Who Is Behind Wisconsin Club For Growth?

I told you last blog “(“, 20 Feb.), but that’s OK. I didn’t put the pieces together until I watched this clip on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show last night:

note to email recipients: if this video doesn’t show up,
pls. go to YouTube to watch it, or this blog post.

Note particularly — in between the description of the fundamental betrayal of democratic process State Rep. Gordon Hintz outlines in entirely justifiable outrage — his references to Club For Growth, which he has “never heard of before.”

Which is as they want it to be. Let me give you some objective evidence:

Here’s the SourceWatch page on O’Keefe (out of date):

Eric O’Keefe

Eric O’Keefe is the chairman of the Americans for Limited Government.

Board of Directors, Citizens in Charge, an Initiative and Referendum advocacy group.

President, Legislation Education Action Drive, voucher PAC.

Relationship to Kurt O’Keefe, petitioner of Michigan TABOR is unknown.

His address is same as that of “Rachel’s Vineyard,” an “abortion recovery” group.*

Author of book on term limits

Longtime Libertarian Party activist, reportedly aligned with Ed Crane. [1]

Howard Rich “and a rogue’s gallery of wealthy pals got buddy Eric O’Keefe ensconced as national director of the Libertarian Party until O’Keefe’s really ugly ouster at the national convention in 1981 or so, and they were set to get another of their cohorts elected party president until that plot unraveled on the convention floor in 1983. (If you’re willing to kill an hour, you’ll find the online archives of the Mises Institute fascinating at http://www.mises.org. Under “Journals,” click “Libertarian Forum” and you’ll find pdfs of Libertarian Party newsletters dating from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s, when the party partly collapsed, partly converged with the Republican Party. They read like today’s blogs, full of color and gossip and intrigue, and they chart the rising influence of Rich and his gaggle of trust-fund baby-boomers, sailing under the tutelage of Ed Crane.)”

[* Considering that I was the only blogger who covered the "Rachel's Vineyard" story, I'm flattered they used my stuff, but t'would be nice to be sourced. Oh wait, I'm a BLOGGER, and, thus, unworthy of commentary or inclusion. S'okay: I'm used to being treated as a second class citizen, even though it's my 38th year as a writer and 35th as a professional. I guess writing for the Washington Post or the Kansas City Star or the Orange County Register, Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles Herald-Examiner (back when Joe Farah was news editor) doesn't count. Fine. Onward.]

Eric O’Keefe’s ‘official’ photo

You could go to Ballotpedia to check him out, except, if you didn’t KNOW that Leslie Graves was Eric’s wife, you’d never know that he is being given deferential treatment … since Leslie Graves has run Ballotpedia from the beginning under three different Fictitious Business Names: Citizens in Charge (Eric sits on the board, as noted in the last post), Sam Adams Alliance (“Eric O’Keefe is chairman and CEO of the Sam Adams Alliance“) and now the “Lucy Burns Institute”:

Leslie Graves, the president of the Lucy Burns Institute, worked as a part-time consultant to the Sam Adams Alliance from June 2008-May 2009 and assisted in a variety of ways with developing Ballotpedia, Judgepedia and Sunshine Review.

And, Oh Yeah, I Almost Forgot (from the Sam Adams Alliance “about us”) [emphasis added]:

Eric also works closely with grassroots advocates such as Americans for Prosperity and with the State Policy Network to promote transparency and accountability in state and local governments. He serves on the board of directors of the Institute for Humane Studies*, the Center for Competitive Politics, and Wisconsin Club for Growth.

[* Chairman, Charles Koch]

The Center for Competitive Politics? Here’s their Board of Directors:

Board of Directors

Edward H. Crane
President, Cato Institute

Allison R. Hayward
Vice President of Policy, Center for Competitive Politics

Stephen M. Hoersting
Vice President and co-founder, Center for Competitive Politics

Eric O’Keefe
Chairman and CEO, Sam Adams Alliance

Sean Parnell
President, Center for Competitive Politics

Bradley A. Smith
Chairman and Co-Founder, Center for Competitive Politics Blackmore-Naught Professor of Law, Capital University Law School

John Snider
Shareholder, Financial Controllers, Inc.

