Eric O'Keefe is a right-wing political operative with deep ties to the Koch brothers. O'Keefe is a director at Empower Wisconsin, board member of the Wisconsin Club for Growth (WCFG), one of the top political spenders in Wisconsin, and is also on the board of directors of Citizens for Self-Governance. He was heavily involved in the Libertarian Party in the 1980s, worked to enact congressional term limits in the 1990s, and transitioned into a leader of the Tea Party movement in the late 2000s. Another of O'Keefe's groups, 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. O'Keefe is married to Leslie Graves of the Lucy Burns Institute, publisher of Ballotpedia and Judgepedia.
O'Keefe was at the center of a 2012-2015 "John Doe" criminal investigation into possible illegal campaign coordination between Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Wisconsin Club for Growth, and numerous other "dark money" groups, until it was ended by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in July 2015. See below.
Charles Koch is the right-wing billionaire owner of Koch Industries. As one of the richest people in the world, he is a key funder of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on Charles Koch and his late brother David include: Koch Brothers, Americans for Prosperity, Stand Together Chamber of Commerce, Stand Together, Koch Family Foundations, Koch Universities, and I360.
- 1 Post-John Doe Dismantling of the Government Accountability Board, Threatened Retaliation Against Prosecutors
- 2 O'Keefe Lawyer Files Suit Against John Doe Prosecutors
- 3 Criminal Investigation into Possible Illegal Campaign Coordination in Wisconsin (2012-2015)
- 3.1 Wisconsin Public Radio Interviews O'Keefe After John Doe Decision
- 3.2 Conflicts of Interest at WI Supreme Court Involving WCFG
- 3.3 O'Keefe and Affiliates Spin Nonpartisan Investigation as Politically Motivated
- 3.4 O'Keefe/WCFG Legal Representation in John Doe Cases
- 3.5 O'Keefe/WCFG Lawsuits Fail in Federal Court
- 3.6 Support for Walker Aide Kelly Rindfleisch Convicted of Felony Misconduct in Office
- 4 Eric O'Keefe Bankrolls Project Veritas Coinciding with Attacks on Center for Media and Democracy and GOP Senator Mike Ellis
- 5 O'Keefe Group Funded Legal Challenge to WI Contribution Limits
- 6 Ties to Right-Wing Groups
- 7 Background
- 8 Affiliations
- 9 Articles and Resources
Post-John Doe Dismantling of the Government Accountability Board, Threatened Retaliation Against Prosecutors
Immediately after a conflicted Wisconsin Supreme Court issued a 4-2 decision ending the John Doe investigation, O'Keefe began attacking the prosecutors who took part in the case and Wisconsin's non-partisan Government Accountability Board (GAB), which oversees elections. (A network of groups with ties to O'Keefe had previously successfully sued the GAB in 2014 to block enforcement of aggregate PAC limits.)
In an interview with right-wing radio host Charlie Sykes the day after the court's decision, O'Keefe "said efforts were underway to ask Gov. Scott Walker to fire the prosecutor in charge of the case," according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
- O'Keefe said there would also be attempts to disbar the attorneys involved in the investigation. He also asked the Legislature to assess the involvement of the Government Accountability Board in the John Doe proceedings.
O'Keefe also called to eliminate the GAB, a goal that was quickly supported by Governor Scott Walker and prominent state Republicans, according to the Wisconsin State Journal:
- "GAB was a bad idea whose time has gone," the group’s director, Eric O’Keefe, told radio host Charlie Sykes. "They need to eliminate it."
In October, 2015 O'Keefe's WiCFG launched a robocall campaign in support of a newly-proposed bill to replace the GAB with a board of partisan appointees. The calls included a recording of O'Keefe urging the wavering senators' constituents to demand the senators vote "yes" on the bill.
A trio of bills to deform the GAB, dismantle campaign finance limits, and to prohibit the John Doe process being used to investigate political corruption had been proposed in September 2015. In addition to WiCFG, the groups campaigning and/or lobbying in support of the various bills included David Koch's Americans for Prosperity and a new nonprofit created by former AFP staffer Lorri Pickens. The bills passed, and were signed into law in December 2015.
O'Keefe Lawyer Files Suit Against John Doe Prosecutors
Former Scott Walker aide Cindy Archer filed a civil suit in July 2015 against Milwaukee County DA John Chisholm and four other prosecutors, accusing them of rights violations during the John Doe investigation. Archer was represented by attorney David Rivkin of Washington, DC-based Baker and Hostetler LLP, who was also the attorney for O'Keefe and WCFG in lawsuits related to the John Doe case.
The complaint claimed that the DA's office "conducted a continuous campaign of harassment and intimidation against individuals and organizations in retaliation for their association with Scott Walker and their support for his policies," as described by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Officials had seized documents from Archer's home in connection with the John Doe investigation. Archer, who was appointed to a $113,000-a-year position in the state public defender's office in 2014, wrote in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece that her "reputation and career have been damaged beyond repair."
