Another helping of el toro pie

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Another helping of el toro pie
I try to rotate the plantings around here so as not to focus too much on any one story or issue, but the bumper crop of bullshit from Rural Votes boss Deb Kozikowski makes it impossible to ignore lest someone walk unsuspecting into an el toro pie, fresh from Ms K's oven.

Yesterday, Al Giordano wrote a post on the Field in which he demonstrated that a wide array of people, up to and including the presumptive Democratic nominee, had written of Saul Alinsky. None of these people received so much as one nutty e-mail from an editor or boss. When he wrote about Alinsky, Al got four loopy  and threatening messages from Ms. Kozikowski.

In the comments section just below Al's latest Alinsky post, Fieldhand Helen of Georgia, revealed a statement she received in an email from Ms. Kozikowski. Helen wrote:
So, I donated $25 back in february to keep Al writing for texas and didn't really expect to see that again. But I donated another $25 to "send Al to denver." I got a $10 refund yesterday (no explanation for that percentage). Along with that refund came the most depressing message, "You cannot possibly believe this is the result I was looking for -- a betrayal of trust. Lessons -- be careful when you hit that e-mail send button -- the person on the recieving end may not be trustworthy."

So Ms. Kozikowski, who runs a nonprofit and returns only 40¢ on the dollar to some small contributors, demanding refunds because they feel the funds were not being properly used, has a problem with betrayals of trust? Unlike most of the good folks who contributed to "keep Al writing" and "send Al to Denver," that is rich.
crimmins 1125

These have to be difficult times at Rural Votes. I'm not sure exactly where the nonprofit's offices are headquartered but I'm guessing they are housed in a storm cellar. In such close quarters, Ms Kozikowski's disillusionment must be palpable. How can a nonprofit boss be expected to operate in a world where one can't privately abuse workers without fear of exposure? Don't people know that a private threat made public is simply ruined? How can people like Ms Kozikowski be expected to continue to operate charitable gulags if they must live in fear of having evidence of their imperious behavior splattered all over the internet?

This is clearly a matter of principle to the Rural Votes founder. Think of it, rather than cough up the lousy $15 that would have placated Helen of Georgia, Ms Kozikowski took a chance and again chose to scapegoat Giordano in an email. Wanting so desperately to be able to share with others, she found it impossible to listen to her own sage advice to  "... be careful when you hit that e-mail send button -- the person on the recieving end may not be trustworthy."

And so once again she learns the hard way that not even disgruntled contributors can be trusted  not to disclose unsolicited remarks about the shattering of the sacred trust between (apparently) unscrupulous employer and freelance employee/victim. If you can't open up to a disgruntled contributor, where else is there to turn?

It should be noted that RV provided full refunds to several displeased Fieldhands. Several more who have requested that their donations be returned have thus far gotten nothing. A few have reported the prorated returns like Helen of Georgia received. According to one credit card contributor who stopped payment on a donation, Rural Votes is threatening legal action to, I guess, attempt to force reinstatement of the contribution. Most nonprofits rely on goodwill, but the hearty country folk at Rural Votes aren't afraid to use muscle, as well!

According to one who knows nonprofits and political campaigns, they almost all fully refund donations pledged by small donors who change their minds and ask for a refund. The idea of prorating a $25 contributor's refund is laughable in the charity world.

If Rural Votes would rather fight than cough up $15 to appease a contributor, questions about the organization's solvency beg answers. As readers of this blog well know, such questions have already been raised. They remain unanswered.

Perhaps participants at this year's Netroots Nation Convention will capture the greased pig of Rural Votes' accountability when Ms Kozikowski appears at the (get this) Rural America and The Progressive Movement forum at the event in Austin in July. Appearing along with Ms Kozikowski will be picket line crosser Sean Reagan and completely innocent Yonder editor, Julie Ardery. [Note to Ms Ardery: I am certain your Netroots Nation audience would love to hear you discuss Saul Alinsky's relevance to the modern progressive rural movement.]

