In an apparent attempt to throw the upcoming recall election, a political group funded by billionaire David Koch is sending absentee ballot applications to Democrats containing false instructions. The return addresses on the fliers include that of the anti-gay group Wisconsin Family Action.
The fliers mailed by WFA on behalf of Americans for Prosperity went to a list of solidly Democratic voters in Senate Districts 2 and 10. The voters are told to return the ballots “before Aug. 11,” but elections in the two districts are Aug. 9.
WFA director Julaine Appling acknowledged her involvement with the mailings to Barbara With, a concerned citizen who videotaped her conversation with Appling and posted it on Facebook.
“We’re part of a coalition and we’re doing this,” Appling admitted. But later in the conversation, after being told that the ballots constituted mail fraud, she haltingly denied knowing that AFP was using her address.
WFA is a small group whose mission is to fight gay rights. The group has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars supporting Republicans in the Aug. 9 elections. Observers have questioned where WFA was able to obtain such large-scale, unprecedented funding. In her recorded conversation, Appling appears to say that her financial backing has come from Koch’s group.
Despite WFA’s fierce opposition to gay rights, Appling lives with her longtime companion Diane Westphall in a home the two own together in Watertown. Neither woman has ever married.
The attempt to create confusion among Democratic voters comes just as AFP has purchased $150,000 in ad time in Green Bay, Milwaukee and Madison to boost GOP candidates. AFP’s sister group Club for Growth, also funded by Koch, has already spent more than $1.5 million on the races.
One of the fliers in question was discovered in Hudson, where Democrat Shelly Moore is attempting to unseat GOP State Sen. Sheila Harsdorf in District 10. The other was found in Kaukauna, where Democrat Nancy Nusbaum is challenging Sen. Robert Cowles in District 2.
Koch and his right-wing political front groups first came to the attention of Wisconsin voters during the standoff over Gov. Scott Walker’s bill to strip public unions of their collective bargaining rights. Koch is the prime mover behind such bills throughout the nation.
A reporter from upstate New York made a crank call to Walker in which he pretended to be Koch. The audio of Walker fawning all over his billionaire political backer stirred further outrage.
“Scott Walker has sought the help of the corporate front group ‘Americans For Prosperity,’ and here they come with dirty tricks clearly meant to meddle in our elections and suppress votes against the Koch Brothers’ agenda,” Democratic Party of Wisconsin chair Mike Tate said. “Wisconsin’s election authorities must stop the black hand of the corporate special interests and their front groups who are trying to strangle democracy in our state and support the six Republican senators now facing recall. These six Republicans must immediately denounce the AFP scheme or it will signal to the public that they endorse the suppression of Wisconsin votes.”