Hijacking Recall 2012

MacIver Institute for Public Policy

Posted: December 29, 2011
Updated: January 21, 2014

Estimated Spending: $1.85 million*

The MacIver Institute is a Madison-based organization created in 2009 that promotes smaller government, deregulation, lower taxes and other familiar conservative causes.  The group has ties with numerous funders and backers of right-wing causes, including Milwaukee's Bradley Foundation, billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch who own Koch Industries and the American Majority.

Most of MacIver's past and present staff - like the group's president, Brett Healy, communications director Brian Fraley and former treasurer Mark Block - worked for Republican officeholders or groups like Americans for Prosperity, the American Legislative Exchange Council and School Choice Wisconsin.  Several MacIver board members, including Milwaukee businessman Fred Luber, Madison lawyer Jim Troupis and Green Bay businessman Carl Kuehne, are longtime campaign contributors to Republican candidates for state and legislative offices.

MacIver did not engage in outside electioneering activities until late 2011 when a second round of recall efforts was launched against Republican Governor Scott Walker and four state senators.  During the last two months of 2011, the MacIver Institute and Americans for Prosperity, another backer of right-wing causes, spent a reported $1.2 million on three television advertisements - here, here and here via WisPolitics.com - in the Milwaukee, Green Bay, Wausau and La Crosse TV markets that urged viewers not to sign recall petitions.

The two groups reportedly spent an additional $1.4 million during the first two months of 2012 to rebroadcast one of its earlier ads - here - that defended Walker's economic policies without naming him, including his successful effort to slash public employee collective bargaining rights.  Americans for Prosperity and MacIver also sponsored a new 60-second ad and a shorter 30-second version of it in mid-February that featured a series of brief interviews with people identified as a small business owner, state employee and police officers among others who claimed Wisconsin's last state budget cut the deficit without raising taxes and laying off workers.

The Democracy Campaign filed a complaint with the U.S. Internal Revenue Services in March asking the agency to investigate the MacIver Institute, Americans for Prosperity and Heartland Institute to determine if their political activities and support of the Walker campaign violated their tax-exempt status as a charitable organization.

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*All advertising by this group was credited jointly to Americans for Prosperity and the MacIver Institute for Public Policy. The total shown here represents half of the combined spending estimate for these two groups.