Wisconsin Club for Growth

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Follow the money in the Koch wiki.

This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.

R.J. Johnson. Photo: Wisconsin State Journal

Wisconsin Club for Growth (WCFG) is a state arm of the national Club for Growth, and one of the top political spenders in Wisconsin. WCFG spent $9.1 million during the Wisconsin's historic 2012 recall races for Governor, Lt. Governor and State Senate, and has reportedly received a subpoena in a 2012-2014 John Doe criminal probe into possible campaign finance violations during those races. [1][2]

WCFG's Board of Directors includes Eric O'Keefe, a right-wing political operative with deep ties to the Koch brothers, and who helped form groups including the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity and American Majority. WCFG is led by RJ Johnson, a close Walker ally, who was a top campaign advisor to Scott Walker in his 2010 election and his 2012 recall race. WCFG registered with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions on August 24, 2004.[3]

Koch Wiki

The Koch brothers -- David and Charles -- are the right-wing billionaire co-owners of Koch Industries. As two of the richest people in the world, they are key funders of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on the Kochs include: Koch Brothers, Koch Industries, Americans for Prosperity, American Encore, and Freedom Partners.

Wisconsin "John Doe" Criminal Investigation into Alleged Illegal Campaign Coordination

Prosecutors in Wisconsin allege that Wisconsin Club for Growth was part of a "criminal scheme" to coordinate activities with the Scott Walker campaign during the state's 2011 and 2012 recall election, in violation of the state's campaign finance laws. Wisconsin Club for Growth sued in both state and federal court to stop the probe, and as of July 2014 the investigation remains halted. [4]

Documents released on June 19, 2014 detailing the allegations made by five county district attorneys into Scott Walker's political spending suggested that some of Walker's top campaign aides directed the political spending of outside non-profits, including Wisconsin Club for Growth.[5]

The documents highlight the importance of R.J. Johnson, a Walker campaign consultant and "advisor" to WCFG, in the coordination efforts. According to prosecutors Johnson effectively controlled Wisconsin Club for Growth. In an affidavit Johnson allegedly said "We own C.F.G.[6] According to a New York Times article on the subject:

Under Mr. Johnson, the Club for Growth become “a hub,” according to prosecutors, for coordinating political spending by the Walker campaign and an array of outside groups. These ranged from the Republican Governors Association to Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group co-founded by the billionaire industrialist David H. Koch and financed by the political network overseen by Mr. Koch and his brother Charles. In one instance, prosecutors say the Club for Growth transferred at least $2.5 million to the state’s leading business trade organization, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, which in turn ran advertisements supporting Mr. Walker. During the same period, an official at the trade group joined conference calls with Mr. Walker and others regarding election strategy.[7]

The Center for Media and Democracy (which publishes Sourcewatch.org) described in November 2013: [8]

"Wisconsin Club for Growth's top "advisor," R.J. Johnson, is a close Walker ally and the former Executive Director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin. In Walker's soon-to-be-released book, Unintimidated, the governor refers to Johnson as a friend of more than 20 years and his key campaign operative. While the Wall Street Journal editorial notes that the John Doe inquiry may be looking into illegal coordination between independent groups and political campaigns, it fails to mention that Johnson is an advisor to both Walker's campaign and Wisconsin Club for Growth."
"For two years, Governor Scott Walker was caught up in an earlier John Doe probe into political corruption during his 2010 campaign for governor. Although the Wall Street Journal describes the previous John Doe as having "turned up nothing on Mr. Walker and embarrassingly little else," the probe netted six criminal convictions -- including three Walker aides, one political appointee, and one major campaign contributor -- for a variety of crimes including embezzlement, campaign finance violations and political corruption. That probe closed in March, but the new inquiry is following up on leads uncovered by that earlier investigation."