Audio of John Doe Raid Contradicts Aide's Claims of Prosecutorial Abuse
Audio of the raid on Archer's home unsealed in connection with the lawsuit "tells a different story" than Archer's claims. (O'Keefe has compared the targets of the investigation to rape victims, saying prosecutors "imposed a traumatic, unconstitutional abuse on people.") As described by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the newly released audio
- details tense but mannerly exchanges between Archer and Aaron Weiss, an investigator with the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office, as he led a team of officers during an early morning raid on Archer's home as part of a now infamous John Doe probe.
- "I'm sort of doing you a courtesy by letting you get a coffee and smoke a cigarette just because I imagine being woken up at six in the morning by a bunch of people in black suits is not the way you want to wake up in the day," Weiss said at one point.
- "Thank you," Archer responds.
The recording contradicts numerous claims made by Archer in her lawsuit, including that she did not have time to read the search warrant, that she did not know she had the right to a lawyer, and that the investigators "screamed at her" and forbid her from going outside to smoke a cigarette. (Archer later amended her suit to "no longer [claim that] investigators questioned her during a raid of her Madison home without reading her Miranda rights," according to the Wisconsin State Journal.) Many of these claims had been circulated in right-wing media spin about the case. See the related story on PR Watch here.
Criminal Investigation into Possible Illegal Campaign Coordination in Wisconsin (2012-2015)
This SourceWatch article focuses on Eric O'Keefe and his affiliated organizations. For more detailed general information about the John Doe case, see Second John Doe Investigation, February 2012-July 2015.
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. According to statements made over the course of investigation and numerous related court cases, the prosecutors were investigating whether Governor Scott Walker illegally coordinated with supposedly "independent" dark money groups during the recall. O'Keefe filed several lawsuits attempting to stop the investigation, arguing that it violated free speech, free assembly, and equal protection rights, and called Wisconsin's campaign disclosure laws "unconstitutional."
- See the Wall Street Journal article here. (Copyright Dow Jones & Company Inc. all rights reserved).
In July 2015 a 4-2 Wisconsin Supreme Court decision, with one liberal justice recusing herself, ended the investigation with a "sweeping" ruling that opened the door to unlimited, undisclosed spending coordinated with candidates. As journalist Michael Isikoff noted, the controversial decision also raised concerns about conflicts of interest at the court, as several of the justices had been elected with millions of dollars in support from the groups under investigation.
The majority decision declared that any coordination that did occur didn't violate the law, since it only involved so-called "issue ads" that stopped short of expressly saying "vote for" or "vote against" a candidate. The decision overturned years of precedent, and a similar case in 1999 involving issue ad coordination had resulted in a $60,000 fine for then-Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Jon Wilcox's campaign. Writing in dissent, Justice Shirley Abrahamson called the majority's decision "an unprecedented and faulty interpretation of Wisconsin's campaign finance law and of the First Amendment." Justice Patrick Crooks' dissent warned that the majority's decision "will profoundly affect the integrity of our electoral process," and responded to O'Keefe's argument that disclosing coordinated spending hindered free speech: "...there is a simple solution to that problem: stop coordinating. In the absence of coordination, the contributor is free to discuss candidates and issues."
Wisconsin Public Radio Interviews O'Keefe After John Doe Decision
After the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled to shut down the John Doe investigation, Wisconsin Public Radio interviewed O'Keefe "about his experience." O'Keefe discussed his decision to violate the secrecy order by talking to the Wall Street Journal, WiCFG's activities, and his call to investigate the prosecutors and investigation. Click here for the recording.
Conflicts of Interest at WI Supreme Court Involving WCFG
Two groups at the center of the John Doe case, WCFG and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, had spent more than $10 million since 2007 helping elect the court's four-justice conservative majority, in most cases spending more than the candidates themselves. In every single one of the most recent elections for the court's four Republican justices--Justices David Prosser, Michael Gableman, Annette Ziegler, and Patience Roggensack--spending by WCFG, its surrogates, and WMC amounted to almost all of the independent support for the candidate, according to data compiled by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign and an analysis by the Center for Media and Democracy. As journalist Michael Isikoff reported, the failure of the justices to recuse themselves raised concerns about the apparent conflicts of interest. 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.
O'Keefe and Affiliates Spin Nonpartisan Investigation as Politically Motivated
The investigation was conducted under Wisconsin's "John Doe" laws and was similar to a grand jury investigation. It was overseen by former federal prosecutor Francis Schmitz, who was once considered for a position as U.S. attorney by George W. Bush and who voted for Republican Governor Scott Walker, and involved Republican and Democratic prosecutors in several Wisconsin counties. However, the Wall Street Journal's editorial board characterized the investigation as a "political speech raid,"  and a number of right-wing groups claimed that the case was politically motivated.
Leading the spin effort was Wisconsin Reporter, a site published by O'Keefe's Franklin Center that published over 160 articles attacking the John Doe probe and repeatedly broke news on the story without disclosing its conflicts of interest in reporting on the case, including the fact that one of the subjects of the investigation, Eric O'Keefe, was its founder and a major funder. In addition, the Franklin Center's Director of Special Projects, John Connors, was the president of a dark money group involved in the John Doe investigation, Citizens for a Strong America, which received nearly all of its over-$6.6 million budget from WiCFG during the recalls, spending some to influence the Wisconsin Supreme Court race and funneling millions to other groups active in the recall. Despite these undeclared conflicts, Wisconsin Reporter posts were cited by O'Keefe in his lawsuit as evidence that the investigation was politically motivated, and Judge Randa also cited Wisconsin Reporter in support of his ruling (which was later overturned).
