United to Amend Blog

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

Wisconsin Prepares to Hand Half-Million in Taxpayer Funds to Koch-Tied GOP Lobby Shop

THIS IS OFFERED HERE AS AN ILLUSTRATION OF WHAT HAPPENS WHEN MONEY IS ALLOWED TO SERVE AS THE EQUIVALENT OF POLITICAL SPEECH.

original article by Brendan Fischer [1] — August 27, 2013 - 10:13am

A small GOP lobby shop tied to the Tea Party and David Koch's Americans for Prosperity, and which was active in the state's recent recall elections, was awarded $500,000 in taxpayer dollars in what some are calling a backdoor, sweetheart deal cooked up by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) State Chair, outgoing Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder.

The United Sportsmen of Wisconsin Foundation was the only applicant for a newly-created grant to promote hunting, fishing, and trapping in the state, despite the organization having no record in outdoors training. The grant was slipped into the budget bill by Suder and barely advertised, and other outdoors groups with more experience in the area were largely excluded. Suder has ties to United Sportsmen, and announced last week [8] he would be leaving the Assembly for a higher-paying job in the Walker administration.

The organization's record, thus far, appears to be that of a lobbying organization for an array of Republican priorities, from mining to the "Castle Doctrine" -- neither of which has anything to do with hunting or fishing -- and working with Americans for Prosperity to organize events and support Republicans in the 2011 recall elections.

The Foundation wing of the group, which has received the grant, only incorporated in January.

Although United Sportsmen describes itself as a membership organization, there is little indication it has a wide membership list; its Facebook page [9], for example, only has 290 followers, many of whom [10] are politicians or right-wing leaders.

The grant, if approved by a panel reviewing the application on Thursday, will go almost entirely towards paying the salaries of United Sportsmen's staff and consultants.

"This last minute, half million dollar raid on the public treasury ought to be rescinded immediately," says Jay Heck of Common Cause Wisconsin. "To award this huge chunk of scarce, taxpayer money to a new group with no track record or experience in hunting, trapping and fishing and with obvious partisan, special-interest ties appears, at the very least to be a quid pro quo conflict of interest."

Taxpayer Dollars Funding the Tea Party?

United Sportsmen was incorporated [11] in June 2011, just weeks before the hotly-contested Senate recall elections when, apparently in coordination [12] with Koch's Americans for Prosperity, it sent misleading absentee ballot applications [13] with the incorrect date for the elections.

At the time, minimal information was available about the organization, but readers of the Brad Blog uncovered [14] how United Sportsmen's website was purchased by John W. Connors, an Americans for Prosperity staffer and former Walker campaign volunteer.

This was not Connors' first foray into the dark money arts. Earlier in 2011, the Center for Media and Democracy uncovered [15] how Connors had also purchased the domain name for a mysterious group called "Citizens for a Strong America," which subsequently spent hundreds of thousands on the Wisconsin Supreme Court race. (That election, between Supreme Court Justice David Prosser and challenger Joanne Kloppenburg, was being treated as a referendum on Governor Scott Walker's controversial anti-union legislation). The street address for the domain name registry was the same as that of AFP.

United Sportsmen of Wisconsin received $235,000 from Citizens for a Strong America in 2011, according to the latter group's tax filings [16]. That same year, Citizens for a Strong America funnelled a stunning $916,045 to a pro-life organization called Wisconsin Family Action, which also appeared to have been involved [12] in Americans for Prosperity's absentee mailing scheme: its address was the same as the "Absentee Ballot Application Processing Center" listed as the destination for AFP's absentee ballot submissions.

Unlike Citizens for a Strong America, United Sportsmen continued its political activities after the recall elections. It aso maintained its AFP ties. In October of 2012, for example, the group worked with AFP and the National Rifle Association to sponsor "Freedom Fest [17]," a party at the Kalahari Resort featuring politicians like U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, right-wing talk show host Vicki McKenna, and Brian Fraley of the MacIver Institute, as well as the head of Governor Walker's Department of Natural Resources. Activities [18] included a "Freedom Phone Bank" and presentations titled "Rules for Radicals" and "Grassroots Lobbying."

United Sportsmen presents itself as an organization focused on hunting and fishing, but its lobbying efforts suggest a broader agenda. The main legislative priority for the group this session in terms of lobbying hours [19]was the promotion of a bill to ease the way for a controversial open-pit iron mine that environmentalists and tribal groups fear will contaminate groundwater. That bill was a top priority for Governor Walker and legislative Republicans (as well as Americans for Prosperity), who promoted it as a jobs measure.

