consultants are sandburs

Sunday, December 06, 2015

"Cruz, of Texas, finished first among 14 Republican candidates in the poll of 283 influential party activists gathered for the Minnesota GOP’s State Central Committee, claiming 90 votes. That was almost twice the votes claimed by the second-place finisher, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who had 46 votes. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina came in third with 33 votes. 'Minnesota on March 1, on Super Tuesday, is going to play a critical role,' Cruz said in a recorded appearance played at the GOP meeting at Monticello High School. With his fiery brand of fiscal and social conservatism, Cruz may prove to be a potent force among the activist base of Minnesota’s Republican Party." [UPDATED]

The headline is a quote from Strib reporting, this link.

Cruz first, Fiorina third; suggesting a Cruz-Fiorina honesty, sincerity, and decency ticket for going into next November.

The uncertainty, does this GOP Inner Party vote express a Republican death wish for the Republican party, only, or for our entire nation?

I think they should run Michelle McDonald for President.

How might others react? While only a guess, this link, and here.

UPDATE: Can we anticipate a Cruz policy on the Syrian situation, and if so, what might it be?

FURTHER UPDATE: Don't you love those animated image things, especially those with the rippling waving flag?

Mr. Cruz.

FURTHER UPDATE: Self referential statements often are a windfall, Strib's report noting about the Saturday session:

“While this is a fairly small slice of the Republican base, it’s really an influential group of our party’s thought leaders,” Downey said. “It’s a statement about the strength of the field in Minnesota.”

[...] “I just don’t believe outsiders should be seriously considered for the most powerful position in the Western world without showing some pertinent experience,” said state Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, who said his top choices are Rubio and Cruz.

[...] In a recorded message, Fiorina argued that Republicans do want a political outsider.

“For too long, we’ve elected someone from the political class, then watched as election after election, nothing changes,” she said.

Brandon Lerch, the Minnesota organizer for Cruz, said the campaign would look to build on Saturday’s win with an upcoming announcement about a Minnesota leadership team — and, he said, a likely visit or visits by the candidate before March 1.

“We view Minnesota as a state that Senator Cruz can win,” Lerch said.

Carson recently landed a prominent Minnesota organizer in Ron Carey, a former state GOP chairman.

“He’s honorable, a man of character,” Carey said. “In a time of crisis I think Minnesotans want to rally around that.”

So say a selection of elite GOP Inner Party thought leaders. Reflecting the strength of the field, as Downey opined. Leaving one to speculate about sagacity among the party's thought followers. Or is our GOP as Huey Long said, "Every man a king?"

FURTHER UPDATE: That name, Brandon Lerch, represents a new thought leader previously under my radar. Doing the normal websearch after encountering an unfamiliar name, there is this, this, and this.

The first of those links is surprisingly "barebones" while the second indicates Lerch prior ties to Michele Bachmann, and Rep. Steve King. Finally, the third surely mentions a number of places, so why not Minnesota?

Well, Downey did not say, "... longtime Minnesota thought leaders ..." in reading his quote, so, itinerant thought leader seems to be the Lerch gentleman's gravitas. Similar, I suppose, to Billy Graham not having a geographically specific congregation, but rather a traveling show.

Precisely what Mr. Lerch was doing between 2008, after leaving Bachmann's staff, and the present, is open to speculation unless the full Lerch resume is available, but a tidbit in that third link, "Now the Director of Government Affairs for We Care America, a faith-based non-profit, Lerch continues to pursue the same issues of public policy including German-American relations." Recalling a Snowden fact, the NSA was interested too in German-American relations, but that's possibly an off-point observation.

At any rate, there is "... We Care America, a faith-based non-profit ...". Confusion, this says Alexandria, VA, and not St. Paul, MN.

A thought leader from Cruz-thought-central, for dispatch to the hustings? What? This link, historically a Republican thing?

