Monday, November 23, 2015

The Vainglorious Chris Abele

In a futile effort to rebuild the political bridges he has burned and pick up his sagging poll numbers before next year's spring election, Milwaukee County Emperor Chris Abele is going all out to buy the election.  He has already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on incessant commercials and at least six large mailers - many with multiple pages - each printed in high quality color on heavy stock paper.  Abele has also spent at least half a million dollars in bribe money in buy-partisanship.

In Abele's first mailer, he makes several outlandish claims which I will get into at a later time.  But one of his main themes really stands out:

Without going into each fabrication in this mailer, the common theme is that Abele is claiming that he helped children, women and working families through the Argosy Foundation, a charitable entity that is funded with his daddy's money. However, despite his claims, he is awfully light on the specifics of just how he helped all these people. That is probably because he hadn't helped them out all that much personally. He just used his daddy's money as leverage to force himself on the boards of all these groups.

It's not just me saying it either. Years ago, Milwaukee Magazine ran an article about Abele that was titles "The Billionaire's Son." Part of the article dealt with the fact that Abele's donations to these groups weren't all that altruistic as Abele is trying to make them sound. In truth, they were to feed his own already over-sized ego:
But many individuals active in the nonprofit sector agree with one foundation head that “a great percent of Chris Abele’s -giving is in the category of the vanity giver.” A major corporate CEO is harsher: “When he does [participate], he grandstands.… The Kellners, Uihleins and Lubars all give away a great deal of money every year, and they don’t have to get their picture in the paper. Maybe it’s just immaturity with Chris.”

They and others cite a litany of examples. One involves two $100,000 Argosy Foundation gifts Chris arranged. Rather than the normal protocol, which would be to recognize the foundation as the donor, Chris took credit, too. The 2003 Milwaukee Art Museum annual report lists “Christopher Abele on behalf of the Argosy Foundation” (even though he gave his own smaller gift); the 2003 Boys and Girls Clubs annual report reads similarly. Seeing Abele’s name alongside Argosy’s looked like a quest for attention or at least a need for approval, especially when two larger gifts, $25 million each, remained anonymous.

Abele is like “a moth to the flame,” says a friend who warned him that -“publicity can be a double-edged sword.” When the friend advised Abele to back off a bit, Abele protested that he could “leverage” his celebrity status to advance causes he supports. But it’s hard to see what leverage Abele gets from saying that the one thing he really likes about Milwaukee is that it’s not pretentious, then drops names relentlessly himself. Talk to Abele for a while and pretty soon he’s recounting how he went to Cuba and met with Castro, how he’s importing the entire Yale Drama School faculty as directors for the Milwaukee Shakespeare Company he co-founded or how he talked Tom Barrett into running for mayor. (“Yeah, maybe him and 300 other people,” says a Barrett adviser.)

“He’ll say, ‘George and I did this,’ ” says the friend, “and he’s talking about George Soros [the investor-philanthropist-Democratic activist and 28th richest man in the world]. Well, it was a ‘meet and greet.’ Nobody cares. He doesn’t need to do that. But he wants to be considered important.”
So he dishes out an iota of his daddy's money, maybe attends a meeting or two, and then claims he is some kind of patron saint to Milwaukee's downtrodden while ignoring that many of the policies he advocates is meant to keep them downtrodden.

The gentle reader might have also noticed that while Abele is rather light on specifics on exactly how he supposedly helped all these people before he became county executive, he has nothing to say at all about how he treated these same people after becoming county emperor.  Undoubtedly, that's something that Abele and his handlers don't want people to think about.

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