"Conservation only happens when people have jobs," United Wisconsin said in a statement at the time.

Narrowly-Tailored Sweetheart Deal Involves Suder's Former Chief of Staff

The sportsmen's grant was slipped into the Wisconsin budget with minimal debate by then-Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder, who has close ties to many of those involved with United Sportsmen.

For example, one of the educators listed in the United Sportsmen grant is Luke Hilgemann, Suder's former Chief of Staff and now Chief Operating Officer of the national Americans for Prosperity in Washington DC After leaving Suder's office in 2011, Hilgemann led the Wisconsin chapter of AFP; he was promoted [20] to the national group earlier this month. (AFP-Wisconsin is now led by David Fladeboe, who was also a Suder staffer.) Other educators include Darren LaSorte, a longtime Washington DC lobbyist for the NRA. United Sportsmen board members and their families gave Suder $2,500 last year.

And, the grant requirements were narrowly drawn to make few organizations eligible besides United Sportsmen, and was opened for bidding with essentially no public notice. According to Jason Stein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel [21]:

The motion said the grant can be given only to groups that are "not an affiliate of a national federation or organization." That meant conservation groups such as the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and state chapters of Pheasants Forever, National Wild Turkey Federation and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation were prevented from applying for the grant.

And due to the lack of public notice, several eligible groups weren't aware of the grant until after application deadline. Reached last week, Don Kirby, executive director of the Wisconsin Waterfowl Association, said he had no knowledge of the grant.

"Our organization would have been interested to pursue this," Kirby said. "I'm more than a little disappointed to find out now." The Wisconsin Waterfowl Association has a long history of running Learn To Hunt and other training events.

George Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, praised the purpose of the grant but questioned the narrowly-drawn criteria. "We aren't criticizing the purpose of this at all," said Meyer. "We think its purpose is important. But clearly it looks like it was put together for one group."

In contrast with United Sportsmen, the Wisconsin Wildlife Foundation lobbied against the mining bill [22], expressing concern about mining's impact on lakes, wetlands, and groundwater.

Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine), who was part of the budget committee, told the Journal-Sentinel he hadn't realized how uncompetitive the grant really was. "In hindsight, it seems like a sweetheart deal for one group that has ties to Scott Suder," Mason said. "That was not how it was described."

Led by Right-Wing Apparatchicks

United Sportsmen's Tea Party and right-wing ties are well established.

For example, United Sportsmen board member John Meegan is president of the Sauk County Tea Party, and worked with [23] the political training group American Majority [24] to train Tea Party activists and organize pro-Walker rallies at the height of anti-Walker protests. In addition to training Tea Party activists and grooming candidates, American Majority sponsors the Media Trackers website. Meegan is also on the board [25]of the Wisconsin Coalition of Virtual School Families, which promotes for-profit virtual schools like those operated by ALEC member K12 Inc. Meegan is listed as one of the educators in the United Sportsmen grant application.

Also working with the group is Annette Olson, the Americans for Prosperity "Activist of the Year" for 2012, who makes the vast majority of posts on the United Sportsmen Facebook page [9] and has testified on behalf [26] of the group. Olson is also listed as one of the educators in the grant. She leads the Tea Party groups Women United for Liberty [27] (which appears to have an association [28] with Freedomworks) and the pro-gun Tea Party group Uninfringed Liberty [29]. Uninfringed Liberty describes itself [30] as having "a strong emphasis on the second amendment because it protects all liberties and freedom," and says it works to "participate in vetting and promoting conservative candidates that best exemplify the basic principles of liberty." The group boasts of its lifetime membership in the NRA and Gun Owners of America, and supports "open carry." Both Uninfringed Liberty and Women United for Liberty have also held activist trainings [31] with American Majority.

At the state Republican Party convention in 2012, Olson was peeved that the convention hall didn't allow concealed carry, and sponsored a motion [32] urging the party to only hold its events on properties that do.

Those extreme views on guns are reflected in United Sportsmen's lobbying efforts. It was one of just a handful of groups to lobby in favor [33] of Wisconsin's "Castle Doctrine Act," which mimics the infamous ALEC "Stand Your Ground" law implicated in the Trayvon Martin case. No other group purporting to focus on hunting, fishing, and conservation is listed as lobbying on the bill.

Olson and two other United Sportsmen representatives stood behind Governor Walker [34] as he signed the "Castle Doctrine Act."

Will Wisconsin Fund Tea Partier Salaries, in Perpetuity?

