Sunday, December 08, 2013

If Steve Israel Had Had My Job, Depeche Mode Would Have Never Broken In The U.S.


Tomorrow, Monday, is the last day of Blue America's fundraiser for Keith Ellison and Mike Obermueller, two Minnesota progressive champions. You still have time to click this link, watch a little "Policy of Truth," see a photo of the prize-- a rare and collectible RIAA-certified double platinum award for the Mode's Violator-- and help us make sure Keith and Mike win next year. Let me take a minute to say thanks to the staffers from both campaigns who helped make the fundraiser a success and to Alan Grayson, Rob Zerban and Raul Grijalva for their pure-hearted generosity in helping with the effort. We didn't have to ask any of them twice.

So where does Steve Israel come into this and what does he have to do with Depeche Mode? Nothing, nothing, nothing. Thank God. Israel is a bumbling careerist who's been gorging himself at the public trough for his entire miserable career. He's the epitome of a corrupt Beltway careerist who stands for nothing but his own self-interest. He's not only a dismal failure as chairman of the DCCC, insuring that the Republicans maintain control of that body-- but he's been a failure in everything he's touched. Two wives kicked him out and divorced him for adultery, his personal finances are so shot full of failure that his home was foreclosed on and he would have had to file for bankruptcy if not for some of his Wall Street buddies forgiving and forgetting in was that normal Long Islanders never get forgiven and forgotten when they can't pat their mortgages for half the time Israel didn't pay his. He even stiffed his synagogue and then got a campaign donor to make a "charitable" (untaxed) "donation" to the synagogue to make the problem go away. This is illegal in so many ways that anyone else with less political clout would be sitting in prison now.

And although I grew up in Nassau County and went to college in Suffolk County-- the heart of Israel's district-- is this any of my business now? And why should I care if the Princesses: Long Island keep getting drunk on Manischewitz and reelecting this crook? Glad you asked.

Because Israel never ran a successful business or had to make a budget work and a company thrive, he doesn't have a clue that running the DCCC isn't the same as running a hippie bake-sale. While many of his staffers work primarily to feather their own nests, he's fumbling around incoherently to be anointed Rahm Emanuel Jr. He may be as odious as Rahm, but-- despite Pelosi admiring his reptilian tendencies, as she put it-- he'll never be as smart as Rahm.

So here's where Depeche Mode comes in: marketing and how to break a new artist. Coming from the music business, I'm always awestruck with the similarities between new artists and new candidates. After Daniel Miller and Seymour Stein signed Depeche Mode, it soon fell to me to break them. It was a long hard slog that paid off handsomely… but it was far from easy. When we stopped working the debut release, it had sold 10,000 copies in the U.S. That's a pitiful failure. But it didn't take away from the band's talent or potential. Seymour and I and several of our staffers were even more determined to break them. Album after album came out and they were slowly-- oh, so slowly-- building a base of support. But after 3 or 4 records, we had to defend keeping them and spending money on them. "Drop them," we would constantly hear from corporate headquarters in New York.

The financial guys didn't have opinions about how good a band was or what their potential was. They only cared about one thing: the gigantic financial bonuses they would get at the end of the quarter if the stock price was up. Wall Street awarded stock prices based on several things but primarily on how many albums we had on the sales charts. Depeche Mode's anemic sales were not making them happy. Artist development-- especially long term artist development-- was like a curse word to these guys. Long story, short-- after 5 albums Depeche Mode broke. And they didn't only break, they broke big… they broke gigantic. Violator-- the one we're giving away the award plaque for-- sold 15 million copies. Wall Street likes that.

But there was something even better that Wall Street and the small minds of the world like Steve Israel never gilt. Remember when I mentioned that the first Depeche Mode album only sold 10,000 copies and that we had 5 non-sellers before they broke? Well-- keeping in mind that in those days it cost over $2.00 per record sold in marketing and promotion costs but only one cent per record sold for back catalogue-- all 5 of those old Depeche Mode albums started getting gobbled up by the band's new fans. Each one sold over a million copies. The profit on that-- totally discounted and ignored by Wall Street-- is enough to make a company's year a success, regardless if some one-hit-wonder winds up in the charts.

Israel-- and Rahm before him-- never understood business and only understand the immediate cycle. Developing a strategy to beat a Republican over two or three cycles-- which is how most challengers eventually win-- is not part of the DCCC's vocabulary.

When Lee Rogers went up against Buck McKeon in 2012, Steve Israel deemed the race unwinnable and not only refused to help Rogers, he went out of his way to call donors and tell them to not "waste" their money. It may have been too early for Rogers to win in 2012 but his name recognition is almost as high as McKeon's now and he's the first Democrat to have ever beaten McKeon in the Antelope Valley (a third of the district) and is poised to knock him off again. He still hasn't been endorsed by Israel and the DCCC, of course-- which is too busy trying to elect Jennifer Garrison, Jerry Cannon, John Lewis, and Jay Paterno in deep red, unwinnable districts. But McKeon is a lot more savvy about which way the wind is blowing in CA-25 and he's about to announce he's retiring from Congress and backing some far right sociopath, Tony Strickland, instead.

Here in California, recent polls show there are several Republicans who can be beaten, aside from McKeon and the three blue-district cases Israel screwed up last year (Gary Miller, Jeff Denham, David Valadao),there are also very senior committee chairs Darrell Issa and Ed Royce. Look at these reelect numbers for these 3 senior Republicans that Israel refused to engage in 2012. Has he done so, all three would be on the chopping block this year. Because he didn't, only Rogers, an intrepid independent-minded progressive, is poised for a pick-up-- while Israel is, once again, ignoring all 3 seats.

Action items: Pelosi should fire Israel by noon tomorrow (ET) and replace him with someone who can get the job done, like Keith Ellison, Jared Polis or Alan Grayson. And we should all help Lee Rogers beat whichever extremist the Republicans run in CA-25 instead of McKeon. We can do that right here. And Israel… maybe he can get a job consulting Bravo!

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