By Ronald Gidwitz
As a recovering politician (I ran for governor of Illinois in 2006), I know it’s seldom a good idea to hint that voters are dupes. Sometimes, though, in an attempt to “divide and conquer,” politicians do just that.
Lately we’ve seen President Barack Obama and his team, who ran for office on the claim they would bridge political differences, playing this foolish and ultimately self-defeating dividing game.
“Right now all around this country there are groups with harmless-sounding names like Americans for Prosperity, who are running millions of dollars of ads against Democratic candidates all across the country,” the president told Democratic donors in Texas last month.
His advisers have followed his lead. “Americans for Prosperity is funded by billionaire oil men, David and Charles Koch, to promote Republican candidates who support their right-wing agenda and corporate interests,” Obama’s senior adviser David Axelrod wrote in The Washington Post last month. He further claimed that these “billionaire oilmen secretly (are) underwriting what the public has been told is a grass-roots movement for change in Washington.”
Well, it’s no secret what AFP is, who we are or what we want to do. Nationwide, Americans for Prosperity and the Americans for Prosperity Foundation have more than 1.5 million activists and 31 state chapters and affiliates. I’m state director for Illinois. More than 80,000 Americans in all 50 states have given money to AFP or the foundation.
- We want lower taxes and less government spending, ideas that appeal to a solid majority of Americans.
- We support removing unnecessary barriers to entrepreneurship to spark citizen involvement in the regulatory process.
- We aim to restore fairness to our judicial system.
Americans aren’t fools. Our call for change is being echoed by millions of citizens. That experienced businesspeople and successful job-creators are among those putting resources behind it is not an insult to the effort, it’s an affirmation of it.
Unfortunately, President Obama has ignored the people’s cries for fiscal responsibility. On issues including the stimulus, health care reform and tax policy, he’s hammered through decidedly liberal and unpopular approaches to America’s problems. Not surprisingly, his popularity rating is sinking, and polls indicate his party seems headed for a thrashing in November’s midterm elections.
Without a positive agenda to run on, the president and his allies have launched the coordinated attacks in an attempt to discredit conservatives.
After Obama’s Texas speech came a 10,000 word attack piece in the New Yorker magazine that went after the Kochs for supposedly “waging a war against Obama.” That article quoted a series of “experts” from groups that are supported by left-wing billionaire currency speculator George Soros, including the Center for Public Integrity and Media Matters for America.
More chilling, Mark Holden, a lawyer for Koch Industries, has fingered Austan Goolsbee, one of Obama’s top economic advisers, as saying during a press briefing that Koch Industries did not pay corporate income taxes.
The federal government has almost infinite power to investigate and intimidate people. It can, whether it intends to or not, easily destroy businesses and reputations. That’s why Americans recoiled against Richard Nixon in the 1970s when they learned he was using federal investigators to track his political “enemies.”
Americans of all political persuasions can agree that we face serious national problems, including sluggish job growth and soaring federal spending. The way to solve these problems is by coming together, not by attacking each other. President Obama should call off the attack dogs, before they end up biting him too.
Ronald Gidwitz is a partner in GCG Partners, a strategic consulting and equity capital firm he co-founded in 1998. He chairs the Illinois chapter of Americans for Prosperity.