CMD also uncovered how WCFG was at the center of a "dark money web," where the "group took in funds from some of the top Republican donors and Koch-connected dark money conduits in the country, and in turn shuffled millions to other organizations that spent money on ads in 2011 and 2012, all while keeping Wisconsin voters in the dark about the true source of the funds."[8]

Under Wisconsin's John Doe statute, proceedings are behind closed doors in front of a judge, much like a Grand Jury (but without the jury) and under strict secrecy orders. In November 2013, just weeks after the first subpoenas were issued in the John Doe investigation, Wisconsin Club for Growth director Eric O'Keefe broke the secrecy order and told the Wall Street Journal editorial board that he received a subpoena in the probe.

O'Keefe told the Journal that some of the targets "had their homes raided at dawn, with law-enforcement officers turning over belongings to seize computers and files." “The subpoenas don’t spell out a specific allegation, but the demands suggest the government may be pursuing a theory of illegal campaign coordination by independent groups during the recall election,” the unsigned Wall Street Journal editorial stated.[9] Stephen Moore, a founder of the national Club for Growth organization, is on the Wall Street Journal editorial board.[8]

WCFG and the Walker campaign challenged the subpoenas, and in January 2014 the judge overseeing the proceedings, Judge Gregory Peterson, quashed subpoenas that had been issued by an earlier judge on grounds that Wisconsin statutes did not cover electoral "issue ads" that stop short of an express call to vote for or against a candidate; however, he quickly stayed his own order and asked an appeals court to resolve the dispute over the scope of Wisconsin campaign finance law. [11] His decision conflicted with a 1999 Wisconsin Court of Appeals decision holding that coordinated issue ads will be counted as a campaign contribution. [12]

Feb. 2014: WCFG Files Federal Lawsuit

In February 2014, O'Keefe and Wisconsin Club for Growth sued in federal court to halt the John Doe, and to seek damages from prosecutors for pursuing an investigation that purportedly burdened the Club's "First Amendment rights." [13]

Allegations in Federal Complaint Unfounded

The complaint alleged that prosecutors were motivated by partisan animus in launching the probe. However, the complaint ignored the role of Republican prosecutors in leading the investigation. The Center for Media and Democracy (which publishes Sourcewatch.org) reported: [14]

The investigation is officially a five-county effort, involving five District Attorneys, from both the Republican and Democratic parties. A 2007 law pushed by Republicans requires that campaign finance violations be prosecuted in the counties where defendants reside, and prosecutors across the state have agreed to participate, finding that the investigation has both legal and factual merit. Would Republican prosecutors have agreed to participate in a criminal investigation into Republican leaders that was legally baseless or motivated by anti-Republican sentiment?
The investigation was unanimously approved by Wisconsin's Government Accountability Board (GAB), which consists of a bipartisan panel of retired judges appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. Because the GAB does not have authority to prosecute criminal violations, it turned the statewide investigation over to the county district attorneys.
Wisconsin's Republican Attorney General, J.B. Van Hollen, was asked to lead the probe. In declining the offer, Van Hollen neither rejected the legal premise of the investigation nor criticized it as a politically-motivated witch hunt -- he instead cited a conflict of interest.
The Special Prosecutor leading the probe, Francis Schmitz, voted for Scott Walker in 2012, was on George W. Bush's shortlist to be named the chief federal prosecutor in the state as U.S. attorney, and has been a member of the Republican Party. Schmitz, who is the named defendant in WCFG's federal challenge to the probe, submitted a sworn affidavit to the federal court stating that he has no animus towards Walker or other Republicans, and in fact generally supports Walker's policies."

