Hijacking Recall 2012

American Federation for Children

Posted: May 22, 2012
Updated: January 21, 2014

Estimated Spending: $1.6 million

This is a Washington D.C.-based group that promotes school choice programs in Wisconsin and around the country.  School voucher programs use taxpayer dollars to allow children to attend private and religious schools rather than public schools.  The push for school choice programs has the financial support of numerous wealthy conservatives.

American Federation for Children spent an estimated $2.1 million on phony issue ads and independent expenditures in the 2010 general elections and the 2011 recall races involving nine state Senate seats.  The group's electioneering activities resemble those of its predecessor, the Michigan-based All Children Matter which spent $2.5 million on phony issue ads in Wisconsin elections for statewide and legislative offices from 2004 through 2008.

One of the chief financial forces behind both of the groups is Betsy de Vos, who is chair of the federation, and her husband, Dick de Vos, a Michigan billionaire and son of the co-founder of Amway Corporation.  Scott Jensen, who is the federation's senior policy advisor, was a former state Republican Assembly leader before he resigned from office as a result of charges in the caucus scandal.

The federation sponsored a mailing and a 30-second television ad (this ad may only be viewed in Quicktime which can be installed by clicking here) in May 2012 that accused former Democratic Senator John Lehman of Racine of supporting tax increases on employers, farmers and nursing homes to pay for millions of dollars in spending when he was in office.  Lehman challenged GOP Senator Van Wanggaard of Racine who holds one of four GOP Senate seats targeted for a June 5 recall election.  Wanggaard defeated Lehman in the 2010 general elections.

The federation also sponsored numerous television ads in the La Crosse and Eau Claire television markets in support of Republican Governor Scott Walker. 

Walker, the lieutenant governor and the GOP Senate seats were targeted for recall because of the governor's successful plan last year to restrict public employee collective bargaining rights.

Last active election: 2011