What’s Up, Wisconsin?: Is the Koch-Funded Americans for Prosperity Playing Dirty Tricks with Voters in the Badger State?

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

It appears that Americans for Prosperity, a group co-founded by the Koch Brothers, may be involved in voter shenanigans in Wisconsin. According to David Catanese at Politico, AFP “is sending absentee ballots to Democrats in at least two Wisconsin state Senate recall districts with instructions to return the paperwork after the election date.” Think Progress has reported that the AFP mailer isn’t actually a ballot but a “form letter that looks like a normal absentee ballot application.” The Absentee Ballot Processing Center that is printed on the last page of the AFP mailer is actually registered to a right-wing advocacy group called Wisconsin Family Action PAC—and not to an actual processing center or election board.

Eric Kleefeld of Talking Points Memo reported that an organization called Wisconsin Right to Life had previously used that same address (Absentee Ballot Application Processing Center, P.O. Box 1327, Madison WI 53701-1327) “for absentee ballot application letters and phone calls that were sent out shortly before the July 12 Democratic primaries, but after the official deadlines for the applications.”

Catanese also noted in his Politico article that the “absentee trickery comes just as AFP has purchased $150,000 in ad time in Green Bay, Milwaukee and Madison to boost GOP candidates.”

Yesterday, David Bice wrote in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel  that Matt Seaholm, who is the state director of Americans for Prosperity, blamed the mistake on a typo and claimed that his group was not trying to mislead anyone.

Bice also reported that other sources said the fliers were received by “card-carrying Democrats active in the recalls” of state Sens. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls) and Rob Cowles (R-Allouez). In addition, Bice wrote: “Two of the activists who received the AFP mailers are expected to file complaints with the state Government Accountability Board later today. Copies of the complaints were obtained by No Quarter.”

Click here to see the Americans for Prosperity “absentee ballot” fliers.

Click here to see copies of the complaints obtained by No Quarter.

Going Back in Time: Paul Weyrich’s Idea of Republican Voter Suppression

Conservative group sends absentee ballots with late return date (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

John Nichols: Gov. Walker, David Koch and the charges of voter suppression (Madison.com)

AFP Wisconsin ballots have late return date (Politico)

Koch Group Mails Suspicious Absentee Ballot Letters In Wisconsin (Talking Points Memo)

David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity Plays Dirty Trick In WI: Mails Absentee Ballots To Dems With Wrong Election Date (Think Progress)

59 thoughts on “What’s Up, Wisconsin?: Is the Koch-Funded Americans for Prosperity Playing Dirty Tricks with Voters in the Badger State?

  1. Of course they are, Elaine.

    It’s what the Koch Brothers do – try to rig the political system to favor their business interests every chance they get.

    Along with our war criminal and special interest corrupted politicians, the Koch Brothers are a far larger threat to democracy than any terrorist ever could be.

  2. Gene, not all terrorists carry bombs, knives and firearms. Some wear suits and ties, and their weapons are all on paper. They are economic and social terrorists.

  3. You’ll catch no argument from me on that statement, OS. I feel the same way about criminals in general. The worst of the lot don’t ever touch a weapon pointier than a pen.

  4. Gene, yes, sometimes a Mont Blanc pen is a more formidable weapon than an Army division. Especially when it is used to write checks that buy politicians. We have the best Congress and President money can buy.

  5. Otteray,

    “We have the best Congress and President money can buy.”

    Unfortunately, when it comes to politicians, money doesn’t actually buy the best.

  6. You want to talk about voter fraud? This is about as fraudulent as it gets.
    This sort of thing reminds me of the robocalls used by the right made to Democratic voters telling them that there was no need to vote because their candidate was already so far ahead in the exit polls.

    Let’s see how out recent trolls react to this bit of right wing chicanery.

    Thanks for the heads up, Elaine.

  7. culheath:

    I cant speak for the others, but for me voter fraud is voter whether it is right left or center and has no place in our republic.

    If the Koch Bros are involved and have broken the law they should go to jail or be fined or endure whatever penalty is applicable under the law.

    Although as far as the robocalling is concerned, we dont have a national media that will do that for us so we have to level the playing field as best we can.

  8. Roco,

    “Although as far as the robocalling is concerned, we dont have a national media that will do that for us so we have to level the playing field as best we can.”

    Elaborate please?

  9. Roco,
    I think you missed the point. The Koch Brothers are the playing field when it comes to contacting voters. Besides, are you suggesting to us, in good faith, that Fox News is not available as a playing field for any Teapublican issue under the sun? Are they not a national media?