And that Institute for Humane Studies? Greenpeace tells us [emphasis added]:

Institute for Humane Studies (IHS) – Koch Industries Climate Denial Front Group

On this page

$1,967,000 received from Koch foundations 2005-2008[Total Koch foundation grants 1997-2008: $3,923,457]

The Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason Universityoffers scholarships and career training to libertarian students. Charles Koch is the Chairman of the IHS board of directors.

In a recent article, Mother Jones called the Institute for Human Studies a “haven for climate change deniers.” Several climate deniers have prominent positions at IHS, including:  Robert Bradley, member of the Academic Review Committee and author of Climate Alarmism Reconsidered (2003); and Fred Singer,  Research Professor at IHS.

A number of climate deniers are guest lecturers for IHS, such as Bruce YandleSenior Associate with Political Economy Research Center; and Kenneth GreenResident Scholar with American Enterprise Institute.


They don’t call it the “Kochtopus” for nothing, kiddies. It’s MEANT to confuse you. But, like Theseus in the labyrinth, you can find the Minotaur and find your way out if you have a thread to lead you. In Wisconsin, the thread is named “Eric O’Keefe.”

It’s all so cozy. Eric is the “strategist” of the old “Crane Machine” that walked out of the Libertarian Party en masse in 1983. He was also a founding board member of US Term Limits, and is acknowledged as the architect of their “term limits” ballot drives of the 1990s. Here, in his own words, from Eric O’Keefe dot com:

Eric O’Keefe is chairman and CEO of Sam Adams Alliance (SAM), a Chicago‐based organization that promotes citizen activism and government accountability. Eric was a founding board member of U.S. Term Limits, host of the podcast series, Engaging Democracy; and author of the book Who Rules America about the Founders’ view of representative government and the case for term limits. When not promoting political reform, Eric is a private investor residing in rural Wisconsin with his wife Leslie Graves.

In the early 1990s Eric began U.S. Term Limits. Over the course of several years the group helped usher 23 states through the initiative process to limit the terms of their congressional delegation. These states were eventually thwarted by 5 Justices on the Supreme Court who ruled that Congress was exempt from term limits under the Constitution. O’Keefe often notes that politicians became less accountable and less responsible when state governments took over printing and distribution of ballots from private political parties. This resulted in lower turnover rates.

In 2008, Eric, working to advance limitations on the size and power of government, began advocating that Americans should adopt approaches to achieving accountability and limits on government by being involved in the primary process.

The “tea parties” started at Eric’s doorstep as has been reported on Huffington Post by Alex Brandt-Zawadsky and Dawn Te0 (among others); and the Sam Adams Alliance produced a widely-distributed “report” on the “tea party” that was widely quoted by the clueless media:

More recently, the Sam Adams Alliance reports that significant numbers of newcomers to the tea party movement are dropping their affiliation with the GOP: Forty-seven percent changed their political affiliation to “Independent/unaffiliated,” 20 percent changed to “other,” 20 percent to “Tea Party,” and 13 percent to “Libertarian.” [Christian Science Monitor, Sept. 15, 2010]

I have covered this at length as well.

Let’s focus on Wisconsin, then, shall we? I mean, Eric O’Keefe is on the board of and a Director of the Wisconsin Club for Growth (and was an attendee at the infamous Koch brothers soirée in Aspen, Colorado, as reported in the New York Times). And he’s a featured speaker at Tea Party Events.

He still serves on the CFG Board of Directors, as noted on Wisconsin  CFG’s  web site in September 2010:

Yesterday the Wisconsin Club for Growth won a huge victory for free and open political speech. A panel of retired judges agreed not to enforce their new rule prohibiting groups like ours from conducting issue advocacy which mentions the name of a candidate on the September or November ballot within 30 or 60 days of the election.

On August 2, 2010, the Wisconsin Club for Growth and the liberal One Wisconsin filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court Western District of Wisconsin, seeking a declaratory judgment and preliminary injunctive relief from Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB) rule 1.28.

The stipulation means that the Government Accountability Board does not have the ability to regulate issue advocacy communications under Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws.

Club for Growth Board member Eric O’Keefe said, “Individuals and organizations need to be free to comment on public policy and the records of public officials, regardless of the time of year. That is not just our long-held position; it is the U.S. Supreme Court’s long-held position, applying the First Amendment.”

