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Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign

Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign

Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a non-partisan nonprofit political watchdog group now in it's third decade of working for clean, open and honest government and reforms that make people matter more than money in politics.
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, 203 South Paterson Street, Suite 100, Madison, WI 53703-3689, 608-255-4260

Blog entries categorized under Wisconsin

A Crucial Vote You Haven’t Heard About

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 25 October 2016
in Wisconsin

mta-madisonMADISON - For a while now, I’ve been trying to interest reporters in Wisconsin in one of the most under-covered story of the last year: the fact that we now have 78 communities – second only to Massachusetts – that have voted overwhelmingly that they want to amend the U.S. Constitution to proclaim that corporations aren’t persons and money isn’t speech.

On Nov. 8, Wisconsin citizens in 19 more communities can express themselves on this vital idea. Check it out here:

A crucial vote November 8 you haven’t heard about

In another promising development on the reform front, Assembly Democrats held a press conference last week laying out their ideas for redoing the disastrous campaign finance bill that passed last fall. We’ve added a couple of our own ideas, as you’ll see here:

Assembly Dems point way toward reform

Meanwhile, we keep reporting on the role of big money here in Wisconsin.

For instance, we discovered that outside groups – from the left and the right -- are outspending the candidates themselves by a long shot:

Special interest electioneering groups outspending legislative candidates

We also found out that an outside group that was created for Gov. Walker’s failed presidential run is still bringing in money, including $100,000 from one New York company:

Who’s still donating big bucks to Walker’s presidential support group?

And we noted that the vast majority of Republican legislators received a 100% on their report cards from Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce:

WMC honors legislators in its pocket

I hope this info is useful – or at least mildly interesting – to you.

Talk to you soon.

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Wisconsin Democracy Campaign 'The road ahead...'

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 05 October 2016
in Wisconsin

scott-walker-dodgerScott Walker dodges the bullet again, thank John Doe prosecutors, next steps in campaign finance reform, and much more...


MADISON - Boy, the week started off badly!

The U.S. Supreme Court decision on Monday not to take the John Doe II appeal was a blow to clean government in Wisconsin:

Disastrous duck by U.S. Supreme Court! Walker off scot-free?

One final word on this matter: The courageous defenders of clean government, who stood up for transparency and accountability and were vilified for it, are owed a debt of gratitude for their valiant efforts:

John Doe prosecutors deserve our thanks

Now that the sting of the loss is beginning to wear off, I look at the road ahead for clean and transparent government:

Next steps in the fight for campaign finance reform in Wisconsin

Meanwhile, our research director, Mike Buelow, keeps cranking out interesting stories about which dark money groups are throwing money around right now:

Outside groups spending tops $1.7M in legislative races

One of those groups is American Federation for Children—you know, Scott Jensen’s school voucher front—and we’ve anointed them with our highly coveted “Influence Peddler of the Month” award:

Influence peddler of the month - American Federation for Children

So we’re not slowing down a bit. I was asked on one radio show this week if I’m discouraged. No, I don’t get discouraged because I know the vast majority of the people, in Wisconsin and in this country, are on the side of clean, open, and transparent government. And the special interests would love it if we got discouraged!

So it’s just another day, another fight.

Thanks for being a part of this great struggle for real democracy.

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Wisconsin Democracy Campaign "Heat on Walker Continues"

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Monday, 03 October 2016
in Wisconsin

walker-orange16 Democratic Assembly members urge Dane County DA to file new charges against Gov. Scott Walker.


MADISON - I’m just back from a road trip yesterday, which took me up to Green Bay and then down to Racine, and that reminds me to let you know that I’m available to come talk in your own community if you can arrange it. Just shoot me an email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Meanwhile, before the weekend is in full swing, I’d like to tell you what we’ve been up to this week.

One key development, which got virtually no coverage in the statewide media, is that 16 Democratic Assembly members wrote a letter on Thursday urging Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne to file new charges against Gov. Scott Walker. Check it out here:

Wisconsin legislators keep heat on Walker

You know we’re against dark money, whether it’s coming from the Wisconsin Club for Growth or from a group that’s close to the Democrats. That’s why we exposed this new dark money group that’s cropped up in the Green Bay area:

New Dem electioneering group on air in 18th Senate race

And our research team did some original work examining the local government background of our state legislators to figure out why so many Republicans have been curbing local control. In fact, even though many had actually served in local government, respect for their roots has given way to party loyalty:

Votes on local control show special interests, party loyalty outweigh community

That’s all for now. Enjoy the weekend! Go Badgers…

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Wisconsin Democracy Campaign 'Why we took on Wisconsin Club for Growth'

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 27 September 2016
in Wisconsin

walker-recallMADISON - On Tuesday, Sept. 20, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign filed a formal complaint with the IRS against Wisconsin Club for Growth.

Here’s why: All we want is some modicum of justice. All we want is someone in authority, somewhere, to rule that the flagrant scheming by Walker and Wisconsin Club for Growth was wrong and to hold them accountable.

