Correction: An original story by Empower Wisconsin noted Kirk Bangstad, who operates the Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC, has used about 20 percent of the funds for business and personal expenditures. An attorney for Bangstad asserts the figure is actually closer to 7.3 percent, and that the funding was used to reimburse the brewery for Super PAC expenditures. The story has been updated to include the attorney’s claims and new information from the Marathon County Republican Party.
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Kirk Bangstad, leftist owner of the Minocqua Brewing Co., has made headlines attacking conservatives while brewing beers bearing the names of prominent liberals — like Biden Beer, Bernie Brew and Evers Ale.
Now the failed state Assembly candidate could be in hot water for what he’s been doing with his liberal “Super PAC,” a political action committee the Marathon County Republican Party describes as potentially nothing more than a “pass-through money laundering organization.”
In a Facebook post this week, the local GOP says the Federal Elections Commission has been asked to open an investigation. Kevin Hermening, treasurer of the Marathon County GOP, notes his review of the Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC, established in January, finds about 11.5 percent of all of its expenditures have gone to Bangstad’s business or to his political campaign, “which is little more than money laundering in the literal sense.”
“In addition to that, Assembly candidate Sarah Yacoub of Wisconsin’s 30th District Is being paid $2000 per month for purported consulting services, which again is just a funneling of excess contributions to her as she prepares to run for office again in 2022,” wrote Hermening, founder of Wausau-based Hermening Financial Group. He was also the youngest of the 52 hostages held captive in Iran between Nov. 4, 1979 and Jan. 20, 1981.
Bangstad’s attorney claims the figure is more like 7.3 percent, and that the Super PAC money was used to reimburse the brewery for Super PAC-related activities. Hermening says his original figures were incorrect, but that the attorney is not including a portion of Super PAC funds that went to Bangstad’s campaign — which puts the figure at about 11.5 percent.
Bangstad did not return Empower Wisconsin’s request for comment. But he sure hasn’t been shy about his animus for conservatives, particularly U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and U.S. Rep. Tom Tiffany, a Republican from Bangstad’s backyard. In launching his political action fund in Wisconsin’s conservative Northwoods, Bangstad bragged that he was setting his sights on beating the lawmakers, each up for election in 2022.
He quickly became a media darling to the liberal press, making the rounds in the New York Times and the Washington Post. Bangstad told WUWM that he “hated super PACs” because of the unlimited amount of “dark money” they can raise. He certainly didn’t object, however, to the $10,000 his fund brought in from leftists around the country in its first 24 hours. In short order, Bangstad and his Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC had raked in $100,000.
The latest FEC filing shows the fund has brought in more than $220,000 in contributions, and has spent more than $130,000. It had $90,876.15 in cash on hand.
Bangstad pledged to give a whopping 5% of the fund’s profits to political action. Bangstad. He also promised to be transparent and regularly share how much money has been raised and where it’s been spent.
His FEC filings show a bundle of money going to ActBlue Technical Services, the left’s online fundraising clearinghouse for Democratic candidates and progressive groups. The money for Sarah Yacoub — a Bernie Sanders apostle who lost to Republican state Rep. Shannon Zimmerman (R-River Halls) last year — is there. As is a ton of money for campaign advertising.
Most recently, Bangstad announced on his Facebook page that the Super Pac “has begun the process of building a class action lawsuit against every school board in Wisconsin that isn’t mandating masks for kids too young to get the vaccine and not following CDC guidelines for students while in school to protect against the deadly Delta variant.”
Why? Because Bangstad believes his Super Pac can save rural communities “outside the more sane urban areas where school districts are still using science to protect children from the very contagious Delta variant.” He basically says, many of the communities he seeks to represent are too stupid to take care of themselves.
“These lawsuits are the very definition of doing something for the ‘Public Good,’” the liberal wrote. “We have had enough selfish ‘My Freedom is more important than Public Health’ sentiment in this state and country. It’s time for intelligent and reasonable adults to take the wheel and the anti-intellectual ‘I’ve done my own research’ bottom-dwellers to sit down and shut up.”
Bangstad’s lecturing liberal nastiness aside, the Marathon County GOP questions whether the brewery owner’s Super PAC is legit.
“He is not running a true PAC but rather being the front person for a sleazy Democrat organization based out of Madison,” Hermening wrote.