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Who is behind the attacks from the left on Charlie Crist?

UPDATE 4:10 p.m.: We have heard from Fontaine via email. Her comments are included in this blog post.

A shadowy group calling itself Progressive Choice is attacking Charlie Crist as "a conservative Republican" who is "no friend of progressive Democrats."

Mailers started showing up in Tampa Bay area homes (and in Tallahassee, we're told) over the weekend, claiming Crist is pro-life, A+ rated by the NRA and that he signed a petition banning gay marriage.

The attacks aren't surprising, and most of the specific claims are rooted in truth (though they ignore Crist's changes of positions/flip flops). The more intriguing question is: Who's behind and paying for the mailers?

Progressive Choice has a bare bones website that describes the group as "a diverse coalition of fair-minded, forward-thinking individuals and organizations advocating for leadership that stands firm on progressive principles and genuinely reflects the interests of all progressives across the nation."

The group is not yet listed with the Federal Election Commission or the Florida Division of Elections, so we don't know where its money is coming from. The mailer lists a Washington D.C. P.O. box and says the mailers were sent from Orlando.

On a Facebook page, the group said its leader is Jamie Fontaine, who runs a Baltimore political advocacy firm and who "has been pushing women's and LGBT issues for 20 years."

In an email, Fontaine would not say who is funding the mailers, robocalls and Web adverstising being paid for by Progressive Choice.

"I will not at this time provide the names these supporters because their only motivation is to engage and have a meaningful impact," Fontaine said. "They did not ask to be placed in the spotlight or bullied by operatives with clear (or not so clear) corporate and political agendas — all while important issues like access to health care, more investment in public education and workforce advancement are buried by shadowy horse race coverage."

The minutiae of where the group's money is coming from is noteworthy because Republicans backing Gov. Rick Scott said in September that they might spend money helping little-known Democrat Nan Rich in a primary versus Crist. The idea being to attack Crist from both sides to weaken him in November.

Progressive Choice would seem to fit that bill.

On its Facebook page, Progressive Choice seems to be supportive of Rich, asking that Crist debate Rich and posting a headline titled "Nan Rich Blasts Rick Scott and Charlie Crist on School Choice." Progressive Choice Web ads also have appeared on the South Florida Sun-Sentinel website and on the Buzz, attacking Crist and calling Rich his "progressive Democratic opponent." (The ads are paid and placed through third-party vendors -- i.e., we don't know where they came from.)

Progressive Choice also showed up in a robocall featuring former National Organization for Women President Patricia Ireland, who is supporting and fundraising for Rich.

According to BrowardBeat.com, Ireland said in the call that she was "gravely concerned" about Crist's candidacy.

"For too long, Charlie Crist led the pack of Republicans waging war on women," Ireland said. "...He blocked reproductive choice for too long."

Ireland urged people in the call to join her on Progressive Choice Florida, which BrowardBeat described as an anti-Crist Facebook page. (We've reached out to Ireland.)

Or this could have nothing to do with Republicans pounding Crist from the left, and that a group of concerned Democrats supporting Rich could be doing the work. We'll know more if Progressive Choice disclosed its donors, as required under Florida law.

Comments

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Can't take anymore

Looks like some of Rick Scott's $100 million campaign war chest has found its way over to Nan Rich's anemic campaign. At this point her candidacy is little more than an ego trip supported by a very few aging feminists.

Highly paid Republican operative

We can use the $100,000,000 in any way we deem appropiate on behalf of the Boss!

Ed Jenkins

As we have seen democrat primary voters are disgusted at this horrible man that their party leaders are trying to push on them as a nominee and some appear to now be spending money to support the nancy lady who at least can be relied on as a true democrat party member. It is still not too late to replace the scumbag crist with another party leader favored candidate who can win the governor position which has not been done by this disaster of a party in nearly 20 years. If not this and many other democrat primary voters plan to vote for the nancy lady who we have already been encouraged to do so by the able lieutenant McKay who was the last to be part of a winning democrat governor campaign.

Ty

Nan has my vote! she is the only TRUE democrat running. She has a record that has credibility...

Can't take anymore

Would that be Ty Jenkins?

ric

I am shocked that any true democrat would consider Crist. The party wants to win no matter what. Even if it means putting in a guy who would still be a republican if he hadn't lost an election.
I am shocked and disappointed that my friends suddenly went from hating Crist to liking him because the letter next to his name changed.
Are we seriously this pathetic?

RobertX

Hey, Ed Jenkins... Democrats refer to the party as the "Democratic Party". You know who calls it the "Democrat Party"? Teabaggers. "Democrat primary voters"? You're a liar and a fraud.

Marcia

I truly believe the GOP, namely Rick Scott, is pouring funds into the Progressive Choice in an all out effort to discredit Charlie Crist and put Nan Rich in as the Democrat candidate in November. (yes, Robert X I did call us Democrat, and I am one). What is so surprising is all the bile being spewed about Crist from our party. He is a registered Democrat, is there a test he has to pass other than a simple registration form. I am a cradle Democrat, and proudly support Crist. He's truly our only hope of defeating Scott. Wake up people.

Marcia

I truly believe the GOP, namely Rick Scott, is pouring funds into the Progressive Choice in an all out effort to discredit Charlie Crist and put Nan Rich in as the Democrat candidate in November. (yes, Robert X I did call us Democrat, and I am one). What is so surprising is all the bile being spewed about Crist from our party. He is a registered Democrat, is there a test he has to pass other than a simple registration form. I am a cradle Democrat, and proudly support Crist. He's truly our only hope of defeating Scott. Wake up people.

David

I think the psychological play here is quite comical... these charlie followers would love for dems to believe that progressive choice or whatever is being funded by Rick Scott. How is Nan Rich's campaign for governor an ego trip?? She has dedicated her LIFE to being a true public servant and fighter for children, LGBT, women, families, seniors, latinos, ALL OF US! Why on earth would ANYONE vote for Charlie Crist, who has been a "pro-life, pro-gun republican" HIS WORDS, NOT MINE... The fact is, charlie is a political opportunist who will do ANYTHING (even sell out his own beliefs) to move up the political ladder. I wouldn't be surprised if he tried to run for president. Lol. Simply put, people are gonna be surprised come August. Just wait.

Anna H.

Nan is behind Rick Scott by only 6 points in the latest poll... he will spend $72 million on his campaign, and all Nan Rich has is a grassroots campaign... interesting. Charlie and Rick are neck and neck. We have 100+ days left until election day, and Nan has gained 5+ points every time a poll has been conducted. Granted, it's not much. But remember, Charlie was also deemed the front-runner against Rubio, who ran a grassroots campaign.. guess who's in office? Rubio. Charlie ran against Meek, who was a great candidate. If Charlie had not flip-flopped in order to win (which didn't work) we would not have Marco Rubio. Charlie is a fake. The END.
#StandWithNan
www.standwithnan.com

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