The grant will pay United Sportsmen $200,000 this year and $300,000 in 2014. According to the group's grant application, $370,000 will be spent on staff salaries and $20,000 on staff benefits, plus $56,000 on consultants, the Journal-Sentinel reports.

five-member committee [35] dominated by Republicans will review the grant on Thursday, and then disband. The committee will include Scott Gunderson, DNR executive assistant and a former Republican legislator; Sen. Neal Kedzie (R-Elkhorn), chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee; Rep. Al Ott (R-Forest Junction), chairman of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee; and two both appointed to the committee by the DNR.

If the grant is approved, United Sportsmen will receive $450,000 in every two-year budget for perpetuity.

Many have noticed how odd it is for a Tea Party-connected group opposed to government spending to turn around and use their political connections to ask for a handout.

"How ironic that this phony front group, with such close ties to Americans for Prosperity -- which professes to be in favor of cutting government spending -- would burden Wisconsin taxpayers in this manner," says Common Cause Wisconsin's Heck. "They should have asked the Koch Brothers -- who finance AFP -- for the handout instead."

You can contact the commission reviewing this grant application here. [36]

 

 

Read more
1 reaction Share

Petitioning has started in the City of Waukesha!

Petitioning has started in Waukesha! This is a big effort and they need everyone's help! If you're pro-democracy, anti-corruption and care about America's future, please click below and volunteer. Petitioning is actually fun because over 80% of people agree on this core issue...

REVERSE CITIZENS UNITED IN WAUKESHA

Add your reaction Share

Volunteers Needed in Whitefish Bay!

Are you fed up with our corrupt Congress, where money talks and the politicians spend all their time raising money from a tiny slice of billionaires and mega-millionaires? Our goal at Move To Amend is to fix our Constitution and bring democracy back to America, but we need your help! We and other grassroots groups are petitioning in Whitefish Bay, so that the citizens there have the opportunity to vote on this, THE core issue of our time.

We are behind schedule in Whitefish Bay and the petitioning deadline is August 27th. Please volunteer your time to help petition. It’s easy and fun because over 80% of Americans agree on this issue. We’ll give you a little training, a clipboard and materials and you’ll be out helping to put our country back on track.

A few weeks ago, we achieved a major milestone -- introduction of the Money Out, Voters In bill, LRB-1457/5, calling for a statewide referendum to measure public support for overturning Citizens United. While getting the bill introduced is a crucial first step, it must actually pass in the legislature for the referendum to appear on the ballot!  Despite sponsorship from both sides of the aisle, its passage is far from assured, and our real work has therefore only just begun. Please,

  • contact legislators and write letters to newspapers urging passage of LRB-1457/5.  Remind them that this bill is simply about letting voters decide!

Thanks for all you do!!

Add your reaction Share

Volunteers Needed in Whitefish Bay!

Please help with Whitefish Bay petitioning! Only 3 weeks left, and WE ARE BEHIND! (We only need a little over 1,000 signatures.)

WE HAVE FREE SNACKS AND DRINKS! AND VERY NICE, FUN PEOPLE, BESIDES...

GO TO: 2nd floor, above Irina's Kitchen, back parking lot entrance, 325 Silver Spring Dr. (in Glendale, near Bayshore, exit ramp for Silver Spring east)

Mon-Thurs, 11 am-7pm
Fri, 12:00- 6:00 pm
Sat., 11 am-5 pm
Sunday 2-5 pm

TEL # 414-236-4259 COME ON DOWN! We collected 4,230 signatures handed in for Wauwatosa on 7/9/13. Now let's get these folks to sign up! 3 weeks left, only...HELP!!!

For more information: http://www.unitedwisconsin.com/reverse-citizens-united-in-shorewood-and-whitefish-bay

Add your reaction Share

EXETER VOTES TO RETURN THE CONSTITUTION BACK TO “WE THE PEOPLE”

Exeter WI becomes first Township in Green County to pass a resolution declaring that money is not speech and corporations are not people.

At the July 9th town meeting last Monday night, after four months of town input at the monthly meetings, the board, in a unanimous vote, passed a resolution asking the U.S. Congress, State legislature, Governor and President to support an amendment which would reverse the Supreme Court decision, Citizens United vs. The Federal Election Commission . The decision granted artificial entities such as corporations and unions the same constitutional rights as natural persons, and equated free speech to money. The resulting flood of campaign cash has corrupted our political process, making our representatives beholden to a small group of moneyed special interests.

The action in Exeter comes two weeks after the vote by the Village of Belleville board to “Let the people vote”. After a successful direct legislation petition by area citizens, the Belleville board had the option to pass a similar resolution or to have a referendum at the next general election in the spring of 2014. Another unanimous vote, this time to let the people vote.

