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Special Interests Memo

May 13, 2011

Publicly Reported Spending in Recall Effort against Sheila Harsdorf

The Committee to Recall Harsdorf submitted campaign finance reports, covering receipts and expenditures from its first two months of operations, on 3/28/11 and 4/25/2011. This Madison based organization reported receiving $123,694.35 and spending $123,473.45 over that period. 1/2

The majority of the funding for the Committee to Recall Harsdorf (CRH) came directly from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) in the form of in-kind donations of goods and services. These include such things as $31 on 3/1/11 for "office supplies," $143 on 3/12/11 for "petition printing," and $1,293.60 on 4/18/11 for "cell phone service." The largest donations from DPW were not in-kind donations but contributions of $55,489 on 3/17/11 and $38,500 on 4/11/11. The grand total received by CRH, directly from DPW was $109,954.12.

The only other donations received by CRH during its reported activity were $50 from an individual in Frederic and $13,342.12 via two in-kind donations from the Wisconsin Progress Political Action Committee (WP-PAC). These latter two donations were listed as covering "staff salaries, benefits, travel and phone stipends." While little information is available on WP-PAC, they are largely funded by public employee unions with one of its largest recent contributions coming from the Madison teacher's union, MTI Inc. 3 The most recent filings for WP-PAC are unavailable at this
time. Past reports have shown donations to various Democratic candidates and causes vaguely described as "consulting fees."4

In turn, CRH funneled its non-in-kind money, $93,561.71 from the DPW's two large donations, to a group known as Solidarity PAC on 3/17/11 and 4/11/11. The description for these outlays was given as "field program." Next to no information about Solidarity PAC is available online besides an address in Madison and their filing with the IRS for the first time on 3/21/11.5 Interestingly, their mailing address is shared with the group Advancing Wisconsin, which describes its goal of advancing "a progressive public policy agenda" through "grassroots advocacy, voter mobilization, and independent expenditures."6 Previous campaign finance filings by Advancing Wisconsin show its primary expenditures have been for paid canvassers.7 As of a 3/8/11 Facebook page listing, "Advancing Wisconsin is hiring field organizers for full-time, salaried positions beginning immediately in Green Bay, Appleton and Hudson. Join our grassroots efforts to engage and organize voters around the state. We need outgoing individuals dedicated to fighting for progressive change in our state."8 More recently, Advancing Wisconsin began sharing a Hudson area building with the Democratic Party and the Shelly Moore campaign.9

Claims of a grassroots-based and locally-run recall ring hollow in light of paid organizers and direction from Madison and Washington, D.C.:

  • The Recall Harsdorf website listed Wisconsin Progress as coordinating their volunteers.10
  • Democrat leaders received advice from AFSCME leadership in Washington before recall efforts even began.11
  • A former aide to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid admits to his involvement in Wisconsin recalls.12/13
  • The Democrat leader in the State Senate worked with the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), which paid for ads against Harsdorf on Twin Cities area TV.14/15
  • PCCC also pushed for out-of-district involvement, "any Wisconsin eligible voter or out of state person can volunteer to collect signatures!"16
  • The district resident who lent his name to be used on the recall registration form appears to be little more than a figurehead with his acknowledgement that he did not know the status of the recall progress.17
  • Madison area residents were being bused to areas with active recalls.18/19
  • Liberal websites like DailyKos and RootsWire pushed people to "improve our state by heading over to Harsdorf's part of the state and volunteering."20/21

While there is generally little known about the Committee to Recall Harsdorf, certain facts are clear. It was not based, funded, or directed by local organizers. It listed the exact same treasurer and phone number as the other eight efforts to recall Republican senators. Its bank account is
in Milwaukee.22 99.96% of its funding came from sources outside the 10th Senate District that Harsdorf represents.