Prediction: the highlight of the forum will come during the Q&A when Ms Kozikowski will be the target of most questions and maybe even a (oh me, oh my, love that) country pie or two.
crimmins 1125

Apparently blogger Tracy Russo, who is not participating in the NN forum, has left Rural Votes. While never having been a fan of her writing, I do applaud her if she left RV as a matter of principle. If she left because RV laid her off due to a lack of funds, it would only underline obvious questions about the nonprofit's fiscal viability. Speaking of which, Mr Giordano himself, amazed at having raised $5000 in a day from supporters of the newly relocated Field, wondered:
And regarding the $5,000  plus raised in 24 hours: Just, wow. It took the last fund drive 12 days to get to that goal. (Although it makes me wonder, frankly, if back in May more $ was raised than we were informed about: either our readership has grown that much faster since the move, or are there more funds than we thought unaccounted for over there? Oh, well: as any good journalist knows, there are many paths to finding out the whole truth.)

Again, most questions could be answered if Rural Votes would simply open the books and show us a line-by-line accounting of how much money was collected and how it was dispersed. Perhaps this would be a good story for the Daily Yonder to look into? That way, Julie Ardery won't be left out of the discussion in Austin.
crimmins 1125


UPDATE: Whoops, posted the wrong version of this for a few minutes This one might be a bit less typo-addled. Lo siento.
UPDATE 2: Of course it would have helped to post the final draft. I promise nothing but believe that it's now finally posted in all of its corrected glory.

ADD COMMENT

JoySaturday, June 28th 2008 1:12PM

Update:  Received my full refund in the mail and got an email from Deb asking that I confirm it's receipt on Friday.  Now it goes on to Al (again!)

Dems to WinFriday, June 27th 2008 3:15PM

I forwarded my PayPal receipt to Deb and requested a refund.  She wrote back and said she would take care of it Monday (june 30).  I will post an update when I hear more.

JoyFriday, June 27th 2008 2:46PM

My initial communication with her was cordial on both ends and I didn't reference the censoring or anything either.  I received an e-mail from Deb asking for a receipt which I promptly sent back.  She told me once the money was received from Groundspring, she would forward the refund.  Still haven't heard from her although it has been 10 days.  I'm giving her till Monday and then I file a dispute with the credit card company.

ADD COMMENT

CLCFriday, June 27th 2008 1:23PM

This is beyond ridiculous. I had to file a PayPal dispute to get a refund of my $25. When I emailed Ms. Kozikowski with my initial refund request (which was courteous and did not reference Al's writing or the censored content), she replied not with any statement about whether my refund was forthcoming, but rather with a sort of rambling email about how CONCERNED she is about "that narcosphere" and claiming that Al's writing "...was not journalism".

This woman doesn't even know me, and I specifically said I wasn't going to comment on what had happened, but that I wanted my donation back and wanted to know what would happen with the $5,000 donated to ruralvotes to send Al to Denver.

She never did answer my questions.

So my question now is this: Do the community and non-profit groups with which she is associated realize how she is acting? Does the DNC? If not, who can be informed?

Christi from CAFriday, June 27th 2008 10:32AM

Thanks Barry,
Stay on her!!! If this is what a superdelegate is supposed to look like, they all need to go by the wayside.

JoAnnFriday, June 27th 2008 8:49AM

Bless you, Barry, for staying on this.  I still have not received my $100.00 back from Deb - only an email saying she is working on it.  I will challenge it on my credit card on Monday if she hasn't done it by then.  I already sent money to Al, but it's the principle of thing, as they say.

ADD COMMENT

Land of LincolnFriday, June 27th 2008 12:59AM

Barry,
Appreciate your following this story, as well as your sense of humor.  I contacted Ms. Kozikowski about a refund on 6/17, but have received no response. I filed a dispute with my credit card company on 6/21. My virtual statement shows "Conditional Credit For Dispute." ($100)  I don't know how long I'll be in limbo, but I will keep you posted.  (At least I'm out of the hell of Rural Votes.)  

LisaThursday, June 26th 2008 10:26PM

And another thing, I have ordered a copy of Saul Alinsky's, Rules for Radicals and Dennis Perrin's, Savage Mule to take along on vacation next week.  Looking forward to delving into both.

LisaThursday, June 26th 2008 10:17PM

Pathetic.

ADD COMMENT

NancieThursday, June 26th 2008 7:34PM

thanks for this, Barry.
I sent $100 to send Al to Denver.  I sent Deb 2 emails asking for it back and haven't heard a peep.  I really don't like silence, and I really don't like fraud.  Any suggestions?