Anti-Obama conservative PAC Man IV
Anti-Obama conservative PAC Man speaks to Media Transparency
By Bill Berkowitz, MediaTransparency.org
Our Country Deserves Better PAC aims to 'define' Obama's 'weaknesses' and make him 'an unacceptable choice to serve as our nation's next president and Commander in Chief'
He maintains that the newly-launched anti-Obama political action committee is not tied, nor related, to the campaign of Sen. John McCain and that it is not out to Swiftboat Sen. Barack Obama. The PAC intends to "define [his] weaknesses as a candidate, and thus make him an unacceptable choice to serve as our nation's next president and Commander in Chief." One of the group's earliest fundraising pitches, posted at the TownHall Spotlight, is titled "Barack Obama Sinks To A New Low." And among its ready-for-prime-time television advertisements are spots titled, "Obama Mocks America's Christian Heritage," "Obama's Patriotism Problems" and "Obama's Wrong Values."
He also pointed out that the PAC has clearly defined ethical lines that it will not cross when criticizing Obama.
Meet Joe Wierzbicki, the coordinator of Our Country Deserves Better PAC.
In the ever-expanding universe of Republican Party-sponsored/related groups attacking Sen. Barack Obama, add Our Country Deserves Better PAC to the list. Run by veteran California-based Republican Party conservative activists Sal Russo and Howard Kaloogian, Our Country Deserves Better PAC is a recently launched political action committee -- a committee organized to spend money for the election or defeat of a candidate -- that has several provocative pieces in the hopper.
In a series e-mail exchanges, PAC Coordinator Joe Wierzbicki told me that the Rancho Santa Marga, California-based entity hopes to "raise in excess of $1 million by Election Day," to run a series of anti-Obama television ads in as many as "ten states."
Our Country Deserves Better PAC (website) is sprinkled with longtime veterans of conservative causes. Chairman of the PAC is Howard Kaloogian, who served as Assistant Republican Leader in the California State Assembly during his six-year term in office, and in 2003, spearheaded the Recall Gray Davis Committee, which helped remove Democratic Governor Gray Davis from office -- giving the world of politics Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Kaloogian co-founded, along with Melanie Morgan, then a co-host of a Bay Area morning radio show, the pro-Iraq war group Move America Forward.
Sal Russo, who according to the group's website "got his start in politics by working as a Special Assistant to Ronald Reagan" and who "has spent over 30 years in the field of political consulting and public affairs," is the campaign's Chief Strategist.
Spokespersons for the group include Deborah Johns, who "has helped give voice to many in the pro-troop movement" and Lloyd Marcus, "a talented singer/songwriter ... [who] has been featured at numerous conservative events." Kelly S. Eustis, a "politically involved as a Republican activist, candidate" who "owns his own political consulting firm, Eusatrix Corporation," is the eCampaign Coordinator; and Betty Presley, a longtime "campaign treasurer for Republican organizations" and for such campaigns as "the pro-school voucher Yes on 38 committee and the Women's Alliance for Israel," is the campaign's Treasurer.
Joe Wierzbicki is the PAC Coordinator. According to his official bio, Wierzbicki "has worked for dozens of conservative and Republican campaigns, ranging from presidential campaigns, to international affairs to grassroots activist causes, such as the historic Recall Gray Davis campaign ... [and] Move America Forward." He is a principal of the GOP-associated public relations firm Russo Marsh & Rogers, and is the King Media Group's Director of Public Relations.
Born in Michigan, Wierzbicki's family moved to California during his early teen years. He spent three years attending the University of California, San Diego, before dropping out "to go work for Assemblyman George House in the State Capitol in Sacramento," he told me. "I had been volunteering on campaigns in college and found my true passion was with that activism, much more so than listening to professors in a lecture hall."
I first interviewed Wierzbicki in the months after 911, when he was a spokesperson for the campaign to unseat Barbara Lee, the courageous Oakland, California-based congresswoman who cast the lone vote in Congress against giving President Bush a blank check to pursue his so-called war on international terrorism. Wierzbicki's Team backed Audie Bock, a former Democrat who switched to the Green Party in hopes of attracting voters in one of the most progressive districts in the country. The campaign fizzled not long after it was discovered that Bock's minions were not only engaged in vicious patriot-baiting and name-calling of Lee, but that they were using information garnered from arch-conservative David Horowitz's Center for the Study of Popular Culture (now called the David Horowitz Freedom Center). Lee handily won re-election and has continued to serve in Congress.
In a subsequent interview nearly two and a half years after the invasion of Iraq, Wierzbicki talked about the contract Russo, Marsh & Rogers had signed with the Kurdistan Regional Government, that aimed to promote the interests of the Kurds in Iraq. "Our job is to do a public relations campaign that will essentially thank the American people for supporting the war in Iraq ... [and] will also encourage Americans to visit and invest in the Kurdish region." At the time, Wierzbicki pointed out that it was likely "a short term thing."