The complaint also alleges that prosecutors ignored "materially identical" conduct during the 2011 and 2012 recall elections by Democratic and liberal groups. However, those allegations were contradicted by the facts. For example, Milwaukee's District Attorney investigated campaign finance violations by Walker's Democratic opponent during the 2012 recall, Tom Barrett, and fined him $20,000. Other allegations of campaign finance violations had in fact been investigated and dismissed as frivolous. Other allegations were erroneous. [15] [16]

May 6, 2014: Federal Judge Issues Preliminary Injunction

On May 6, federal Judge Rudolph Randa issued a preliminary injunction halting the probe, holding that not only do Wisconsin statutes not bar coordination over "issue ads," but that any effort to limit such coordination would violate the First Amendment. Randa also ordered the destruction of evidence gathered tin the criminal investigation, but the Seventh Circuit quickly blocked that order.

"It is a stunning tableau: a federal judge stopping a duly commissioned investigation and ordering it shut down," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board noted. [17]

In another editorial, the Journal Sentinel wrote, "the end of a coordination ban would create a 'dark' system of campaign funding."

""The entire election campaign could be conducted in secret. Money raised for the campaign could be funneled into tax-exempt 'social welfare' groups that don't have to disclose their donors, meaning voters would have even less of a chance than they do today of weighing potential motivations. How can the public know who a politician is working for if voters can't tell who is paying for an election?"[18]

Judicial Ethics Experts: Federal Judge Who Halted Probe Should Have Recused

Randa was appointed to the bench by Republican President George H.W. Bush, and is a member of the board of advisors of the Milwaukee Federalist Society. He also has regularly attended all-expenses-paid "judicial junket" seminars hosted by George Mason University, where corporate and ideological interests like the Koch family foundations and the Bradley Foundation bankroll the travel, lodging, and meal expenses for judges. [19] Some judicial ethics experts believed Randa should have recused himself from hearing Wisconsin Club for Growth's challenge to the John Doe, given that the same interests that funded Randa's expenses at the seminars also funded the groups under investigation in the John Doe. For example, the Koch network had funded Wisconsin Club for Growth (and O'Keefe has long been associated with the Kochs), and the Bradley Foundation is headed by Walker's campaign co-chair Michael Grebe. [20]

May 30, 2014: WCFG Sues to Force WI Election Board Out of Investigation

On May 30, 2014 WCFG and O'Keefe sued Wisconsin's Government Accountability Board in a state court in conservative Waukesha County, arguing the board exceeded its authority by assisting prosecutors in the probe. [21] However, their claims may not be supportable. [22]

Conflict-of-Interest at Wisconsin Supreme Court

Some of the lawsuits filed by WCFG could end up before the Wisconsin Supreme Court which, given WCFG's level of spending on state Supreme Court races, could raise conflict-of-interest issues. [23] The Center for Media and Democracy reported: [24]

"According to data from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Wisconsin Club for Growth spent at least $1,615,860 on the last four Supreme Court races. Citizens for a Strong America, which is entirely funded by Wisconsin Club for Growth, spent $836,000 supporting Justice David Prosser's reelection in 2011, which he won by just 7,000 votes; in that race, Citizens for a Strong America alone spent more than Prosser's own campaign."
"Although the Wisconsin Supreme Court has grown notorious for its lax recusal practices, the level of spending by the groups in this case -- and their direct stake in the outcome -- could demand recusal under the U.S. Constitution, following the 2009 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Caperton v. Massey. In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a West Virginia Supreme Court justice should have recused himself from a decision involving a major campaign contributor."

"'This could be a landmark case for applying the Caperton standards,' Matthew Menendez, counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, told the Center for Media and Democracy."


Cap-Times-Dark money.jpg

WCFG does not disclose its donors publicly. However, tax filings reveal that donors to WCFG include top Republican donors and dark money conduits associated with the Koch Brothers. In 2011 WCFG raised $12.5 million. Additional donors have been revealed by court documents unsealed as part of an ongoing John Doe investigation. Some of the donors that year included the following:

Center to Protect Patients Rights

The Center to Protect Patient Rights (CPPR) gave $225,000 to WCFG in 2011.[25] The New York Times described CPPR as "one of the largest political nonprofits in the country, serving as a conduit for tens of millions of dollars in political spending, much of it raised by the Kochs and their political operation and spent by other nonprofits active in the 2010 and 2012 elections."[26] CPPR, in turn, received most of its funding from another Koch-connected organization called "Freedom Partners. CPPR is also a dark money conduit, donating to many of the same Koch-related non-profits as the Wellspring Committee."[8]

The Wellspring Committee

The Wellspring Committee donated $400,000 in 2011. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Wellspring was created to allow donors concerned with protecting their anonymity a method to write "a check to a non-disclosing group that'll turn around and give the funds to another non-disclosing group."[8] WellSpring is little more than a mailbox, essentially serving as dark money conduit that offers donors a way to secretly funnel money to politically-active groups.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce

WCFG received $988,000 from the "action" wing of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), which is the state chapter of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. WMC has also received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Wellspring Committee in recent years. Additionally, WMC was a major Walker supporter that spent $4.7 million on the Wisconsin recalls. It was also one of the groups named in the John Doe investigation, along with WCG.[8]

Gogebic Taconite

The mining company Gogebic Taconite contributed $700,000 to WCFG in 2011 and 2012, as shown by documents accidentally released in August 2014 as part of the unsealing of court documents related to an ongoing John Doe investigation. At the time, Gogebic was seeking approval for a controversial open pit iron mine in northern Wisconsin. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, an investigator for the prosecution said, "Because Wisconsin Club for Growth's fundraising and expenditures were being coordinated with Scott Walker's agents at the time of Gogebic's donation, there is certainly an appearance of corruption in light of the resulting legislation from which it benefited."[27] Walker has denied that he had a role in soliciting the donation.[28]

Other Donors

Funding Recipients

WCFG experienced a sharp jump in revenue in 2011 and 2012, millions of which it transferred to other non profits. Many of those groups in turn went on to purchase pro-Walker and pro-Republican ads in the 2011 and 2012 Wisconsin recall elections. The New York Times reports that "the Club for Growth become “a hub,” according to prosecutors, for coordinating political spending by the Walker campaign and an array of outside groups." [5]

WCFG spent over half of its 2012 budget on grants to other organizations, most of which spent spent millions advocating for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and other Republicans during the 2012 Wisconsin recall elections.[30]

Citizens for a Strong America

In 2011 and 2011, WCFG provided almost the entire budget for Citizens for a Strong America (CSA), giving CSA over $6.2 million over two years.[31] CSA, in turn, spent millions on the 2011 and 2012 Wisconsin recall elections, and made transfers to other groups active during the recalls.

CSA's treasurer is Valerie Johnson, wife of WCFG spokesman R. J. Johnson.[30] Its president is John Connors, who previously worked with David Koch's Americans for Prosperity and is now "Director of Special Operations" at the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity, whose Wisconsin Reporter website has written dozens of articles attacking the John Doe investigation. [32]

CSA appears to be the successor to an earlier dark money group named the Coalition for America's Families, which WCFG also bankrolled. [31]

Wisconsin Family Action

Wisconsin Family Action, an anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage group, received $916,045 from the Wisconsin Club for Growth-funded CSA in 2011 and an additional $253,000 in 2012;[30] the 2011 donation amounted to 90% of the grants that Wisconsin Family Action received that year. Wisconsin Family Action spent an estimated $850,000 on the recall elections.[1]

Wisconsin Right to Life

CSA also gave $347,582 in 2011 and $50,000 in 2012 to Wisconsin Right to Life, a group that was the plaintiff in a high-profile 2010 U.S. Supreme Court case that struck down regulations on the so-called "issue ads" with which many groups in this dark money network were involved.[8][30] Wisconsin RIght to Life also spent on the recall elections. [1]

