Did WI's 'Citizens For Responsible Government' Forget To File Its Tax Returns?

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On Tuesday I wrote about the incredibly ugly intimidation campaign and enemies list distributed to Janesville subscribers to the Janesville Gazette, without the permission of the Gazette, by the way. That enemies list was compiled by Wisconsin "civic education group" Citizens for Responsible Government.

When the first disclosures were filed, the address reported for CRG was easily trackable to Chris Kliesmet and his attorney-wife Mary. Subsequent filings have used a PO Box instead of a street address, but Kliesmet is still a director of the organization and there is no reason to suspect that anything has changed.

When I started looking at this group in connection with the sleazeball tactics they employed against teachers, I started with this post by Hart Williams, which is long and goes through many twisty passages, but also has documentation for everything. Williams was able to link up CRG with the Wisconsin Club for Growth and Eric O'Keefe, who we know is connected to American Majority (the Ned Ryun effort out of Kansas), the Sam Adams Alliance, former executive director of the National Libertarian Party, and more.

Eric O'Keefe is one of the Kochtopus' best operatives, and so, it should come as no surprise to discover that the Wisconsin Club for Growth gave CRG a grant in 2009. Here's what that grant was for, according to the Wisconsin Club for Growth tax filing:

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Just in case it's not easy readable, I'll quote:

Grants were given to promote education and mobilize support for a fiscally responsible budget in Milwaukee County including proposals to lower costs by outsourcing services. A fiscally responsible budget passed that included outsourcing of custodial and security services and a minimal tax levy increase.

That grant to CRG was for $126,500. It was, according to the Club for Growth return, all paid in 2009. The identification number on the postcard filing matches the identification number on the Club for Growth filing.

CRG filed a postcard return with the IRS for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2009, just as it had for 2008, 2010, and 2011. There are special rules connected with the postcard filing. For example, an organization could receive more than $50,000 in one year, (the usual threshold for the postcard filing) and still file via postcard as long as their average receipts were less than $50,000 over a three-year period.

Let's see if they qualified. In 2007, CRG received 40,959. In 2009, CRG received at least $126,500. Assuming no receipts in 2008, the average receipts comes out to $55,819.67, which exceeds the permissible threshold for filing an information-free return. Oops!

Why is this important? It's important because it seems clear that the Wisconsin Club for Growth used CRG and other allied right wing groups as funnels and fronts to avoid accountability for purely evil acts like publishing an enemies list of public school teachers, for example. It's important because there might have been at least a shred of accountability for their prior bad acts. And yes, there have been many.

It turns out that Citizens for Responsible Government has a ten-year long love affair going on with Scott Walker. Via Cory Liebmann, who has been following them for a very long time, a sample from 2009, which coincidentally happens to be the time frame CRG received their very large grant:

If CRG was really an organization that stood for its stated principles it would have applied its recall shtick to Scott Walker a long time ago. Even now with this farce of a proposed budget they not only fail to confront Walker but seek to be used as merely his useful tool. Are they really against credit card-type spending in Milwaukee County government? If they are they should be against Walker's budget. Are they really against taxes/new and increased fees? If they are then they should be against Walker's budget. Are they really serious about a zero percent tax levy increase? Then they should be against Walker's budget because his proposed tax levy today is $40 million (18%) more than HIS proposed amount from HIS budget for 2003. And exactly how do they feel about the federal stimulus and government taking a leading role in creating jobs? If they are really against such concepts then they should be against this Walker budget. But alas they are not and their repeated inconsistency only points to the barely veiled partisan motives involved.

Here's a little more from 2009, where Kliesmet declares defiantly that he will not reveal his donors, not ever, not to anyone, no, no, no. I'm a little surprised they didn't take a picture of him stomping his hoof foot. Via Express Milwaukee:

The group sent out “several thousand” high-quality full-color mailings, set up three different robocalls, aired radio ads, sponsored two rallies and paid for a live operator to call county residents and then connect them to their supervisor if they supported CRG’s position.

The multimedia blitz must have cost a bundle for the “grassroots, all-volunteer” organization. One very conservative estimate by a media strategist puts the figure at tens of thousands of dollars.

But the public will never know the exact price tag of CRG’s advocacy on the budget—or who paid for it—because the group isn’t required to disclose its financial activities on this issue.

I think people want to know where the money is coming from for a lot of good reasons, but also a lot of bad reasons so they can harass those contributors,” said CRG President Chris Kliesmet. “If my ideological competition is not going to show me theirs, I’m not going to put myself and the people I represent at a competitive disadvantage. We’re going to play hard. We’re going to play as hard as the rules allow.”

News flash for Kleismet: You don't get to take money from the taxpayers' pocket for purposes of promoting your boy and hide it. Sorry, but you just don't. Even the Birch Society -- er -- Club for Growth knows that which is why they reported the "grant" and why you're busted.

Orville Seymer is another listed officer/director of CRG, and he has much love for Governor Walker:

“He’s not afraid of controversy, when a lot of politicians just are,” says Orville Seymer of Citizens for Responsible Government, which ran the recall effort that led to Walker’s election as Milwaukee County executive. “He’s a strong leader. He’s got a strong following, more so than (Democrat) Jim Doyle or (Republican) Tommy Thompson. They’ll follow him into battle. I would go into battle with him.”

Also noted in that article are others who love Governor Walker a lot, including Brian Fraley of the MacIver Institute, another one of the Kochtopus projects:

Brian Fraley of the conservative MacIver Institute, a Madison-based think tank, tells of how Walker, then Milwaukee County executive, came to his father’s funeral in 2004 and a subsequent memorial service for his dad and other veterans.

“Scott did this without fanfare and without political motive,” marvels Fraley, who at that time was working out of state. “I wasn’t a major donor or a politically connected community leader. I was merely a friend he’d known for about a dozen years who had just lost his father.”

Fraley sees this as a testament to Walker’s good character.

“He’s humble,” Fraley says. “He’s a man of faith, but he doesn’t wear it on his sleeve. He’s nonjudgmental and doesn’t hold anger or grudges. He was raised right, and in my interactions with him over the years, his true character is the antithesis of the cold-hearted, aloof caricature created by the liberal special-interest groups whom he’s enraged.”

Dawwww. How sweet. The thug with a heart of gold. Oh, here's more about Fraley, who isn't a very nice person. Who knew Wisconsin was home to cheese, the Green Bay Packers, and the Midwest Mafia?

These are the people who want to intimidate public servants, engage in subterfuge, and also, it seems, they'd like to dodge filing federal tax returns.

Really, let's get the thug out of office before he turns Wisconsin into a halfway house for right-wing zealots. Or are we too late for that? Regardless, Walker must go.

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