An Associated Press story written by Todd Richmond last week was headlined, “Political agitator gets enough signatures to challenge Wisconsin governor in recall”. The story first appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Later it would appear in numerous Wisconsin news outlets without an author’s name and with the title “Agitator gets enough names to challenge Walker”.
Arthur Kohl-Riggs is that “agitator”. I asked Arthur how he felt about his new title a couple of days after the article came out. (We didn’t even discuss the fact that Richmond said Arthur has been “prowling” the halls of the Capitol for the last year and a half. ) While I was hung up on “agitator”, he was not. He was more upset about being called a “fake Republican” by Richmond. He says he’s emulating the Republicanism practiced by turn of the century reformer Bob LaFollette. It is fitting that Arthur will use LaFollette’s political legacy to primary Walker. Wisconsin citizens didn’t have access to a direct primary until Bob LaFollette railed against the closed room deals that had been selecting all candidates previous to 1909.
It is also fitting that Wisconsin’s Associated Press staff paints Arthur in a negative light. They already have a negative history with Arthur Kohl-Riggs.
AP’s Scott Bauer and Todd Richmond – the very same author of that “agitator” article – had a hand in expelling Arthur from the ranks of the Capitol press corps, effectively ensuring he would have no ability to videotape the Wisconsin Assembly.
Arthur’s strained relationship with Associated Press and other mass media press covering the legislature began with his entry into the WCCA (Wisconsin Capitol Correspondents Association). Arthur got press credentials through local radio station WTDY in September of 2011. That status gave him the opportunity to be present on the floor of the Wisconsin State Assembly – a privilege that is granted only to the press as defined by the WCCA under the legislature’s rules. But Arthur’s time sheltered by the WCCA was short. When he videotaped arrests of citizens from the Assembly gallery, Arthur lost his press credentials in October 2011 and also lost his freedom to videotape in the entire chamber without constant harassment from police.
We remember the beginning and the end of any experience best. In the end, the Associated Press, through its agents Bauer and Richmond, advocated for expulsion of Arthur Kohl-Riggs from its ranks without even the courtesy of a formal vote.
Emails between Bauer and Richmond from this time are enlightening [below]. The two email notes seen below were sent after Arthur was arrested for filming in the gallery and were made available along with others to Wisconsin Citizens Media Co-op through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Correct. He shows no regard for process and he is putting the entire statewide media’s access to the chamber in jeopardy. We need to act quickly to show some self respect and dignity. The vote is to revoke. Does anyone seriously want to argue otherwise?
[Scott Bauer is the vice-president of the WCCA.]
I agree with Scott that Arthur, and, by extension, Sly, should have his credential revoked. I’m not sure if we need to be that formal about it. We all know which way the vote’s going to go. Let’s do it by email. The process permits them to appeal to JCLO [Joint Committee on Legislative Organization] anyway. Let them do that and put the legal bail in JCLO’s court rather than ours.
– Link to screen capture of the original
Other emails reveal that not all WCCA members agreed and ultimately the matter was put to a vote, showing that at the least, Arthur’s expulsion was put through a process.
It is legal for citizens to record government meetings in Wisconsin by statute 19.90, but it is not permitted by Assembly rules. Arthur Kohl-Riggs was and is convinced that the Assembly is wrong.
The AP did not put out a story about the desire and legal rights of Arthur Kohl-Riggs or any Wisconsin citizen to record the Assembly’s government meetings. The AP did not even do a story on the arrest and removal of 18 camera-wielding citizens from the Assembly gallery even when one of those citizens was of a colleague in the WCCA: the editor of The Progressive, Matt Rothschild. Wisconsin State Journal reporter and WCCA Secretary Mary Spicuzza and Clay Barbour finally reported dismissively about Arthur’s video work. But only after he got footage of Joel Kleefisch voting 3 times [as was eloquently chronicled by Hematite at WCMC]. Mary Spicuzza is Secretary of the WCCA.
The Capitol press make their primary mission the protection of their own access to the legislative chamber.
Consider that this occurred in the same year that the Wisconsin state legislature received a 2011 Black Hole Award from the Society of Professional Journalists.
Is it time to use the adjective “complicit” here? Or was the AP just steering clear of trouble? If you think it was the 2nd act, then I will need to ask you one more question: when the hell did journalists decide it was their mission to steer clear of trouble?
There are no “inside agitators”.
I went on an admittedly amateurish google quest to figure out why I felt so sure that the adjective “agitator” casts a negative light.
I found that often “agitator” appears with the world “outside” as in “outside agitator”. This title was frequently applied to organizers from Northern states who traveled south to register black voters in the 60’s. According to SNCC volunteer Peter de Lissovoy, “outside agitator” was a hold-out term from the 1930’s. Lissovoy says “outside agitator” was just 1 of the titles ferociously flung at him by white southerners along with “communist”, “niggerlover”, and “freedom rider”.
