"I'm not a politician."

Dan Kohl on Tuesday, September 4th, 2018 in TV ads

Why Herb Kohl nephew Dan Kohl, opponent of Glenn Grothman, straddles line on being a 'politician'

Democrat Dan Kohl (left), the nephew of former U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, is running against two-term Republican U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman.

When Randy Bryce -- who is running for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Paul Ryan  — declared he is not a politician, our rating was Mostly False.

"IronStache," as he is known, is making his fourth run for public office in six years  — arguably, enough to make him a perennial candidate. And he’s taken leave from his job as an ironworker, collecting more than $6 million in campaign contributions along the way.

But what about another Democrat running for the House — wealthy Dan Kohl, the nephew of multimillionaire and former 24-year U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl? He is seeking the east-central Wisconsin seat held by Republican Glenn Grothman.

In not one, not two, but three TV ads released Sept. 4, 2018, Dan Kohl declares: "I'm not a politician."

The National Republican Congressional Committee actually said in ripping one of the ads that Kohl is correct in saying he’s not a politician. But the group, which works to elect Republicans to the House, also cited to us evidence that he is a politician.

So, let’s take a look.

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No clear definition

As we noted in our Bryce fact check, dictionaries aren’t much help, given how widely the definitions of politician vary:


Experienced in the art or science of government; especially one actively engaged in conducting the business of a government.


Active in party politics.

Safire’s Political Dictionary

Engages in a career either in government or in a political party on a full-time, usually professional basis.


Campaigns for or holds a position in government.


But the more, and more deeply, involved you become in politics, the closer you are to being a politician.

Kohl’s resume

Kohl has never held office, and has run only once before. So, that differentiates him from Bryce.

But Kohl has been involved in politics, in a more behind-the-scenes way.

Here’s more detail on Kohl’s professional life after he earned a law degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1992, based on information from his campaign website; the business networking site LinkedIn; Vote Smart, a website that backgrounds candidates and elected officials; and news accounts:


Works for the Milwaukee Bucks, a National Basketball Association franchise then owned by Herb Kohl. Dan worked in a variety of positions, ultimately serving as assistant general manager.


Defeated in the Democratic primary in a run for a suburban Milwaukee seat in the Wisconsin Assembly. At the time, he was director of new schools development in Wisconsin for the Washington, D.C.-based SEED Foundation, which develops boarding schools for at-risk students.


Vice president of political affairs and political director of J Street, a liberal pro-Israel advocacy group. According to Kohl’s campaign website, he "oversaw the development of the nation’s largest pro-Israel political action committee." J Street described Kohl as a veteran political activist and fundraiser "with close ties to the senior leadership of the Democratic party." He served as a "bundler" of contributions for the presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.


Senior adviser and lobbyist at BakerHostetler, a large law and lobbying firm in Washington, D.C.


Settles in Mequon, an upscale suburb of Milwaukee, in May, announces his campaign for Grothman’s seat in June.


Our rating

Kohl says: "I'm not a politician."

In a strict sense, he’s not, given that he’s never held public office and this is only his second run in the past 10 years.

But Kohl also spent a total of eight years as a Washington, D.C., lobbyist and senior member of a Washington-based advocacy group, in addition to being a major fundraiser for presidential candidates.

We rate his statement Half True.

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Half True
"I'm not a politician."
In a TV ad
Tuesday, September 4, 2018