The sordid history of Americans For Prosperity in Wisconsin’s elections

Mark Block

I’ve already documented the efforts by Americans For Prosperity (AF) to confuse Democratic voters in the 2nd and 10th State Senate districts – where incumbent Republican State Senators Rob Cowles and Sheila Harsdorf face tough recall elections – with a mailer telling them to send in their absentee ballots by August 11, 2011. That date is significant, because any absentee ballots not received by the Thursday before election day (which in this case would be Thursday, August 4) will be disqualified. In targeting Democratic voters, Americans For Prosperity (led by State Director Matt Seaholm) has made it abundantly clear they’re not above engaging in electoral dirty tricks in order to disenfranchise voters who might help Democrats regain control of the State Senate, in the process loosening AFP’s grip on Wisconsin politics.

Mark BlockBut the dirty tricks Americans For Prosperity is engaging in here in Wisconsin in 2011 shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who’s followed Wisconsin politics over the past ten years or so. In 2001, Mark Block (pictured, right), the former director of AFP in Wisconsin, settled in a civil judgment with the WI Elections Board over a complaint that in 1997 Block conspired to circumvent campaign finance law. On march 7, 2001 the Wisconsin State Journal wrote:

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.

James WigdersonAfter illegally conspiring with Brent Pickens, James Wigderson (pictured, left) and their group Wisconsin Coalition for Voter Participation to run an illegal voter turnout effort, Mark Block was rewarded for his illegal behavior by being named the Wisconsin Director of the Koch brothers-funded Americans For Prosperity, a pretty good gig for a guy coming off a $15,000 civil judgment for violating election laws.

Now fast-forward to 2010, when the Wisconsin chapter of Americans For Prosperity, at that time led by Mark Block, was accused of engaging in illegal vote caging in Wisconsin. In a September 2010 news release, One Wisconsin Now alleged:

A coordinated plot by the Republican Party of Wisconsin, Americans for Prosperity-Wisconsin and organizations in the so-called Tea Party movement targeting minority voters and college students in a possibly illegal “voter caging” effort for voter suppression has been uncovered in evidence obtained by One Wisconsin Now, a statewide advocacy organization in Madison, Wisconsin.

According to One Wisconsin Now, Tim Dake, leader of the Tea Party group Wisconsin GrandSons of Liberty, lays out the plans for engaging in vote caging, detailing contact between himself and Reince Preibus, the Republican Party of Wisconsin Chair and Mark Block, state director of Americans for Prosperity-Wisconsin. Acording to Dake, the plan to engage in illegal vote caging would have been implemented as follows:

  • The Republican Party of Wisconsin will use its “Voter Vault” state-wide voter file to compile a list of minority and student voters in targeted Wisconsin communities.
  • Americans for Prosperity will use this list to send mail to these voters indicating the voter must call and confirm their registration information, and telling them if they do not call the number provided they could be removed from the voter lists.
  • The Tea Party organizations will recruit and place individuals as official poll workers in selected municipalities in order to be able to make the challenges as official poll workers.
  • On Election Day, these organizations will then “make use” of any postcards that are returned as undeliverable to challenge voters at the polls, utilizing law enforcement, as well as attorneys trained and provided by the RPW, to support their challenges.

In addition to the unethical (and quite possibly illegal) actions that have been taken by the Wisconsin chapter of Americans For Prosperity to influence Wisconsin’s elections in favor of the loyal Republican elected officials who will unflinchingly do their bidding, AFP has also dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into Wisconsin.

AFP director Tim Phillips said Monday that his group already had spent $400,000 on TV and radio ads in the state in support of the governor. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 02/28/11]

Keep in mind that the $400,000 spent by AFP in Wisconsin in support of Gov. Walker’s union-busting budget “repair” bill doesn’t include any money that group has spent bolstering the chances of the six Republican State Senators facing recall elections because of their support of the radical right-wing agenda pushed on them by AFP and Gov. Scott Walker.

So there you have the sordid history of Americans For Prosperity, and their attempts to influence Wisconsin’s elections, whether by throwing bucketfuls of money into races or by the use of less than reputable (and possibly illegal) tactics in order confuse and/or disenfranchise Wisconsin voters.

Americans For Prosperity is a plague upon our house – a plague brought to us thanks to the billionaire Koch brothers and their desire to advance their radical far-right agenda.


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14 thoughts on “The sordid history of Americans For Prosperity in Wisconsin’s elections

  1. “any absentee ballots not received by the Thursday before election day (which in this case would be Thursday, August 2) will be disqualified”

    Just to be clear, that’s for ballot applications. The actual ballots can be received “no later than the day of the election.”

  2. From what I never heard, nothing ever came of the One Wisconsin Now allegations and that whole mess died in the GAB offices without a press release as to the findings.

    How is what AFP did any different from what we are hearing about Pasch Campaigns BBQ for Votes? They both quack like a duck.

    It all comes down to the are no ethics in any of our politicians or their personalized machines.

  3. Gnarly is correct. Ballots must be received by 8 pm on August 9th. Ballot apps are accepted through Friday, August 5, but of course you are not going to get the ballot mailed to you and then sent back by the 9th if you wait that long. Ha! Who needs AFP when we have the State of Wisconsin causing this much confusion? It is important the voters know the ballot must be delivered by the time the polls close on election day, not just postmarked by that time.

  4. Zach’s article really spells out clearly why these recall elections next Tuesday transcend partisanship. The elections on Tuesday are between Wisconsin values and the values of a couple of rogue, mega-billionaire Kansan Jayhawkers, no offense to Kansas.

    If you’re a real Badger you’ll vote to shift power to the Democrats in the state senate next week, whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican or a whatever.

    It’s just plain the right f–king thing to do.

    Is it too late to get that on a bumper sticker?

  5. ALEC is codifying corporate crime.
    And, clearly, WI republicans are foot soldiers for ALEC.

  6. The Koch machine, although unsustainable,(polluting water) in the long run, is the more hideous of the two future scenarios of energy acquisition for America-especially if Asia followed suit. Alternative energy, especially solar federal highways would be clean, run the electric grid, put roads on line so that transportation could be monitored on line. Jules Verne would be impressed with the possibilities of running hover craft, robotics, monitoring shipments, protecting wildlife etc. it would reduce pollution, quell all need for nuclear, and stop the destruction of our homeland. And it would employ ( pick a number) millions of people making 25/ hr to start for 50 years of unprecedented prosperity for the political party that brings the Real Deal. Oh and then comes better news, the spin off technology would create more jobs than this current bunch of out-sourcers can send over seas. We take back the economic lead and Asia, throttled by smog, follows. Utopian nonsense-hardly. There are dozens of ways to fund this and the technology is already here. It boils down to two choices, which frankly scares the hell out of me, as a student of History. I prefer to think the glass is half full.

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