A week ago, we raised an eyebrow over the purported "endorsement" of GOP U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner by the quasi-nonpartisan organization No Labels, which bills itself as "a movement of Democrats, Republicans and independents dedicated to promoting a new politics of problem solving." The endorsement of Cory Gardner by No Labels struck us as odd given Gardner's record of more-or-less continuous partisan belligerence since heading to Congress as part of the 2010 "Tea Party wave." Somewhere between voting against Hurricane Sandy relief, risking national default via the debt ceiling crisis, and voting to shut down the federal government last fall in a last-ditch bid to kill the Affordable Care Act, we just don't see how Gardner is "solving problems" by any objective measure.
It didn't take long after No Labels' "endorsement" of Gardner, reported in local media very explicitly as an endorsement "of Cory Gardner in his campaign to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Udall," to become clear this wasn't what you'd call a bonafide endorsement at all. And as No Labels' Republican co-founder Mark McKinnon attempts to clarify today, obviously after some internal discussion, the process for getting their "endorsement" involves little more than asking for it:
The No Labels Seal of Approval is awarded to members of the Problem Solvers Caucus who have worked across the political aisle and support a national strategic agenda of shared goals for the country.
When asked about the Seal we awarded Cory Gardner, I said it was an "implied endorsement" because I endorse the bipartisan behavior and approach we've seen from him over the last year at No Labels. He has been an exemplary member of the organization and demonstrated the true spirit of No Labels over the last year. To be clear though, Cory Gardner called the Seal an "endorsement" because we gave him our express initial authorization to do so.
We are happy to award the Seal to people running in the same race. I realize now that many people define "endorsement" as exclusive, so my notion of an "implied endorsement" was simply my own opinion and not that of the organization [Pols emphasis] which, again, is happy to award Seals of Approval to anyone willing to work together for the common good of the country.
Couched in the most diplomatic terms, this nonetheless is a significant embarrassment for No Labels as an organization. What McKinnon, No Labels' GOP founder is trying to say is simple: the group does not endorse candidates. That being the case, clearly this nonprofit organization made a mistake by giving Gardner an "initial authorization" to call their "Problem Solver Seal" an "endorsement." Furthermore, it's absurd to suggest that anyone who has been in politics as long as Mark McKinnon does not know exactly what the word "endorsement" means. McKinnon troublingly switches between an organizational plural "we" and a personal "I," attempting to gloss over the fact that his "implied endorsement" was in no way represented as his "own opinion" when he originally gave it.
Today, McKinnon directs us to all-new rules for using No Labels' "Problem Solver Seal" in political campaigns:
Use of the Problem Solver Seal does not constitute a political endorsement, since several candidates in the same race may also be Problem Solvers. When candidates promote the Problem Solver Seal, they should use the following language:
– Approved as a No Labels Problem Solver
– Problem Solver
– Certified as a No Labels Problem Solver
– Recognized as a No Labels Problem Solver
Bottom line: with all due respect for Mark McKinnon and his brilliantly focus grouped "nonpartisan" fan club, endorsing 2012's tenth most conservative member of the U.S. House, with all of the attendant hard-right baggage Gardner willingly has taken on, severely hurts No Labels' credibility when evaluated against the organization's stated goals. And now that we see it was just the Republican co-founder of No Labels taking unauthorized liberties with the organization's brand?
Well, to hell with their silly brand then. "No Labels" can be the cheap marketing ploy it now appears to be instead of something that matters. We wouldn't be surprised if one or more of No Labels' donors has already delivered that message, precipitating this correction.
Whatever favor Gardner called in for this "endorsement," it wasn't worth it.