Thursday, September 29, 2016

John Doe money train leads to Koch, demands accountability

As the Supreme Court decides whether or not to take the John Doe case (from what I can tell, we'll find out next week), there have been a couple of developments that help to clarify how seamy and lawless Scott Walker and his supporters were in the aftermath of the union-busting Act 10. And that lawlessness need to be held to account.

The first item I want you to look at is this excellent, in-depth reporting by Lisa Graves for the Center for Media and Democracy, which describes the money trail that was part of right-wing efforts to hold onto power during the recalls of 2011 and 2012. And yes, these asses from Kansas were involved.

Here’s an example Graves gives of how the Kochs jumped in, and tried to hide their tracks at the same time. Nick Ayers of the Republican Governor’s Association (RGA) worked alongside Walker/Club for Growth coordinator RJ Johnson and Koch groups to launder and spend money during the Wisconsin Uprising and associated recalls, and Graves quotes one of the John Doe emails where Ayers talks about trying to get everyone on the same page.
"Spoke to Gillespie this morning. My sense is that everyone's heart (AFP, WIGOP, RSLC, RGA, CFG) is in the right place but no one is clear on the entire battle plan, and that is leaving very vulnerable gaps in both the planning and execution of a winning strategy."

Here Ayers names key groups involved in the campaign coordination prosecutors were investigating; Ed Gillespie from the Republican State Leadership Conference, Americans for Prosperity (a Koch front group) , the Wisconsin Republican Party, and Club for Growth. The groups would go on to spend some $30 million in the recall races ($20 million funneled through Wisconsin Club for Growth, $10 million via the RGA) an enormous sum in a small state. RGA registered as an "independent expenditure" group (Right Direction Wisconsin) and swore an oath not to coordinate with candidates or their agents.

Multiple emails suggest that RGA, a partisan political organization, and AFP worked closely on recalls. One email from Walker fundraiser Kate Doner in August 2011, puts the AFP spending to that point at $1 million. On September 7, 2011, Doner will list AFP/Koch as a key partner and urge Governor Walker to "lock them down and make them work for you."

After the April Wisconsin Supreme Court race on May 11, 2011, (AFP hack Matt) Seaholm wrote to R.J. Johnson, subject: "Conf Call later this afternoon," asking if Johnson is available to have a call "to see what (other Koch hack) Sean Noble's guys are thinking?" Johnson replied, "Depending on time, yes."

At the time, Noble's Center to Protect Patient Rights and the related Coalition to Protect Patient Rights were focused on battling President Obama's 2010 health care reform bill funneling money to a host of groups, all pretending to be genuine grassroots voices on the issue.

The email doesn't reveal what "Noble's guys" were thinking but, in the final two weeks of the gubernatorial recall election in June of 2012, a brand new group with the name "Coalition for American Values" suddenly appeared out of nowhere to run $400,080 on a pounding rotation of express advocacy ads (the "vote for" "vote against" kind) appealing to "Wisconsin nice" by saying the recall wasn't "the Wisconsin way."
The article goes onto say the Center to Protect Patient Rights got hit with a massive fine and clawback in California for pulling a similar money-funneling routine in 2012. Remember, “independent” Koch front groups like AFP are only allowed to hide the names of their donors and spend unlimited funds because they’re NOT supposed to be working with other organizations. The John Doe docs show that pro-WisGOP groups didn’t even try to maintain this wall of separation, or to adhere to disclosure laws and campaign finance limits once they did work together.

And for once, the Democrats in Wisconsin don’t seem willing to let this corruption fade from the public’s and the media's collective memory. Numerous Dem members of the State Assembly filed a formal complaint today with Dane County DA Ismael Ozanne demanding that more items be investigated, based on information revealed in the leaked John Doe documents. The top complaint deals with Scott Walker and other members of the WisGOP machine allegedly violating the state’s ban on direct contributions from corporations, and used the entity of Wisconsin Club for Growth to circumvent donation limits, and to avoid donors from being revealed.

