Taking Stock

In an attempt to look closely at the support for Margaret Stock by millennial self-identified “Berniecrats”, when one published a meme touting Ms. Stock in the Alaskans for Bernie Sanders stockFacebook group I invited him to specifically identify any progressive legislation now pending in the US Senate that Ms. Stock would be willing to commit to co-sponsor.  I suppose this could be considered “trolling” because it was at the time very clear to me that Stock was and continues to be very much a true Alaskan Republican, in no small part because her major endorsement thus far (other than dog musher Jeff King)  was from the The Centrist Project. After lots of your typical deflection,  the poster suggested that I address my concerns to the candidate, so I did. I e-mailed Ms. Stock’s campaign:

The question has arisen, in as much as Ms. Stock has indicated that she is receiving support from the Centrist PAC (which some read as Rockefeller Republican) and has stated that she wants to work with other Senators to get things done, whether she would co-sponsor any of the following progressive bills now pending in the Senate: S2391, S2237, S2142, S2054, S2023, S1832, S1713, S1631, S3118, S3078, S3025, S2789, S2761, S2744, S2647, S2624, S2578, S2436, S1709 , S1381, S793.

And almost immediately I received an answer directly from Ms. Stock:

Thank you for reaching out to ask about my positions on the 22 Senate bills that you listed in your email. As you can imagine, I don’t have the bill numbers memorized, but first chance I get, I will check the names of the bills and let you know my positions on them.  Do you want to set up a time to talk by telephone so we can chat about your views on these bills?

Also, just FYI, the Centrist Project is not a PAC and they do not provide money to political candidates. Instead, they are a national project that endorses candidates, and they send emails to their supporters and ask the supporters to send individual donations to the candidates.  But again, the Centrist Project is not a PAC.

Let me know if you’d like to set up a time to talk by telephone.

And I quickly responded:

Dear Margaret,

FYI, I never said that the Centrist Project was a PAC, and there is a Centrist Project PAC, the Centrist Voice, a separate segregated fund of the Centrist Project (https://centristproject.nationbuilder.com/centrist_voice). I am surprised that you are not aware of it, especially as the CPV donated to  screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-5-41-45-pmcampaigns in 2014, and has done so again in 2016 according to the CRP.

My views on progressive legislation are not, of course, an issue in the campaign. But as you have been touted by many Democrats as a progressive candidate, I wanted to know if you were a centrist, or a progressive, and I thought if you were to confirm your willingness, if elected, to co-sponsor the legislation mentioned, that would go quite a ways to resolving that question. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter,    Marc [list at left, attached]

Margaret has now been caught out, as it were. The website she references for her campaign is a joint project of The Centrist Project and The Centrist Project Voice, and the website continues to solicit money, and all the money continues to go into its PAC and the PAC continues to file FEC forms and spend money (see this OpenSecrets link).  But Margaret (much like any Republican), just doubles down:

Centrist Project Voice isn’t an active PAC. It looks like they gave $75.00 to candidates in 2016. I have not received any funds from them.

Yes, the position of the person who proposes to be our new US Senator is that because the last quarterly filing shows only $75 in candidate support the PAC is not “active”, nor is she receiving any funds. Well, one has to wonder, then, why she sought their endorsement, especially in as much as the 2014 candidates that The Centrist Project endorsed received thousands of dollars!

While I let all that stew for a bit, I plumbed the Centrist Project website and made a donation.  I was thanked for my donation via an e-mail with an address of asmith@centristproject.org (Andy Smith, past Outreach Manager for The Centrist Project) but the e-mail said it actually came from Dane Sharrets, whose LinkedIn profile indicates that he is the current Outreach Manager at the project and the one responsible for the current web site. Of course, that may be problematic for Mr. Sharrets, as e-mails to both asmith@centristproject.org (the e-mail employed by Mr. Sharrets) and my attempt at what might be Mr. Sharrets’ address, dsharrets@centristproject.org, bounced. I followed up with a telephone call that went to voice mail and I left a message.

And no, I have not had anything further either from Ms. Stock’s campaign, nor from the Centrist Project.  I will update this if I hear from either.

Now, am I suggesting that you not vote for Margaret Stock?  Nope. Am I suggesting that you vote for someone else?  No there as well.  Am I suggesting that any of the points raised above are earthshaking? screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-10-30-52-amSorry to disappoint. Margaret Stock was, is, and will continue to be a Republican: she contributed to the McCain 2008 campaign, as well as to the campaign of a “true Alaska conservative” (Treadwell  2014), and her positioning today makes it clear that she is looking for a way to avoid the ideological litmus tests inherent in today’s GOP primaries.  It’s great that people want to “take back” the GOP,  it’s just unfortunate that as contrasted to Senator Sander’s efforts, they are trying to do that from outside the party.
The bit that is problematic is the confusion by self identified “Berniecrats” that use of the word “independent” somehow equates with some sense of one’s political views being progressive. Let’s put it this way, if you can argue that John McCain and Mead Treadwell are progressive goto guys for our country, then we apparently have no common understanding of what the term “progressive means.  Don’t get me wrong, I have often opined how politics is rendering so much of our language virtually meaningless, but this would be rather an extreme example. So extreme, that when I read the penultimate graph in Cal Thomas’ latest piece,

Only one candidate for president is capable of overturning the “money changers” in Washington. The political, governmental and media elites have had their chance to turn things around and they have failed. Now it’s time for…

I felt that Thomas (about as far right as one can get and still appear in a major newspaper) was, in  borrowing Senator Sander’s script, pulling the same thing.

