handling press relations at the time in Iowa for Senator Clinton. Formerly, he did similar work for the organization Gordon Fischer has headed, the Iowa Democratic Party. Although Daley did not explain his request to me, it obviously stems—in very large part, at least—from the many phone calls Gordon Fischer made to Hillary’s campaign about me.

I have never been more disillusioned about politics than I am today. On the other hand, disillusionment (e.g., to be disabused of our illusions) is mostly a very good thing.

Am I bitter? Yes, I am. Am I clinging more closely to my bible and guns? Again, I would have to answer in the affirmative, but I’ve grown quite a bit closer to the latter than the former based on this experience.

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