The billboards depicted a judge's gavel and the text "Voter Fraud is a felony—up to 3 1/2 years and a $10,000 fine.” Citizen advocates objected to the billboard ads because they were placed almost exclusively in minority neighborhoods with obvious voter-suppressing intent. Activists, including One Wisconsin Now, tried to get billboard-owner Clear Channel Outdoor Advertising to say who had purchased the ads. But the company said funding had come from an anonymous donor, something it claimed was against company policy for political ads.
Initially, however, Clear Channel refused to take ads off billboards, claiming it was just a saleman's fault. But after weeks of pressure it reversed course and began taking the ads down, offering as its excuse that the donors still did not want to be publicly identified. And why would they? The damage had already been done.
One Wisconsin Now and theGrio decided to keep looking into the identity of the funder. When they announced their findings, Daniel Bice, who writes the No Quarter Blog at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, picked up the news and got a statement out of the Einhorn Family Foundation:
"Stephen and Nancy Einhorn placed these billboards as a public service because voter fraud—whether by Republicans or Democrats—undermines our democratic process," said the Einhorns' statement, which was released by the Chicago public relations firm Culloton Strategies.To which Ross replied:
"By reminding people of the possible consequences of illegal voting, we hope to help the upcoming election be decided by legally registered voters."
"Perhaps their Chicago public relations firm could answer why the Einhorns only felt it was necessary to target legal voters in minority communities, and why they didn’t feel the need to do this 'public service' throughout communities across Wisconsin where a majority of the residents are white," Ross asked in his email. "Or put their name on it, rather than hiding behind the cowardly veil of anonymity."Just guessing here that Ross doesn't really expect any answers to those questions.
The report by theGrio and Ross's group contains some important background that goes well beyond the obscure Einhorn Family Foundation. It received some of its own funding from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Family Foundation. That organization, as detailed in a Journal Sentinel investigation, has plunked down half-a-billion dollars since 2001 to fund a flotilla of right-wing groups.
Ross says the billboards are just another piece in extensive efforts to spread the kind of tea-party politics we've seen in Wisconsin across the nation. Those efforts aren't ad hoc, he says, but tied to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus, who used to be chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party:
“When voter suppression allegations have surfaced in Wisconsin for the past decade, the name Reince Priebus has always been close behind,” Ross told theGrio. In 2010, Priebus was cited by name, in an aborted voter caging plot targeting minorities and college students involving the Republican Party of Wisconsin, Americans for Prosperity and Wisconsin’s Tea Party leaders, including documents that referenced ‘billboards’ as part of the scheme multiple times.”As ought to be obvious by now, these guys are engaged in the long war. Whatever the issue—from abortion to voter suppression—they view defeats as merely temporary setbacks that spur them to seek out new paths to victory. While their agenda is despicable, we should learn from and emulate their relentlessness.
“In 2002, the Wisconsin state Elections Board enacted new guidelines for poll-watchers in response to a Priebus-led racially-charged voter intimidation scheme in Milwaukee,” Ross continued. “In 2008, Priebus’ Republican Party of Wisconsin sent out an email recruiting volunteers for alleged ‘inner city’ voter intimidation in Milwaukee.
mollyjb has a discussion of the subject here.