O'Keefe Compares Criminal Investigation to Rape
In October 2014 while on a conservative talk radio show, O'Keefe compared the subpoena targets of the John Doe investigation to rape victims. As reported by the Wisconsin State Journal:
- “I have read some about rape and I have talked about rape and I am saying this deliberately,” O’Keefe said. “The reactions that I got from the people I interviewed were similar to a rape victim.”
- He said prosecutors “imposed a traumatic, unconstitutional abuse on people and told them you can’t talk to your colleagues, you can’t talk to your friends.”
During the show, O'Keefe also called the Government Accountability Board "corrupt" and called the investigation "spying."
O'Keefe/WCFG Legal Representation in John Doe Cases
O'Keefe and WCFG filed several lawsuits seeking to end the John Doe probe and were "able to obtain prominent, high-priced legal counsel to defend against the probe and go on the offensive against investigators," as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel described in 2014, hiring Washington D.C.-based attorney David Rivkin of Baker and Hostetler LLP.
A statement by John Doe prosecutor Francis Schmitz also named the Kansas, Missouri-based firm Graves Garrett, led by former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves, as representing WCFG. Tax filings show that in 2013, WCFG gave $750,000 to a Missouri-based organization called the American Democracy Alliance, which does not appear to have a public presence, but which shares an address with Graves' law firm. While the American Democracy Alliance describes its purpose as collecting donations and distributing them to conservative social welfare groups, its 2013 tax filing shows that it spent $1,441,346 on legal expenses (slightly more than its total revenues of $1,440,000 that year).
O'Keefe/WCFG Lawsuits Fail in Federal Court
On February 10, 2014, O'Keefe and WCFG filed a suit with the U.S. District Court in Milwaukee claiming that "the probe violates their rights to free speech, free assembly and equal protection under the law" and seeking "to block prosecutors from continuing the John Doe probe, relieve O'Keefe and the Wisconsin Club for Growth from having to cooperate with it, and order prosecutors to pay them compensatory damages for violating their constitutional rights." On May 30, 2014, O'Keefe and WCFG filed a suit in the Waukesha County Circuit Court seeking to remove the Government Accountability Board, Wisconsin's elections and ethics agency, from the John Doe case. On September 24, 2014, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the lawsuit to be thrown out, declaring that federal Judge Rudolph Randa never should have taken the case in the first place.
Support for Walker Aide Kelly Rindfleisch Convicted of Felony Misconduct in Office
O'Keefe's organizations have also supported a former Walker senior staffer who was convicted of a felony. Kelly Rindfleisch, former Deputy Chief of Staff for Scott Walker while he was Milwaukee County Executive, had been charged with four felonies relating to political fundraising while on the county payroll as the result of an earlier John Doe investigation, but in November 2012 reached a plea agreement with prosecutors resulting in six months in jail and three years of probation on a single felony count of misconduct in office. (The plea was announced shortly after prosecutors had subpoenaed Walker to testify in the case.) Following over two years of unsuccessful appeals, she began serving her sentence on April 1, 2015. According to the Franklin Center's Wisconsin Reporter, which published more than 160 pieces defending Rindfleisch, O'Keefe, and others, as of April 2015 she was on work release working for O'Keefe's E&L Corporation. In June 2015, Rindfleisch filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to have her conviction overturned, arguing that the warrants under which evidence against her was found were overly broad (an argument already rejected by the state appeals court and the state Supreme Court.)
Rindfleisch has been represented by Milwaukee attorney Frank Gimbel.
Eric O'Keefe Bankrolls Project Veritas Coinciding with Attacks on Center for Media and Democracy and GOP Senator Mike Ellis
In 2015, the Center for Media and Democracy (which publishes SourceWatch) discovered tax filings showing that Eric O'Keefe made a $50,000 donation to Project Veritas in 2013. Project Veritas is a group affiliated with James O'Keefe, known for a series of deceptive videos attacking targets like Planned Parenthood and ACORN, a community organizing group. In early 2014, Project Veritas published a video it had recorded of an inebriated Mike Ellis (R-Neenah), then President of the Wisconsin State Senate, discussing the possibility of "setting up an illegal political action committee to attack his Democratic opponent." Ellis later speculated that WCFG was behind the sting.
The Center for Media and Democracy, publisher of Sourcewatch.org, was also subject to a failed sting operation that year by James O'Keefe and his Project Veritas. CMD reported on Ryan Sorba's camera crews trailing Executive Director Lisa Graves, the fake movie scheme proposed by a group called African Americans for Change, and other suspicious behavior in a series of articles in 2014.