  10. culheath & rafflaw,

    Remember how the “liberal media” gave George Bush a buy on the Iraq War? How some members of the “liberal media” always used the term “enhanced interrogation techniques/methods” instead of “torture” in their reports? How members of the “liberal media” fell for the Mission Accomplished claim of Bush? Remember Judith Miller?

    Liberal media? I think not. I’d call it corporate media.

  11. A column in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (jsonline.com) covered this issue. It also pointed out “dirty” tricks by the Democrats (e.g., robo calls to Republicans that give the wrong election date.)

    The sharkandshepeard blog suggests that the problem may be that the recall elections were not all set for the same date (he writes they were bifurcated by party).

  12. So is it now ok to call your political opponents terrorists?

    Terrorists violently murder innocent people, often by blowing them up. I get that.

    And people who disagree with your political views violently murder innocent people how exactly? (By only allowing the federal budget to grow by only $200 billion over the next decade in a bipartisan supported bill?)

    Why not throw in a Hitler and Nazi reference in there as well? Surely we can tie these violent murders into a claim of genocide?

    It’s funny how at least two commenters who bring up “false equivalence” the most are the ones doing the most complaining on this thread.

  13. That’s not the only curious election-related activity going on before the high-stakes recall races.

    Duane and Claire Cina of Viola – self-described Republican activists – said they received a robocall asking if they would be voting in the upcoming Aug. 16 recall election pitting Kapanke against Democratic state Rep. Jennifer Shilling.

    The only problem with that is that the election is Aug. 9.

    Claire Cina, 50, said she believes the call was coming from Democrats hoping to confuse Kapanke supporters.

    “I don’t think it’s good politics,” Duane Cina said.

    Harrington, the Kapanke staffer, said her office received numerous complaints from backers upset about the calls. Her office eventually contacted state election officials.

    Reid Magney, spokesman for the Government Accountability Board, said the Democratic National Committee fessed up to making the calls with the wrong date.

    “We contacted DNC and asked about the robocalls,” Magney said in an email. “They called us back and said they had initiated them and discontinued them as soon as they realized the dates were wrong.”

    Officials with the DNC didn’t return calls or emails.

    Harrington isn’t buying that this was just an innocent mistake.

    “I don’t know how you mix that up,” she said. “The biggest thing is the election day.”

    Unless, of course, you’re trying to keep certain people from the polls.



    The republic is going to fall!!!!!

  14. mahtso,

    I found the following article. Is this the one you were talking about?

    Political groups fumble recall date

    And the Democratic National Committee has been making robocalls to voters – including some Republican activists – giving them the wrong date for the upcoming recall election for state Sen. Dan Kapanke, a La Crosse Republican.


    I may be a progressive–but I do like to be fair and balanced.

  15. mahtso,

    Robocalls arouse suspicion with bad election date
    LaCrosse Tribune
    July 30, 2011

    A round of automated phone calls urging residents of the 32nd Senate District to vote one week after the upcoming recall election has voters from both parties crying foul.

    Several voters reported receiving calls Saturday asking about their preference and likelihood to vote in the recall election pitting Republican Sen.

    Dan Kapanke against Democratic Rep. Jennifer Shilling, both of La Crosse.

    The recorded calls, recipients said, urged them to vote Aug. 16.

    Only one problem: The 32nd District votes on Aug. 9.

    Government Account -ability Board spokesman Reid Magney said the Democratic National Committee called election officials Friday saying they initiated the calls but stopped them Saturday once the incorrect date was discovered.

    The DNC did not respond to requests for comment Friday.

    There are two recall elections set for Aug. 16 in other districts.

    Magney said the GAB received only one complaint about the calls — forwarded by a media outlet. While it is a crime to deliberately mislead voters, Magney said the responsibility for investigation and prosecution rests with local authorities.

  16. Voter fraud is an age old tradition on the con. Any questions can be immediately answered by the Board of Elections … dates, times, identification needs, even progress of precinct counting.

  17. Elaine-

    I have in front of me one of two “Absentee Ballot Applications” I received from Wisconsin Right To Life. They are similar to the one you have a link to. The address is exactly the same. The major difference is as follows:

    Step 3: When you receive your absentee ballot from your city clerk, fill it out immediately and vote for the right-to-life candidate.
    Step 4: Mail in your completed absentee ballot which must be received by your city clerk before August 4.

    I have never voted absentee, but I believe the APPLICATION for an absentee ballot must be received by the city clerk by Aug. 4. I think the ABSENTEE BALLOT itself must be received by the city clerk any time before the end of voting on Aug. 9.