Wierzbicki recently acknowledged that his firm was still working with the Kurdistan Regional Government. "The Kurds of Iraqi Kurdistan know that they have to keep telling their story to the American people, to ensure that whoever leads this nation in the next four years - both in the White House and in Congress - knows their ambitions for a democratic society that embraces religious tolerance and provides economic opportunities for families and businesses," Wierzbicki said.
Earlier this month, through a series of e-mail exchanges, Wierzbicki talked about the Our Country Deserves Better PAC, the importance of defeating Obama, "Swiftboating," political ethics, and how the PAC will go about its business over the next two months:
Bill Berkowitz: Is the Our Country Deserves Better PAC coordinating with, or linked in any way to, the McCain campaign, other than the McCain campaign being one of the "friends" on your organization's My Space page?
Joe Wierzbicki: No, we're not tied to McCain's campaign in any way or any other political committee affiliated with him. We accept all friends on the social networking pages, but do not coordinate with any other group.
Our initial focus of this effort, in fact, was centered around focusing on the inexperience, ignorance and arrogance that define Senator Obama's weakness as a candidate, and thus make him an unacceptable choice to serve as our nation's next president and Commander in Chief.
We are, however, very excited about his selection of Governor Sarah Palin to be Senator McCain's running mate, and we will continue to celebrate her nomination as the Republican candidate for Vice President of the United States.
BB: The pitch at the TownHall Spotlight (see below) said that the campaign was looking for $250,000. How much money are you hoping to raise overall? How much money have you raised for the project thus far? Are there specific individuals contributing to your effort?
JW: I am hopeful that we will raise in excess of $1 million by Election Day. However, please understand we officially launched just last week, so it's hard to project ultimately how successful our fundraising efforts will be.
We are off to a fantastic start. In the first week we've launched we've so far raised about $100,000, which shows there is a lot of support for defeating Barack Obama.
BB: What type of ad buys are you looking at? In which states? Any placements yet? Recently, a conservative group called Let Freedom Ring ran an anti-Obama ad on MTV of all places and I was wondering if you too were thinking out of the box a bit.
JW: We're actually going to be making an announcement to our supporters about this in the next couple of days. What I can tell you is that we will be debuting our TV ad campaign in swing states, and then expanding from there. The rate of expansion, again, depends on the strength of our fundraising.
There are 10 states we will be primarily focused on in this election.
We'll focus our ad placement on networks, programs and stations that reach the largest segment of voters in a given market. We want the message that 'our country deserves better' than Obama for our next president to be heard by as many people as possible.
Already the online videos of these TV ads have been viewed 200,000 times in total on YouTube (all the views for the ads combined), and we've just gotten underway.
BB: Why go back to the Obama speech in 2006 where he says that "America is no longer a Christian Nation"?
JW: Easy, because Barack Obama keeps injecting his faith into this campaign. They have expressly stated that they are not going to let faith-oriented voters be won-over by default to the Republicans, and they have thus put the whole issue on the political table for discussion.
And his injection of faith is constantly contradictory and evolving.
Is Barack Obama's faith the Muslim registration listed by his family when he was a student growing up in Indonesia? Or is it the black liberation theology espoused by Reverend Jeremiah Wright that Obama absorbed during more than 20 years of sermons? Or is it the mainstream Christianity he identified with in the forum hosted by Pastor Rick Warren? Or is it the Obama in this commercial we've produced - where he angrily attacks those like Ambassador Alan Keyes who had raised questions about Obama's bizarre religious practices?
You know that speech we highlight is posted on Senator Obama's website.
He's apparently very proud of it. If he has it on his website, he obviously wants it part of the political debate.
We found his tone to be dismissive and condescending towards evangelical Christians. He deliberately knocks down the straw man argument that we shouldn't follow a literalist interpretation of the Old Testament, ignorant to the fact that the overwhelming majority of Christians do not practice their faith in this way.
BB: Is America a Christian nation?
JW: The United States was founded on Judeo Christian values. A lot of people of faith resent those who constantly try to redefine America's history. Whether it be attempts to take "In God We Trust" off of our money, or remove the word "Christmas" from the holidays, or block "One nation, under God" in our pledge of allegiance - we've seen a constant attack by secularists against people of faith.
Senator Obama's decree that whatever we once were, we're no longer a Christian nation telegraphs to Americans that his administration will likely be one that is hostile to many people of faith.
BB: Do you think the ads you've prepared (see below), Swiftboat Obama?