Related PRWatch Articles:
- "CMD again Target of Attack-Dog Journalism," August 21, 2014
- "James O'Keefe Cronies Unveiled in Attempted Sting on CMD," September 11, 2014
- "Money Trail Revealed: Did Eric O’Keefe Pay James O’Keefe for Hatchet Job on GOP Senate President?," January 27, 2015
O'Keefe Group Funded Legal Challenge to WI Contribution Limits
In 2014, while the John Doe investigation was proceeding, a number of groups with ties to O'Keefe were involved in a federal lawsuit against the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB) to end enforcement of a Wisconsin campaign finance law limiting total contributions to candidates by political action committees.
CRG Network, which received $126,500 from WCFG in 2009 (the last year its revenue exceeded $50,000), sued the GAB in federal court on June 23, 2014. CRG's lawsuit was filed by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) and promoted by the Franklin Center's Wisconsin Watchdog, and was funded by Citizens for Self-Governance, of which O'Keefe is a board member.
U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa, who has attended numerous judicial junkets funded by the same right-wing network that has funded WCFG, sided with CRG, issuing a temporary injunction on September 5, 2014 that prohibited enforcement of the law. As of September 2014, the GAB had ceased enforcing aggregate PAC limits, and huge donations to the state's Republican and Democratic parties--which can then transfer huge sums to candidate committees--quickly followed.
Ties to Right-Wing Groups
Ties to the Koch Brothers
According to the Washington Post:
- "Early in his libertarian days, O’Keefe became friendly with the Koch brothers, with whom he has joined in many battles, mainly through independent groups that the courts have empowered to raise unlimited money, often without having to identify their donors."
More recently, O'Keefe was listed as a presenter at the June 2010 Koch network meeting in Aspen, Colorado. He sits on the board of the Koch's Institute for Humane Studies (IHS) and was formerly on the board of directors of the Cato Institute, a Koch-founded libertarian think tank.. SAM's internship recruitment page was connected to Koch Industries through the Charles G. Koch Summer Fellow Program. The program was administered through the IHS and the State Policy Network and featured on the IHS website.
O'Keefe was invited to present at a meeting of conservative donors plotting a campaign against Democrats and climate change organized by the Koch brothers at Rancho Las Palmas Resort in Ranch Mirage, California in January 2011, according to a list obtained by Lee Fang and published by ThinkProgress.
O'Keefe previously worked for Citizens for Congressional Reform, a project of David Koch's Citizens for a Sound Economy (the predecessor to Americans for Prosperity). He has also been featured at events funded by David Koch's Americans for Prosperity group.
According to reporting by the Center for Media and Democracy, the Wisconsin Club for Growth, for which O'Keefe is a board member, "took in funds from some of the top Republican donors and Koch-connected dark money conduits in the country," including the Center to Protect Patient Rights and the Wellspring Committee, as part of a "dark money web" funding at least $9.1 million in spending in 2011 and 2012 recall elections in Wisconsin.
O'Keefe also appears to have ties going back decades to other individuals who have been close to the Kochs, such as Edward H. Crane. O'Keefe's website states, for example, that in 1981, "Senator McCarthy invited Ed Crane and Eric to dine with him in the Senate dining room, where the trio discussed the situation with political speech and regulation, among other things."
Wisconsin Club for Growth
WCFG has funneled millions of dollars to other right-wing advocacy groups, many of which have spent large sums on political ads. In 2011 and 2012, WCFG "spent more than $9.1 million during the [Wisconsin] recalls, one of the biggest sources of “issue ad” funding during that period" even though the group spent only $100,000 directly, according to Express Milwaukee. 
In 2011 and 2012, donations from WCFG have provided almost the entire budget of Citizens for a Strong America, which in turn funded conservative organizations including the anti-gay Wisconsin Family Action, anti-abortion Wisconsin Right to Life, and the Healthcare Compact Alliance--whose parent organization, Competitive Governance Action, included Eric O'Keefe on its board of directors.
In 2011, WCFG also provided about half the budget for the pro-business Jobs First Coalition, which in turn transferred $245,000 to a group called the American Federation for Children (AFC). AFC reported spending $1.1 million supporting Gov. Scott Walker during his recall, in addition to $1.3 million supporting Wisconsin Republican state senators being recalled in 2011. In 2012, WCFG donated $250,000 directly to AFC.
Wisconsin Club for Growth was one of 29 right-wing groups (including nonprofits, political vendors and party committees) that has reportedly been 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.
Milwaukeeans for Self-Governance
Eric O'Keefe has connections to Milwaukeeans for Self-Governance, called a "secretive" right-wing political organization by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, that influenced almost all of the 14 Common Council races in the 2016 election cycle, spending an estimated $200,000 "without disclosing its donors, detailing its spending or even registering with local, state or federal agencies," as described by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The group's leader is Craig Peterson, a long-time Republican political operative, who has worked with O'Keefe since at least 2014 race for Milwaukee County Sheriff, in which Peterson's group paid for radio ads in favor of incumbent David A. Clarke Jr. O'Keefe raised the money that Peterson spent on the 2014 campaign for Sheriff and Peterson commented on their relationship, saying "he's good at raising it; I'm good at spending it."
