Make us your home page

The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

With friends like these?



If you were trying to help Sen. Barack Obama win Florida, honey might be better than vinegar. Yet in a string of tart emails he traded with DNC wag Jon Ausman, Obama's top Florida money-man isn't too sweet with Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida Dem chief Leonard Joseph and other establishment types.

And all this happens on the eve of Florida Democrat's big fundraiser in South Florida, the Jefferson-Jackson dinner, an event intended to mend bridges and infuse unity.

The spat is over how some Florida delegates will be tapped for the Democratic National Convention in Denver. The players are Kirk Wagar, head of Obama's Florida finance team, and rabble-rouser and Jon Ausman who had endorsed Hillary Clinton. Let's listen in!

--Wes Allison & Jennifer Liberto, Times Staff Writers

From: "Kirk Wagar"
Date: Fri, 13 Jun 2008 00:40:53
To:"Kirk W.B. Wagar"
Subject: Jon Ausman's email
Friends and fellow Democrats

I don’t know if you have received Florida DNC member Jon Ausman’s email about me yet but I assume you will. He has chosen to subject folks to out of context snippets from some ongoing and sometimes heated arguments we have had over the course of this campaign. I apologize for the profanity that you were subjected too. it is a vice of mine that I try to minimize but seems to rear it’s head with more frequency when I deal with Jon.
On the eve of a Florida Democratic Party fundraiser intended to infuse unity and heal wounds, e-mails have been floating around accusing high-ranking party members of back-stabbing when it comes to the delegate debacle.

I have been told over the years that I should ignore Jon and never engage with him, even when I agree with him, because in the end, it is all about Jon. That seems to be the case. I will not go chapter and verse through the substance of his email but I will provide my context for anything that I think might be misconstrued.

Number 1, when I was referring to making a difficult situation worse, I was specifically talking about the fact that we asked that at the very least, the PLEO and AT Large Delegates not be selected until after the DNC Rules and By Laws Committee ruled. I asked both Leonard Joseph and Senator Nelson’s office to support waiting and they made a decision to go forward for tactical reasons. I disagreed with it but they were perfectly entitled to make that decision and I don’t fault them for it. I don’t think it is debatable that it made the delegate situation harder to deal with after the fact given that the Obama campaign did not participate in the elections, but it is not like anyone died. It was and is simply a situation that has to be dealt with. Both Leonard and Senator Nelson’s office know that I wanted a different outcome and I did not malign them in private nor in the excerpts Jon blasted out. I have worked with Leonard for years, long before he came to Florida, and I have worked very hard for and with Senator Nelson. On this issue we disagreed and despite Jon’s effort to twist it into something more, it isn’t.

Number 2, I fundamentally believe that the Obama campaign should be able to send the delegates that most deserve it to the convention and because that the campaign did not participate in the process and strike anyone, people who knew the system were able to get a slate passed of people that were important to them and their local politics. There is nothing untoward about those individuals putting forth a slate in the absence of the Obama campaign participating. I do not think it is appropriate that that slate stands unchallenged now that the DNC RBC has ruled on Jon’s appeal, but that is MY opinion, not of the campaign. I have great respect for both Dianne Glasser and Bret Berlin and consider Bret a good friend. I would have done exactly what they did. My point has always been that I personally don’t think that it should be binding on a campaign that did not participate and now that there is an opportunity to at least try to fix the situation, we should.

Number 3, I have no idea what he is talking about with regards to Gerry McEntee because I would have never in a million years thought he would be having conversations with Jon Ausman.

For the past 2 weeks, I have poured over the lists of Obama delegates, tried to find every avenue to have everyone who should be a delegate either be one or get similar credentials, talked to numerous party leaders to try to find a way to make sure everyone or almost everyone would end this final process of the primary pleased and united. At every turn Jon Ausman demanded his pound of flesh. The mistake I made, in addition to language that I am extremely embarrassed about circulating to good Democrats around the state, was trying to rationally discuss alternatives with Jon. This was about Jon’s ego and his view that control over party rules was his only power.