FURTHER UPDATE: A bit more detail. Besides Bachmann and Gil Gutknect ties, Lerch's spouse is a 2003 Gustie graduate and alum, they live in Woodbury, where Brandon made the news in relation to Cruz; and a contact phone number and email are public information for anyone caring to learn more. He's a political consultant, as best as LinkedIn's barebones entry indicates. He watches YouTube, if this is not a different Brandon Lerch, with it fitting a Germanic studies background. Plus that subscription to the Ted Cruz channel suggests it's our guy, along with the City of Woodbury channel subscription. What is interesting, the Woodbury news item noted:

Rafael Cruz passed through Minnesota at the invitation of the Senate District 56 Republicans and their counterparts from Senate District 39. The local GOP party extended requests to all of the Presidential candidates’ campaigns, but Senate District 53 Republicans chairman Brandon Lerch admitted that while the Ted Cruz for President campaign was not the only one to respond to the invitation, it might be the only one that sends such a powerful spokesperson. Still Lerch and Senate District 53 Republicans chairman Nick Norman are hoping for Rafael Cruz’s speech to be the first of a series.

Lerch saying other campaigns were contacted, etc., is interesting with his not subscribing to any other YouTube political channel besides that of Ted Cruz. The vigor with which Lerch might have pursued requesting other campaigns to come to Minnesota is something where readers can draw their own inferences from that evidence.

BOTTOM LINE: Given the spousal connection to Minnesota, and past DC service for Bachmann and Gutknect, Lerch appears to not be a carpetbagger. He has reason to be here beyond any ties to and/or representation of the Cruz campaign. If not a theocrat-Republican, it is hard to pigeon hole Lerch into any other bloc of the local GOP. As to his being one of Downey's "thought leaders" it surely seems Cruz and the theo-bloc is where he "thought leads."

FURTHER UPDATE: If any reader has any material information about We Care America, Inc., please leave a comment with links. It seems to have 501(c)(3) status, or to have had it, and whether it does anything or is defunct, is hard to find on the web.

As to whether it ever did anything of merit, that probably is a subjective thing, more or less, and possibly objective.

This was found online, but whether it amounts to much more, or much less these days, you tell me. It looks as if Lerch bailed on it, to move to Minnesota. Or does it have a soliciting branch, here?

FURTHER UPDATE: Latest Cruz speech known to me online, here. If any reader can make it through the thing, please leave a time stamp of where in the spiel he says jack about what he'd do about Syria, besides bloviating but about actual steps, what troop commitment, whether favoring reinstituting conscription, anything specific and committal? All I heard, perusing spots here and there within it, is pure bullshit. That and mudslinging, delivered in that unctuous whining voice Cruz has.

This link, for 936,868 reasons for one properly minded, to have affiliated oneself with We Care America, Inc., mid-year, 2004. Taxpayer money gets disbursed in mysterious ways, or so it seems. Back then, mid-year 2004, "Compassion" was a disbursement factor for a little-known HHS funding outlet. Can any reader supply dates Lerch was with We Care America?

For those concerned with waste in government (county woofers included) and as a hypothetical, if a federal funding trove lapsed, would there be a likelihood of its resurrection under a Cruz presidency?

FURTHER UPDATE: Looseness with dates can sometimes be problematic, as with the below screen capture (source of an earlier image - highlighting added)

So, when is "Now?" 'splain  it please, from when to when?

That blurb prefaced Oct. 2006 Lerch text savaging David Kuo's character and persona, where many beleive Kuo told it just as it was; Lerch writing.

In his new book, Tempting Faith, David Kuo is dead wrong to cast doubt on President Bush’s personal commitment to the Faith-Based and Community Initiative (FBCI).

[...] So where is the disconnect? How can Kuo, a former deputy director of the initiative, be so wrong about a program he helped build?

First, by way of full disclosure, this debate is not new to me. While I worked in Congress, I was responsible for oversight of the FBCI as a staffer for the House Government Reform and Oversight Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources. More important, I am a Bible-believing Christian and am very supportive of the President's vision for the FBCI.

[...] Even after almost three years out of the White House, Kuo remains spellbound by the inside-the-beltway political narrative. An older generation would say he has “Potomac Fever”. One symptom of the malady is that policy debates become passé. I have begun to question whether he even remembers terms of the policy debate such as, prisoner re-entry, vouchers, child mentoring, or capacity building.

Kuo is so absorbed by his elitist political story-telling that he fails to talk about compassionate service providers. In his nearly 300-page book, you can not find significant mention of these selfless servants he claims to protect.

