Empower Wisconsin | Feb. 16, 2022
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — For a guy who insists he doesn’t support defunding police, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes sure has taken in a lot of cash from supporters of the defund the police movement.
The single largest source of contributions to Barnes’ U.S. Senate campaign was from Lead the Way 2022, a far left joint fundraising committee. Lead the Way is benefactor to “some of the most radically left congressional candidates,” according to the Washington Free Beacon.
Barnes hauled in $28,000 last year from Lead the Way 2022 donors, according to campaign finance reports.
As the Free Beacon reports:
Lead the Way 2022 was created by Way to Lead, a progressive umbrella group. The PAC supports 12 campaigns, including “defund the police” advocate Rep. Cori Bush (D., Mo.). As a joint-fundraising committee, Lead the Way 2022 collects and distributes donations to its affiliated candidates. The $28,000 came from individuals who donated to Barnes through Lead the Way.
The umbrella group contributed $5,000 to Barnes’ campaign, in addition to the hefty donation from the Lead the Way 2022 funding portal, according to Empower Wisconsin’s review of Barnes’ campaign finance records.
Way to Lead, a hybrid PAC/Super PAC, raised $2.4 million in the last election cycle, and spent nearly as much, according to OpenSecrets.org.
Barnes’ campaign did not return a request for comment from Empower Wisconsin. But campaign spokeswoman Maddy McDaniel told the Free Beacon the lieutenant governor does not support defunding the police.
“He does support investing just as heavily in preventing crime from occurring in the first place by investing in schools, good-paying jobs, and opportunities for all, in addition to ensuring law enforcement agencies have the resources they need to keep us safe,” McDaniel told the publication.
But Barnes, considered a front-runner in a crowded field of Democrats running for the Senate seat held by incumbent U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Oshkosh), has criticized what he describes as “overpoliced communities.”
His campaign benefactors are outspoken leaders in the Defund movement.
As the Free Beacon reports, Way to Lead’s 10-person advisory board includes high-profile activists in the movements to gut police funding and abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to the group’s website.
Greisa Martinez Rosas, executive director of the radical group United We Dream, is one of Way to Lead’s advisors. She has denounced the police and immigration enforcement agencies as rapists and white supremacists.
“We call it the three headed monster of police, ICE, and [U.S. Customs and Border Protection] that are coming into our communities,” she said in a June 2020 interview. “And they are even more empowered to conduct raids, to rape our women and people in detention.”
Another adviser, Jessica Byrd, who leads the Electoral Justice Project, has described defunding the police as “tak[ing] money in a place that is violent, that is not working, is proven to kill black people, move it into a place that means we want black people to live and to thrive.”
“I get so pissed when people say ‘Blue Lives Matter.’ Because it’s not a life. It’s a job,” she said.
Maurice Mitchell also serves on the Way to Lead board. Mitchell is national director of the far left Working Families Party (WFP), an organizational partner of Way to Lead. WFP, which has endorsed Barnes, has contributed at least $5,000 to his senate campaign, according to an Empower Wisconsin review of Barnes’ campaign finance reports.
The Working Families Party in 2020 launched its Justice Fund, providing direct financial support to liberal candidates committed to defunding the police. As the New York Post reports, the WFP is pressuring candidates who seek their endorsement in 2022 elections to shun support from law enforcement unions representing beat cops and correction officers.
In November, Barnes headlined an event hosted by the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD), a liberal activist group at the center of the movement to defund police.
Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor thanked the group for its support, saying he was “very honored” to land its endorsement given its “amazing work … in states all across the country.” CPD organized a number of “defund police” rallies in the summer of 2020, which the group claims it played a direct role in local officials’ decisions to cut tens of millions of dollars from their police budgets.