    I live in the Senate District of Alberta Darling, who is being recalled. I have made two donations to her Democratic opponent, Sandy Pasch, which is publicly available information undoubtedly in the hands of Wisconsin Right To Life. I suspect that if I sent them my application for an absentee ballot, it would be accidentally “lost or delayed in the mail”.

    Every time there is an important election in Milwaukee, the night before the Tuesday election some of our local racist Republicans put flyers on cars parked in the inner city urging all African-Americans to “be sure you go to the polls Wednesday and vote”. (By the way, it never works.)

    There is now a website with information on the recall of Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. Petitions will start circulating around Nov.4. The website has yard signs, bumper stickers etc. available. They have gathered 192,858 signatures so far on a “pledge to recall” Walker and Kleefisch. This will give them a data base to send out info on where to sign recall petitions once the dates are firmed up. The deadline for the petitions will be in early 2012.

    Website is: http://unitedwisconsin.com

  18. Go figure nothing on the news in WI about this….where is the MSM when something like this is going on….

  19. To pick up on last night’s thread….

    “The Central Intelligence Agency owns everyone of any significance in the major media.” –William Colby, head of the CIA from 1971-1975

    “Colby also focused on internal reforms within the CIA and the Intelligence Community. He attempted to modernize what he believed to be some out-of-date structures…

    President Ford, advised by Henry Kissinger and others concerned by Colby’s controversial openness to Congress and distance from the White House, replaced Colby late in 1975 with George H. W. Bush during the so called “Halloween Massacre” in which Secretary of Defense Schlesinger was also replaced (by Donald Rumsfeld). Colby was offered the position of U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO but turned it down.”
    – from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Colby

  20. A whiff of Koch-backed foul play in Wisconsin recalls
    By Natasha Lennard
    Salon, 8/1/2011

    Something is rotten in the state of Wisconsin — and the Koch-backed advocacy group Americans for Prosperity is behind it.

    The second round of state Senate recall elections is scheduled for Aug. 9 — when six Republicans will face Democratic challengers — and voters have been sent absentee ballot applications. The problem is, Democratic voters in a number of districts received mailers advising that they return absentee ballots by Aug. 11 (two days too late to be counted). The misleading notices came from AFP.

    The Wisconsin Democratic Party, Politico reports, is now filing a formal complaint against the conservative group for “falsely representing the time frame” of the recall elections.

    “[AFP] has displayed a continued pattern of tampering with the electoral process in Wisconsin with elaborate, illegal and fraudulent schemes designed to suppress Democratic votes,” Margaret Brick of the WDP told Politico.

    The mailers specifically targeted Democratic voters in two districts where Republican incumbents face recall on Aug. 9. In response to accusations that it intentionally deceived voters, AFP claims that the wrong election date on the applications was a “printing mistake” — a mistake the group says it is addressing by putting calls in to every person on the mailing list to remind them of the correct election date.

    AFP claims that the mailers were only sent to its members, despite the fact that those targeted with the ballot notices were nearly all self-identifying Democrats. However, AFP-Wisconsin’s director, Matt Seaholm, is not taking seriously the allegations : “I’m sure the liberals will try to make a mountain out of a molehill in an attempt to distract voters’ attention from the issues.”

  21. Raff-

    The Koch Bros. would shoot Democrats on their way to the polls if they thought they could get away with it. And then sell “Election Day Massacre” T-shirts and hats to the spectators.

  22. HenMan,

    I saw one of those t-shirts just the other day. Two versions. On the back of one it said, “Fighting Kochs make better dictators!”, the other said “These Kochs don’t play around!” In all fairness, the marketing machine for those opposed to selling our democracy have shirts too. Theirs say “Koch fighting isn’t for chickens!” and “Don’t play with that thing or you’ll go blind!”

  23. rafflaw,

    I’d stay out of Wisconsin until Scott (aka Mortimer Snerd) Walker takes a walk–a long walk away from the Wisconsin State Capitol Building.

  24. Claims of Election Fraud, Illegal Collusion, Arise in Wisconsin Recall Election

    The MacIver News Service has reported that more than $11 million in labor union money has been shuffled into Wisconsin to fund third party political advertising to benefit the Democratic candidates. Earlier this week we also reported on a Get Out the Vote Scheme that appeared to run afoul of Wisconsin election law. The group, Wisconsin Jobs Now! was offering food and prizes to voters who then hopped in a van and were shuttled to Milwaukee City Hall to vote early via absentee ballot. (The use of ‘walking around money’ and such inducements for voting may be common in other states but they are illegal in Wisconsin.)