One passage in Tempting Faith details Kuo’s departure from the office of then-Senator John Ashcroft in order to found a charity to help other charities. But something strange happens as he chronicles this experience…He never identifies what he did or with whom he worked! No sooner does he congratulate himself for “getting more involved in communities” than he segues back into elitist political story-telling. The reader learns only that his charity fails, nothing more.

[...] President Bush’s compassion Initiative is revolutionary, nothing short of a complete paradigm shift in the way the federal government views the American citizenry. Compassionate conservatives, like the President, and many others recognized that $1 trillion+ in annual federal budgets for human services is more than enough money to address our nation’s social illnesses. They recognize that the problem is how we actually spend that mountain of taxpayer’s largess.

Instead of giving the money to the same politically-connected contractors, the President directed his appointees to grant more money to grassroots institutions. Ignored by the federal government for decades, these are the religious and civic organizations in every single neighborhood in the country. And thus, the Faith-Based and Community Initiative was born.

But Kuo was not seduced by the complexities of policy. No, in his “60 Minutes” interview with Lesley Stahl, he wails about political intrigue. Ms. Stahl was, of course, all too happy to focus on the juicy political gossip with attention-grabbing names like Rove and Card, served-up by her eager guest.

In a touch of irony, however, he never mentions the poor and hopeless during his interview until he sets up an ambush on Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell (more juicy names!). And did Lesley Stahl ask about the poor? Of course not! Same goes in Tempting Faith. There is only one dish being served here: political gotcha.

You see, compassion service providers are a humble lot. They are not looking for plaudits. And they certainly are not interested in Kuo’s political chicanery.

[italics added] The diatribe continues and readers can follow the link to pursue it. BIG QUESTION: Is one beltway type savaging another beltway type in print all that unusual? Readers can decide that one. And would the "grounds" for savaging the Other be relevant in assessing the author's gravitas? Again readers should decide for themselves. Italics was added within that larger quote to help guide reader deliberation.

That "very supportive" thing is in a context where when one's ox is being fed, not gored, being supportive comes easy. Then, "politically-connected contractors" -- could it apply to the man in Mr. Lerch's shaving mirror? Or ditto, the larger italicized quote:

[...] something strange happens as he chronicles this experience…He never identifies what he did or with whom he worked! No sooner does he congratulate himself for “getting more involved in communities” than he segues back into elitist political story-telling. The reader learns only that his charity fails, nothing more.

For Kuo, "His charity" is getting stones thrown, so is the throwing by one without sin?

One might say, "We Care, Lerch."

2004 disclosure online for Lerch's charity, "We Care America, Inc." required by Washington State's Secretary of State discloses a seven-figure operation at play. Numbers are there, with it explained, "According to the financial information shown at left, this organization devoted 84% of its total expenses to program services during the year reported." Work the numbers, 16% not devoted to program services, i.e., administration, and it is a tidy fraction of the dollars.

That was 2004. Then, Lerch wrote, "... The reader learns only that his charity fails, nothing more." That is like J'accuse in tenor, isn't it? Surely it was not intended in context as complimentary.

Bankruptcy of "We Care America" That can be followed online, little more, except in Ohio, per news reaching even Australian faith-based skeptics; Sept. 2007, Ohio reporting being:

Inspector General: State clean in faith-based org investigation

Two Ohio agencies have been cleared of wrongdoing through an inspector general's investigation of a community initiative created by former Gov. Bob Taft, which also found more than $125,000 in recoverable funds.

Inspector General Thomas Charles said Wednesday the Governor's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services didn't succumb to political pressure or other influences in awarding a $2.2 million contract to We Care America, a Virginia-based national non-profit.

We Care America, which received grants from public and private entities to support faith-based groups in several states, was contracted to distribute up to $1.25 million in federal and state funds for the community initiative that began in 2003. Ohio's Department of Administrative Services cancelled the contract in March amid questions of its billing practices, and the company in June filed for bankruptcy protection.

Questions about We Care America arose when Susan E. McKinley, the former faith-based initiatives executive director, discovered the organization was attempting to charge her office a 15 percent overhead fee on checks it distributed to local organizations, according to the report.

Eric McFadden, the office's new executive director in February, also noticed "questionable instances" related to the We Care contract and associated payments, the report states.