Peterson told the Journal Sentinel, "We're not registered with anybody because we don't need to be [...] However, we are going to be around for a long time, so there may be multiple organizations." The only statement Peterson would make about the group's funding was that it came from a "network of business people," claiming that they were primarily residents of downtown Milwaukee.
The group was involved in the 2016 city elections in the form of radio ads, research on opposition candidates, and polling. As described by the Journal Sentinel:
- Some spots — including one featuring convicted former Ald. Michael McGee Jr. — encouraged people to vote. Other ads by the group slammed Mayor Tom Barrett over increasing car thefts and his streetcar plans. Another radio spot, voiced by Clarke, warned about soaring crime in the city.
Sam Adams Alliance
O'Keefe founded the Sam Adams Alliance (SAM) and served as chairman and CEO. According to O'Keefe's website, SAM was intended to be a right wing source of support for freedom of speech and discussion of political issues, training citizens to be activists and bloggers. The organization was active from 2007 to 2011. 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.
According to Liberty Guide, a project of the Institute for Humane Studies, "Eric O’Keefe is chairman and CEO of the Sam Adams Alliance. Under his leadership, the Sam Adams Alliance (SAM) has established some of the most active and respected organizations in the freedom movement, including American Majority and the Franklin Center. SAM has also launched Judgepedia, Ballotpedia, and Sunshine Review, Wikipedia-style websites that have had more than 19 million page views for their 128,000 pages of politically important information. He serves on the board of directors of the Institute for Humane Studies, the Center for Competitive Politics, the Citizens in Charge Foundation, and Wisconsin Club for Growth. He authored the book Who Rules America, which won praise from Milton Friedman, and hosts a new podcast series, Engaging Democracy. When not promoting political reform, O’Keefe is a private investor residing in rural Wisconsin with his wife, Leslie Graves."
According to the State Policy Network's (SPN) website, SAM received funding from SPN and was listed in their network of state think tanks. 
The Franklin Center
In 2009, under O'Keefe's leadership the Sam Adams Alliance helped launch the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, and provided the new organization with "seed money," according to the National Journal.   
According to his personal website, O'Keefe is originally from Grosse Pointe, Michigan. He briefly worked at Detroit Broach and Machine and was a member of the United Steelworkers of America Local 7489.
He lives in Spring Green, Wisconsin with his wife, Leslie Graves, who is president of the Lucy Burns Institute.
O'Keefe became involved with the Libertarian Party in the mid-1970s and was elected to the Libertarian National Committee in 1979. In 1980, he served as National Field Coordinator for the Libertarian presidential campaign, in which David Koch was the vice presidential candidate, and was elected National Director of the Libertarian Party. According to O'Keefe's website, he left the Libertarian Party in 1983.
In the 1980s, O'Keefe was involved with the National Taxpayers Union. In 1988, he joined the Cato Institute board of directors. In 1991, O'Keefe formed U.S. Term Limits to push for legislation limiting congressional term limits across the US. As described by O'Keefe's website, the group was involved in "major innovation" related to political advertising.
- "U.S. Term Limits also implemented a major innovation in political communication by creating Americans for Limited Terms to run aggressive pre-election issue advertising. The complex new laws of 1974 and the rewrite by the Supreme Court deterred participation in politics, as it was intended to do.
- "However nothing in the law, the Buckley decision, or subsequent decisions precluded advertising to promote issue positions, even if that advertising might well influence voters, and therefore elections. So Eric recommended that friends of U.S. Term Limits set up a new entity, to limit exposure in the event of the F.E.C. complaints and possible other litigation we expected to meet for promoting our political views."
Since the 1990s, O'Keefe has been involved in a number of right-wing political organizations engaged on topics such as fighting campaign finance reform, opposing the Affordable Care Act, and supporting Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
As of September 2019:
- Empower Wisconsin, director
- Wisconsin Club for Growth, director
- Sam Adams Alliance, founder and past chairman. Later operating as Competitive Governance Institute and Competitive Governance Action
- Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, founder. The Franklin Center, which received substantial funding from the Sam Adams Alliance, publishes Wisconsin Reporter and Watchdog.org.
- National Taxpayers Union, founder
- Cato Institute, former board member
- U.S. Term Limits, founder
- Americans for Limited Terms, president (1996-2000)
- Institute for Humane Studies, former board member
- American Majority, a Tea Party group that trains right-wing candidates to run for office; co-founder
- Center for Competitive Politics, a legal organization that opposes campaign finance regulations; founding board member
- Campaign for Primary Accountability, a super PAC that funds opposition to incumbent members of Congress; co-founder. O'Keefe reportedly donated $100,000 to the group.
- Citizens for Self-Governance, co-founder and board member
- Alliance for Self-Governance, co-founder
- Health Care Compact Alliance, chair.
