anatomy of a right wing smear campaign
Column
October 30, 2014

The Anatomy of a Right-Wing Smear Campaign

The Wallet and Fingerprints of Scott Walker’s Campaign Co-Chair, Michael Grebe, Are All Over This

The fingerprints of the Wisconsin Money Badger Michael Grebe, Gov. Walker’s campaign co-chair and head of the $500 million right-wing Bradley Foundation, are all over the latest sleazy political smear launched against Walker’s opponent just six days before the election. A review of IRS records and Bradley Foundation reports reveals they have provided significant financial support for the media outlet that first reported on the smear, along with funneling millions to other groups working to advance the political interests of Gov. Walker.

The wallet and fingerprints of Scott Walker’s campaign co-chair, Michael Grebe, are all over this last-second desperate smear against Mary Burke.

Between 2011 and 2013, the last year for which records are available, IRS form 990s and Bradley Foundation annual reports show Grebe’s directed $340,000 to the Franklin Center and the “news” service the Wisconsin Reporter. The Wisconsin Reporter first published the smear that Walker’s opponent Mary Burke was fired in the early 1990’s from her job at Trek.

The Wisconsin Reporter story was based on information from a former Trek employee Gary Ellerman. As a credible source, Mr. Ellerman is wanting. In addition to reportedly being fired by Trek, Ellerman serves as the chair of the Jefferson County Republican Party and ran in a state Senate recall as a fake Democrat to delay the election and give the Republican more time to fundraise.

But according to public records, Grebe’s funding of efforts to help Gov. Walker go far beyond the latest smear. Among the other groups funded by the Bradley Foundation and working to help advance Gov. Walker’s agenda and political prospects are:

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL): The recipient of at least $1.5 million from the Bradley Foundation between 2011 and 2013, almost their entire operating budget, WILL is not just a conservative, public interest law firm. It is a virtual extension of the political apparatus surrounding Gov. Scott Walker, engaging in ‘issue litigation’ to advance and protect his interests.

Legal action by WILL includes a lawsuit against Mary Burke as a member of the Madison School Board, seeking to intervene in litigation surrounding the “John Doe” criminal investigation of Gov. Walker’s campaign, defending efforts to restrict the right to vote and, most recently, opening a campaign finance loophole that facilitated the funneling of a six figure donation from Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson to Gov. Walker.

Media Trackers/American Majority: These organizations have been larded with nearly $1.5 million since 2010 and have put themselves at the forefront of efforts to harass and intimidate political opponents of Gov. Walker, especially those who work with minority communities to encourage participation and elections. Most recently Media Trackers has been pushing research attempting to undermine the Democratic candidate for Attorney General and harassing early voters, election officials and groups working on civic engagement efforts in Milwaukee.

The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI): WPRI has been a fixture of the right wing noise machine and the recipient of nearly $6 million from Grebe’s Bradley Foundation since 2001. In addition to regularly regurgitating pro-privatization and conservative leaning research WPRI provides a senior fellowship to conservative radio host Charlie Sykes.

The MacIver Institute: Since its inception in 2008, the MacIver Institute has raked in $890,000 from the Bradley Foundation. MacIver, along with Gov. Walker, have strongly opposed efforts to increase the minimum wage and use federal funding to help more Wisconsinites afford their healthcare. MacIver also partnered with the Koch brothers funded Americans for Prosperity Foundation to run the first television ads promoting Gov. Walker’s agenda in late 2011 in the lead-up to Walker’s 2012 recall election.

The Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC): In 2011 the Bradley Foundation gave $500,000 to the WMC Foundation that in turn ran a $550,000 “educational media” campaign. WMC Foundation advertising included television advertising praising “reforms” being made under Gov. Walker. WMC Foundation received another $200,000 from the Bradley Foundation in 2012 and $30,000 in 2013.

The $500 million Bradley Foundation empire views promoting Scott Walker and his radical right wing agenda as central to its mission. From financing television ads to paying for junk science to sending lawyers into the courtrooms to suppressing the minority vote, Michael Grebe’s right wing army stops at nothing to keep Scott Walker in power. The smear of Mary Burke is just the latest hit job by this well-funded, win at all costs campaign.

# # #

Cody currently oversees online communications, web development, and graphic design at One Wisconsin Now & the Institute, having served previously as Deputy Research Director.

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