Searching “outside agitator” also led me to the genius organizer Saul Alinsky- – the man Newt Gingrich recently popularized as he sought to turn him into a liberal boogy man and mentor of Barack Obama. How fitting it is that Newt would introduce me to Alinsky.
In an interview with Studs Turkel (below), Alinsky explained that his frightening reputation with the white establishment always assisted him as an organizer of the disenfranchised. Alinsky tells the story of when the KKK met him in their full regalia as his plane touched down in Houston. Because the KKK came out to threaten Alinsky with such vigor, the black community knew that Alinsky was their ally and they immediately welcomed him as a friend.
When Terkel introduces Alinsky as a “professional agitator”. Saul quickly corrects him:
You left off one word, Studs. Professional _outside_ agitator. You gotta be an outside agitator to begin with because agitators very rarely come up from the inside cause if you come up from the inside one of two things usually happen to you: either you get knocked off or you get co-opted.
By Alinsky’s reasoning, maybe AP has simply done Arthur a favor by introducing him to the state of Wisconsin with that alarming word: “agitator”.
Within Wisconsin, the term “outside agitators” has been used by anti-Walker folks. We’ve used it to describe the “troublemakers” that David Koch suggested Scott Walker add to the protest crowds [the man making that suggestion was really Ian Murphy]. When Walker said that many protesters were bused in from out of state, he did not use the phrase though many of us have accused him of calling us “outside agitators”. When conservative groups flew in Andrew Breitbart and Sarah Palin to speak to the Tea Party members on the Capitol square, I for one took mischievious pleasure in turning the tables. I called those paid mouthpieces “outside agitators”.
As dumb as you may think Scott Walker is, he is smart enough to avoid the loaded word “agitator”.
Is he an “agitator” because this primary thing is illegal? No.
Arthur Kohl-Riggs turned in 20% more signatures than were required to run as a Republican in the primary recall election against Scott Walker. In Wisconsin there is no formal registration or litmus test to prove you are in fact a Republican or Democratic Party member – not when you run for office or when you vote. In addition, there is nothing to stop a former Dem. voter from voting GOP in a primary in Wisconsin. Thus, a Wisconsinite can change political directions at a moment’s notice.
Some of Arthur’s supporters worry that he will not escape the title of “fake Republican” and he’ll suffer a penalty. They worry because on Thursday Dem. Party lawyer Jeremy Levinson filed an election fraud complaint with the G.A.B. and against the Republican party for entering fake Democratic candidates in the state senate, as well as the governor’s and lieutenant governor’s race. A similar complaint against 6 GOP-affiliated fake Dems went nowhere last year.**
Because I do approve of Jeremy Levinson in all other regards, I do not cherish writing this next statement: Levinson’s complaint is a confusing and pointless piece of pomposity that will go nowhere.
What is the point of Art’s run?
He does have a campaign statement at this link, but in my words: When Arthur set out to run as a Republican he did so with the dual purpose of educating Wisconsin about the roots of the Republican party in Wisconsin – where it began – as well as to stop the GOP from working the open primary system and possibly electing a fake Democratic party challenger named Gladys Huber.
Because Arthur Kohl-Riggs is running as a Republican for Governor, the Republicans will now have more reason to vote in their own primary instead of crossing over to vote for Gladys Huber in a Dem primary that appears to have 5 candidates [2 of them being serious contenders followed by a very strong 3rd]. With the entry of a candidate for Gov. in the GOP primary, there is reason to keep self-identified Republican votes on the Republican ticket. I know that the chance for Art to force Scott Walker out of his job on May 8th is slim and might arise only if, for example, particularly damning pieces of evidence emerge from the John Doe investigation that surrounds Scott Walker. If Art were to win on May 8th, on June 5th, Arthur Kohl-Riggs would be the lone GOP candidate appearing on the ballot to run against a Dem candidate in the general election.
In the AP’s eyes perhaps Arthur Kohl-Riggs had and still has absolutely zero standing. Perhaps they have no knowledge of the community of close to 30,000 Wisconsin facebook activists that share his page. Perhaps it was inconceivable to the WCCA that Arthur could come up with a team to collect over 2,000 signatures to run for governor of Wisconsin within 7 days and have his name exposed to an electorate of some 2 million people.
Arthur Kohl-Riggs decided he would not be put down and he would not be co-opted. Associated Press still needs to explain what they decided to do.
Facebook page Art for Gov
Main website of Arthur Kohl-Riggs
*On getting on the ballot: Arthur Kohl-Riggs turned in 20% more nomination signatures than needed to run for Governor of Wisconsin with only 7 days to collect the signatures. A fellow contender for the position could still attempt to file a legal challenge with the G.A.B. against the validity of the signatures but would need to do so before 5PM tomorrow Friday April 15th.
**Huber, Junkermann, Weix, Church, Buckstaff, and Smith
***Definition of agitator: agitator according to Merriam Webster is “one who stirs up public feeling on controversial issues