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Ed Schultz to head super PAC dedicated to middle class issues

Former Fargo media personality Ed Schultz, shown here at the Red River Valley Sportsmen's Show in the Fargodome in March, is starting a super PAC. Forum file photo

LAS VEGAS — After years of speaking the language of progressives on cable news network MSNBC, Ed Schultz says he's going to give the middle class a boost by harnessing the language of politics — money.

Schultz and like-minded associates have created a super PAC called Americans for a Strong Middle Class. He is the president.

"I feel like I am perfectly positioned with my national platform, with my name and visibility and credibility with the middle class, to be the person to head up this super PAC," he said Wednesday, as he prepared to attend the Mass Torts Made Perfect legal convention here.

"We are a 527; we are a nonprofit; we are incorporated in Washington, D.C., and we are going to get involved in issues around the country that are vital to a strong middle class, with our focus on jobs and wages, health care, education, trade agreements and justice," Schultz said.

"It's a heavy lift. The super PAC business is not easy, but I think it's vitally important," Schultz said. "Over on the right wing in the conservative arena, you've got Karl Rove. Over on the progressive side, I believe that there is an opening there for someone of my visibility and communication skills and media experience to go out and deliver the message to get people the message to stop voting against their own interests in this country."

As part of his commitment, he said his work will be voluntary. He won't draw a salary for the first two years of ASMC's existence.

"There's so much out there. There's low-wage states, there's right-to-work issues, there's

health care issues, there's just so much that has to be done as far as messaging, developing a narrative and moving the country forward," Schultz said. "This is how I want to make a difference. There's no doubt It will be effective. I'm very confident in that."

A super PAC can raise and spend unlimited amounts on politics, but must operate independently of candidates and cannot contribute to individual candidates. The donors must be disclosed to the Federal Elections Commission. As a 527 group, ASMC can run political ads with unlimited individual and corporate contributions, but must disclose its donors to the Internal Revenue Service.

Mark Jendrysik, a professor of political science at the University of North Dakota, said super PACs have grown increasingly popular.

"Clearly, given the Supreme Court decisions over the last decade or so, ... a lot of the federal restraints (on campaign financing) have washed away," Jendrysik said. "A lot of donors like routing money through political action committees. It gives them more control over the message," rather than giving directly to a candidate.

Ron Hartenbaum, ASMC's secretary and treasurer, said the group's central message is that a strong middle class is good for America.

"That's what we all need to think about. We want to highlight that the American middle class is under attack, and what we need for a strong country is a strong middle class," Hartenbaum said. "Look at the growth in America when the middle class was successful. Every society has its issues and challenges. We need to figure out how we help our next generation of students and citizens so they can compete in this world and this environment."

Schultz said he decided to build his website business, wegoted.com, and move into the super PAC arena after his longtime cable television show was canceled by MSNBC in late July.

Two weeks ago, Schultz was in Lorain, Ohio, at a steel mill that has been shut down. He also spoke to Ohio Democrats at a convention in Cleveland, and stopped at an AFL-CIO convention in Youngstown, Ohio. He planned to fly to Phoenix later Wednesday to meet with the Arizona Advocacy Network.

"Middle class issues are here to stay," Schultz said. "This transcends any candidate or any issue or any election cycle."

At the same time, he said progressives need a strong voice and a centralized message. That's something the Democratic presidential contenders failed to provide in their debate Tuesday on issues such as mental health care and gun control, he said.

"A lot of it has to do with the messaging and fear-mongering that has taken place across America and that needs to be countered. In totality, the Democrats came across as gun grabbers, and that doesn't play in the middle of the country," Schultz said.

"There are just so many things we have to do," Schultz said. "It's about messaging, And it's about motivating people to getting people out to vote. "

Schultz's "The Ed Show" was dropped from the MSNBC's daytime lineup along with two other programs in July as part of an effort by the cable network to rebrand itself.

MSNBC's move ended the tenure of one of its longest-serving hosts. Schultz had been on the air since 2009. He was a prime-time fixture on the network from 2011 to 2013.

Schultz, a former Fargo resident, got his start as a sports broadcaster for Fargo-Moorhead area television stations. He later moved to talk radio in the 1990s, and took his radio show nationwide in 2004.

Helmut Schmidt
Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including education, Fargo city government, business and military affairs. He is currently The Forum's K-12 education reporter.
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