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Dark money? AFL-CIO accused of campaigning without disclosing

By   /   March 6, 2014  /   No Comments

By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON, Wis. – The Republican Party of Wisconsin has filed a complaint with the state’s campaign and elections agency against the AFL-CIO, alleging the labor union failed to disclose its activity in attempting to influence a state Assembly election.

The complaint, filed with the Government Accountability Board, charges that the AFL-CIO campaigned for Democratic candidate Elizabeth Coppola in her run for the 21st Assembly District special election last year. The special interest group, however, did not disclose its spending in the race, according to the state GOP.

In the race to fill the seated vacated by former state Rep. Mark Honadel, R-South Milwaukee, Coppola, a United Way fundraiser, was defeated by Jessie Rodriquez, an outreach coordinator for Hispanics for School Choice, in a race infused with more than $100,000 in special-interest money.

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DARK MONEY? The Republican Party of Wisconsin has filed a complaint against the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, alleging the union campaigned for a Democratic candidate without disclosing its activity.

In its complaint, RPW says the labor union provided staff support to Coppola, hosted phone banks, and “used its resources to canvas neighborhood’s” on the candidate’s behalf, but did not report the activity. Upon recently learning of the attention drawn to its unreported activity, the AFL-CIO took down webpages linking its campaign efforts to Coppola, the GOP said in a statement.

A link filed in the complaint leads to a web page bearing the iconic blue fist of the AFL-CIO, featuring a photo of Coppola and urging district voters to cast their ballots in the Nov. 19, 2013, special election. The site also makes an urgent request.

“Your help is needed with phone banks and canvassing for the upcoming election in Wisconsin’s 21st Assembly District,” declares the webpage.

The state GOP cried foul.

“It appears that the AFL-CIO attempted to circumvent campaign finance laws in order to influence an election,” said Joe Fadness, executive director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin. “We’ve asked the GAB to review these allegations and hold accountable this group and any organization looking to conceal their activities and mislead voters.”

An AFL-CIO spokeswoman did not return phone calls from Wisconsin Reporter seeking comment.

GAB spokesman Reid Magney confirmed the board had “just received a hand-delivered copy of the complaint,” just before 11 a.m. Thursday.

“Beyond that we have no comment,” Magney said in an email to Wisconsin Reporter.

Rodriquez became the state Legislature’s second Latina legislator and the first GOP Latina lawmaker with her win.

Following the election, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted that Rodriguez benefited from some $70,000 in outside money supporting her campaign or attacking her opponent.

“The American Federation for Children, a school voucher advocacy group, spent $45,647 promoting Rodriguez, and the pro-business Jobs First Coalition spent $24,000 opposing Coppola,” the paper reported. “The left-leaning Greater Wisconsin Fund spent $30,815 for Coppola’s campaign.”

Contact M.D. Kittle at mkittle@watchdog.org

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Kittle is a 25-year veteran of radio, newspaper and online journalism. In July 2011, Kittle joined Watchdog.org as bureau chief for Wisconsin Reporter. He has spent much of the past three years covering the seismic political changes taking place in the Badger State. Last year, Kittle joined Watchdog’s national reporting team, covering everything from energy policy to governmental assaults on civil rights. Beyond being published in Wisconsin’s daily newspapers and in multimedia news outlets, Kittle’s work has appeared on Fox News, and in Human Events, Reason Magazine, Newsmax and Town Hall. His special investigation into a politically charged John Doe probe, “Wisconsin’s Secret War,” was the basis of a 2014 documentary on Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze. Kittle has made several appearances on Fox News, including “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren. He serves as weekly politics commentator for Lake 96.1 FM in Lake Geneva, and WRJN-AM 1400 in Racine. His resume includes multiple awards for journalism excellence from The Associated Press, Inland Press, Wisconsin Broadcast Association and other journalism associations. Contact Kittle at mkittle@watchdog.org.

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