Why Did Progress Kentucky Pick Mother Jones?

Yesterday, I wrote a piece at The Conversation titled, Hints of Prior Attacks As Reports of Progress Kentucky’s Role in McConnell Recording Surface.  Go and read it if you haven’t already, then come back to this post.

I want to call attention to an excerpt from that post, and what appeared in Mother Jones in January on two separate occasions.

This happened on January 9th at Mother Jones:

Mother Jones published an earlier article in January, 2013 that may have hinted at the attacks to come. 

That article detailed a secretive meeting that was organized a month after Obama’s election to launch an initiative dubbed “the Democracy Initiative.”  A consortium of powerful liberal groups, “brought together by the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Communication Workers of America (CWA), and the NAACP,” all met at the National Education Association headquarters in Washington DC to plan out their future political strategy.  That article cites that among the state targets the Democracy Initiative selected for campaign fights was Kentucky, home base to Senator Mitch McConnell.

According to a schedule of the meeting, the attendees focused on opportunities for 2013. On money in politics, Nick Nyhart of Public Campaign, a pro-campaign-finance-reform advocacy group, singled out Kentucky, New York, and North Carolina as potential targets for campaign finance fights. In a recent interview, Nyhart said the Kentucky battle would likely involve trying to oust Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Public Enemy No. 1 for campaign finance reform, who faces reelection in 2014. In New York, Nyhart said, activists are pressuring state lawmakers, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to pass a statewide public financing bill in 2013. And in North Carolina, the fight is more about countering the influence of a single powerful donor, the conservative millionaire Art Pope, whose largesse helped install a Republican governor and turn the state legislature entirely red. 

Now, let me add to that excerpt above from yesterday’s post at The Conversation, the following.

This happened on January 16th at Mother Jones:

Meanwhile, Progress Kentucky, a state-based group, has already launched an anti-McConnell super-PAC intended to lure challengers, Democratic and Republican, into the race. The super-PAC’s initial fundraising goal is a modest $100,000 (it’s raised $1,028 from 34 people so far).

So, at a secretive meeting that occurred shortly after Barack Obama’s reelection, a gaggle of liberal groups all get together to discuss strategy and their new “Democracy Initiative”, where they all just happen to discuss targeting Mitch McConnell, and a Mother Jones reporter is included in that meeting (or at the very least, all the inside details are shared with that reporter).  Mother Jones writes glowingly about that meeting in early January.

A week later, Mother Jones mentions Progress Kentucky in the same context of the (apparently bipartisan) efforts to target Mitch McConnell.

But Mother Jones has no idea why the potentially illegal recording of a private meeting at Senator Mitch McConnell’s campaign headquarters in Kentucky, now alleged to have been made by at least one founder of Progress Kentucky, just happened to come Mother Jones’ way.  Mother Jones’ David Corn says it must have been because of that “Romney 47%” recording it previously published.

Salon reported Thursday that ProgressNow, the umbrella organization for the liberal network of individual state organizations that operate under the “Progress [State]” moniker, disavowed any association to Progress Kentucky, calling it a “joke” and “an embarrassment.”

And while the names sound similar, the group is not affiliated with ProgressNow, the network of state-based progressive activist groups. “ProgressNow does not have a Kentucky chapter, nor are we affiliated with ProgressKY,” Denise Cardinal, executive director of ProgressNow, said in an email this afternoon.

“Kentucky Democrats have never taken Progress Kentucky seriously. If you can’t raise more than $1,000 to defeat the most unpopular Senator in the country, you are not a remotely serious political organization,” a Kentucky Democratic operative told me today.

A Kentuckian who worked on campaigns in the state before moving to D.C. to work in national progressive politics told me last month that the group was a “joke” and “an embarrassment.”

Apparently Mother Jones, which seems intent on disavowing its own outlet from Progress Kentucky, didn’t seem to view them as a “joke” in January when it covered Progress Kentucky’s effort to target Mitch McConnell.