Written by Matthew Vadum
A shadowy political operative with ties to organized crime is behind the now-infamous TV ad in which ex-steelworker Joe Soptic falsely blamed his wife’s tragic cancer death on Mitt Romney’s venture capital firm shuttering his place of employment.
Behind-the-scenes power broker Harold Ickes is a major player in today’s Democratic Party. A registered lobbyist and shill for leftist causes, Ickes is a longtime Clinton loyalist, who previously served as deputy chief of staff to President Bill Clinton and in senior posts in the presidential campaigns of both Bill and Hillary Clinton. During the 2004 election cycle, Democratic strategist Howard Wolfson said that – outside of the John Kerry campaign— Ickes was “the most important person in the Democratic Party today.”
When he did damage control for President Clinton Ickes called himself the administration’s “Director of Sanitation.”
“Whenever there was something that [Bill Clinton] thought required ruthlessness or vengeance or sharp elbows and sharp knees or, frankly, skullduggery, he would give it to Harold,” former Clinton advisor Dick Morris told Vanity Fair in 1997.
Ickes ran the Clintons’ fundraising operation, collecting mountains of money illegally through labor unions and from Communist Chinese intelligence agents, as Edward Timperlake and William C. Triplett II reported in Year of the Rat: How Bill Clinton and Al Gore Compromised U.S. Security for Chinese Cash.
As a lawyer Ickes represented Local 100 of HERE (Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union) which DiscoverTheNetworks reports “was jointly controlled by the Colombo and Gambino crime families.” He acted for the Gambino-controlled New York City District Council of Carpenters, and for Teamsters Local 851, “which ran the air freight rackets at JFK airport for the Lucchese crime family.”
Ickes is “widely recognized as the chief organizer of the so-called Shadow Party, a nationwide network of more than five-dozen unions, non-profit activist groups, and think tanks whose agendas are ideologically to the left, and which are engaged in campaigning for the Democrats,” according to DiscoverTheNetworks.
Ickes also founded a powerful political consultancy called Catalist that has close ties to George Soros and his billionaire leftists’ club, the Democracy Alliance. Catalist aggregates voter information for left-wing get-out-the-vote organizations such as ACORN, MoveOn, Sierra Club, EMILY’s List, Center for Community Change, Service Employees International Union, USAction, the League of Conservation Voters, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and the AFL-CIO.
Catalist specializes in “microtargeting,” a data-intensive system that political candidates use to track individual voters and identify potential supporters. Some say Catalist was instrumental in helping Democrats win back control of Congress six years ago.
Of course Ickes is also president of the Priorities USA Action super PAC that unleashed the Joe Soptic ad, probably the most dishonest –and certainly the most vicious – presidential campaign ad since Lyndon Johnson’s apocalyptic “Daisy” ad in 1964 painted Barry Goldwater as a budding Dr. Strangelove.
Perhaps Ickes’s super PAC assumed that the mainstream media wouldn’t fact-check the ad because liberal journalists have already let President Obama get away with so much.
If so, they guessed wrong.
So far this calculated risk has failed to pay off, even backfired, as Americans bristle at the sheer audacity of the false claims in the commercial.
Even though super PACs and the candidates they back are forbidden from coordinating their respective campaigns, The Hill newspaper suggests that the ad is so far beyond the pale that Obama will be forced to answer questions about it.
The ad features Joe Soptic explaining directly to the camera how his wife died after Bain Capital, the firm Romney once ran, bought the steel company he worked for and dissolved it. Soptic blames Romney for the loss of his health insurance and subsequent death of his wife.
As The Hill explains
Independent fact-checkers have noted that the woman died six years after Bain bought the husband’s company, had her own health insurance through her employer, and that Romney was not in charge of the investment firm when her husband was let go. And, for a president whose major selling point is likability, association with such a controversial spot could do serious damage to his brand.
Beyond Ickes, two other Alinskyite thugs behind Priorities USA Action are co-founder Bill Burton, an Obama campaign press secretary who later became a White House deputy press secretary, and co-founder Sean Sweeney, formerly a top aide to then-Obama White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.
Burton calls the Soptic ad “wildly successful” because it has received so much attention in the media. “The truth is, there are a lot of sad stories that came as a result of what happened when Mitt Romney was in business,” Burton said. “I don’t think those stories should be off limits because they’re particularly heartbreaking.”
“Our spots have been factual and well within the bounds of what we think is appropriate,” Burton said without breaking into gales of laughter.
The Soptic ad was funded by the super PAC’s donors. Among those donors are the alleged comedian Bill Maher and the Service Employees International Union.
As of August 9, the Priorities USA Action super PAC had raised $20.7 million. It has spent $17.8 million of that total so far attacking Republicans. A super PAC is a kind of political action committee that may raise and spend unlimited funds from corporations, unions, associations, and individuals to overtly advocate for or against a candidate.
The Priorities USA Action super PAC’s mission statement reads somewhat like the mission statement of Media Matters for America which concerns itself with correcting “conservative misinformation.” Priorities describes itself as
at the forefront of efforts to draw clear contrasts between progressive policies and those of the far right. We are committed to the reelection of President Obama and setting the record straight when there are misleading attacks against him and other progressive leaders.
Dreamworks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, who gave $2 million, the largest individual donation, said he gave so much because outside Republican spending in 2010 paved the way for the election of “Republican extremists.” He blamed Republicans, not President Obama’s profligate spending, for last year’s debt ceiling showdown. “The stakes are too high for us to simply allow the extremism of a small but well-funded right-wing minority to go unchallenged.”
Priorities USA Action has received support from other Hollywood figure. Comedian Bill Maher and actor Morgan Freeman have each given $1 million.
Other major donors are: Qualcomm founder Irwin Mark Jacobs ($2 million); media mogul Fred Eychaner ($1.5 million); longtime Democratic fundraiser Barbara Stiefel ($1.05 million); ambulance chaser Steve Mostyn, who is president of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association ($1,000,000); Kareem Ahmed of Landmark Medical Management ($1 million); real estate developer Franklin Haney ($1 million); New York financier Bernard L. Schwartz ($100,000); and Chicago financier John W. Rogers ($100,000).
Organizer labor has kicked in. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association PAC gave $1 million and SEIU’s PAC gave $1 million. The PAC of the United Auto Workers gave $100,000.
How will Priorities USA Action top the Joe Soptic ad?
It boggles the mind.
Matthew Vadum is an award-winning investigative reporter and the author of the recently published book, "Subversion Inc.: How Obama's ACORN Red Shirts Are Still Terrorizing and Ripping Off American Taxpayers."
Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.