Archive for February, 2008

IL-14: Bill Foster and ETC

by , posted on Monday, February 4th, 2008 at 7:11 pm

Originally posted at Fireside 14 and Daily Kos.

As a newcomer to the political scene in IL-14, Bill Foster, more than most, has had to spend time telling voters his “story,” has had to spend time, and a lot of money, introducing himself to a community he had been a stranger to until he moved back to the district from Washington, D.C., a month or so after he announced he would be a candidate for Congress back in Illinois. From the beginning, his story has been based upon the notion that he has a track record as a “successful businessman and accomplished scientist” that spoke to his abilities as a problem solver, and that he would be able to build upon that prior experience to become a successful problem solver as a politician, too. “Businessman, Scientist, Democrat for Change,” as one of his campaign slogans puts it.

Here is the thumbnail description of Foster’s career as a businessman that his campaign offers to those seeking to learn more about that part of his life:

Before coming to Fermilab, Bill was a successful businessman. When he was 19, Bill and his younger brother started a business from scratch in their basement. Starting with $500 from their parents, they built a company that now manufactures over half of the theater lighting equipment in the United States. Their equipment is used on Broadway shows, Rolling Stones tours, the great Opera houses, half-time shows at the Super-Bowl, and at churches, schools, and community theaters throughout the country. Their company sells millions of dollars of equipment around the world and provides over 500 good jobs — with good pay and benefits — here in the Midwest.

On one occasion, Foster campaign manager Tom Bowen put a finer point on the equation, stating that “as a businessman, [Foster] has experience solving problems close to home like meeting payrolls and budgeting for the future.” But for the most part, the blockquote above is representative of what has been consistently said by the Foster campaign about his career in business. Bill and his brother started a company from scratch while they were still in college, and now that company is enormously successful. And while there is much that is left unsaid in the gap between the beginning and the end of this part of Foster’s story, it is clear that the point that everyone is supposed to be taking away from this narrative is that Bill Foster played a major role in the development of an extremely successful company and that this accomplishment is evidence that he can be expected to be an effective member of Congress.

The problem with all this, however, is that no one has ever tried to fill in the gaps in the story of Bill Foster’s career as a businessman in order to see what the truth of the matter really is.



IL-14: The Losing Strategy

by , posted on Sunday, February 3rd, 2008 at 8:53 pm

Originally posted at Fireside 14, Prairie State Blue, Open Left and MyDD.

What happens in Podunk shouldn’t stay there.  Or at least if it does, the Democratic Party Establishment, the corporate wing of the Democratic Party, the Blue Dogs among us, will have won one more unrecorded battle against those of us who want real change.

What’s happening most immediately in the IL-14 corner of Podunk (a term I use here to describe anything not directly inside the DC Beltway) is a primary and a special primary on Tuesday, between the DC insider “pick” for our district, an attorney who is a relative newcomer to both politics and our area, and John Laesch, the nominee against Denny Hastert last time out, and the only progressive in the race.

At this point, I’d call it a significant bellwether for the upcoming Congressional elections that virtually no one outside of IL-14 is paying much attention to in the glare of the presidential race, as well as a bellwether event in the battle for control of the party.  So while I don’t expect this diary to get much attention, I want to leave a record of what has happened in this primary.  Bellwethers, however unobserved at the time, sometimes have a way of becoming useful history for those who follow.