Hijacking Campaign 2012 - Information on American Federation for Children Action Fund IE Committee

Hijacking Campaign 2012

American Federation for Children Action Fund IE Committee

Posted: July 27, 2012
Updated: January 15, 2014


This corporation was created by the American Federation for Children, a Washington D.C.-based school choice group, to make independent expenditures in Wisconsin elections.  It reported spending nearly $125,000 on independent expenditures in the 2010 general and 2011 Senate recall elections and nearly $345,000 in the fall 2012 legislative elections. 

In addition to independent expenditures, the group - a spin-off of Michigan-based All Children Matter -  has sponsored phony issue ads.  From 2010 to June 2012 the American Federation for Children made an estimated $3.6 million in phony issue ad expenditures, mostly to back Republican candidates for statewide office and the legislature.

The federation's leadership includes Betsy de Vos, its chair and spouse of Dick de Vos, Michigan billionaire and son of Amway Corporation co-founder Richard de Vos. Scott Jensen, former state Republican Assembly leader and one of the leading figures in the Wisconsin caucus scandal, is the group's senior policy advisor.

Shortly before the August 14 primary, the corporation reported spending more than $101,000 to back Democratic legislative candidates for Assembly districts in the Milwaukee area who supported the city’s school voucher program and its expansion. The group spent the money on voter-turnout efforts and a barrage of mailers and brochures.

Two fliers- here and here- supported Democratic Representative Jason Fields of Milwaukee, a supporter of Milwaukee’s longtime school voucher program who lost to his Democratic challenger in the primary.

The federation also sponsored a flier in support of Tracey Dent, a Democratic candidate in the 17th Assembly District race. The flier was criticized by Democratic Representative Barbara Toles of Milwaukee for making it look like Toles, who opposed the voucher program, was endorsing Dent. Democratic candidate LaTonya Johnson went on to win the primary and the seat.

The group’s efforts on behalf of numerous Democratic candidates in the primary elections was unusual because it generally backs GOP candidates, but this support occurred in districts generally considered "safe" Democratic seats where winning the primary all but guarantees election in November.

American Federation for Children sponsored a 30-second television ad in mid-September to support Republican challenger Rick Gudex of Fond du Lac who faced Democratic Senator Jessica King for her 18th District seat. The ad urged viewers to support Gudex, claiming he supported smaller government and tax cuts.  King won the seat by defeating former Republican Senator Randy Hopper in one of nine recall elections in 2011.

Shortly before the November 6 general election, the group sponsored a 30-second television ad opposing Mandy Wright, a Democratic candidate for the open 85th Assembly District seat in the Wausau area. Wright won her election.

This corporation's counterpart, American Federation for Children Action Fund Inc., filed oaths of independent disbursements for a large number of legislative races.

Shortly after the 2012 general elections, this corporation's sponsoring organization,  American Federation for Children, issued a report saying it spent nearly $2.4 million to elect pro-voucher candidates in the 2012 recall races and the fall general elections.  If that claim is true, it failed meet its legal obligation to report more than $2 million in independent expenditures in 2012.

Last active election: Recall 2011