Coalition for American Values
The Coalition for American Values (CAV) is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit whose only major activities have been spending $400,080 on ads supporting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in the final weeks of the 2012 recall elections. While the CAV did not disclose its funders at the time, tax filings later revealed that almost all of its funding in 2012 came from the Koch-tied Center to Protect Patient Rights, run by Koch operative Sean Noble.
According to CAV's website, its stated goal was to "mobilize millions of Americans to come together to fight back and protect the values that make our country the greatest in the world." The page was last accessed in July 2012. As of July 2014, no current website could be found for the CAV.
CAV also operates a federal Political Action Committee (PAC). It made filings with the FEC in 2014, suggesting that the group remains active. Its most recent filings provide its address as Mount Prospect, Illinois.
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.
- 1 Ties to the Koch Brothers
- 2 2011-2012 "Wisconsin Way" Recall Ads Funded by Koch Network
- 3 Support for Sand Mining/Fracking
- 4 Funding
- 5 Personnel
- 6 IRS Form 990s
- 7 Contact
- 8 Related Sourcewatch Resources
- 9 References
Ties to the Koch Brothers
CAV's "primary source of the group's funding in 2012 was the Center to Protect Patient Rights (CPPR), a conduit for $156 million in political spending raised by the Kochs and their network of funders," according to reporting by the Center for Media and Democracy. In 2014, the Washington Post described the CPPR as a "major cash turnstile for groups on the right during the past two election cycles," because it received large amounts of money from Freedom Partners and TC4 Trust as part of the $400 million Koch political network. In 2012, the group's role as a part of an $11 million campaign money laundering shell game was revealed after the California Fair Practices Commission filed suit against one of its donors and recipients, called Americans for Responsible Leadership.
CAV also has links to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, an outlet that is closely connected to the State Policy Network. CAV's lawyer, James D. Skyles, previously worked as a lawyer for the Franklin Center. CAV has also paid money to a consulting firm run by John Connors, director of operations of the Franklin Center, and President of the group Citizens for a Strong America. Connors' Citizens for a Strong America was entirely funded by Wisconsin Club for Growth and has been under investigation in the "John Doe" campaign finance investigation. The Franklin Center was founded in part by Koch operative Eric O'Keefe, head of the Wisconsin Club for Growth.
The Franklin Center received a small grant directly from the Charles G. Koch Foundation in 2012, and received more than $15 million in funding from the Koch conduits DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund between 2010 and 2012.
2011-2012 "Wisconsin Way" Recall Ads Funded by Koch Network
CAV registered a political committee with Wisconsin's Government Accountability Board on May 23, 2012 to make independent expenditures in the 2012 recall in support of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Its application came less than 2 weeks before the recall elections, and past the deadline of the final report on campaign spending before the recall.
The group produced three ads: two 30-second spots and a 60 second spot. As described by the Center for Media and Democracy, the ads -- which ran just before the June 5, 2012 election -- "depicted individuals identified as "Wisconsin voters" saying they didn't vote for Walker in 2010, yet would vote for him in 2012 because they opposed the recall."
At the time of the recall, Mother Jones noted that it was "unclear who's really behind the group—and it has seemingly taken measures to keep it that way. The local address CAV lists on disclosure forms appears to trace back to a Milwaukee UPS Store. Same goes for the Arlington, Virginia, address it provides on its bare-bones website." CAV claimed that under Wisconsin law it did not have to disclose its funding sources because no donations were given specifically to fund the ads.
Eighteen months after the recall elections, the Center for Media and Democracy uncovered that the ads appeared to have been entirely funded by the Koch-connected Center to Protect Patient Rights, which gave CAV $510,000 in 2012. This was the only known money given to the group, which did little else in 2012 besides spend money on the recall elections.
Voters were thus not aware "that the ads, which tutored Wisconsin residents about "the Wisconsin way," were funded by a secretive out-of-state group backed by out-of-state billionaires and millionaires," the Center for Media and Democracy noted when it discovered CAV's funding sources in January 2014.