United Sportsmen of Wisconsin

Another group, United Sportsmen of Wisconsin, received $235,000 from CSA in 2011.[31] United Sportsmen was the subject of controversy in early 2013, when it was revealed that outgoing Assembly Majority leader Scott Suder (a former ALEC State Chair) slipped a half-million dollar, renewable grant into the Wisconsin budget that was later called a "sweetheart deal" for the group. Wisconsin industrialist Terry Kohler, a top donor to Republicans in the state and nationally, personally reached out to lawmakers on the budget committee and urged their support for the grant.[8]

In January 2014, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel confirmed that the donation from CSA was the sole source of funding for United Sportsmen in 2011. This means that Club for Growth Wisconsin was effectively the sole funder for the controversial group, with CSA acting as a middleman.[33]

Healthcare Compact Alliance

In 2012, CSA's largest contribution was $500,000 given to the Healthcare Compact Alliance, a project of Competitive Governance Action[34]--whose board of directors includes WCFG director Eric O'Keefe.[35] Mother Jones reported in 2011 that the Healthcare Compact Alliance had donated a significant amount to Tea Party Patriots.[36]

Jobs First Coalition

WCFG gave The Jobs First Coalition (JFC) $425,000 in 2011, which amounted to nearly half of the $927,860 that the Coalition raised that year. (JFC also gave WCFG $75,000, in what appears to be a reimbursement.) According to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, JFC is a pro-business and economic development group created in 2009. The group claims to "regularly monitor state legislative and regulatory activities and take positions on policy matters," according to its website. The same website, however, lists no staff and JFC is not registered as a lobbying organization with the state Government Accountability Board.[37] [8]

JFC has close ties to disgraced former Assembly Majority Leader Scott Jensen, who was the ALEC state chair for Wisconsin as a legislator. JFC in turn donated $245,000 in 2011 to Jensen's other group, the American Federation for Children. In the 2012 gubernatorial recall race, American Federation for Children reported spending $1.1. million in support of Governor Scott Walker's recall campaign, making it one of his top PAC supporters. The organization also reported spending $1.3 million to help GOP Senators who faced recall in 2011.[8]

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce

In 2012, WCFG gave almost $3 million to the political arm of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the WMC Issues Mobilization Committee, providing about 45% of the group's revenue for that year.[38] WMC then spent $4 million on its pro-Walker campaign during the recall.[30]

List of Grants





Staff, board, personnel and advisers

RJ Johnson

R.J. Johnson, a political strategist for (and close ally of) Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, is a key adviser to the Club for Growth Wisconsin.[43]

Walker’s campaign paid R.J. Johnson and Associates more than $130,000 between July 2009 and January 2012. [44][45][46] In the 2008 tax year, R.J. Johnson's eponymous consulting business made $33,791 on activities performed for the Club for Growth Wisconsin.[47]

According to the Shepherd Express: [44]

In his just-released book, Unintimidated, Walker makes special mention of Johnson in the acknowledgments, writing, “In the political world, R.J. Johnson and I have worked together for more than two decades. He and [campaign manager] Keith Gilkes laid out the plan to win our 2010 election and they both have keen political instincts.”
A closer read of Walker’s book reveals that Johnson was advising the new governor at the same time Johnson was defending Club for Growth in the press.
“Not long after the unions made their announcement [on Feb. 18, 2011], my chief political strategist, R.J. Johnson, took me aside and said, ‘Governor, you’re in trouble,’” Walker wrote in Unintimidated about his dismal poll numbers.
Later, Walker claims that he was getting “killed in the air wars with the unions vastly outspending us in paid advertising. The situation was so bad that my chief political advisor, R.J. Johnson, called the Wisconsin airwaves a ‘no-fly zone’ for us, such was the union saturation.”
Although campaign finance statements show that Walker’s payments to Johnson stop in January 2012, Johnson appears in Walker’s book on the night he won his recall in June 2012. It seems that Walker’s wife, Tonette, wouldn’t believe that Walker won the election until Johnson, watching the voting results in Walker’s “war room,” confirmed it.
“She threw her arms around him and sobbed,” Walker wrote. “All the pressure of the past eighteen months came spilling out. Then R.J. started crying, too.”