Exeter becomes the eleventh community in Wisconsin to pass a “We the People” style resolution, joining Madison, Dane County, West Allis, Westport, Dunn County, Eau Claire County, Chippewa County, Fort Atkinson, Whitewater and Douglas County. Nearly 500 towns, cities and other organizations across the U.S. have done the same, including sixteen state legislatures.

Local Move to Amend volunteers in the Green County area ( MoneyOut.wordpress.com ) and our allies at South Central Wisconsin Move to Amend, ( SCWMTA.org ) would appreciate the opportunity to present to your organization or group of citizens, a slide presentation and discussion on our movement and Citizens United effects on our Democracy.

Contacts:

Exeter Team

Belleville / Green County Team
Tim Sager
TRSager@gmail.com
608-335-4051
MoneyOut.wordpress.com
SCWMTA.org

 

Add your reaction Share

Petitioning in Wauwatosa is Done! Working on Whitefish Bay and Shorewood

Mary Laan, MTA Milwaukee, reports that they're turning in 4100+ petitions to the city of Wauwatosa tomorrow (Wednesday), reaching their goal almost a week before deadline, so they have an extra-big margin for error/disqualifications!

They are busy petitioning in Whitefish Bay and Shorewood now, well in to their second week, AND NEED VOLUNTEERS! Call Shirley Horowitz at 414-963-9467 to get an update on how you can help. Or click HERE

Add your reaction Share

Conference: All About Citizens United, Saturday, April 13th

Citizens United is clearly the worst Supreme Court decision since Dred Scott expanded slavery in 1857. For the sake of our democracy, we need an educated and organized citizenry to combat the monied interests in Washington. To that end, please join us for a special one day conference:

All About Citizens United

When: Saturday, April 13, 8:30-3:30

Where: Promega BioPharmaceutical Center Institute campus, 5445 E. Cheryl Parkway, Madison

Speakers:

  • David Cobb, Co-Founder Move To Amend
  • Bob Edgar, Common Cause
  • Jay Heck, Common Cause
  • Mike McCabe, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
  • Doug Cunningham, Madison Radio Journalist
  • John Nichols, Journalist, The Nation
  • Erika Wolfe, S.T.E.P and Wisconsin 9 to 5
  • Lisa Graves, Center for Media and Democracy
  • Joe Rasmussen, WISPIRG
  • Peter Barca, State Assembly Minority Leader

Details: The cost is $20 which includes lunch. We are strongly encouraging people to pre-register, since we cannot guarantee a seat or lunch to those who do not. Check-in starts at 8:00 AM and the program starts at 8:45. We expect the program to run until 3:30 or 3:45.

The website for registration is: www.allaboutcitizensunited.org

Here is the schedule for the topics and speakers (.pdf).

Organized by Wisconsin Move to Amend and the Oregon Area Progressives

Add your reaction Share

Overturning Citizens United: Is a Constitutional Amendment the Best Path to Limit Dark Money?

On Tuesday, Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida introduced a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 landmark Citizens United ruling that cleared the way for corporations and other special interest groups to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections. The bill is part of a growing movement to overturn the ruling. Today we host a debate on whether the push for a constitutional amendment is the best path to overturning Citizens United. We speak to Mark Schmitt, a senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, and John Bonifaz, co-founder and director of Free Speech for People. Click HERE and watch the video.

Add your reaction Share

Move To Amend Take Action Webinar - March 5th

These online trainings are an opportunity for folks to connect with Move to Amend and learn about organizing tools and campaign opportunities, and to connect with other MTA community organizers across the country.

First Tuesday, March 5th at 6pm Central

March 5, 2013 Take Action Webinar Hosted by Move to Amend

Gearing Up for May 10 Day of Action in Protest of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Supreme Court decision

We will cover how to get involved in our Day of Action to draw attention to the infamous Supreme Court case of 1886 that gave corporations recognition under the Constitution. Move to Amend groups will display freeway banners on this date, across the nation. Groups can also host teach-ins and information sessions on corporate constitutional rights (aka corporate personhood) using Move to Amend educational tools. 

Click here to RSVP: http://movetoamend.nationbuilder.com/webinar_03052013

Add your reaction Share

Report and Audio From Dennis Kucinich Speech in Madison 2-12-2013

For those who were unable to attend the speech by Dennis Kucinich (former US Rep. from OH) at the Barrymore Theatre last week, the Liberty Tree Foundation has made a recording of his speech available on its website available at the below link:

http://libertytreefoundation.org/news/dennis-kucinich-audio

 

Add your reaction Share