I am sorry you were brought into this. I am sorry that I used unprofessional language with Jon, despite it being a two way street in the back and forth, but most importantly, I am sorry that we cannot do anything in a simple and succinct manner so we can win this state in November for Barack Obama.

I have no idea who Jon sent this to so if someone forwards you something with a “What the heck is this” email, please feel free to forward my response.

From: "Jon and Donna Ausman" <>

Date: Thu, 12 Jun 2008 23:54:13
To:"Kirk Wagar" <>
Subject: Fw: I hear you are saying that I have treated you badly!?!?!?

Dear Mr. Wagar:

This evening I received an email from you (which is provided in its entirety below) in which you are surprised and hurt that some of the notes I received from you are painful. I have never told a single person you have mistreated me.

When I filed the appeals before the Democratic National Committee Rules and Bylaws Committee I was trying to begin the healing process so Florida Democrats could unite and more forward together.

However, Mr. Wager, as the Obama Florida Finance Chair you represent the campaign. When you make disparging remarks about others to me, issue threats or insult me directly some might call that mistreatment.

As an ambassador for Senator Obama I would hope you would be more temperate, more inclusionary, more embracing of others, more unifying.

We are at a point in time when we need to heal and come together. Help me understand how these messages, which you have sent to me in writing, help Senator Obama's campaign. I only am sending you some of the more recent messages you have sent me.

You (Jon Ausman) f---ed us. We are dealing with it. You need to accept the fact that you f---ed us.
Kirk Wagar, 6 June 2008, 4:40 PM

The process is just beginning and we are trying to amass credentials so no one gets f---ed….People (already selected as delegates) who simply want a free trip to Denver are not my concern.
Kirk Wager, 6 June 2008 at 7:17 PM

Let me be as clear as a bell, as of right now you (Jon Ausman) have made a difficult situation worse. We have been put in a bad situation by Leonard (Joseph) and (Senator) Nelson and you have just thrown your lot in with them.
Kirk Wager, 6 June 2008 at 8:14 AM

If 30 people (after we purge them) are all that are pissed off…we have done pretty well.
Kirk Wager, 6 June 2008 at 7:17 PM

…you (Jon Ausman) really convinced yourself that you are doing anything other than fighting for political backroom deals?
Kirk Wagar, 12 June 2008, 7:27 PM

That would suck. Tell him (AFSCME International President Gerald McEntee) we will remember.
Kirk Wager, 3 June 2008, 9:45 AM

I am getting very sick of (Senator) Nelson making a bad situation worse.
Kirk Wager, 1 May 2008, 4:33 PM

So you are comfortable with the 4 people, for example, that Dianne (Glasser) negotiated on (Bret) Berlin's slate that have done nothing for Barack and no one in Broward knows? Come on!!!
Kirk Wager, 6 June 2008, 8:14 AM
It would be my suggestion the Obama Florida Finance Chair publicly apologize to Senator Bill Nelson, AFSCME International President Gerald McEntee, Florida Democratic Party First Vice-Chair Diane Glasser and Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Leonard Joseph.

Rather then criticizing others in a most negative way it might be more helpful for Senator Obama if you praise those who can make a contribution to the effort to defeat Bush's candidate to carry on his failed policies. Praise, oddly enough, often encourages people to work harder.

If you have any questions, please either call me at 850-xxx-xxxx or write me at

With respect, I am,

Jon M. Ausman, Member
Democratic National Committee

----- Original Message -----
From: Kirk Wagar
To: Jon and Donna Ausman
Sent: Thursday, June 12, 2008 4:59 PM
Subject: I hear you are saying that i have treated you badly!?!?!?

I am really surprised and hurt. I have been straight throughout this whole deal with you. I am seriously disappointed. We disagreed on this stuff but I can’t believe you are telling people that I in some way mistreated you.

Kirk Wagar


[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 10:23am]


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours