MADISON, Wis. – U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin once urged voters to “Tell the Kochs: Get your Dark Money out of Wisconsin.”
The blistering political statement attacking industrialists and conservative activists Charles and David Koch is noteworthy because Baldwin was a scheduled guest this week at a summit hosted by one of the left’s biggest “dark money” players.
The Madison Democrat was slated to join the Democracy Alliance Investment Conference and National Donor Summit in Washington D.C. Attendance is by invitation only, and the press need not apply. The entry fee was $750, but the cost includes meals and summit program materials.
Billionaire George Soros’ Democracy Alliance is a secretive network of liberal donors that does not disclose its members.
Baldwin was honored Wednesday at the “GiveGreen” reception honoring “climate champions” during the left’s “dark money” fest.
“The importance of electing policymakers both up and down the ballot has never been clearer. Ensuring candidates have the resources they need and ultimately fight for good environmental policy is GiveGreen’s mission,” a Democracy Alliance summit agenda states.
“At this special gathering, attendees will have the opportunity to meet some of the newest champions including Senator Sherrod Brown, Senator Tammy Baldwin, and Oregon Governor Kate Brown and to learn how to become a GiveGreen Ambassador.”
You’ll recall that former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold found himself on hypocrisy row when the godfather of campaign finance reform turned out at a League of Conservation Voters event during his unsuccessful attempt to unseat incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, in last year’s election. The League has been billed as a “dark money heavyweight” that is “fast becoming one of the nation’s strongest ‘dark money’ forces,” according to the Center for Public Integrity.
Baldwin has been a very public opponent of conservative “dark money” groups, more so of late as she faces an onslaught of Republican Party and conservative issue advocacy attacks heading into her 2018 re-election campaign. The ultra-liberal’s Senate seat is viewed as among the more vulnerable.
“Outside spending is only getting worse. Imagine what the Kochs will spend in 2018 if we don’t stop them,” Baldwin said in a 2016 campaign statement. In it, the senator doesn’t “imagine” the kind of spending Soros and company plan to do.
As USA Today reported earlier this week, a “network of some of the nation’s wealthiest Democratic donors is weighing providing money to support several of the new activist groups that have cropped up since Election Day to challenge President Trump and his agenda.”
Liberals coined the phrase “dark money” even as their candidates continue to benefit from the generosity of undisclosed donors.
But what gets lost in all of the “dark money” hysteria is the fact that anonymous donations – speech – is not only perfectly legal, it’s as American as the U.S. Constitution. It was the domain of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, as it is today for climate change activists and free-market advocates.
M.D. Kittle is bureau chief for Wisconsin Watchdog and First Amendment reporter for Watchdog.org. Contact him at [email protected]