Eric O'Keefe

Eric O'Keefe is also a board member of the WCFG. O'Keefe is part of the Koch Brothers' political network, having attended the Kochs' 2010 Aspen strategy soiree.[48] He is also the chair and CEO of the Sam Adams Alliance, and a board member of the Institute for Humane Studies, which has taken millions from the Kochs and for which billionaire Charles Koch serves as chairman. [49]

According to Eric O'Keefe's website:

"The Wisconsin Club for Growth was the major platform for Eric’s efforts to raise money and fund communications with voters in the most focused and effective fashion. These activities were conducted by meticulous operatives with many years of experience, with the review of the Club’s approach by skilled counsel familiar with the state of the law, and with Eric’s oversight and overall responsibility for the operation." [50]

In October 2013, O'Keefe broke a secrecy order and told the Wall Street Journal editorial board that he had been served with a subpoena in the "John Doe" investigation into possible campaign finance violations during Wisconsin's 2011 and 2012 recall elections, apparently in his capacity as chair of Wisconsin Club for Growth. The investigation was conducted under Wisconsin's "John Doe" laws, which is similar to a grand jury investigation. The Journal's editorial board characterized the investigation as a "political speech raid." [51] [52]

Gov. Scott Walker's Budget Bill

On Feb. 14, 2011, three days after Gov. Scott Walker introduced his controversial Act 10 "budget repair bill" severely limiting collective bargaining for public employees, WCFG began running ads accusing state workers of not having to sacrifice like private sector workers. [53] The commercial urged private sector workers to support Walker’s budget repair bill and make state workers “pay their fair share.” When the commercial failed to dissuade protesters from going to the capitol, WCFG along with Americans for Prosperity, a group funded by the Koch brothers, organized a pro-Walker rally on Feb. 19. [54]

During the February, 2011 battle in Wisconsin over Republican Governor Scott Walker's "budget repair bill, the Club for Growth Wisconsin sponsored a black-and-white television ad that featured working-class faces and superimposed newspaper headlines about the economic downturn which asserted that public employees have made no sacrifices while ordinary people have suffered substantially. The ad cited concessions by workers at Harley-Davidson, Mercury Marine and Sub-Zero while somber music played in the background. The narrator intoned: "But state workers haven't had to sacrifice. They pay next to nothing for their pensions, and a fraction of their health care. It's not fair. Call your state legislator and tell them to vote for Gov. Walker's budget repair bill. It's time state employees paid their fair share, just like the rest of us."[55]

PolitiFact Wisconsin reported that "officials with the Club for Growth -- Deb Jordahl and R.J. Johnson -- told us the ad meant to highlight just two issues regarding state employee compensation: pension and health care payments.... The portion of health premiums paid by employees more than doubled under then-Gov. Jim Doyle, from 2.5 percent to 5.6 percent in 2011.... But the most notable change for state workers has come on pay.

"The Club for Growth ad dramatically highlights 'frozen wages' and 'pay cuts' accepted by unions at the private companies -- and then says 'state workers haven’t had to sacrifice.' In fact, state workers have taken a hit on wages -- in the form of furlough days.... Doyle also rescinded 2 percent raises for non-union employees in the 2007-2009 state budget.... Doyle also suspended merit awards in November 2008.... So state workers have in fact given up some pay, which is the definition of sacrifice."[56]

WCFG criticized protesters for taking off of work because private sector workers “would like [public workers] to contribute more towards their healthcare and pensions,” [57] even though state workers said they were willing to do so if they could keep their collect bargaining rights. According to the Nation’s John Nichols, WCFG is “an organization funded by extremely wealthy conservatives to carry out their budget-stripping goals [and] has been a key player in Republican Governor Scott Walker's move to take out the state's organized workers.” [58] In addition to this, WCFG, in a press release, targeted eight Republican State Senators that did not initially commit to Walker’s budget repair bill.[59] Club For Growth, according to Think Progress, funded several “hard-hitting attack ads” against candidates who supported raising taxes on the rich or “have done anything to hold powerful corporations accountable.” [60]

