Eric O'Keefe

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Eric O'Keefe is Wisconsin-based political operative. He started his career as a political activist in the Libertarian movement in the 1980s, worked to enact congressional term limits in the 1990s, and transitioning into a leader of the Tea Party movement in the late 2000s. His former group, the Sam Adams Alliance, led to the founding of numerous tea party organizations, and also helped launch the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.

2013 John Doe Investigation

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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 a "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." [1] [2]

Ties to conservative groups

Sam Adams Alliance

O'Keefe founded the Sam Adams Alliance (SAM) and served as chairman and CEO. According to O'Keefe's website: "The Sam Adams Alliance was active from 2007 through 2011, encouraging citizen engagement in politics, with specialties in studying and training citizen activists and bloggers."[3] The development of SAM led to the foundations of the tea party movement, allowing activists like Eric Odom the opportunity to develop websites and social media as a organizational platform. Odom was SAM's new media director before he branched out on his own.[4]

SAM is listed on the website of the State Policy Network.[5]

The Franklin Center

In 2009, the Sam Adams Alliance helped launch the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, providing the new organization with "seed money," according to the National Journal.[6] [7] [8] [9]

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that in “its first year, the Franklin Center had a $2.9 million budget, much of it from the libertarian Sam Adams Alliance.” [10]

Wisconsin Club for Growth

O'Keefe is on the Board of Directors and chairs Wisconsin Club for Growth, which spent $9.1 million on ads during Wisconsin's 2011 and 2012 recall elections. [11] [12] O'Keefe was also on the board of the national Club for Growth organization in 2007.

Wisconsin Club for Growth was one of 29 conservative groups (including nonprofits, political vendors and party committees) that was reportedly subpoenaed as a part of a "John Doe" investigation into possible campaign finance violations during Wisconsin's 2011 and 2012 elections, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Koch-funded groups

O'Keefe has been featured at events funded by David Koch's Americans for Prosperity group.[13]

Libertarian Party

In 1980, the Libertarian Party presidential ticket featured Ed Clark and David Koch. O'Keefe worked as the national director of the party that year in support of Clark/Koch.[14]

Other groups

O'Keefe helped launch American Majority, a group which trains conservative candidates to run for office.[12]

He also helped found the Center for Competitive Politics, a legal organization that opposes campaign finance regulations.[14]

O'Keefe was also co-founder of the Campaign for Primary Accountability, a super PAC funding bipartisan opposition to incumbent members of Congress.[12][15]

O'Keefe helped found and is a board member of Citizens for Self-Governance, an organization dedicated to supporting grassroots movements and citizen involvement in politics.[16]

O'Keefe also chairs the Health Care Compact Alliance.[17]

Other affiliations

Articles and resources


  1. Wall Street Journal editorial board, Wisconsin Political Speech Raid, Nov. 18, 2013, Wall Street Journal.
  2. Mary Bottari, Heart of Darkness: Criminal Investigation of WI Recall $,, Nov. 25, 2013
  3. Eric O'Keefe, About Eric, personal website, accessed March 2014
  4. Alex Brant-Zawadzki and Dawn Teo, Anatomy of the Tea Party Movement: Sam Adams Alliance, Huffington Post, Dec. 11, 2009
  5. State Policy Network, Sam Adams Alliance, Official website, accessed March 2014.
  6. Press release, Sam Adams Alliance Launches New Website
  7. Eric O’Keefe, Chairman and CEO, Sam Adams Alliance, How Understanding Politics Helps in Policy, Liberty Guide, October 18, 2012.
  8. Julie Kosterlitz, Conservative Watchdogs Awake, National Journal, Dec. 12, 2009.
  9. Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project, Non-Profit News, accessed December 11, 2013.
  10. Daniel Bice, Conservative outlets write all the news that fits their tilt, August 7, 2011.
  11. Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Recall Race for Governor Cost $81 Million, organizational website.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Marc Fisher, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s recall: Big money fuels small-government fight, Washington Post, Mar 25, 2012
  13. Alex Brant-Zawadzki and Dawn Teo, Anatomy of the Tea Party Movement: Sam Adams Alliance, Huffington Post, Dec. 11, 2009.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Wisconsin Political Speech Raid, Wall Street Journal, Nov. 18, 2013
  15. Paul Kane, One super PAC takes aim at incumbents of any party, Washington Post, Mar. 7, 2012
  16. About Citizens for Self Governance / Mission, organization website, accessed Nov. 25, 2013
  17. Health Care Compact Alliance website, "About Us" page, accessed Apr. 12, 2011.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 [Sara Jerving, "Lucy Burns Institute (Publishers of Ballotpedia and Judgepedia) and Her Right-Wing Bedfellows"]
  19. The Libertarian Forum. Volume XVI, Number 6, July 1982. "Double Victory for Agression", from "Ludwig von Mise Institute", organizational website, accessed November 2012

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