A state-initiated audit that ended Sept. 5 found $125,622 in recoverable fees from video conferencing equipment purchased but never operational, overpayment of rent for We Care office space, overpayments to the organizations from the Department of Job and Family Services and an unrefunded advance. The audit also found nearly $500,000 in "questioned costs" because of inadequate or missing documentation or unclear contract language, leading the inspector general to caution that the state could have exercised greater due diligence in monitoring We Care America.

Looseness with money can be a red flag for some, especially if it is taxpayer money, given in trust. Further coverage, here.

More fact: End of April, 2006, the then active government program providing We Care America funding was well funded, per this item published then and headlined "HHS Announces $31,900,000 from Compassion Capital Fund - Funds Will Help Faith-Based and Community Groups - Build Capacity, Serve Those in Need," that being a part of the Bush faith-funding trove Lerch defends dearly, except per Mr. Kuo's share, of course. Lack of transparency of sub-grant policy/practices has been critiqued onlne for that "Compassion Capital Fund" trove.

How much of the non-services spending of We Care America was on Lerch's watch, what was his share of it over his tenure, and was the bankruptcy during his watch?

Uncertainty about all that (including the Ohio SNAFU) goes back to obscurity of dates for Lerch's time of service where, "The reader learns only that his charity fails, nothing more."

Wrapped in an enigma, one might say.

An email to Lerch is awaiting response, where perhaps clarification may result.

TO DISARM ANY MISUNDERSTANDINGS: Nothing found online suggests Lerch ran We Care America, at any point in time. Contrary information exists; e.g., this undated online item mentioning a Dave Donaldson as heading the operation at an influential point in time, while leadership and support people on payroll at the time of the Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing was not found online (or if names of insider people at the time of the filing was published within any linked or reviewed item, such information was overlooked). Similarly, no evidence was located online suggesting Lerch had any leadership input regarding We Care America operations in Ohio, nor was any evidence found linking Lerch to WCA's books and records or financial dealings. "Government Relations" usually does not entail any such fiscal duty or responsibility. The opposite is true. Nothing was found about what Lerch did there, how long he did it, or who he interacted with in doing it. As stated, wrapped in an enigma, beyond the one date-challenged author-bio blurb.

In that sense, this link names others besides Lerch, or Donaldson.

As a matter of general interest, see, this somewhat intriguing Notre Dame Law Review item, where We Care America is mentioned in footnoting, p.29. Footnotes 8 and 9 of that item are important, and relevant to our haters of the Establishment Clause being read against their likings, e.g., Mary Kiffmeyer's denial of there being just cause for separation of church and state. Links, here and here.

A CLOSING NOTE: It seems ironic the overlap of those okay with faith-based feeding at the public trough and those strident in wanting Planned Parenthood defunded; Ted Cruz being THE poster child for both camps; especially the Planned Parenthood haters.


On June 19, 2007, We Care America Inc. filed a voluntary petition for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 7 liquidation with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria.

This link states:

APRIL 05, 2007

Brandon Lerch Named Press Secretary for Rep. Steve King
Brandon Lerch has been hired as Press Secretary to Rep. Steve King (R-IA). Lerch was formerly Director of Government Affairs of We Care America and was a legislative staffer for Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-MN) and a subcommittee of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee. Lerch is a native of Clarion, PA and a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder.

This link states:

Recipients puzzled by faith-based funding list
Building (a dorm) on faith, you say?

Media General News Service
Tuesday, December 19, 2006

[...] Brandon Lerch, director of government affairs for We Care America Inc. in Lansdowne, said there is no real way to classify organizations as faith-based. "It's illegal to ask that."

We Care America received $936,868 last year from the Department of Health and Human Services. The organization, which began getting taxpayer money about three years ago, breaks up the funds into small chunks that go to small agencies to use in programs for drug treatment and mentoring children of inmates.

The government does not like to manage small grants, so We Care America administers the money, Lerch said.

The Ohio situation and the Inspector General's investigation appears to have spanned WE CARE AMERICA'S entry into bankruptcy, as reported, per this Sept. 12, 2007, link,

We Care America, which received grants from public and private entities to support faith-based groups in several states, was contracted to distribute up to $1.25 million in federal and state funds for the community initiative that began in 2003. Ohio's Department of Administrative Services cancelled the contract in March amid questions of its billing practices, and the company in June filed for bankruptcy protection.

