By Collin Roth
On October 10, 2011, Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman Mike Tate announced on MSNBC that the long awaited Scott Walker recall will go forward, starting on November 15, 2011. But in Chairman Tate’s announcement, he referenced one organization as the de facto leader of the Walker recall effort.
The Democratic Party of Wisconsin has been working with grassroots activists from around the state. Groups like United Wisconsin, and the many other groups that have sprung up, to figure out the next step we can take to stop Scott Walker’s radical agenda. We have come through a series of meetings with all these grassroots activists and we have come to the conclusion that we do need to recall him from office. And we are going to officially file to recall him from office on November 15.
Other organizations including labor unions around the state have identified United Wisconsin, not the Democratic Party, as the leader of the effort to recall Scott Walker.
“The citizen’s group, United Wisconsin, announced today that it will lead efforts to recall Governor Walker.”- Wisconsin AFL-CIOPress Release October 11, 2011
“AFT-Wisconsin President Bryan Kennedy issued the following statement in support of United Wisconsin’s effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker…”- AFT Wisconsin Press Release October 11, 2011
“SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin is joining United Wisconsin in their efforts to recall Governor Scott Walker. The citizens group, United Wisconsin, will spearhead efforts to recall Walker and begin circulating petitions on November 15.”- SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin Press Release October 11, 2011
“WEAC, Wisconsin’s largest union representing teachers and other public school employees, released a statement of support today for United Wisconsin’s efforts to recall Governor Scott Walker.” -WEAC Press Release October 11, 2011
“Today, We Are Wisconsin announces our support of United Wisconsin in their effort to recall Scott Walker!”- We Are WisconsinWebsite Post October 11, 2011
So with all of this support from labor unions and the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, who is United Wisconsin?
United Wisconsin describes itself as “a non-partisan registered PAC and grassroots organization including 200,000+ concerned citizens who have signed the pledge to recall Walker and a growing base of volunteers across the state.” Their mission is simple: “to recall Scott Walker and Rebecca Kleefisch.”
What makes United Wisconsin so attractive to the Democratic Party and other groups clamoring to recall the governor is their digital database of 202,516 Wisconsinites who have pledged to sign a recall petition. Those 202,000 names allegedly represent over 1/3 of the 540,208 valid signatures required to trigger the recall election.
United Wisconsin was founded by Michael Brown, a 33 year-old single father and web developer from Appleton. Brown is not exactly a politico, with his most extensive experience coming in the form of a feeble and failed Independent campaign for the Assembly in the 57th District against an incumbent Democrat. According to campaign finance reports, Brown raised just $57 and did not appear on the ballot in November.
Michael Brown’s independent and non-political status certainly plays into the idea that this is a grassroots “movement of the people” as described on United Wisconsin’s website. United Wisconsin even attempts to preempt any questions about their non-partisan status in the “Frequently Asked Questions” section of their website.
Non-partisan? What’s this Wisconsin Democratic Party thing I read about between you guys and them?
Answer: At the Wisconsin Democratic Convention June 3rd, the Dems[sic] acknowledged United Wisconsin’s work and its significance and announced that they would be launching their own recall Walker effort to coincide with ours. We’ll continue to work independently, but welcome their effort in this common goal.So do you work for the Dems now?
Answer: No, we continue to work independently and at the grassroots level.Who is United Wisconsin affiliated with?
Answer: United Wisconsin is a non-partisan PAC (Political Action Committee). Recently, however, the Wisconsin Democratic Party has formally recognized our work and shown support for our goal in launching a recall Walker effort of its own to coincide with ours. Several unions across the state have also expressed support for our work.
Despite the rhetoric about being an independent organization of independent people, the truth as usual is a bit murkier. The non-partisan PAC had a booth at the Democratic Convention in Milwaukee this past summer and Brown admitted to WisPolitics.com that “the resources the Democrats bring to us are obviously going to be monumental.” And perhaps even more suspect, the domain name for UnitedWisconsin.com was registered in February of 2010, nearly a full year before Governor Walker was elected and his Budget Repair Bill was proposed.
Furthermore, two of Brown’s staff might explain a bit more about how United Wisconsin works.
Angie Aker of Kenosha is listed as the Public Relations Director for United Wisconsin. In her biography, Aker writes “that she recently relinquished my hard-won rung on the corporate ladder in NY to indulge in my compulsion to write about truths as I find them from Kenosha.” What Aker doesn’t tell us is that she currently works as Managing Director for left-wing advocacy group MoveOn.org.
Most important to United Wisconsin’s staff is Meagan Mahaffey, who’s name appeared as United Wisconsin’s contact on an October11, press release. Mahaffey is an experienced left-wing operative, serving as Political Director for Citizen Action of Wisconsin and most recently as Campaign and Program Director and eventually Executive Director for Advancing Wisconsin. Mahaffey also served as Executive Director of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin from 2007 to 2008 before taking the job with Advancing Wisconsin. In addition, Mahaffey has worked on the campaigns for Governor Jim Doyle, Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, and Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk.
More importantly, Mahaffey and Democratic chairman Mike Tate are closely connected. Mahaffey worked on the Howard Dean for President campaign in 2004 when Tate was the state director. In 2007, when Mahaffey was brought on board at the Democratic Party, Tate was brought in as a consultant after his efforts to oppose the gay marriage amendment as head of Fair Wisconsin. And when Mahaffey went to work for Advancing Wisconsin in 2008 as Campaign and Program Director, Tate was Executive Director of the progressive organization.
Mahaffey is an ideal person for United Wisconsin to connect with Mike Tate, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, and the entire left-wing infrastructure in Wisconsin.
United Wisconsin claims to be an independent grassroots movement, but when one starts to dig into the connections and actions of the group, it is clear the organization is just another front for the Democratic Party and left-wing interests in Wisconsin. From Advancing Wisconsin, to the Greater Wisconsin Committee, to We Are Wisconsin, the left has propped up new PACs and non-profits for every election cycle. United Wisconsin looks to be the next faceless group the left will rally behind for this special election season.