It’s a little early for the silly season of the campaign for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin. Normally, the real political silliness wouldn’t start until the summer months leading up to the primary in August of next year.
But the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Dan Bice has decided that the silliness must come early. The political gossip columnist for the Milwaukee branch of the Gannett empire is reporting that Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson’s mother has donated to Democrats, including current Senator Tammy Baldwin.
In particular, Nicholson’s mother, Donna, has a long history of giving small- and medium-sized donations to Democrats.
Among the beneficiaries of her largesse is U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat whom Nicholson is hoping to oust next year. By contrast, there is no record of his mother donating to Nicholson’s campaign, though the election is a year away.
Federal campaign records show Donna Nicholson has made 15 donations to Baldwin’s campaign since 2012 for a total of $441, including four contributions in the current election cycle. Her most recent donation was June 2016, about a year before her son announced his candidacy. Most of the contributions were given through ActBlue, a political action committee that funnels donations to liberal candidates.
Doing the math, $441 spread out over 15 donations averages to $29.40 per donation, not exactly SuperPAC-level funding.
This may shock Bice, but sometimes mothers and sons don’t always agree on political candidates, just as husbands and wives don’t always agree or even fathers and daughters. As Nicholson has made clear repeatedly over the course of the campaign, his political origin story begins with being raised in a Democratic family. We would be shocked if Nicholson had family members that didn’t donate to Democrats.
But more important than the small size of the donations, since when are mothers who are private citizens fair game for political attacks? Last we checked, Donna Nicholson is not an elected official nor is she an official with the Democratic Party. There is absolutely no reason to go digging into her campaign donation history.
Will Bice be checking to see if Donna Nicholson voted in every election, too? Will he be digging into her tax returns to satisfy his curiosity about what she does for a living? Will he stand outside her residence at midnight trying to figure out which way the moonlight might hit her balcony?
Is this the behavior of a grown man, to go after a candidate’s mother? Does Bice’s mother know what he does for living, digging through divorce records, trading in gossip and now investigating other people’s mothers because they happen to be related to a candidate for public office?
By the way, Nicholson’s campaign didn’t help things by attacking his opponent’s campaign. The information about Nicholson’s mother could have come from anywhere, and most likely came from Democratic sources given the only other comment in the story came from the liberal superPAC American Bridge. It’s not like Democrats haven’t been attacking Nicholson. By attacking state Sen. Leah Vukmir’s campaign, all Nicholson’s people did was allow Bice to pretend something newsworthy happened in the story.
However, that doesn’t excuse Bice, or his editor George Stanley, for going with the story. Candidate’s families should be off limits, especially when the information dug up doesn’t contradict what the candidate has previously said. Unfortunately, as we saw with state Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley last year, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has no limit when it comes to attacking the personal lives of conservative political candidates.
We’re told that even journalists have mothers. Dan Bice should act like it. Let’s leave Nicholson’s mother, and every other mother of a political candidate or public figure, alone.