Chairman of Club for Growth State Action

This isn’t O’Keefe’s first dustup with the state for playing fast and loose with election law. From the incredibly ‘friendly’ piece in Reason Magazine (Koch money founded and supported Reason Foundation, which publishes Reason. David Koch sits on the Foundation’s board of Trustees):

A Morning at the Ministry of Speech

| May 29, 1999

Early in the morning of Dec. 11, a few days before his 44th birthday, a political activist named Eric O’Keefe put on business trousers and a sports jacket, but decided not to wear a necktie. This was his small gesture of protest against the proceedings he was about to attend. He and his attorney breakfasted together, went over his testimony, and then drove to a state building in downtown Madison, Wis. In an undecorated and viewless conference room, O’Keefe swore an oath to tell the truth, and then submitted himself to 80 minutes of questioning by an assistant state attorney general who was seeking to determine whether O’Keefe was a lawbreaker. …

I’m only including the “pro” O’Keefe articles and citations written BY O’Keefe and his minions to let you know that I’m not making this stuff up. If you want to hear the alternate point of view, you’ll have to look it up on your own. The point being, if what they’re saying is this damning, consider what the actual state of things, unfiltered by the Kochtopus propaganda machine, actually looks like.

They DEPEND on running under the radar, and Eric O’Keefe is a case in point. How many political reporters in Wisconsin know who he is?

Last year, using the Citizens United decision, only the Wisconsin Club for Growth flouted the spirit of a public financing law in Wisconsin (from the Pierce County [Wisc.] Herald, Feb 16, 2011):

All the primary candidates but Stephens received $100,000 tax dollars for their campaigns, under a new law designed to keep special interests out of judicial races. Stephens only raised about $40,000 on her own. Prosser and Kloppenburg will each get $300,000 in tax money for the general election. But outside groups can still advertise on their own. The conservative Wisconsin Club for Growth had the only statewide TV ad in the primary, supporting Prosser.

I’m keeping this short, so that media might actually have the wherewithal to read it, and do their jobs by reporting on it. I’ve provided the links and the linkages, but in the Battle of Wisconsin, “We the People” need to know this stuff.

The governor of Wisconsin, Ste received TK in Club for Growth money. (TK = I leave it to Wisconsin journalists and bloggers to supply that number.)

Paul Ryan (congressman from Wisconsin, in charge of the House budget, as noted a few days ago) received TK bucks from Club for Growth. In the last election cycle, according to the Rachel Maddow Show graphic, Club for Growth was the Number 10 top money spender in the 2010 election. (TK = Ditto.)

They are getting what they paid for, evidently.

And here’s a list of all kinds of candidates Club for Growth supported all over the place, including Wisconsin.

And Eric’s gang is particularly interested in taking over the Wisconsin Supreme Court. But they game the law:

That public support could increase if third-party groups run certain kinds of political advertising. Advertising earlier by the  Club for Growth, however, was not found by state election officials to trigger distribution of extra public funds to Justice Prosser’s opponent, a Journal Sentinel article reported. The ad did not trigger additional funding because it stopped short of using such words as “vote for,” “support,” or “elect,” a state official told the newspaper.

“There’s a danger that outside interest groups could weigh in heavily in this race and leave the candidates not in a position to really respond to it,”  Mike McCabe of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign told Gavel Grab. “I think the likelihood is that groups will weigh in. Which groups and to what extent, that is difficult to predict.”

Take a look at these blog posts while you’re at it:

I’ve got lots more, but that’ll give you a week’s worth of research t0 chew over.

And, while you’re at it, take a look at the NNDB database page on Club for Growth and see Eric’s name with Howard Rich, Betsy DeVos, Paul Singer (who financed a 2008 California ballot measure a couple years ago from his Manhattan home), Lawrence Kudlow, Richard Gilder, Pete duPont, Richard Scaife (founder and funder of “The Arkansas Project” to dog President Clinton), Pat Toomey, Brent Bozell, David Boies, Arthur Laffer (whose cockamamie theories were used to justify “trickle down” economics) and other gold-plated members of what even Mike Huckabee calls the “Club for Greed.”

Here’s their current leadership lineup, according to their website.

Hey, wasn’t AFP the sponsor of the “counter-demonstration” in Madison Sunday?

I’ve been playing Paul Revere to a nation on Lunesta® for six years now, and it’s getting old. We really either need to wake up NOW, or kiss our non-plutocratic form of governance goodbye once and for all. But please don’t say that you weren’t clearly and explicitly warned.