It appears from the documents released that Governor Walker and/or his campaign committee violated these laws by basically accepting corporate monies through WCFG (Wisconsin Club for Growth), an entity they apparently coordinated with and controlled. The conduct of Governor Walker and FOSW (Friends of Scott Walker) campaign staff clearly indicate that the secret, unlimited corporate contributions he solicited for and directed to WCFG were valuable to him and central to his re-election efforts. Governor Walker’s intention, as set forth in an April, 2011 email from his fundraising consultant, was to have all ads “run through one group to ensure correct messaging….The Governor is encouraging all to invest in the Wisconsin Club for Growth [which] can accept Corporate and Personal donations without limitations and no donors disclosure. It was functionally as if, because of the close coordination of Walker, FOSW, and WCFG, these donations were being made to Walker personally and/or to his campaign committee.

As a result of this scheme, it appears WCFG did not operate independently from Scott Walker and FOSW, but as a subcommittee controlled by Governor Walker and FOSW. WCFG was run by Walker’s top political advisor, R.J. Johnson, and other key staff members seem appear to have directed both entities. For example, fundraising consultant Kate Doner, though emnployed by FOSW, appears to have raised money for both FOSW and WCFG. Talking points prepared by Doner in June, 2011 instructed Walker to ask for donations to “ your 501c4” (emphasis added). In May, 2011, Doner instructs Walker to ask the Clear Channel’s Lowry Mays “Would he give $250K to your 501c4. Let him know that you can accept corporate contributions and it is not reported.” Walker also asked campaign staffers and Johnson “did I send out thank you notes to all of our c(4) donors?” Despite efforts to cloak their actions, Governor Walker and his staff clearly thought of WCFG as an extension of the Walker campaign efforts.”
The fact that this coordination was being done to avoid the law seems beyond question, and while perhaps this is part of the wider John Doe investigation, I see no reason it couldn’t be cut off from the bigger case with charges brought on by itself.

The Dem complaint to Dane County DA Ozanne also asks that he go after the corporations who tried evading laws prohibiting direct contributions to candidates, and look at WisGOP for potential pay-for-play actions involving Club for Growth donors that later got favorable laws on mining and lead paint liability. Lastly, the Dems note that Gov Walker may have violated state law last week when he seemed to threaten Milwaukee County DA John Chisholm with lower funding if Chisholm continued to investigate the John Doe case.
It appears that Governor Walker used his office to send a message to district attorneys that they should not further investigate his potential criminal conduct or that of others who were the subject of the John Doe proceedings at the risk of losing critical funding. Wis. Stat. 19.45(13) prohibits state public officials from promising or refraining to take official actions, such as funding district attorney positions. Any person who intentionally violates Wis. Stat. 19.45(13) is guilty of a Class I felony….Furthermore, it may constitute prohibited conduct under Wis. Stat. 943.30(4).

Threats by Governor Walker to retaliate and not fully staff Wisconsin’s district attorney offices if they initiate a valid criminal investigation is not an appropriate or lawful use of the Governor’s office and should be investigated.
Those threats also showed that Walker is starting to crack because I think he and the rest of WisGOP knows that SCOTUS will at the very least take the John Doe case to figure out the limits (or lack thereof) on campaign finance laws in the post- Citizens United world, and the unprecedented scale of his paid-off crookedness will remain in the news.

And no Scotty, having a Facebook Q&A tomorrow with pre-selected questions from your supporters really isn’t going to narrow that trust gap. Well, unless you answer real Wisconsinites when they ask what you really did in John Doe, and whether you think these money-laundering and pay-for-play schemes are acceptable behavior. Oh, and if you’re willing to tell us what favors you’ve given (and still owe) to your campaign contributors, I think myself and numerous other Wisconsinites would love to find that out, especially before the elections in 40 days.

But I’m thinking Scotty won’t reveal that on Facebook, or anywhere else other than court documents. Hopefully we’ll see those full John Doe docs in the near future, and see charges associated with that information. This has to happen for Wisconsin government to start to regain a semblance of credibility, and stop being the Koch subsidiary and joke that it is today.

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