What the f*ck is Progressive Choice … Perhaps Republican posing as liberals to attack Charlie Crist?

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One of the remote scenarios gamed-out as a way to weaken Charlie Crist in a Democratic primary to soften him up for the general election campaign against Rick Scott is that the GOP would funnel money to Crist’s Democratic opponents.

In December of 2012 (!), I warned that about how one of Crist’s Democratic opponents could “be a conduit through which the Republicans could zap Crist. At the time, it was thought Alex Sink would be that opponent. I envisioned that:

“Sink will have her own political committee similar to Scott’s “Let’s Get to Work” organization by which she can accept the hefty campaign checks not bound by silly $500 and $1,000 limits. Why wouldn’t the Republicans park a few million dollars in Sink’s committee for her allies to spend attacking Crist? Is Sink going to turn down a million dollars just because it comes from a big Republican donor? Of course not, especially if she is behind in the polls.” 

Obviously, funneling money to Sink is no longer an option, while the Florida GOP’s efforts to prop up Nan Rich have been so ineffective as to have backfired.

The only option left for Republicans is to create a pedantically named, wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing political committee to attack Crist from his left flank.

Is that what Progressive Choice is all about?

As Kartik Krishnaiyer first noted, Progressive Choice has created a stir among Democrats in Tallahassee and throughout the rest of the state after one of its direct mailers arrived in mailboxes last week. (The mailer is pictured below.)

The piece hits Crist for his past positions on issues (yet offers no citations or attribution whatsoever when it refers to Crist as “pro-life” or responsible for “implementing Jeb Bush’s A+ plan”) and contrasts with the worldview of most “True Blue Democrats,” notes Krishnaiyer.

The authenticity of this mailer is highly questionable. The return address reads D.C., but the permit — #615 — says Orlando. This print shop/permit has popped up before in attacks on U.S. Rep. Dan Webster

Progressive Choice was last heard from when NOW’s Patricia Ireland had a cameo in robo calls paid for by Nan Rich, Crist’s rival for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. In the calls, Ireland said she was “gravely concerned” about Crist’s candidacy. 

“For too long, Charlie Crist led the pack of Republicans waging war on women,” Ireland said. “…He blocked reproductive choice for too long.”

Ireland also urged those called to join … wait for it … Progressive Choice. 

For its part, Rich’s camp says it has no clue about the origins of the mailer attacking Crist.

Progressive Choice does have a website and a Facebook page. On these outlets, PC says it is “a diverse coalition of fair-minded, forward-thinking individuals and organizations advocating for Florida leadership that stands firm on progressive principles and genuinely represents the interests of women and working families.”

Progressive Choice says its mission “is to make sure that voters in Florida’s 2014 Democratic Primary are educated about the candidates’ issue positions. Our goal is for Democratic voters to cast votes based on values that respect women’s right to choose, embrace equality and diversity, reflect children’s right to quality education, support increased job opportunities, and embrace everyone’s right to a safe community and a healthy environment.”

If all of that were so, why is PC paying for ads like this one, which is running at the top of SaintPetersBlog.com?

school choice - 980

Promoting charter schools is not often associated with the Democratic or Progressives side of the aisle.

Since the mailer first landed and the digital ads went up, some Democratic activists have taken to the PC’s Facebook page to inquire about who is behind the organization. For example, there was this back-and-forth:

  • Beth Lerner I haven’t been able to find you guys on any of the Florida sites. Would love to know more about you, but your website has nothing and am curious as to where your funding is coming from for boosted posts, mailings, etc.
      Progressive Choice Florida Beth Lerner would you like to be in touch with someone who handles journalists? Progressive Choice is run by the aforementioned Jamie Fontaine with a history of over 20 years in women’s rights and LGBTQ advocacy, 
  • George Petrick When doing a web search for Jamie Fontaine, there is no hit for someone of this name associated with women’s rights, and the one hit that appears to be a Jamie Fontaine associated with rights is IN MARYLAND, If this is the person who supposedly runs this site, perhaps she ought to worry about Maryland politics.and not Florida , as one would have to question her motives.

As Krishnaiyer notes, it is possible that Progressive Choice is in fact a grassroots organization that has raised money for a statewide mailer which provides key information for Democratic voters to ponder about Gov. Crist’s record. The other positions the group are advocating such as public school choice and more education funding are non-controversial among Democratic voters. Still, as has been speculated about in political circles for about a week now, the group appears to simply be an anti-Crist front.

But, as one veteran Democratic strategist told me, their spider-sense went off the moment they saw this mailer. They said to remember what Malcom Gladwell wrote in Blink.” Trust your first instinct.”

My first instinct leads me to believe there is something fishy about Progressive Choice. 

Here is the mailer attacking Crist:

progressive choice - mailer1


progressive choice - mailer2

progressice choice - mailer3

progressice choice - mailer4 


Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.