JW: It is fair to highlight actions or statements by a candidate that reflect poorly on the candidate when the candidate themselves invokes an issue, or makes statements that the electorate will find off-putting. The Our Country Deserves Better PAC has certainly highlighted policy positions - substantiating them with news accounts or actual quotes from Senator Obama - that we believe will cause some voters to rethink their support for the Obama/Biden campaign. This is fair.
For supporters of Senator Obama that are upset as to how we are opposing his campaign, my response to them is that their outcry is unfounded.
Here's an example of things we specifically have NOT used in our advertising to date, because to do so would invoke insinuations that we cannot factually verify, or that would be outright misleading:
- We have not used Obama's recent gaffe where he stumbled in his interview with ABC's George Stephanopolous and was quoted saying McCain had not, "attacked my Muslim faith."
- We've not used the photographs of Barack Obama in what some call "Muslim garb" because the photos by themselves are inconclusive. World leaders, including President Bush and President Clinton for example, have at times donned the clothing of those in the region they've visited. The photos I am referring to include:
- We've not used declarations by some in the Islamic world that Obama is, or was, a Muslim, because quite frankly we don't have a lot of faith in the accuracy of these individuals on other matters in world affairs, so why would we cite these comments as definitive proof of anything?
One area where we will cite statements from Islamic militants is in their praise for Obama or endorsements for his candidacy (or the instance of the illegal donations of $33,000 from Palestinians living in Gaza or the reported phone banks in Gaza making calls for Obama).
The key difference is that there is a legitimacy to raise the issue: why does your campaign receive support from folks like these people? An isolated incident is just that isolated. Obama has a problem in that there are patterns forming. Obama regularly receives support from some people and groups that are seen as not having America's best interests at heart, and have been at times very anti-American. The Hamas political leader who says he wants Obama to win, and the Iranian official who reportedly has "great pleasure" at the thought of an Obama win, and the citation of the Iranian religious leader saying Obama's victory would allow Islam to "conquer the heart of the American nation." The campaign aides (volunteer staffers according to Obama's campaign) who put up Che Guevara flags in their campaign offices.
Citing these instances to call into question what is it about Obama's campaign that excites those who have ill-intent for the United States is a legitimate point.
In another one of our ads (Obama's Patriotism Problems), we chronicle the repeated instances of Obama's rejection of symbols and practices that celebrate the greatness of America. While America has ALWAYS faced challenges, and while we are an imperfect nation (and always will be), we are the best hope for mankind on this planet. We are the beacon of freedom and liberty and a land that offers opportunities to both its poorest and richest citizens. Americans are free to fight for changes they believe will make the nation a better place to live without fear of being whisked away in the middle of the night by secret police and never seen or heard from again as happens in so many other nations around the globe.
There is so much to be grateful for that we are Americans, and yes, so much work to be done to constantly improve our nation and ensure future generations can continue this fight for self-betterment.
Our problem with Obama in this regard, is that he misses the point that the greatness of America is already here. Obama seems to put the cult of himself and his campaign above this nation. You don't just need to take our word for it, either. Ask plenty of Hillary Clinton supporters who during the Democratic primary campaign felt there was a Messianic vibe to Obama's campaign that wasn't reflected just in his enthusiastic supporters, but sadly seemed to be part of the character of Senator Obama himself.
BB: Is there a line that Our Country will not cross when it comes to criticizing Obama?
JW: There are areas where we've decided for ourselves that it wouldn't be fair to criticize Senator Obama.
We made a deliberate decision a couple of months ago, during planning meetings for the PAC that we were not going to make ads and issue statements that unfairly maligned Senator Obama and his family. Thus, despite the controversy that her words created, we did not use Michelle Obama's comments about this being the first time in her adult life that she was proud to be an American. Mrs. Obama is not on the ballot. To inject her comments into our campaign efforts distracts from the more pertinent issue of where Senator Obama stands on the issues, what public statements he has made that should cause voters concerns and what his voting record has been like in the Illinois state legislature and U.S. Senate.
We've included video excerpts of Senator Obama speaking in a few of our ads. This strengthens our argument, since it is hard to argue that we have unfairly maligned Senator Obama when we are citing his own words, delivered on camera.
There is one ad [see below] where we've used footage of Senator Obama that nonetheless has caused a strong reaction by Senator Obama's supporters: Obama Mocks America's Christian Heritage. This is after all what seems to have caught your attention to write this article. Senator Obama's supporters - particularly in websites and blogs such as DailyKos - have raised a question about our inclusion of two clips that are not contiguous in Senator Obama's speech to the 2006 Call to Renewal conference. The first clip in our ad features Senator Obama declaring: "Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation..."
His full comments in the speech he gave (beyond the portion we excerpted) are:
"Given the increasing diversity of America's population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers."