The ball’s in your hands, readers.


Click right on to the sequel,  with photos and videos of  persons named herein.

NOTE: 2-26-11. O’Keefe’s position with CFG, Wisconsin corrected and links to documentation added.

››› AUGUST 3, 2011: A special late-breaking addition for Wisconsin: ‘The Astroturf on Lambeau Field‘.›››


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12 responses to “Who Is Behind Wisconsin Club For Growth?

  1. Brandon

    I stumbled upon your blog when researching who exactly the “Wisconsin Club for Growth” is. This is most enlightening. The veins of democracy are rapidly becoming more constricted by interest groups such as these. Thank you for your research and presentation of the facts.

  2. Wild Bill

    I’ve been reading your posts for some time now, use to be when I saw one of your posts at C&L, then I got smart and signed up for your emails. You do an excellent job of exposing these people who are trying to hijack our government bit by bit. I’ve spread your posts among my progressive friends, and also annoy many of my right wing in-laws with certain posts that refute some of the nonsense that they spout. I’m sure there are many others like myself that appreciate what you do, but, sadly don’t take a few minutes to tell you about it. I may be trapped here in west Texas among some of the dumbest people I’ve ever encountered, but, my computer knows no distance limits. Keep the faith. They can’t win unless we quit.

  3. Pingback: Things Go Badder With Koch™ | his vorpal sword

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  5. Sue Cohen


    And who was the First President of the Club for Growth? Why it was Pat Toomey now the Republithug Senator from PA!

    So the Koch Krooks own 2 Supreme Court Justices, myriad of Congressmen and Governors and at least Toomey if not others too.

    Some democracy we have, huh?

    • Thanks much, Sue.

      But the first President (and founder) of CFG was Stephen Moore (now libeling for the Wall Street Murdoch), who you might recognize from his rude jerkiness to Rachel Maddow on Real Time with Bill Maher last week (reran on HBO last night).

      He founded Club for Growth when he was a (paid) fellow at the Cato Institute, and held the dual positions for several years. He was “relieved” of command (and his salary), and Pat Toomey was then installed. I have many of Toomey’s weekly radio shows (see “One of these things is NOT like the Others“) and Toomey was followed by former congressman Chris Chocola, who serves until they can install HIM in a Senate seat, I guess.

      Oh, and here’s the fun part: “Lighting the Brushfires of Freedum (sic)” It’s short, and, I’m told, hilarious.*

      * PS: I just checked and “Bob A. Fett of KCUF in Ames, Iowa” is still registered. I downloaded their latest program, with the MacIver Institute’s take on the situation in Madison. You can listen to it, HERE.

  6. Oh, how I MISS Club for Growth and Howard Rich! It’s been years and years… ever since he tried to drop Proposition 90 onto California.

    The goal here, people, is to bankrupt the government so that it cannot afford to provide basic services which will then have to be privatized; the govt. will not have the power to pass, let alone enforce, any sort of meaningful regulation. Anyone who says that private industry can regulate itself is either complicit or suicidally naive. Explain BP. Explain Blackwater.
    “Limited Government” means HANDICAPPED government.


  7. Pingback: Wisconsin Money Slush: O’Keefe and Jacob to Kliesmet | his vorpal sword

  8. Nikki Srnka


    I’ve been researching the John Birch Society, the Kochs, and the Bradleys of Milwaukee, etc. etc. I thought I was nuts, but then I found your site, and I have renewed hope.

    It is really hard to find connections . . . everything leads somewhere else. So many names. I hadn’t even considered Wisconsin Club for Growth. But, then, all of this is connected. Just follow the money.

    I found a site with FBI files on JBS. It will take awhile to go through it all. I did notice, even the FBI said they were super secretive and difficult to track. And if THEY think so . . .

    I’m almost sorry to say this, but your site has opened up a whole new world . . . and it’s bigger and creepier than I EVER imagined.

    • Nikki:

      I’m afraid that the world is always a lot bigger and creepier than we thought. But we still live in it, and we do not merely survive, but, as the Nobel speech goes, we prevail.

      No one has ever yet successfully eradicated the dandelion, and try as they might, plutocrats and self-anointed aristocrats have never subdued the peasantry. One person can make a difference, and every one added increases the difference exponentially. “Every new opinion, at its starting, is precisely in a minority of one. — Thomas Carlyle”