Here’s a series of FACTS about the folks working for (or associated with) the John K. MacIver Institute:
FACT #1: Brian Fraley, the Communications Director for the MacIver Institute, is a former national insurance industry lobbyist who was director of the Senate Republican caucus during part of the time of the “Caucus Scandal” in which lawmakers illegally used taxpayer-funded employees to do campaign work. In fact, during the “Caucus Scandal,” Fraley actually retained the services of an attorney, services that he billed taxpayers for (from the 3/14/2002 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel):
Besides Esser, three Senate GOP caucus staffers billed taxpayers for legal fees: former director Brian Fraley, $2,128; John Schulze, $2,720; and Gina Ward, $2,940. Investigators sought documents from Fraley, but attorney invoices for the three provide no other details regarding services rendered.
FACT #2: According to page 9 of the criminal complaint alleging former Scott Walker staffer Kelly Rindfleisch engaged in illegal campaign activities on taxpayer time during the 2010 Lt. Governor race, Rindfleisch was employed by the Senate Republican Caucus (SRC) from March 2000 to December 2001. According to the criminal complaint in Rindfleisch’s pending felony case, on December 16, 2002 Rindfleisch was interviewed by State Department of Justice Agents who were investigating the Caucus Scandal. During that interview with DOJ Agents, Rindfleisch “gave statements regarding her work on political campaigns as directed by Brian Fraley.”
FACT #3: Brett Healy, the President of the MacIver Institute, is the former longtime chief of staff to disgraced former Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen – the same individual who was charged with several felonies for his role in using taxpayer-funded staff for political campaign operations. While it’s unclear what exactly Jensen’s role is with the MacIver Institute, he was found to have authored at least two press releases for the MacIver Institute – see HERE and HERE (right click on the press releases, then click on “document properties”)
FACT #4: In 1997 James Wigderson, a regular contributor to MacIver’s “Perspectives” section, was involved in activities that violated Wisconsin’s election laws, as noted by the Wisconsin State Journal on March 7, 2001 (emphasis added):
In settling a lawsuit filed by the state Elections Board, Wilcox agreed to pay $10,000 for his campaign committee. The lawsuit charged Wilcox’s committee and his campaign manager, Mark Block, with colluding with another group to evade campaign finance laws in his 1997 race for the state’s highest court.
Prompted by an investigation by the Wisconsin State Journal, the board charged the committee and Block with working with the Wisconsin Coalition for Voter Participation and its leaders, Brent Pickens and James Wigderson, to run an illegally funded $200,500 voter turnout effort for Wilcox in his race against Milwaukee lawyer Walt Kelly. The postcard and telephone effort was later linked to school choice advocates, most of them from out of state.
FACT #6: In addition to his “efforts” to help Jon Wilcox win a State Supreme Court race, James Wigderson has served as a paid consultant, a campaign manager, and a volunteer on the campaigns of Republican elected officials dating back to 1992. Additionally, after graduating from UW-Milwaukee in 1991, “Wigderson continued his education in 1992 at a National Republican Campaign Committee campaign management college.”
FACT #7: James Wigderson supports Wisconsin’s Republican-implemented Voter ID law, writing, “So far, so good. The law is working just fine[...]“ Notably, Wisconsin’s Voter ID law was recently struck down and ruled unconstitutional, while the ACLU has cited specific examples of Wisconsinites for whom the requirement to provide a suitable voter ID “imposes a severe burden on the right to vote in violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause and in violation of the 24th and 14th amendments because it effectively imposes an unconstitutional poll tax on eligible voters.”
FACT #8: The Maciver Institute is staffed by veteran Republican campaign operatives and political insiders, and its board looks like a “Who’s Who” of Republican politics in Wisconsin, including Laurie McCallum, former First Lady of Wisconsin (wife of Republican Gov. Scott McCallum). Among the MacIver Institute’s past board members is Mark Block, a Republican operative best known lately for his blundering work managing GOP candidate Herman Cain’s presidential campaign, but also widely known here in Wisconsin for his involvement in an effort to evade campaign finance laws in the 1997 race for the State Supreme Court (outlined in FACT #4 above), involvement that resulted in Block being fined and barred from working in Wisconsin political campaigns for a period of time.
FACT #9: In 2009 and 2010 the MacIver Institute received $310,000 in funding from the Bradley Foundation, “one of the most powerful philanthropic forces behind America’s conservative movement” according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
And now here’s my opinion….
The MacIver Institute has the right to advocate for or against any ideas or policies it chooses, but it is far from being “nonpartisan;” in fact I’d argue it’s as partisan as any “non-profit” organization I’ve come across. One look at the staff and board members of the MacIver Institute should make that abundantly clear to any reasonable person. In my opinion, the MacIver Institute is little more than an extension of the Bradley-funded, Republican-enabled efforts in Wisconsin to enact policies that disproportionately benefit corporations and the wealthy at the expense of lower income and middle class citizens, as opposed to being an honest broker of nonpartisan ideas and policies.
So there you have it folks…..nine facts and one opinion. Libelous? Hardly, but sometimes the truth hurts.