- Citizens in Charge, board member
- Legislation Education Action Drive, president
- Citizens for Congressional Reform
- Americans for Prosperity Wisconsin
- American Majority
- Education Action Group
- Tea Party Patriots
- Bartley Institute, former board member
- Center for Independent Thought
- Parents in Charge Foundation
- Legislative Education Action Drive
- Concerned Citizens of Iowa County
- Competitive Governance Institute and Competitive Governance Action
- Center for Competitive Thought
- Health Care Compact Alliance
- John Hancock Committee for the States, later Citizens for Self-Governance
- CSG Action
- Has ties to the Lucy Burns Institute, official sponsor of Ballotpedia and Judgepedia. His wife is the Institute's president and the organization has received funds from SAM
- Has ties to Rachel's Vineyard," an "abortion recovery" group, through his wife, who has been involved in managing the group's publicity 
- Author of "Who Rules America: The People Versus the Political Class," which argues for term limits.
Articles and Resources
Related External Articles
- Ed Pilkington and the Guardian US interactive team, Leaked court documents from ‘John Doe investigation’ in Wisconsin lay bare pervasive influence of corporate cash on modern US elections, The Guardian, September 14, 2016.
Related PRWatch Articles
- Arn Pearson, Leaked Documents Show Court's Dismissal of the John Doe Was Based on a False Premise, PRWatch.org, September 22, 2016.
- Mary Bottari, Supreme Cover-Up: How the Wisconsin Justice System Failed in the Walker John Doe, PRWatch.org, September 18, 2016.
- Mary Bottari, Scott Walker John Doe: Corporate Checks Fueled Coordinated Campaign, PRWatch.org, September 15, 2016.
- Lisa Graves, CMD Urges U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Prosecutors' Appeal in John Doe II Corruption Case, PRWatch.org, June 23, 2016.
- CMD Reporting on Walker Dark Money Criminal Probe, PRWatch.org, September 9, 2014.
- Mary Bottari, "CMD again Target of Attack-Dog Journalism," PR Watch, August 21, 2014
- Jonas Persson, "James O'Keefe Cronies Unveiled in Attempted Sting on CMD," PR Watch, September 11, 2014
- Mary Bottari, "Money Trail Revealed: Did Eric O’Keefe Pay James O’Keefe for Hatchet Job on GOP Senate President?," PR Watch, January 27, 2015
- Brendan Fischer, Was John Doe Raid Led by Republicans?, PR Watch, June 12, 2014.
- Wisconsin Club for Growth Makes False Claims to Federal Court, PR Watch press release, February 11, 2014.
Related SourceWatch Articles
- Citizens for Self-Governance
- Leslie Graves
- Lucy Burns Institute
- Sam Adams Alliance
- Scott Walker
- Wisconsin Club for Growth
- Wall Street Journal, Ted Cruz Reunion Rally Upstaged by Donald Trump's Plane, The Wall Street Journal, July 20, 2016.
- Reid J. Epstein, Dissidents Silenced, GOP Convention Turns Attacks on Clinton, The Wall Street Journal, July 18, 2016.
- Kimberley A. Straussel, The Convention Revolt Peters Out, The Wall Stret Journal, July 14, 2016.
- Reid J. Epstein, Anti-Trump Group to Air TV Ads Aimed at GOP Convention Delegates, The Wall Street Journal, June 24, 2016.
- Reid J. Epstein, Stop Trump Groups Aid Ads Aiming to Unbind Delegates, The Wall Street Journal, June 22, 2016.
- Eric O'Keefe and David B. Rivkin, Release the GOP Delegates, The Wall Street Journal, June 13, 2016.
- Kimberley A. Strassel, The Case for a Really Open GOP Convention, The Wall Street Journal, April 8, 2016.
- Wall Street Journal, John Doe Goes to Washington, The Wall Street Journal, October 26, 2015.
- Collin Levy, The Wisconsin Targets Tell Their Story, The Wall Street Journal, July 22, 2015.
- Wall Street Journal, Free Speech Liberation Day, The Wall Street Journal, July 16, 2015.
- Wall Street Journal, Wisconsin Targets the Media, The Wall Street Journal, December 21, 2014.
- David P. Rivkin Jr. and Andrew Grossman, Criminalizing Political Speech in Wisconsin, The Wall Street Journal, October 10, 2014.
- Wall Street Journal, A Free Speech 'Scheme', The Wall Street Journal, June 20, 2014.
- Wall Street Journal, Another John Doe Disclosure, The Wall Street Journal, June 9, 2014.
- Wall Street Journal, Political Speech Wins in Wisconsin, The Wall Street Journal, May 7, 2014.
- Wall Street Journal, Wisconsin Punch Back, The Wall Street Journal, February 10, 2014.
- Wall Street Journal, Fighting Back in Wisconsin, The Wall Street Journal, January 15, 2014.
- Wall Street Journal, Wisconsin Poltiical Speech Raid, The Wall Street Journal, November 18, 2013.
- Bruce Vielmetti, "Political action group sues over Wisconsin campaign money limits," Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, June 23, 2014.
- Andrew Hahn, "Subject in John Doe probe wants Scott Walker to remove prosecutor from office," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, July 17, 2015.
- Mark Sommerhauser, "Scott Walker: Dismantle independent elections and ethics board," Wisconsin State Journal, July 21, 2015.
- Brendan Fischer, "Kochs Hit the Airwaves in Support of Corruption Measures," Center for Media and Democracy, PR Watch, October 29, 2015.