We stand by our use of the quote, and our decision to then cut to another portion of his speech where he cites biblical passages that he asserts could be literally interpreted to be quite radical if those passages were to be implemented as the law of the land in the United States. His supporters argue that the impression given is an inaccurate one. We not only visually connote that the two statements are from separate parts of the speech (with a flash between the segments) but more importantly I would point out that the clips accurately convey what Senator Obama himself said - it's him on camera delivering those words. And it doesn't matter that he went on to speak additional words to justify his assertions, because that's simply him articulating why he believes his declarations are correct. Our point is that the arguments he makes are themselves offensive to many. That goes to both clips when taken either individually or collectively.
Tell evangelical Christians that they shouldn't be offended when a presidential candidate suggests that most Christians want a literal interpretation of the Old Testament to be from which our government derives its laws. That's simply not accurate, and it mocks the beliefs of the overwhelming majority of Christians in America.
Obama's vulnerability with faith-based voters will not be because of our advertising, but because of Senator Obama's own words and actions.
Pitching to the chorus for funds
In one of its earliest fundraising pitches posted at the TownHall Spotlight, Our Country Deserves Better PAC asks supporters to pony up enough dough to get the already prepared ads on the air. (The TownHall Spotlight is a project of Townhall.com, Salem Communications and its "Content Providers.")
"Barack Obama Sinks To A New Low" screams the headline of the message from Our Country Deserves Better PAC.
The text reads:
Just when you think he can't stoop any lower, Barack Obama has sunk to a new low - mocking both the Bible and America's Christian heritage in a speech that you probably won't be seeing broadcast by the mainstream media. But we've got the footage and are about to give it airtime across the nation as part of an aggressive television advertising campaign. Our goal: to defeat Barack Obama's campaign for president.
One ad, titled "Obama Mocks America's Christian Heritage," and prepared by the longtime conservative public relatiuons firm, Russo Marsh and Associates, has Obama stating during a June 28, 2006 speech that "whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation."
That statement is followed by Obama asking: "Which passages of scripture should guide our public policy: Should we go with Leviticas which suggests slavery is okay; that eating a shellfish is an abomination. Or we could go with Deutoronomy which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith. Or should be just stick to the Sermon on the Mount, a passage that is so radical that it's doubtful that our own Defense Dept. would survive its application."
A voiceover intervenes with: "We deserve better than a presidential candidate who mocks America's Christian heritage. Log on to OurCountryDeservesBetter.com to help us fight back against Barack Obama."
The Our Country Deserves Better PAC's ad at The TownHall Spotlight continues:
Obama's shameful actions come on top of his expressed disdain over the notion of showing pride and patriotism in our great nation. What would it take for Obama to stop knocking America, and instead celebrate the fact that we have the greatest nation in the history of mankind? Why won't Obama embrace that which makes America great, instead of constantly deriding the institutions of our military, America's Judeo-Christian heritage, the torch our nation carries for the cause of freedom and liberty in the world?
The ad asks for contributions to run two more television spots titled, "Obama's Patriotism Problems" and "Obama's Wrong Values."
The former is narrated by Kaloogian, the chairman of Our Country Deserves Better, and features a fiery line from Rev. Jeremiah Wright, along with charges that Obama won't put his hand over his heart during the pledge, and won't wear an American flag pin.
The latter ad jams together the pledge charge with claims that Obama's supporters worship the "murderous leftist" Che Guevara, that his campaign "received $33,000 in illegal donations from Palestinians living in the Middle East, that a "top official of the terrorist group Hamas endorsed Obama's campaign," and there's that fiery line from Rev. Wright.
Help us get these television ads on the airwaves now! Our goal is to raise $250,000 in the next 24 hours, but we need your support. If you can afford $100, $250, $500, $1,000 or more you will help ensure that Obama's campaign is strongly opposed on the airwaves. We are allowed to accept contributions up to $5,000 per individual. Make your contribution - HERE.
In the "Beliefs" section of Our Country's website, the group states that it "has one objective: to defeat Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election." The group pegs Obama as supporting "High Taxes"; being weak on national defense; having an "empty energy policy"; advocating "uncontrolled borders"; will appoint judges that "will undermine" the constitution; and is just plain "liberal through and through."
Our Country Deserves Better PAC is planning a "National Tour" starting from Sacramento, California on October 15 and winding up in Washington, D.C. on October 29.
Although it appears that the coverage of the nation's economic meltdown has sucked the oxygen out of just about everything revolving around the election, it has not altered the plans of Our Country Deserves Better PAC. It still intends to do exactly what Joe Wierzbicki has said: "We want the message that 'our country deserves better' than Obama for our next president to be heard by as many people as possible."