Monday, January 13, 2014

United Sportsmen scandal keeps dripping, and look who's feeding the funnel

It'd been a while since we heard from the United Sportsmen of Wisconsin scandal (click here for some of the backstory if you need to catch up). I feared the Journal-Sentinel had taken Jason Stein off the story because it was getting a bit too close to the (big-money) source. But Stein's back today with another update, and in a shocker, United Sportsmen still can't get their act together and be honest about where they get their money, and now they want to claim they merely misplaced a few things, and said an odd circumstance caused the delay.
Initially, the group presented itself as a nonprofit and then, when it was revealed it hadn't yet received federal nonprofit status, said it was a for-profit company. When the Journal Sentinel reported the group hadn't filed any state tax filing required for for-profit firms, United Sportsmen reversed itself again and said it was a nonprofit and had hired the law firm of Foley & Lardner to help get its state and federal filings in order.

In its unsigned letter, the group said the tax mistakes had largely been made by board member Scott Maves, who was in charge of its finances and who died in June.

"Prior to (September), the other board members of the United Sportsmen believed everything was being filed properly and had been taken care of," the letter reads.
Suuure, blame it on the dead guy.

So after lots of delay and other excuses for why they couldn't provide their information to try to get tax-exempt status, United Sportsmen have apparently finally gotten the paperwork in....AS REQUIRED BY LAW. And to the surprise of hopefully no one, they don't do a lot of the Sportsmen stuff, but they sure do a lot of politicking and collecting of money from other political groups.
The group last week turned over its filings to the newspaper as required by federal tax rules — some four months after they were first requested. The filings show that the group paid $118,400 in 2011 to an out-of-state Republican consultant, had only one donor in 2011 and ran a $29,000 deficit in 2012 just before seeking the taxpayer-funded grant for teaching state residents to hunt and fish.....

As previously reported, the political group Citizens for a Strong America Inc. gave $235,000 to United Sportsmen in 2011. The newly released filings show that single donation made up United Sportsmen's entire revenue for that year. The group spent most, but not all, of that donation and finished the year with $39,044.

The bulk of the money spent, $118,400, went to Arena Communications of Salt Lake City, Utah, a firm that helps design and send out mailings to voters. Arena has high-profile GOP clients around the country, including Walker; U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, a Janesville Republican; the state GOP; and the committee representing Republican state senators.

United Sportsmen sent out a mailing in the 2011 state Senate recall elections.
And who is Citizens for a Strong America? The Center for Media and Democracy's Sourcewatch says they
...operate out of a UPS mail drop box, but spent $836,000 on ads in the 2011 Wisconsin Supreme Court race, and additional undisclosed amounts on state Senate recall races that year. Wisconsin Club for Growth provided CSA's entire $4.62 million operating budget in 2011; CSA's Treasurer is Valerie Johnson, wife of Wisconsin Club for Growth's RJ Johnson. CSA also funneled money to other groups active in the recall elections, as well as the controversial "United Sportsmen" group that was the beneficiary of a $500,000 taxpayer-funded "sweetheart deal" cut by the outgoing Assembly Majority Speaker.

The President of CSA is John W Connors, the "Director of Special Operations" at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, which operates and Wisconsin Reporter. Connors is elsewhere listed as an employee of David Koch's Americans for Prosperity, and his consulting firm is at the same street address and building in Milwaukee, Wisconsin as AFP-Wisconsin. Connors registered CSA's web domain.
Hmmm, RJ Johnson,, and Wisconsin Reporter, why have I been hearing those names recently? Oh yeah, because they're trying to stonewall John Doe Deux, which is looking into exactly this kind of money-laundering and tax evasion. PR Watch has a great rundown of how these sleaze merchants have been working together in defense of their "free speech," and illegally leaking details of the investigation.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote on Friday that subpoenas issued to Citizens for a Strong America, Friends of Scott Walker, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce Inc., and the Wisconsin Club for Growth were quashed by retired Appeals Judge Gregory A. Peterson, because they "do not show probable cause that the moving parties committed any violations of the campaign finance laws." (gee, wonder who leaked that info, and do you think the Murdoch Journal checked to see if this was actually what happened?)

This was the first time Citizens for a Strong America has been named as involved in the probe.

Since 2011, CMD has reported extensively on the activities of this group in the state, and revealed exclusively that the president of Citizens for a Strong America, John Connors, is “Director of Special Projects” for the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity/Wisconsin Reporter.

This helps explain the Franklin Center’s eighteen-part series attacking the John Doe as well as some of its unique insights into the case. The Franklin Center has failed to disclose Connors' connection to the issue and fails to regularly note that the Franklin Center's founder Eric O'Keefe (Director of Wisconsin Club for Growth) was subpoenaed in the investigation. On January 10, when Franklin Center / Wisconsin Reporter wrote about the quashed subpoenas for Citizens for a Strong America and other organizations, it did not mention its close ties to the group.
Lots of interesting timing with all of this. For the first time, we have it reported that Citizens for a Strong America (and United Sportsmen of Wisconsin as a result) was indeed part of this coordination of message and money. And there are connections feeding back to all parts of the Wisconsin Republican Party and the Koch empire from these groups, including Scott Walker's campaign. It's a remarkably incestuous group, and unlike what the Bradley Foundation's Charlie Sykes may say on the radio, John Doe Deux is far from over. In fact, it may be getting deeper, because even without subpoenas, there's still plenty of evidence to connect these groups to illegal coordination, evading tax laws (especially the right's "non-political" 501-c-3 and 501-c-4 orgs), and funneling money like the $500,000 of taxpayer funds that was steered to United Sportsmen by Koch-connected State Rep. Scott Suder, which is the act that kicked the United Sportsmen scandal into gear 5 months ago.

It's never the act itself, it's the things that lead up to the act and the cover-up that follows that always does these guys in.

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