Hijacking Campaign 2016

American Federation for Children Action Fund IE Committee Inc.

Posted: August 2, 2016
Updated: June 1, 2017

Fall: OathSpending

This is one of two committees used by the American Federation for Children, which is a Washington D.C.-based group that supports school voucher programs in Wisconsin and around the country, to make independent expenditures in Wisconsin elections.  The organization started sponsoring outside electioneering activities during Wisconsin's 2010 general elections. Since then, and before the 2016 election, the federation had doled out an estimated $5.4 million on independent expenditures and phony issue ads combined, mostly to support GOP legislative candidates and Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

At the time of the election the federation's chair was Betsy DeVos, wife of Dick DeVos, Michigan billionaire and son of Amway Corporation co-founder Richard DeVos. She was named U.S. Secretary of Education by President Trump in January 2017 and assumed the post that February. Scott Jensen, former state Republican Assembly leader and one of the leading figures in the Wisconsin caucus scandal, has been a senior policy advisor at the organization.

The committee filed paperwork about a week before the Aug. 9 primary showing that it had spent about $29,000 on online advertising and mailings to support Mark Elliott, a candidate in the Republican primary for the open 18th Senate District seat held by outgoing GOP Sen. Rick Gudex. When Elliott lost the primary, the federation never formally switched its support to winning Republican primary candidate Dan Feyen, but it spent an additional $58,000 attacking the Democratic candidate Mark Harris in the weeks leading up to the general election. Because the district was an open seat and had switched parties in the previous two elections, outside electioneering groups spent an estimated $3.9 million - over 40% of all such spending in the 2016 legislative elections - on issue ads and independent expenditures in an attempt to sway the race.

In September and October, the federation reported spending on mailings and online and broadcast advertising in several other legislative races, including:

Television, radio and online advertising against Democratic candidate Bryan Van Stippen, who was running against incumbent GOP Sen. Tom Tiffany, of Hazelhurst, in the 12th Senate District.  The group's 30-second ad called Van Stippen a carpetbagger for challenging Tiffany after having just moved to the district;

Broadcast and online ads - here, here, and here - and mailings in the 85th Assembly race supporting GOP candidate Patrick Snyder and attacking Democrat Mandy Wright;

A radio ad and a television ad opposing Democrat Jeff Wright, challenger to GOP incumbent Rep. Todd Novak, of Dodgeville, in the 51st Assembly District;

A radio ad backing incumbent GOP Rep. Scott Krug, of Rome, in the the 72nd Assembly District.

A 60-second radio ad against Democrat Dennis Hunt running against Republican Rob Summerfield in the 67th Assembly District race.
 
The group had a second independent expenditure committee called the American Federation for Children Action Fund Inc it requested termination for that committee in September 2016.

Last active election: 2014

This organization is registered with the Government Accountability Board/Wisconsin Ethics Commission as an independent expenditure committee following the January 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC.