Talk:Wisconsin Club for Growth

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John Doe Probe

In response to the 2014 "John Doe Probe" assessing the alleged effort by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and certain non-profit organizations to illegally coordinate fundraising during the 2012 Gubernatorial Recall Election, Eric O'Keefe, director of Wisconsin Club for Growth, filed a lawsuit in Waukesha County Circuit Court seeking a declaratory judgement in the probe to block the Government Accountability Board from moving forward with the investigation by claiming they infringed on his rights and illegally spent public money on the investigation.[1]

Eric O'Keefe told the Wall Street Journal editorial board that he received a subpoena in October 2013 as part of the investigation, and he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that some of the targets of the investigation "had their homes raided at dawn, with law-enforcement officers turning over belongings to seize computers and files."[2] O'Keefe demanded that the case be addressed through a trial by jury in Waukesha County, one of the most conservative counties in Wisconsin.[3]

Documents released on June 19, 2014 detailing the allegations made by five county district attorney's 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.[4]

The documents highlight the importance of R.J. Johnson, a campaign consultant, 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.[5] 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.[6]

The Center for Media and Democracy (which publishes Sourcewatch.org) reported: [7]

"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."[7]

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first broke the news that a second John Doe is underway, and that it is led by Francis Schmitz, a former federal prosecutor who George W. Bush considered appointing as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin[8].


Core Financials

2012[9]

  • Total Revenue: $8,035,883
  • Total Expenses: $8,000,561
  • Net Assets: $453,845

2011[10]

  • Total Revenue: $12,506,477
  • Total Expenses: $12,123,151
  • Net Assets: $418,523

2010[11]

  • Total Revenue: $1,005,839
  • Total Expenses: $1,054,344
  • Net Assets: $35,197

Funding Recipients

Compared to 2010, 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.

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.[12] For example, WCFG gave almost $3 million to the political arm of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, providing about 45% of the group's revenue for that year.[13] WMC then spent $4 million on its pro-Walker campaign during the recall.[12]

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. CSA, in turn, spent millions on the 2011 and 2012 Wisconsin recall elections and in transfers to other groups active during the recalls.

Wisconsin Family Action, an anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage group, received $916,045 from CSA in 2011 and an additional $253,000 in 2012;[12] the 2011 donation amounted to 90% of the grants that Wisconsin Family Action received that year.[14]

Another group, United Sportsmen of Wisconsin, received $235,000 from CSA in 2011[15] and another $10,000 in 2012.[12] 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.[7] 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 Wisconsin Club for Growth was effectively the sole funder for the controversial group, with CSA acting as a middleman.[16]

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.[7][12]

In 2012, CSA's largest contribution was $500,000 given to the Healthcare Compact Alliance, a project of Competitive Governance Action[17]--whose board of directors includes WCFG director Eric O'Keefe.[18] Mother Jones reported in 2011 that the Healthcare Compact Alliance had donated a significant amount to Tea Party Patriots.[19]

CSA's treasurer is Valerie Johnson, wife of WCFG spokesman R. J. Johnson.[12]

CSA appears to be the successor to an earlier dark money group named the Coalition for America's Families, which WCFG also bankrolled. [15]

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.[20] [7]

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.[7]

List of Grants

2012[9]

2011[10]

2011[10]