[italics added]

Lerch, thus appears to have left WCA after the first problems in Ohio had loaded the fan, getting a job with the Iowa Republican Congressman, Stephen King, before the bankruptcy. That timing seems to red flag the classic "What did he know and when did he know it," question, regarding Lerch.

This link, indicates at some point in time Lerch was "Press Secretary" for Connecticut Republican Rep. Chris Shayes.

So a beltway bounce around, and it appears from at least the time of Lerch's blistering Oct. 2006 attack on David Kuo until bailing on WCA, Lerch was with WCA through Dec. 19, 2006 and flacking for WCA then as quoted above.

The what-when question noted above seems to segue into a question of when did Lerch reach Minnesota, begin living in Woodbury, a nice suburb, and when and under what terms is he flacking for [or just liking w/o compensation] Ted Cruz.


READERS SHOULD NOTE: Strib reported exactly those numbers:

Cruz, of Texas, finished first among 14 Republican candidates in the poll of 283 influential party activists gathered for the Minnesota GOP’s State Central Committee, claiming 90 votes. That was almost twice the votes claimed by the second-place finisher, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who had 46 votes. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina came in third with 33 votes.

Having not been there, the aggressiveness of Cruz support, its organization and delivery, and representations made to all attendees are all factors that attendees know more or less, while I do not.

But it surely interests me, as one intending to vote next November and hoping for the best pair of options feasible when I do.

__________NECESSARY UPDATE_________
Strib, this link, has questions raised here addressed, along with other information:

Cruz's Minnesota organizer, Brandon Lerch, has been assembling a grassroots campaign operation in Minnesota since June. Lerch was once an aide to former Minnesota U.S. Reps. Gil Gutknecht and Michele Bachmann. He also worked for Iowa's U.S. Rep. Steve King, a high-profile conservative and one of Cruz's key backers in the state with the nation-leading caucus.

Several other Republican candidates already have organizers on the ground in Minnesota -- a few who are paid, some working on a volunteer basis.

Ron Carey, a former state GOP chairman, is on the payroll of retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson. Jennifer DeJournett, the founder of a Minnesota-based group that cultivates women candidates to run for office as Republicans, is the Minnesota state director for Carly for America, a super PAC supporting former Hewelett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. Zavier Bicott, the chairman of the Minnesota Young Republicans, is Rand Paul's paid Minnesota organizer.

Working on a volunteer basis for their candidates, at least so far, are Lerch; as well as Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson and a few of his longtime aides, who have been putting in time organizing on behalf of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has no visible political operation yet in Minnesota, though he did raise about $150,000 at a private fundraiser last week in Minnesota. And there are no signs that businessman Donald Trump has so far lined up anyone to lead his campaign in Minnesota.

So, Brandon Lerch has quite publicly defined himself and his role in advocating Cruz's candidacy. It is fair at this point to write of his doing so.

Strib has more subsequent to the actual Cruz visit showing in gallery images why politicians perhaps should stay in their expensive and well tailored suits.

At least Cruz, as smarmy as he is, stands a cut better than Marco Rubio with his war-mongering NSA love. Rubio appears to be marching lockstep with the Project for a New American Century neocon chicken-hawks. Like Cheney's necessary wars that others must fight, Rubio beats a war drum while somehow never getting around to serving, himself. Privacy does matter and Rubio touts war on terror stuff, so the NSA intruding into citizen privacy is in his view no threat to citizens. That seems a childish belief.

Cruz is a cut better than Rubio too, on privacy, although wanting government management of abortion in contradiction to any huff and puff from the man about limited government. Neither is much.

FURTHER: Every time I look at Marco Rubio I am reminded of the closing scene from "Full Metal Jacket," and whenever I think of Cruz I think how he has his Goldman-Sachs chops, spouse-wise. No rocking of Wall Street's lush boat expected, money following, same old same old. Same story as: Tom Emmer on the Financial Services Committee, Tim Pawlenty getting over a million a year lobbying on behalf of the banking roundtable. Somehow, I liked King Arthur's version better. Nobody in Pawlenty's confab searching for any holy grail.

Two web searches that may interest a handful of readers; here and here.

Juan Cole considers candidate Rubio.

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