Some background: Scott Walker’s campaign strategist, R. J. Johnson, was simultaneously running Wisconsin Club for Growth. Walker and Johnson turned Wisconsin Club for Growth into a funnel for huge, secret donations that they then used to finance ads to help keep Walker in office, Justice David Prosser on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and Republican state senators in the majority.

This was not only a scheme to circumvent the Wisconsin campaign finance law that was on the books at the time, which imposed limits on donations, required disclosure of donors, and prohibited coordination between candidates (like Walker) and outside groups (like Wisconsin Club for Growth).

It was also a scheme that ran afoul of IRS regulations.

You see, Wisconsin Club for Growth is registered with the IRS as a (501)(4) “social welfare” organization.

According to an Aug. 9, 2016, notice by the IRS, “The promotion of social welfare does not include direct or indirect participation or intervention in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office. However, a section 501(c)(4) social welfare organization may engage in some political activities, so long as that is not its primary activity.”

But, as was made clear in the recent blockbuster article in The Guardian newspaper, “Because Scott Walker Asked,” the “primary activity” of Wisconsin Club for Growth in 2011 and 2012 was to engage in electioneering.

Our complaint also alleges that Wisconsin Club for Growth engaged in improper and deceptive fundraising practices.

In essence, Wisconsin Club for Growth was raising money not for itself and its own independent “social welfare” efforts, but for electioneering activity guided by Scott Walker and R. J. Johnson.

Walker personally met with millionaires and billionaires and directed them to give to Wisconsin Club for Growth.

It then sprinkled the money around. Wisconsin Club for Growth sent four checks totaling $2.5 million to Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce in April and May of 2012. It also sent four checks totaling $1,520,000 to Citizens for a Strong America in the first half of 2012. And it sent two checks totaling $550,000 to the American Federation for Children in May of 2012. These groups then used this money to run electioneering ads in accordance with the wishes of R. J. Johnson, acting on behalf of Scott Walker.

As Kate Doner, one of his fundraisers, wrote in an email on April 28, 2011: “As the Governor discussed with Mr. Pickens, he wants all the issue advocacy efforts to run thru one group to ensure correct messaging…. The Governor is encouraging all to invest in the Wisconsin Club for Growth. Wisconsin Club for Growth can accept Corporate and Personal donations without limitations and no donor disclosure.”

R. J. Johnson was in charge of “correct messaging.” He even focused on the tiniest details. In an email on Sept. 5, 2012, from Johnson to his assistant Deb Jordahl, as well as to Scott Jensen of American Federation for Children, Johnson said of the American Federation for Children ad that was in the works: “I think the alternative in the middle part with no picture works well. Once we have a font resolution we can move.”

Walker clearly knew what was going on. He bragged about the role Johnson and the Wisconsin Club for Growth played. In an email to Karl Rove on May 4, 2011, Walker wrote: "Bottom Line: RJ helps keeps in place a team that is wildly successful in Wisconsin.”

To date, the highest elected official in Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Club for Growth have been able to flout the law and get away with it.

They have the system rigged here because the conservative justices on the Wisconsin Supreme Court are in their pocket and obediently threw out the John Doe II investigation into this matter back in July 2015.

Since we can’t get justice in Wisconsin, we’re going to try to get justice in Washington.

Last we looked, Walker and the Wisconsin Club for Growth don’t have the IRS in their pockets.

***

This article was first published by the Wisconsin State Journal. You can share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

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Wisconsin Democracy Campaign in the News!

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Friday, 23 September 2016
in Wisconsin

scott-walker-clapsWe decided to file a formal IRS complaint against Wisconsin Club for Growth, alleging it violated its nonprofit status, after reading the blockbuster revelations in The Guardian about Scott Walker and his flagrant coordination with the group.


MADISON - We’ve been in the news a lot this week!

The reason: After reading the blockbuster story in The Guardian about Scott Walker and his flagrant coordination with Wisconsin Club for Growth, we decided to file a formal IRS complaint against Wisconsin Club for Growth. We allege that it violated its nonprofit status in a couple ways, as you’ll see here:

wcfg WDC files complaint with IRS against Wisconsin Club for Growth

And speaking of that Guardian story, we summarized the essence of it here:

Walker’s laundry operation: Six takeaways from The Guardian story on Walker

One reason we’re looking to the IRS in Washington for some accountability is because there’s no accountability to be found here in Wisconsin, in part because of our corrupt Wisconsin Supreme Court. This week, we wrote about one of the justices who has been tainted by outside money:

Conflicted supreme court justice plans reelection

Lastly, our friends over at the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin are looking for volunteers to help them monitor the November 8 elections. Their election observers will be on guard for any signs of people being disenfranchised. If you’d like to sign up to be trained as an election observer, just click here:

Take 2 minutes to sign up online.

Thanks for your interest in all our work and that of our allies.

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