"Recall Is Not the Wisconsin Way" Message Was Effective
"$400,080 in the small Wisconsin media market amounted to a lot of air time, and coupled with similar messaging from Governor Walker, proved exceptionally effective," the Center for Media and Democracy noted. Although polling in November 2011 found that 58% of Wisconsin residents supported the recall, including 24% of Republicans, by the election day on June 5, 2012, 60% of voters surveyed in exit polling believed that recall elections were only suitable in cases of official misconduct.
Walker won the recall election, and according to Mother Jones, "Exit polls strongly suggested that CAV's ads played a part in the governor's win."
Complaint Filed with Wisconsin Election Board
On January 8, 2014, the Center for Media and Democracy filed a complaint with Wisconsin's Government Accountability Board alleging that CAV violated Wisconsin's campaign finance laws by failing to disclose the true source of its funding. Wisconsin law requires that corporations spending in Wisconsin elections disclose all donations made for the purpose of funding ads, and alleged that it is impossible to believe that the $510,000 donation from CPPR to CAV was not provided for the purpose of funding CAV's ads, given that CAV did nothing else in 2012. The complaint remains unresolved. The state ethics board has been attacked by Gov. Scott Walker and his allies.
CAV Told IRS It Did No Political Activity
ProPublica revealed that despite CAV spending $400,080 on ads expressly advocating for the election of Scott Walker, the group told the IRS on tax filings that it engaged in zero political activity.  
Support for Sand Mining/Fracking
CAV produced a now-defunct site called Protect Sand Mining, which defended sand mining in Wisconsin. The site praised the frac-sand mining industry for providing "Thousands of good paying jobs throughout the state" while overlooking the environmental damage caused by fracking. An archived copy of the page from June 2012 is available via the Internet Archive. However, as CMD has reported, particulates released during sand mining have been designated carcinogenic by the World Health Organization, and residents of sand mining areas are also concerned about the depletion and destruction of aquifers.
The CAV has not made public any information on the group's funding sources, leadership, or political strategy.
Documents available long after the end of the 2012 election cycle revealed that "the primary source of the group's funding in 2012 was the CPPR, a conduit for $156 million in political spending raised by the Kochs and their network of funders," according to reporting by the Center for Media and Democracy. CPPR gave $510,000 to CAV, meaning that the bulk of the group's budget for that year came from out of state. The CPPR, which has also provided funding to the Wisconsin Club for Growth, received a record fine in California "for its role in what [California] called a "campaign money laundering" scheme to influence a 2012 ballot initiative in that state, where $15 million was passed between four nonprofits to evade the state's disclosure laws." In response to the record fine, a CPPR representative asserted that "The Commission today recognized that CPPR acted in ‘good faith’ and that there was absolutely no intent to violate campaign reporting rules."
Data collected by the Center for Responsive politics for the 2012 cycle revealed only one large individual donor, Rebekah Mercer of New York, who gave the group $50,000 on November 1st, 2011. Mercer has also given money to support the campaigns of Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Steve King (R-IA).. The Wall Street Journal reports that Mercer runs a bakery and is the daughter of a hedge fund manager. In 2010, she and her husband spent $28 million purchasing 13,000 square feet of real estate in New York's Trump Place. 
Ties to the Right-Wing Franklin Center and Wisconsin Club for Growth
CAV's lawyer, James D. Skyles, was previously General Counsel and Director of Operations at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a right-wing outlet based in Bismark, North Dakota with state-based outlets around the country, including "Wisconsin Reporter."
The CAV's federal PAC has also paid money to a consulting firm run by John Connors, a leader of operations at the Franklin Center, and President of the group "Citizens for a Strong America," which was also active in the Wisconsin recall elections and kept its donors hidden, while oeprating out of a UPS drop box. 
Additionally, the Center for Media and Democracy reported:
- "The "treasurer" listed on Coalition for American Values' FEC filings and the contact on its filings with Wisconsin's election board is Brent Downs. In 2008, when Connors chaired the Marquette College Republicans, Downs was his treasurer. Both were both students at Marquette University at the same time, and Downs, like Connors, also chaired the Students for Prosperity chapter of David Koch's Americans for Prosperity at Marquette University."
