The Wisconsin Democrats are taking aim at one of their biggest opponents in the state’s recall elections. No, not just Republican Gov. Scott Walker — but conservative financier David Koch, and his organization Americans For Prosperity. But whether they will actually succeed in the latest front is another question.
Specifically, the Dems announced on a conference call with reporters Thursday that they were filing a complaint with the state Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections in the state, and also forwarding a copy to the Internal Revenue Service at the federal level. The complaint involves statements that Koch made to a newspaper — and his organization’s official non-profit, non-partisan status.
“We’re helping him, as we should. We’ve gotten pretty good at this over the years,” Koch told the Palm Beach Post in a profile story published this past weekend. “We’ve spent a lot of money in Wisconsin. We’re going to spend more.”
“These organizations are a farce,” said Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate, referring to AFP’s 501(c)(3) status, as well as that of a state level conservative organization the MacIver Institute. “This designation allows an organization to accept tax-deductible contributions and further provides that they are not required to disclose their donors, nor are they required to report their spending until after an election has taken place.”
He further added: “But to maintain this status, a 501(c)(3) is prohibited from engaging in ‘activities which constitute participation or intervention in a political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to a candidate.’”
Reporters on the phone call, however, voiced various notes of skepticism about whether this would lead to an investigation, noting the recent proliferation of 501(c)(3) organizations that have become active voices in political discourse. But Tate stood his ground.
“Well I think what we have here is a very clear admission from David Koch that he is using and abusing this loophole in IRS code and election law to spend tax-deductible money to the benefit of a candidate,” said Tate. “And while there may seem to be no real rules in Wisconsin politics or federally anymore, we think this is such an affront to the Wisconsin standard of open and clean government that we must take a stand here, and this is worthy of investigating.”
Tate also later added: “If we don’t consistently fight back as more billionaires try to buy our elections, this will become a matter of fact thing. and I’m a little disappointed that all of you in the media are just shrugging your shoulders and accepting this.”
When shown a copy of the Dems’ complaint and asked for comment, AFP spokesman Levi Russell told TPM:
“This complaint has no merit whatsoever and will be thrown out as any frivolous complaint should be. With no legal ground to stand on, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin is resorting to intimidation tactics and threats against Wisconsin television stations, in an attempt to stifle free speech and halt the educational efforts of ‘It’s Working Wisconsin.’ Complaints of this type are a desperate tactic by a power-hungry political party that has found themselves on the wrong side of the issue.”