You can take Stock. You can have Trump as well.  Are they two peas in a pod?  ‘Won’t say; wouldn’t be prudent…’  But they both look to take advantage of fear and anger, don’t they?

5 comments on “Taking Stock

  1. Ray Metcalfe says:

    I am Ray Metcalfe, the Alaska Democratic Party’s nominee for US Senate. Stock is one of my opponents for US Senate. I have reviewed the proposed legislation you presented to Stock. I can assure you that 100% of it would have my 100% support. I really am a Berniecrat. I sponsored numerous Bernie debate watch parties, identified about 100 volunteers and was a major player in securing 82% of Alaska’s delegates for Bernie. I also sponsored a very successful Our Revolution kickoff party.

  2. Julie Olsen says:

    Good analysis, thank you for posting. I believe that Margaret is a closet libertarian and find it unbelievable how many Democrats have, in their desperation to field “viable” candidates, jumped on the Stock bandwagon. By all accounts she is an excellent attorney – and the better an attorney is at selling their preferred story – the more cases they win. I hope the Alaskan jury pool is smarter than this.

  3. Dear Mr. Grober,

    The Centrist Project has endorsed Margaret Stock for Senate due to the issues she stands for and her plans to help Alaskans. Please refer to our endorsement press release. http://www.centristproject.org/centrist_endorses_independent_margaret_stock_for_senate_alaska
    To set the record straight, we are an organization founded by members of all parties who share a common set of values we call “The Centrist Principles.” We believe in fiscal responsibility, social tolerance, environmental responsibility, economic opportunity, and a problem-solving approach to governing. That’s the platform we feel Margaret Stock embraces, and as an Independent, she is free to put the interests of Alaskans first, not a party agenda.
    http://www.centristproject.org/principles

    The Centrist Project is a 501c4 entity. We have a separated segregated fund – The Centrist Project Voice. We are not a corporate PAC or 527 PAC, that dump millions to advance an industry’s standing with a candidate. We have not activated it like we did in 2014 as I explained. I have answered all of your questions you posed in various correspondence – yet you claimed you have not heard from us. You are welcome to call to discuss. Please note, in your blog post, you incorrectly spelled Dane “Sharrets” which is why the emails bounced. If you are not satisfied with your association with us, we will kindly return the generous donation that you gave us.

  4. Marc Grober says:

    To be clear, Pam (Pam Peak at The Centrist Project),

    This entry was posted, as should be evident to you from the dates, some days before I finally heard from you. I was planning to update the post with your responsive material once you replied to my last e-mail (which you only did some 3 hours ago). The e-mail exchange (which I take it was prompted by my posting to your Facebook page as your initial e-mail response did not quote my extensive mail to your press@centristproject.org address) is appended below.

    The initial e-mail bounced, Pam, because the return address was to asmith@centristproject.org (the person holding the job before Dane moved on and the address your donation response application was configured for, meaning that Dane, who indicates he is very proud of the work he did on your web site, never reconfigured that address, i.e. it has not worked for ages….. ) As I stated previously, after the mail bounced I experimented with a number of possible addresses for Sherrets, which, per your comments in your e-mail, is beside the point since you claim he left your organization some time ago and the position is unfilled.

    You do run a PAC, your PAC has spent money on candidates, and your website solicits funds for your PAC to support candidates. Moreover, I think you have further muddied the water vis-a-vis donations to your PAC versus donations to your 501(c)(4), which by the way neither shows up on the IRS’s Exempt Check tool as an exempt organization nor on GuideStar (I have to wonder how much money, donated over the past two years to the PAC to support candidates, was instead deposited to your 501(c)(4) account, though it would seem that the PAC has likely assumed the entire cost of The Centrist Project.)

    You claim to be a 501(c)(4) (we have no tax returns for The Centrist Project and, again, we can’t really be sure how much was donated to the organization’s operating costs versus towards candidates because you have commingled the donation stream). You raised/bundled only some $20K+ to support 2-3 candidates in 2014, and arguably decided (because of lack of success) to avoid raising funds for candidates this election cycle, though you say, “We will be activating our PAC funds this cycle.” If you are paying the expenses of the 501(c)(4) from the PAC (which it seems you are doing….) you’re budget argues that you are largely an unstaffed voluntary organization.

    You support Ms Stock based on what she has to say today. That is great but is of little relevance to the question I was really pursuing, which was whether Ms. Stock is such a progressive as would warrant endorsement by supporters of Senator Sanders. I have to say that I agree with you wholeheartedly that Ms. Stock presents a robust picture of a Rockefeller Republican, and I wholeheartedly suggest that those die-hard Republicans who support the laughable antics of Mr. Ryan and Senator McConnell reconsider their values and cast a vote for Ms. Stock.