Connors' Citizens for a Strong America was entirely funded by Wisconsin Club for Growth and has been under investigation in the ["John Doe" campaign finance investigation]. The Franklin Center was founded in part by Koch operative Eric O'Keefe, head of the Wisconsin Club for Growth.
The CAV's FEC filings list the group's treasurer as Brent Downs of Mt. Prospect, Illinois. CAV's lawyer is listed as James D. Skyles.
IRS Form 990s
- Coalition for American Values, 2012 IRS Form 990, November 15, 2013.
Employer Identification Number (EIN): 45-4412825
Organization: 4201 Wilson Blvd, Suite 110-468
Arlington, VA 22203
Phone: (703) 996-9843
Skyles Law Group
109 S Emerson, #23
Mt. Prospect, Il, 60056
Related Sourcewatch Resources
- Koch Brothers
- Koch Family Foundations
- Americans for Prosperity
- Freedom Partners
- Cato Institute
- Heritage Foundation
- Koch Universities
- Koch Network
- Knowledge and Progress Fund
- American Encore
- Donors Capital
- 60 Plus
- Generation Opportunity
- Brendan Fischer, "Exclusive: Ads Telling Voters 'Recall Is Not the Wisconsin Way' Funded by Out-of-State Koch Network," Center for Media and Democracy, January 8, 2014.
- Coalition for American Values: About Us, Coalitionforamericanvalues.org. Accessed June 13th, 2012
- Coalition for American Values PAC, FEC report, organizational filing, April 15, 2014. Accessed July 9, 2014.
- Matea Gold, "Koch-backed political coalition, designed to shield donors, raised $400 million in 2012," Washington Post, January 5, 2014.
- Reid Wilson, "California to levy massive fine against Koch brothers groups," Washington Post, October 24, 2013. Accessed July 9, 2014.
- Andy Kroll, "Could this Pro-Walker Dark-Money Group Torpedo Recall Turnout?," Mother Jones, June 5, 2012.
- Lisa Graves, "Group Called "Citizens for a Strong America" Operates out of a UPS Mail Drop but Runs Expensive Ads in Supreme Court Race?," Center for Media and Democracy, PRWatch, April 2, 2011. Accessed July 29, 2014.
- Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Profile: Coalition for American Values. June 4th, 2012. Accessed June 13th, 2012
- Eric Black, "Poll: Wisconsin majority favors recall of Gov. Walker," Minnesota Post, November 15, 2011. Accessed July 9, 2014.
- Kevin Hechtkopf, "Early Wisconsin recall exit polls: 60 percent say recalls are only for official misconduct," CBS News, June 5, 2012. Accessed July 9, 2014.
- Andy Kroll, "Shadowy Wisconsin Group That Helped Scott Walker Win His Recall Was Backed by the Koch Network," Mother Jones, January 9, 2014.
- Brendan Fischer, Coalition for American Values complaint, filed June 8, 2014.
- Kim Barker and Theoderic Meyer, The Dark Money Man: How Sean Noble Moved the Kochs’ Cash into Politics and Made Millions, ProPublica, Feb. 14, 2014.
- Coalition for American Values 2012 990, available at ProPublica website, accessed July 9, 2014.
- Protect Sand Mining, About, website archived by Internet Wayback Machine, accessed July 9, 2014.
- Sara Jerving, "Wisconsin Becomes Part of Gas Industry's Land Grab," Center for Media and Democracy, PR Watch, October 7, 2011. Accessed July 29, 2014.
- Center for Responsive Politics, Coalition for American Values, PAC donor profile. Accessed July 9, 2014.
- Juliet Chung: Six Apartments May Make One Wall Street Journal, Published April 27th, 2010. Accessed June 13th, 2012
- Brendan Fischer, Why Are the Franklin Center's "Wisconsin Reporter" and "Watchdog.org" Attacking the John Doe?, PRwatch.org, Dec. 19, 2013.