    After our report, the group began to scrub their internet history to hide their connection to another liberal activist group, Citizen Action of Wisconsin.
    Perhaps it’s because their favored candidate in the Miwlaukee area senate race, Democratic State Representative Sandy Pasch, sits on the Board of Directors of Citizen Action, thus providing a direct line relationship between Pasch and the ‘prize give-a-way’ scheme.

    Next Tuesday voters in six state senate districts in Wisconsin will determine whether Republicans here will be able to keep their majority in the upper house of the legislature.

    As you know, the GOP Senators are facing these recalls because they voted in favor of Scott Walker’s labor reforms that ended most of the collective bargaining entitlements for public workers.  The unions are clearly pulling out all the stops to win. They want these elections to be the first victory in the counter insurgency against Governors and legislators in other states who have made similar, albeit more modest, efforts to curb the pay and power of Big Labor.

  25. “to curb the pay and power of Big Labor.”(kderosa)

    That’s funny coming from a Big Business supporter

  26. Politicians have used public sector union support to win elections and power in exchange for agreement to use that power to rob taxpayers. Much of this theft has come in the form of absurdly rich public sector benefits, paying common retirees like lottery winners. Unlike a private sector employer that over-promises benefits, government can’t lose to competition and never closes.

    In Rhode Island this month we can see is a microcosm of the coming standoff between public sector unions and taxpayers across the country.

    Update: Central Falls files for bankruptcy; contracts voided

    “The current situation is dire,” Chafee said, “and it necessitates decisive steps to put the city back on a path to solid financial footing and future prosperity. We will be exploring all options to provide quality services at an affordable cost to all taxpayers.”

    All contracts with municipal workers and retirees, including the fire and police departments, are immediately voided.

    “We negotiated with Council 94 and the police and fire unions, without success, attempting to reach voluntary concessions, and we tried in vain to persuade our retirees to accept voluntary reductions in their benefits.”

    I expect Central Falls shows the future of Jefferson County Alabama, and then cities in Pennsylvania, and eventually major cities like Houston and Chicago, and then entire state governments.

  27. kderosa,

    Yeah, I know. I decided to use one of your ploys … just say something, whether it is true or not, and see how you would respond.

    there was money riding on it … :)

  28. What government checks? I was a small business owner and I was my only employee.

    No, the truth of the matter is that it’s a hot Tuesday evening and my neighbors and I were sitting on the veranda and someone suggested we go on line and check out the trolls.

    I lost by the way ’cause my money was on “tin foil hat”.

  29. Kderrhoid-

    You should show your love for the Koch Bros. by getting a job in one of their non-union super safe coal mines.
    P.S.- When the canary dies, run like hell!

  30. puzzling,

    Maybe you’d find the following article about Jefferson County, Alabama interesting:

    Looting Main Street: How the nation’s biggest banks are ripping off American cities with the same predatory deals that brought down Greece
    MARCH 31, 2010

    If you want to know what life in the Third World is like, just ask Lisa Pack, an administrative assistant who works in the roads and transportation department in Jefferson County, Alabama. Pack got rudely introduced to life in post-crisis America last August, when word came down that she and 1,000 of her fellow public employees would have to take a little unpaid vacation for a while. The county, it turned out, was more than $5 billion in debt — meaning that courthouses, jails and sheriff’s precincts had to be closed so that Wall Street banks could be paid.

    Wall Street’s Bailout Hustle

    As public services in and around Birmingham were stripped to the bone, Pack struggled to support her family on a weekly unemployment check of $260. Nearly a fourth of that went to pay for her health insurance, which the county no longer covered. She also fielded calls from laid-off co-workers who had it even tougher. “I’d be on the phone sometimes until two in the morning,” she says. “I had to talk more than one person out of suicide. For some of the men supporting families, it was so hard — foreclosure, bankruptcy. I’d go to bed at night, and I’d be in tears.”

    Homes stood empty, businesses were boarded up, and parts of already-blighted Birmingham began to take on the feel of a ghost town. There were also a few bills that were unique to the area — like the $64 sewer bill that Pack and her family paid each month. “Yeah, it went up about 400 percent just over the past few years,” she says.