- Brendan Fischer, "The Kochs Want to End WI's Era of Clean Government," Center for Media and Democracy, PR Watch, October 19, 2015.
- Katie Delong, "Governor Walker signs 10 bills, including one that eliminates the Government Accountability Board," Fox 6 Now, December 16, 2015.
- Mary Spicuzza, "Cindy Archer, longtime aide to Scott Walker, sues John Doe prosecutors," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, July 1, 2015.
- Patrick Marley, "Former Scott Walker aide exceeds top of pay scale with new job," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, July 11, 2014.
- Daniel Bice, "Audio of John Doe raid contradicts claims by longtime Scott Walker aide," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 4, 2015.
- Brendan Fischer, "Scott Walker Aide's Claim of Prosecutorial Abuse Refuted by New Audio," Center for Media and Democracy, PR Watch, August 4, 2015.
- Molly Beck, "Former Scott Walker aide Cindy Archer amends John Doe lawsuit complaint ," Wisconsin State Journal, September 4, 2015
- Brendan Fischer, "Five Things to Know About the Scott Walker John Doe Ruling," Center for Media and Democracy, PR Watch, July 16, 2015.
- Patrick Marley and Jason Stein, "Wisconsin Club for Growth sues to shut down John Doe investigation," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 10, 2014.
- Matthew DeFour, "Eric O'Keefe compares John Doe subpoena targets to rape victims," Wisconsin State Journal, October 3, 2014. Accessed October 30, 2014.
- The Wall Street Journal, Review & Outlook: Wisconsin Political Speech Raid, The Wall Street Journal, November 18, 2013.
- Michael Isikoff, "Walker goes Scott-free as state judges shut down fundraising probe," Yahoo! News, July 16, 2015.
- David Callendar, "WILCOX TO PAY $10,000 FINE FOR CAMPAIGN," Capital Times, March 6, 2001.
- N. Patrick Crooks, "Dissenting Opinion," State of Wisconsin ex rel. Two Unnamed Petitioners, Petitioner, v. The Honorable Gregory A. Peterson, John Doe Judge and Francis D. Schmitz, Special Prosecutor, Respondents., Wisconsin Supreme Court, July 16, 2015.
- Brendan Fischer, "Conflicted Supreme Court Takes Up Walker Criminal Probe," Center for Media and Democracy, PR Watch, December 18, 2014.
- Mary Spicuzza, John Doe targets sue Wisconsin election officials in Waukesha County," Wisconsin State Journal, May 30, 2014. Accessed June 16, 2014.
- Brendan Fischer and Mary Bottari, "GOP Prosecutor Defends Scott Walker Criminal Probe, Says 'Let's Get the Truth Out'," Center for Media and Democracy, PR Watch, May 1, 2015.
- Wall Street Journal editorial board, Wisconsin Political Speech Raid, Nov. 18, 2013, Wall Street Journal.
- Mary Bottari, Heart of Darkness: Criminal Investigation of WI Recall $, Center for Media and Democracy, PR Watch, Nov. 25, 2013.
- Brendan Fischer, "The Assault on Clean Election Laws: The Well-Funded Campaign to Legalize Coordination in Wisconsin and Nationwide," research report, Center for Media and Democracy, January 2015.
- Brendan Fischer, "Why Are the Franklin Center's "Wisconsin Reporter" and "Watchdog.org" Attacking the John Doe?," Center for Media and Democracy, PR Watch, December 19, 2013.
- Dan Bice, "John Doe special prosecutor says he voted for Scott Walker in recall," Miilwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 16, 2014.
- Wisconsin Club for Growth, IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, August 15, 2014.
- American Democracy Alliance, IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, November 26, 2014.
- Patrick Marley and Jason Stein, "Wisconsin Club for Growth sues to shut down John Doe investigation," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 10, 2014. Accessed June 16, 2014.
- Jason Stein and Bill Glauber, "Club for Growth sues to force GAB out of Doe probe," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 30, 2014. Accessed June 16, 2014.
- Jason Stein, Daniel Bice, and Patrick Marley, "Federal court overturns Doe ruling, sends it back to state judges," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 24, 2014. Accessed September 30, 2014.
- Daniel Bice and Steve Schultze, "Former Walker aide reaches tentative plea deal," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, October 9, 2012.
- Dee Hall, "Appeals court upholds conviction of Kelly Rindfleisch, former aide to Scott Walker," Wisconsin State Journal, November 12, 2014.
- M.D. Kittle, "Political prisoner Kelly Rindfleisch on home confinement, working for O’Keefe," Wisconsin Watchdog, May 8, 2015.
- "Kelly Rindfleisch, one of Walker’s former aides, asks Supreme Court to toss her conviction," Associated Press/Fox 6, June 15, 2015.
- Scott Bauer, "Justice cancels request for review in conviction appeal by ex-Scott Walker aide," Associated Press/Wisconsin State Journal, July 1, 2015.
- Bill Glauber, "Spotlight starting to dim for deal-maker Franklyn Gimbel," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, June 22, 2015.
