Monday, October 27, 2014

George Will's rant reiterates right-wing money-laundering in John Doe

DC right-wing bubble-worlder George Will decided to wander into the governor's election in Wisconsin, as well as the issues surrounding campaign finance in the ongoing John Doe investigation. You can click here if you want to read Will's rant, which is really no different than the spin you could get on any AM right-wing GOP-aganda station in Wisconsin. The great Charlie Pierce responded to that article by showing the absurdity of Will's argument and the conflicts of interest that Will didn't disclose to the readers. That conflict comes from the fact that Will is on the Board of Directors for the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation, whose president and CEO is Michael Grebe. The Bradley Foundation has funneled dark money to a large number of right-wing groups to influence policy and elections, and Grebe has also been the chair of Scott Walker’s three campaigns for governor since 2010.

As this chart from One Wisconsin Now’s shows, Grebe and Bradley Foundation influence (and their money) goes far beyond the walls of its downtown Milwaukee offices and the Walker campaign.

These funds include a $250,000 Bradley Prize that George Will received in 2005, which was given out for “strengthen[ing] the legacy of the Bradley brothers and the [corporatist, right-wing] ideas to which they were committed.” As the Madison-based Center for Media and Democracy's PR Watch noted back in June, the Bradley Foundation has also backed many of the people under investigation in the John Doe investigation.
[The Bradley Foundation] has given $3,006,220 between 1998 and 2012 to groups directed or founded by Wisconsin Club for Growth director Eric O’Keefe, who sued in federal court to halt the investigation.

Bradley has donated $205,000 between 2003 and 2010 towards the George Mason University “judicial junkets” attended by Judge Rudolph Randa, the federal judge who ordered the destruction of evidence gathered in the probe (the judge whose ruling Will mentions in his article, a ruling later overruled by the Court of Appeals. Randa also has suspended rules prohibited coordination between parties until after November’s election). This includes $115,000 during the years that Randa is known to have attended.

Bradley Foundation board members have donated over $100,000 to Walker in his two gubernatorial races. Other Bradley board members have close ties to Club for Growth.
And another one of the places PR Watch notes that the Bradley Foundation has thrown large amounts of money to is organizations that print right-wing propaganda rags like the Wisconsin Distorter Reporter- a publication that has written numerous articles attempting to discredit the John Doe investigation as well as Milwaukee County DA John Chisholm.

Now, I may have taken my Journalism classes at UW-Madison 20 years ago, but I seem to recall that we were supposed to disclose any potential conflicts of interest to our editors when we wrote columns about organizations we might be involved in. Will apparently doesn’t believe those ethics apply to him, nor does he reveal that it is likely that the Bradley’s Foundation’s doings over the last 4 years are a part of the elaborate right-wing money-laundering and tax-evasion scheme in Wisconsin that the John Doe investigation is all about. Not that we didn’t know Will was a fact-challenged right-wing DC shill who hasn’t had an thought-provoking idea in decades, but to not reveal that he belongs to an organization that is engaged in the sort of activities being investigated is sleazy, and does a disservice to unknowing readers (well, if anyone still reads George Will in a serious manner).

And speaking of John Doe.... the Center for Media and Democracy isn’t just shining the light on what the Bradley Foundation does, they filed a complaint today with the IRS against the John Doe targets at Wisconsin Club for Growth. The CMD claims that CfG abused its tax-exempt, 501-c-4 “social welfare” status by collecting and funneling millions of dollars to help Walker and other GOP politicians in Wisconsin.
For example, Walker and his staff referred to fundraising for WiCFG for the purposes of “raising money for Walker’s possible recall efforts.” When Walker raised funds for WiCFG, he was instructed to tell potential donors that, in contrast with direct donations to his campaign or those of state senators, “donations to WiCFG are not disclosed and [it] can accept corporate donations without limits.” Walker boasted to Republican operative Karl Rove about the role of WiCFG in the 2011 senate races, writing “We are running 9 recall elections and it will be like running 9 Congressional markets in every market in the state (and Twin Cities).”

WiCFG spent at least $9.1 million on Wisconsin’s 2011 and 2012 recall elections, and funneled almost $10 million more to other politically-active groups—some of which were controlled by WiCFG officials—yet told the IRS that it spent $0 in political activity in 2011 and 2012. Almost the entirety of WiCFG’s $20 million budget over those two years was spent on influencing elections rather than on “social welfare.” WiCFG’s primary focus was political campaign activity, CMD’s complaint alleges, thus making it ineligible for tax-exempt status.

Additionally, the complaint alleges that WiCFG operated primarily to advance the private interests of the Walker campaign and the Republican Party. An organization is not eligible for tax-exempt status if it operates for a substantial private purpose, and activities undertaken to provide a partisan benefit are considered to serve private interests, rather than the common good.

WiCFG was led by Walker’s top paid campaign advisor, R.J. Johnson, and campaign staff instructed Walker to refer to WiCFG as “your” 501(c)(4) when fundraising for the organization. Donors gave to WiCFG for the purpose of supporting Walker’s agenda; the memo line of one $50,000 check to WiCFG reads “501c4-Walker.” Millions in WiCFG funds were transferred to groups that campaigned for Walker, and millions more were spent protecting the seats of the Republican senators who supported Walker’s agenda.
You can read more on the CMD’s complaint against the CfG in these documents here, and you can even access all 200+ pages of exhibits (most of which come from previously-released John Doe documents) at the website as well.

And this is where it all traces back to DC and George Will’s interest in this Wisconsin John Doe case. Because it doesn’t just involve Will using the media to GOP-agandize for his fellow Bradley board members, it involves the entire dark money train that is the lifeblood of today’s Republican Party. Look who's at the top of that picture showing Michael Grebe and the Bradley Foundation's money-laundering- it's former Wisconsin GOP Chair Reince Priebus- the current head of the Republican National Committee. There is little doubt that this is going on in a much larger scale at the national level, and this is why Congressional Republicans shrieked and obstructed the IRS’s investigations into whether these organizations were illegally ducking taxes and laundering money, because it would give away just how nefarious and deep-reaching these schemes are, and would reveal to the public just who gives the orders that these politicians follow (HINT: it’s not anyone you or I associate with on a daily basis).

George Will, Michael Grebe, Scott Walker and the other oligarchs that they front for don’t think we deserve to know who the puppetmasters are in this country and in this state, and that’s why they’re doing everything in their power to get in the way of justice in the John Doe investigations. It has nothing to do with “free speech” (that somehow costs millions), but it has everything to do with hiding who these people are, who they’re working for, and what agenda they’re really up to.

And it won’t change till they are voted out, and/or indicted and made to pay a severe price for their law-breaking. And that’s why PR Watch’s move to demand an IRS investigation is such a good one, because an IRS audit and the information that comes out of it could be what blows the entire right-wing money-funneling operation wide open.

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