    Wall Street’s Naked Swindle

    The sewer bill, in fact, is what cost Pack and her co-workers their jobs. In 1996, the average monthly sewer bill for a family of four in Birmingham was only $14.71 — but that was before the county decided to build an elaborate new sewer system with the help of out-of-state financial wizards with names like Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase. The result was a monstrous pile of borrowed money that the county used to build, in essence, the world’s grandest toilet — “the Taj Mahal of sewer-treatment plants” is how one county worker put it. What happened here in Jefferson County would turn out to be the perfect metaphor for the peculiar alchemy of modern oligarchical capitalism: A mob of corrupt local officials and morally absent financiers got together to build a giant device that converted human shit into billions of dollars of profit for Wall Street — and misery for people like Lisa Pack.

  31. Thanks for the link, Elaine M.

    “A mob of corrupt local officials and morally absent financiers got together…” — the start of many a story in present day America. (-credit to Matt Taibbi)

  32. Did Koch Group Team Up With Religious Right to Suppress Wisconsin Vote?
    Remember when the Tea Party movement was supposed to be just all about the size of government, and not about those pesky “social” issues?
    By Adele M. Stan
    August 2, 2011

    AFP’s Wisconsin Electoral Shenanigans: Deja Vu All Over Again

    Wisconsin Democrats have reason to be suspicious of Americans For Propserity’s electoral activities. Last October, One Wisconsin Now, a progressive group, obtained undercover audio recording of the meeting of a local Tea Party group, the Grandsons of Liberty, in which a vote-caging scheme was laid out that involved mailers that AFP agreed to send out to voters in left-leaning districts in Milwaukee. The addresses were provided via the Republican Party of Wisconsin, through the state’s Voter Vault. (At that time the state GOP was led by Reince Priebus, who has since gone on to head the Republican National Committee, an apparent reward for his fine work in Wisconsin.) In the vote-cage scheme, mailers were sent in August to districts in which much of the housing was in college dormitories. They had “do not forward” instructions printed on the outside, so that the votes of those whose flyers bounced back to AFP could be challenged at the polls. (Of course, many of the students had moved out of their dorms by August, and would return to new room assignments two months before the election.)

    Mark Block, Seaholm’s predecessor at the helm of AFP-Wisconsin admitted to the Journal Sentinel, after an initial denial, that AFP had sent the mailers. However, the scheme was abandoned, he said, when the group received too few returned flyers.

    The 2010 midterm election campaign — which resulted in the election of Scott Walker to the governor’s mansion, two Wisconsin Tea Party freshmen to Congress, and the unseating of U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold by the AFP-supported plastics magnate Ron Johnson — all saw a Koch-linked program, Prosperity 101, in full swing in Wisconsin workplaces, where at the behest of their employers, workers gathered for seminars on how policies typically embraced by Democrats could ultimately cost them their jobs. (AlterNet’s investigation of Prosperity 101, conducted and published in partnership with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, can be found here.) Many of the seminars were fronted by Stephen Moore, an editorial board member of Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal.

  33. I would think that the Koch Brothers and their friends would be confident that their superior ideas would be enough to convince voters to see it their way. I guess I was wrong!

  34. @HenMan, you seem to be speacking from experience. Is that what affected your thought processes for the worse?

  35. Wisconsin Recall Elections Prompt Progressive Groups To Make Six-Figure Ad Buy

    WASHINGTON — Three progressive groups are set to launch a six-figure television ad buy in the days leading up to the eight remaining Wisconsin state Senate recall elections.

    Democracy for America, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and MoveOn.org have spent a combined $265,000 on ads that will run in three major markets before the Aug. 9 Republican recall elections and the Aug. 16 Democratic recall elections. Two of the groups, PCCC and DFA, have now spent a total of $500,000 on the final three weeks of the recalls.

    The buy will include an ad against Senator Alberta Darling, a Republican who represents the 8th District. It will also help keep on air two previously released ads — one targeting Darling for her position on Medicare and another targeting District 14 candidate Luther Olsen (R) that will run in Green Bay and Madison.

    “We’re going even heavier in the Darling race than we have before, and still staying strong in the Olsen race,” said Neil Sroka, a spokesperson for PCCC. “We’re buying heavily in the two big contests of the moment.”

  36. […] The Koch brothers are extending their political battles to local school boards. An anonymous campaign flier, which may have ties to the Kochs, accuses the NAACP of brainwashing local anti-resegregation candidates. The flier is called "indoctrination" and is being investigated by state officials. The Kochs have been linked to similar smear efforts in Michigan and Wisconsin. […]

  37. […] The Koch brothers are extending their political battles to local school boards. An anonymous campaign flier, which may have ties to the Kochs, accuses the NAACP of brainwashing local anti-resegregation candidates. The flier is called “indoctrination” and is being investigated by state officials. The Kochs have been linked to similar smear efforts in Michigan and Wisconsin. […]

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