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that in the first month after Walker's budget repair bill was introduced, WCFG had spent $805,610 on broadcast TV ads over Wisconsin's budget fight.[61]

Overall, WCFG spent $9.1 million on Wisconsin's recall elections, with much of the spending and the source of the funds undisclosed. [1]

$400,000 spent on Prosser Supreme Court race

During the Wisconsin Supreme Court race in March of 2011, WCFG also ran four ads promoting Walker’s budget reforms and endorsing Supreme Court Justice David Prosser; that race was treated as a referendum on Walker's controversial union bill. WCFG spent over $400,000 supporting Prosser’s campaign.[62]

Other Resources

Club For Growth ads: http://www.youtube.com/user/clubforgrowthwi?feature=mhum#p/u/0/im9DfnOW8XM

Past Wisconsin Supreme Court electioneering

Club for Growth Wisconsin spent more than $1 million on outside electioneering activities in the 2007 and 2008 state Supreme Court races and the 2008 and 2010 fall elections.

The Club for Growth Wisconsin was the first outside special interest group to promote a candidate in the 2011 Wisconsin Supreme Court race, spending at least $321,000 on the race, and out-spending all candidates combined, and accounting for 70% of all spending in the race. The group has hired the Republican polling firm, Public Opinion Strategies, to health defeat efforts to obtain universal health insurance in Wisconsin.[63][64][65]

Previous negative ads & electioneering

"Club for Growth Wisconsin spent an estimated $950,000 on negative broadcast advertising and other electioneering activities in the 2007 and 2008 Wisconsin Supreme Court races and the 2008 fall elections," according to Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. "The group sponsored a radio ad about three weeks before the November 2010 elections against Democrat Elmer Monk of Kimberly, who is running for the 1st Senate District open seat against Republican Frank Lasee. The ad criticized Monk for voting to raise property taxes as Kimberly school board member."[66]


Pro-corporate, anti-worker

The Club for Growth Wisconsin "seek[s] to extinguish the voice of public labor unions... because those unions... provide the most important bulwark of campaign-season defense via volunteers and dollars against the corporate interests' unimpeded domination over elections."[67] The Club for Growth Wisconsin's other efforts are aimed at helping corporations "avoid... their fair share of taxes, blocking minimum wage efforts and preventing any 'mandate' in environmental or workplace regulation they find inconvenient."[68] The Club's overall strategies are aimed at splitting the middle and working classes by "pitting unionized workers against non-unionized workers, public-sector workers against nonpublic, older workers within sight of Medicare and Social Security against younger workers who don't believe these programs will be there for them, and the poor against the working middle class," according to former labor secretary Robert Reich. Reich said, "By splitting working America along these lines, Republicans want Americans to believe that we can no longer afford to do what we need to do as a nation. They hope to deflect attention from the increasing share of total income and wealth going to the richest 1 percent while the jobs and wages of everyone else languish." [69]

Climate change denial

The Club for Growth Wisconsin calls global warming/climate change a "fraud." [70]

Backing "tort reform"

The Club for Growth Wisconsin supports and works to advance tort reform,[71] a "movement" propagated by companies and entire industries -- such as the tobacco and asbestos industries -- that are vulnerable to legal actions seeking damages for the impacts of their products. Proponents use the term "tort reform" to refer to legislative measures designed to limit the ability of individuals to sue companies and to restrict the amount of potential damages available to individuals who take legal actions against companies.