    Personally, as I have suggested, I am still looking for any evidence that she would take any concrete progressive action, and it seems to me that the Centrist manifesto argues against pushing a progressive agenda.

    [e-mail exchange below]

    *********************************************************

    Marc,

    Thanks for the comments. I’ve done my best to update the email functionality on that specific donation response email as it was out of date, and I appreciate you flagging this for me. I just updated it tonight so it may take a day or two to activate. Also, if your email bounced to Dane Sherrets when you reached out to the press email, it’s because of a typo: to me, dsharret

    We will be activating our PAC funds this cycle.

    For the sake of clarity, and in my sincerest attempt to answer your good questions, you donated to our PAC account that supports some of our political work, all within legal limits. This cycle, we did not leverage our PAC feature to solicit earmarked funds for each candidate we endorse – we instead provide a link to a candidate’s website to learn more and donate directly to the campaign. We tried to explain use of funds on the new text for this page when we built it this spring – it’s different than the previous candidate donate pages/language. I understand your comments that we still have work to do and will see what we can do to enhance clarity.

    We are an authentic organization and do not believe in gaming people. Margaret’s positions on the issues today – what she runs on, her approach to problem solving, and her endorsement of our Centrist Principles – align with our criteria and as such qualifies her for our support.

    I understand you are in Anchorage. Margaret needs all the support she can get and I hope you’ll join the efforts to urge voters to turn out for her.

    Best,
    Pam

    Pam Peak
    Executive Director
    The Centrist Project
    312-848-9726
    centristproject.org

    “The American political system has reinvented itself in the past. We can do it again. We need an insurgency of the rational: a generation of Americans who are fed up with the current political system, who believe we can do better, and most important, who are ready to do something about it. Are you one of those people?” –The Centrist Manifesto

    On Fri, Sep 30, 2016 at 7:44 PM, Marc Grober wrote:

    Pam,

    From your web page, https://centristproject.nationbuilder.com/centrist_voice, which states:

    > The Centrist Project Voice is the nation’s first political action committee (PAC) supporting centrist candidates who are willing to put partisanship aside to focus on the issues most critical to Americans. It is a separate segregated fund (SSF) of The Centrist Project.
    I elected to donate to the PAC. In response to my donation I received an e-mail which stated, and I quote,

    > Thank you for becoming a member of The Centrist Project and donating to The Centrist Project Voice. Here is your receipt.
    Which makes it quite clear that I donated to The Centrist Voice, a separate segregated fund of The Centrist Project, NOT, I think, to The Centrist Project. The e-mail was apparently generated by your website and sent with return address of

    > Dane Sherrets, Outreach Manager

    as I stated in my e-mail to press@centristproject.org, which was the only working e-mail address I could find associated with your website.

    So, while I clearly understand your present position vis-a-vis your finances, that position seems at odds with your website, your invoicing, etc.

    You have chosen to endorse an Alaskan candidate who claims that you do not have an active PAC. That seems rather dubious as your PAC received a donation from me and is continuing to solicit and dispense funds upon which it continues to file FEC paperwork. She also claims she is a centrist though she made financial contributions to conservative candidates in 2008 and 2014. I am trying to get a sense as to whether this your organization and the candidate you endorsed are simply gaming the public.

    It would seem to me that you should likely take down the portions of your web site soliciting donations until you can make it clear what you are soliciting funds for, and where those funds are going. In the meantime, I was solicited for donation to your PAC, I made a donation to the PAC, and I have a receipt for donation of funds to the PAC.

    Marc

    On 9/30/16 2:38 PM, Pam Peak wrote:
    > Marc,
    >
    > Apologies for the untimely response. Our Outreach Manager position is currently open as Dane has moved on from the organization, and while we work to build our staff, we’re not as timely as we want to be. Thanks for following up. You asked great questions.
    >
    > – Funds donated through our site on the main donate page fund The Centrist Project, our 501c4 tax organization. That funds our outreach, education, policy, and candidate support efforts. That does not provide direct candidate funding. We do have a connected PAC – we can solicit earmarked funds for a candidate and would explicitly disclose when we do so (the soliciation page, emails, and legal text are all very different and very clear). We’re not soliciting these funds directly – we’re directing people to the candidate’s sites to donate directly to improve transparency.
    >
    > – I’ll work to fix the emails. Can you tell me specifically which emails you are getting from Dane and how did you access them on our site? Friday CenterLine e-newsletters for the past month have come directly from me.
    >
    > Best,
    > Pam
    >
    > Pam Peak
    > Executive Director
    > The Centrist Project
    > 312-848-9726
    > centristproject.org
    >
    > “The American political system has reinvented itself in the past. We can do it again. We need an insurgency of the rational: a generation of Americans who are fed up with the current political system, who believe we can do better, and most important, who are ready to do something about it. Are you one of those people?” –The Centrist Manifesto
    >
    >
    >
    > On Fri, Sep 30, 2016 at 6:18 PM, Marc Grober wrote:
    >
    > I have addressed numerous e-mails to your alleged Outreach Manager and
    > to the only other e-mail address you provide on your website and have
    > yet to have the courtesy of a reply.
    >
    >

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