For years, conservatives looking to effect change have turned their eyes to Washington, D.C., and the national political and media scene. Naturally, a philosophy that promotes a centralized solution to every problem finds a happy reception among the elites who walk the halls of power. But for those who proclaim federalism, it has been ironic to see many Washington, D.C.-based conservative groups frequently fall prey to the same siren song of power, and seem most interested in building their own Beltway empires. All the while, the public sector unions and the groups formerly known as ACORN have followed in the footsteps of their progressive predecessors, and are working hard to capture power at the state and local level.
It might seem paradoxical that conservatives who believe in limited government would spend so much time in D.C. focused on the national scene, while liberals, whose perch of power is not eternally secure, would turn to state-based efforts to bolster their cause and further their agenda. But that’s the reality. As a result, local political scenes have fallen prey to liberal media bias; a crop of left-wing or lazy political figures have come to occupy positions of power, in some cases thanks to the weakness of major political parties.
In Wisconsin, the nation saw the power of the professional left on full display last year when throngs protested in the state capitol against the conservative budget reforms proposed by Gov. Scott Walker. Years of work at the state level in Wisconsin, the birthplace of modern progressivism, gave the left and its media allies a sense that they were entitled to a nearly unchallenged dominance of the political scene. Some things were taboo and no conservative had dare tamper with those issues, they thought.
Enter Media Trackers, a state-based conservative investigative watchdog affiliated with American Majority, the group I head, not coincidentally launched in Wisconsin in January of 2011. By the end of the year, both the left and right, as well as the media, would conclude that Media Trackers was an organization that changed the Wisconsin political landscape.
During the Madison protests, Media Trackers was among the first to report on doctors signing fake sick-leave notes for protesters, including public school teachers who left their classrooms to demonstrate against Walker’s collective bargaining reforms. The story went national and now, more than a year later, many of the doctors involved in the masquerade are being slapped with embarrassing reprimands and stiff financial penalties from the state Medical Examining Board.
Through every step of the legislative and subsequent recall election fights launched by the left, Media Trackers researchers pored over innumerable IRS filings, strategy memos, social media pages, campaign finance records, and websites; they connected the dots and built a comprehensive picture of the agenda and funding behind the left’s machine.
When labor unions and the left began to lose, and then turned to the courts, Media Trackers foiled the credibility of the attempt. First, an activist judge struck down the collective bargaining reforms as unconstitutional. Media Trackers found that the judge and her husband had close ties to organized labor and radical environmental groups. Hoping to sustain the ruling in the state supreme court, liberals mobilized to defeat a conservative justice running for re-election in an off-year spring election. But the mask of impartiality was torn from the liberal candidate’s campaign when Media Trackers discovered a litany of financial and ideological connections that helped tank her candidacy. A later attempt by a Soros-funded propaganda machine and others to smear the conservative jurist failed after Media Trackers discovered several layers of conflicts of interest within the transparently partisan Dane County law enforcement community.
In its biggest story of the summer recall elections, Media Trackers found a group with close ties to the SEIU handing out tickets to a barbeque chicken dinner in exchange for voters taking a free ride to an early voting location to cast a ballot in what was termed the “crown jewel” race. Queried about her connection to the group, the Democratic candidate told the media that there was none. E-mails released by Media Trackers proved the Democratic candidate wrong. When the media feeding frenzy began, it was game over, and corrupt union thugs lost their chance to tip control of the state senate.
FOR ITS WORK IN 2011, a Wisconsin-based Democratic consultant speaking at a gathering in Chicago complained that Media Trackers kept the left constantly and consistently off message. Even a political columnist at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel admitted that Media Trackers had become an influential force on the state political scene.
With 2012 already a contentious year in Wisconsin, Media Trackers has continued to make national headlines with reports of television station employees signing recall petitions, and even substantial anti-Walker bias in the two most powerful district attorneys’ offices in the state. Through old-fashioned shoe-leather-style reporting, critical questioning of appearances, and an unrelenting dedication to the work of holding liberals accountable, a small but highly trained team of two people is changing the very terms of political debate at the state level.
The best part is that due to its success in Wisconsin, in 2012 Media Trackers is expanding into Ohio, Florida, Colorado, and Montana, which will seek to replicate its success in Wisconsin. For too long the right in America has been on the defensive, forced to react to attacks instead playing offense. But with Media Trackers now on the scene, the rules have changed, and conservatives no longer have to just sit there and take it on the chin.
Now they can punch back.