By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Of all the sleazy tricks pulled this election season one of the sleaziest appears to be an effort by a phony “patriot” group to get Wisconsin conservatives to vote for a former independent candidate for governor who backs Republican Tim Michels.
A group billing itself Wisconsin RINO Hunters has been dropping ads and mailers urging conservatives to cast their ballots for Joan Beglinger, “the only REAL conservative choice” for governor. The ads attack Republican businessman Tim Michels, who is running neck and neck with Democrat Gov. Tony Evers.
Beglinger dropped out of the race in September, then quickly threw her support behind Michels. She said the ad campaign reeks of liberal activism in a very tight race.
“It’s obviously people who want Evers elected,” Beglinger told Empower Wisconsin. “Whether it’s just individuals with money or formal PACs, I have no idea. But this should be clear to anybody.”
She added that a vote for her in today’s election will be a vote for Evers, the last thing most conservatives want to see.
The Wisconsin RINO Hunters campaign is being sold as a conservative grassroots movement, but it appears to be a cynical effort by Evers backers to draw votes away from Michels.
According to Transparency USA, a political money tracker, RINO (which stands for Republican in Name Only) Hunters is a Wisconsin political action committee with about $620,000 in expenditures, “all to a group called Liberty Group, Inc.” The money moved in late October, days before the election.
The Waukesha Freeman first reported that Liberty Group, Inc. contributed at least $70,0000 to a PAC by the name of Patriots for Wisconsin, which paid Path to Victory LLC more than $36,000.
A review by Empower Wisconsin finds Evers’ campaign has paid at least $463,000 to Path to Victory. The fundraising and communications firm boasts a long list of heavy hitter liberal clients, including Georgia’s Democrat U.S. Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff and New York U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillbrand in her failed 2020 run for president. Path to Victory also has worked with the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and liberal state Supreme Court Justice Jill Karofsky.
Patriots for Wisconsin also paid more than $11,000 to Chicago-based AL Media, a liberal strategist that boasts of “managing successful campaigns at every level.”
“We are in this line of work to protect progressive values and to win,” the firm states on its website. AL Media’s clients include the Biden-Harris campaign, the Democratic Governors Association, Stacey Abrams, Warnock and more.
Lots of liberal connections to the Patriots and the Liberty Group that are preying on conservative values in their ads to help Tony Evers win an election.
“I think whenever your objective is to deceive, it’s wrong,” said Beglinger, who added she has spent the days since she dropped out of the campaign voicing her support for Michels. “This is a despicable, fraudulent action.”
Empower Wisconsin | Nov. 8, 2022