Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Cohen kerfuffle

The quarrel surrounding Ellen Cohen's $10,000 contribution from Bob Perry moves into a higher gear:

If the abOUT editorial had simply been a question of how to interpret facts (namely that Cohen accepted a contribution from Perry and did not author LGBT-specific legislation while in the Texas House) it would have been unlikely to generate controversy, but two statements in the original editorial unrelated to Cohen’s record have created a backlash against abOUT and its editor, Cade Michals. The editorial originally stated that Cohen’s office had not responded to a request for comment (abOUT has since added a comment from Cohen), and that the Houston GLBT Political Caucus (which has endorsed Cohen) had been “silent” on the matter. Caucus president Noel Freeman says that, in fact, Cohen had made a statement to abOUT before they published the editorial and that, as president of the Caucus, Freeman had already granted an interview to the Houston Chronicle on the matter and would have happily done the same for abOUT had they bothered to contact the Caucus before publishing their article. Freeman contacted Michals requesting a retraction of the editorial in light of these inaccuracies. Freeman says he told Michals that if abOUT did not retract or issue a correction that the Caucus would contact the magazine’s advertisers and request that they pull their ads. “That’s a standard tool in the political activist’s tool belt: boycotts,” said Freeman.

In response, Michals contacted the Houston Police Department and filed a complaint against Freeman. According to Freeman, Michals also threatened to contact a “multi-millionaire investor with a lawyer from Baker Botts who was going to file a lawsuit against me for slander and harassment. He then told me to ‘bring it on’ several times and I ended the call.” Freeman is emphatic that he made no threats against Michals.

And then there is District C candidate Josh Verde's involvement.

According to phone records provided by Freeman, Josh Verde, another City Council District C candidate and the only out LGBT candidate in the race, contacted him less than five minutes after he ended the phone call with Michals. Freeman says Verde called, at the bequest of Michals, to dissuade Freeman of pursuing his request for a retraction. Verde claims he called Freeman to accuse him of stealing a rack of abOUT issues and that his attempts to persuade Freeman to drop his request for a retraction were based on a fear that the situation would damage the Caucus’ reputation. Verde refused to answer whether he made the call at the request of Michals.

Commenters on the Press article have been quick to connect Verde with Michals and abOUT. Verde and Michals are former co-workers. Michals previously worked as general manager of Vue Nightclub. His tenure overlaps that of Verde’s work as a bartender at Guava Lamp, a trendy gay bar. Both bars are owned by Elwood Gould Jr. and housed in the same building. Verde held his campaign launch party at Vue with Michals in attendance.

The reporter for the Voice, Daniel Williams, discloses that he both worked on Cohen's campaign in 2010 (as did I) and was a member of the HGLBT caucus (I am not, have never been).

For Cohen, the abOUT editorial is a distraction from her long record of LGBT advocacy. “I have dedicated my life to equality for all people. I have always been supportive of the GLBT community and will continue to be so on City Council. As executive director of the Houston chapter of the American Jewish Committee, and CEO of the Houston Area Women’s Center, I took a leadership role in advocating for same-sex partner benefits at the city, and encouraged other non-profits to do the same. In the Legislature, I worked on legislation that addressed health care rights of domestic partners, bullying in Texas schools, and employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

For Verde, his connections to abOUT, Michals and the pseudonymously authored editorial by “Jack H,” are quickly becoming an albatross of negative campaigning weighing down his candidacy, from which he is working hard to distance himself.

However you may happen to feel about this matter ... this is why I am supporting Karen Derr in this race. Not because I don't like Ellen and don't think she wouldn't make a fine council member (I do, and she would). And not because I think the same of Verde. Because we have to get the money out of our politics.

We must stop evaluating the viability of our political candidates on the basis of how much money they can raise. We must stop feeding a political consultant class that gets paid for advice, direct mail lists, and their network of associated vendors who provide absolutely nothing to our republican democracy except for a compromised product (the politico himself or herself). Particularly for Democratic consultants from Bob Schrum all the way down to Marc Campos, here's a question: how comfortable would your lifestyle be if you got paid on the basis of whether you won or lost?

I'm not talking about unilateral disarmament by the left. The fact is that the Money Race is over and the Republicans have already won. (See Rove, Karl and Brothers, Koch. I picked those links so that you can cry first and then laugh. A little.)

My humble O, as you already know, is to handle this by constitutional amendment. But that is a 15 to 20-year process by this movement's own standards. I'll probably be dead by then. So I have to do what I can while I can, and that means not supporting candidates based on their fundraising -- indeed, to leave money totals out of the consideration -- especially from questionable sources.

Oh yeah, and we absolutely have to stop voting for politicians as if they were American Idol contestants.

Update: Juanita Jean has a similar perspective.

1 comment:

Namorado_TX said...

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