According to Eric O'Keefe:

"in 2004, after serving on the board of directors for the [national] Club for Growth for several years, Eric [O'Keefe] encouraged people involved with the Club for Growth to support similar efforts at the state level, as part of an accountability infrastructure. The national Club charted state chapters in seven or eight states before losing enthusiasm for the project. The chapter in Pennsylvania achieved early success, but later idled. Kansas has a Club which had a notably influential year in 2012."

IRS Form 990s

Sourcewatch resources

External resources


Employer Identification Number (EIN): 11-3723921

Wisconsin Club for Growth Inc.
1223 West Main Street, #304
Sun Prairie, Wisconsin 53590

Phone: (877).707.0571


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Recall Race for Governor Cost $81 Million, Posted: July 25, 2012/Updated: January 31, 2013
  2. Abe Sauer A Blueprint for a Takeover: Wisconsin Republicans Lied While the Kochs Schemed, The Awl, March 8, 2011
  3. Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, Wisconsin Club for Growth, Inc. organizational website, accessed on April 26, 2016.
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  5. 5.0 5.1 New York Times, Monica Davey and Nicholas Confessore, "Wisconsin Governor at Center of a Vast Fund-Raising Case", June 19,2014
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  7. New York Times, Monica Davey and Nicholas Confessore, "Wisconsin Governor at Center of a Vast Fund-Raising Case", June 19,2014
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  10. The Wall Street Journal, Review & Outlook: Wisconsin Political Speech Raid, The Wall Street Journal, November 18, 2013.
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  12. Brendan Fischer, Secret Court Ruling Could Undermine Wisconsin Campaign Finance Law, PRwatch.org, Jan. 28, 2014.
  13. Patrick Marley and Jason Stein, Wisconsin Club for Growth sues to shut down John Doe investigation, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Feb. 10, 2014.
  14. Brendan Fischer, Top Six Facts in the Walker Dark Money Criminal Probe, PRwatch.org, May 13, 2014.
  15. Brendan Fischer, Partisan Witchhunt Claims from Club for Growth Upended by New Court Filings, PRwatch.org, Apr. 22, 2014.
  16. Brendan Fischer, Selective Targeting Claims in John Doe Filings Fall Flat, PRwatch.org, Mar. 24, 2014.
  17. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Judge Rudolph Randa's ruling on the John Doe probe is premature, editorial, May 10, 2014.
  18. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Gov. Scott Walker and His Allies Should Be Careful What They Wish For, June 20, 2014.
  19. Brendan Fischer, Federal Judge Who Halted Walker Dark Money Criminal Probe Attended Koch-Backed Judicial Junkets, PRwatch.org, May 27, 2014.
  20. Steven Elbow, Experts weigh in on John Doe judge's Koch-funded 'judicial junkets', Capital Times, May 30, 2014.
  21. Jason Stein and Bill Glauber, Club for Growth sues to force GAB out of Doe probe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 30, 2014.
  22. Brendan Fischer, WI Club for Growth Tries to Bar GAB from Spending Money to Probe Illegal Campaign Spending, PRwatch.org, June 2, 2014.
  23. Patrick Marley, John Doe probe raises issue of potential conflicts with justices, April 28, 2014.
  24. Brendan Fischer, Supreme Court Challenge to WI Dark Money Probe Raises Questions of Judicial Ethics, PRwatch.org, Feb. 19, 2014.
  25. Lisa Kaiser, Exclusive: Koch Brothers’ Dark Money Flowed into Wisconsin Recall Fight, Shepherd Express, Nov 13, 2013
  26. Nicholas Confessore, Group Linked to Kochs Admits to Campaign Finance Violations, New York Times, Oct 24, 2013
  27. 27.0 27.1 Patrick Marley, Daniel Bice and Lee Bergquist, "Walker wanted funds funneled to Wisconsin Club for Growth," Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, August 22, 2014. Accessed September 2, 2014.
  28. Lee Bergquist, "Mining company, allies spent freely to get bill approved," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]], September 1, 2014. Accessed September 2, 2014.
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