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

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

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher September 6, 2018

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

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.

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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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PolitiFact rating logo PolitiFact Rating:
Half True
"I'm not a politician."
In a TV ad
Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Our Sources

YouTube, Dan Kohl "This Money" TV ad, Sept. 4, 2018

YouTube, Dan Kohl "This Vote" TV ad, Sept. 4, 2018

YouTube, Dan Kohl "This Limit" TV ad, Sept. 4, 2018

Email, Dan Kohl campaign spokeswoman Micki Duncan, Sept. 5, 2018

Email, Glenn Grothman campaign spokesman Tim Svoboda, Sept. 6, 2018

National Republican Congressional Committee, news release, Sept. 4, 2018

Email, National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Chris Martin, Sept. 5, 2018

J Street, news release, Nov. 28, 2016

PolitiFact Wisconsin, "He's on his 4th run for office in 6 years, but 'IronStache' Randy Bryce says he's not a politician," May 16, 2018

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Glenn Grothman, Dan Kohl headed for 2018 Wisconsin congressional showdown," Nov. 24, 2017

Dan Kohl campaign website, "About Dan," accessed Sept. 4, 2018, "Dan Kohl steps down as Bucks' assistant GM," May 9, 2006, Dan Kohl biography, accessed Sept. 4, 2018

LinkedIn, Dan Kohl biography, accessed Sept. 4, 2018

Politico, "House Republican goes after J Street in an effort to lure Jewish donors," Feb. 8, 2018

Ballotpedia, Dan Kohl biography, accessed Sept. 4, 2018

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "7 area Assembly incumbents hold off challengers in primary," Sept. 10, 2008

Milwaukee Magazine, "This Year, Could Even Republican Glenn Grothman Lose?" Aug. 3, 2018

Shepherd Express, "Dan Kohl, State Assembly District 22 Candidate," Aug. 13, 2008

Forward, "J Street founder with famous name launches bid for Wisconsin Congress seat," June 8, 2017

Center for Responsive Politics, "Hillary Clinton's Bundlers," accessed Sept. 6, 2018

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More by Tom Kertscher

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

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