- Patrick Marley and Daniel Bice, "GOP's Mike Ellis caught on recording talking of illegal fundraising," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 9, 2014. Accessed January 28, 2015.
- Wisconsin Eye, "Newsmakers: Exit Interview with Sen. Mike Ellis," YouTube, April 12, 2014. Accessed January 28, 2015.
- Mary Bottari, "Money Trail Revealed: Did Eric O’Keefe Pay James O’Keefe for Hatchet Job on GOP Senate President?," Center for Media and Democracy, PR Watch, January 27, 2015. Accessed January 28, 2015.
- "CRG Network vs. THOMAS BARLAND, HAROLD FROELICH, MICHAEL BRENNAN, ELSA LEMELAS, GERALD C. NICHOL, AND TIMOTHY VOCKE, each in their official capacity as Board Members of the WISCONSIN GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY BOARD," Case 2:14-cv-00719-WED, Filed June 23, 2014.
- M.D. Kittle, Another blow for Wisconsin’s restrictive campaign finance law, WisconsinWatchdog.org, September 9, 2015.
- Patrick Marley and Daniel Bice, "Subject in Doe probe says prosecutors engaged in 'domestic spying'," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, October 2, 2014.
- Brendan Fischer, "Federal Judge Who Halted Walker Dark Money Criminal Probe Attended Koch-Backed Judicial Junkets," Center for Media and Democracy, PR Watch, May 27, 2014.
- Patrick Marley, "Federal court ruling removes limits on donations to political parties," Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, September 15, 2014.
- Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "G.A.B. Stops Enforcing Aggregate PAC Limits," press release, September 9, 2015.
- Brendan Fischer, "Megadonations Follow Randa Ruling in Wisconsin," Center for Media and Democracy, PR Watch, November 3, 2014.
- Marc Fischer, "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s recall: Big money fuels small-government fight," Washington Post, March 25, 2012. Accessed June 12, 2014.
- Eric O'Keefe, Past Experience, personal website, accessed June 12, 2014.
- Alex Brant-Zawadzki and Dawn Teo, Anatomy of the Tea Party Movement: Sam Adams Alliance, Huffington Post, Dec. 11, 2009
- Charles G. Koch, Invitation Letter, September 24, 2010, obtained by Lee Fang and published by Think Progress, October 20, 2010.
- Alex Brant-Zawadzki and Dawn Teo, Anatomy of the Tea Party Movement: Sam Adams Alliance, Huffington Post, Dec. 11, 2009.
- Brendan Fischer, "WI Club for Growth, Target of Walker Recall Probe, at Center of Dark Money Web," Center for Media and Democracy, November 18, 2013. Accessed June 12, 2014.
- Eric O'Keefe, About Eric, personal website. Accessed June 12, 2014.
- Lisa Kaiser, "Who Was Wisconsin Club for Growth's $1 Million Donor?," Express Milwaukee, April 2, 2014. Accessed June 16, 2014.
- Marc Fisher, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s recall: Big money fuels small-government fight, Washington Post, Mar 25, 2012
- Health Care Compact, About, organizational website, accessed June 16, 2014.
- Guidestar, Competitive Governance Action, People and Governance, accessed June 16, 2014.
- Wisconsin Club for Growth, 2012 Form 990, organizational IRS filing, November 14, 2013. Accessed June 16, 2014.
- Daniel Bice, "Secretive group tries to remake Milwaukee City Hall", Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 4, 2016.
- Eric O'Keefe, About Eric, personal website, accessed Nov. 25, 2013
- Liberty Guide, How Understanding Politics Helps in Policy, Liberty Guide, web page archived on November 4, 2013.
- State Policy Network, Same Adams Alliance, Official website, accessed December 11, 2013.
- Press release, Sam Adams Alliance Launches New Website
- Eric O’Keefe, Chairman and CEO, Sam Adams Alliance, How Understanding Politics Helps in Policy, Liberty Guide, October 18, 2012.
- Julie Kosterlitz, Conservative Watchdogs Awake, National Journal, Dec. 12, 2009.
- Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project, Non-Profit News, accessed December 11, 2013.
- Daniel Bice, Conservative outlets write all the news that fits their tilt JSonline.com, August 7, 2011.
- Wisconsin Political Speech Raid, Wall Street Journal, Nov. 18, 2013
- Eric O'Keefe, "How Understanding Politics Helps in Policy," Liberty Guide, October 18, 2012. Archived by Internet Wayback Machine, November 4, 2013.
- Center for Competitive Politics, Board of Directors, organizational website, accessed June 12, 2014.
- Paul Kane, One super PAC takes aim at incumbents of any party, Washington Post, Mar. 7, 2012
- Alliance for Self-Governance, "Alliance for Self-Governance," organization website, accessed May 2016.
- Health Care Compact Alliance website, "About Us" page, accessed Apr. 12, 2011.
- Lucy Burns Institute, Our Staff, organizational website, accessed June 12, 2014.
- Lucy Burns Institute, Our Story, organizational website, accessed June 12, 2014.
- Eric O'Keefe, Publications, personal website, accessed June 12, 2014