Hijacking Special Elections and Recall 2011 - Information on Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America

Hijacking Special Elections and Recall 2011

Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America

Posted: March 18, 2011
Updated: January 16, 2014

Estimated Spending: $725,000

Both of these groups are political action committees that have teamed up in the past to sponsor outside electioneering activities and provide resources to elect Democratic congressional candidates. They also sponsored advertising against members of Congress who opposed parts of the federal health care reform law.

Democracy for America is a Vermont-based political action committee that was founded in 2004 by former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean to support Democratic candidates and causes through broadcast advertising and other outside electioneering activities.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee was formed in January 2009 and says it provides political advice and other practical campaign resources, like experienced staff, to Democratic candidates rather than making large independent expenditures on their behalf.

Democracy for America reported spending about $280,000 in March and April 2011 when both groups, which had not engaged in outside electioneering in Wisconsin earlier, sponsored two television ads. One television ad shows film clips of thousands of people marching in snow around the State Capitol during the public employee union protests in February and March. The ad features interviews with protesters who criticized Republican Governor Scott Walker’s plan to abolish most collective bargaining rights for public employees and they also shared how much the loss collective bargaining would cost them.  At the end of the ad is the message:  “Recall Randy Hopper, Robert Cowles and Luther Olsen.”

Hopper of Fond du Lac, Cowles of Green Bay and Olsen of Ripon were three of the 18 Republicans who controlled the state Senate early in 2011 and approved Walker’s plan to abolish most collective bargaining rights for public employees.

The groups also sponsored a television ad that shows interviews with current and retired state workers and school teachers purportedly working on recall efforts against Republican state senators.  The interviews talk about how Walker's plan will hurt education and middle class families.  One version of the ad advocates the recalls of Republican Senators Alberta Darling of suburban Milwaukee, Glenn Grothman of West Bend and Mary Lazich of New Berlin.  Another version of the same ad advocates the recalls Olsen, Cowles and Hopper.  And a third version of the recall ad targets Republican Senator Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls. Neither Grothman nor Lazich ended up facing recall elections.

The groups also sponsored automated telephone calls to constituents of four Republican state senators criticizing them for voting for Walker’s plan while also supporting large tax cuts for corporations.  Those targeted senators were Olsen, Cowles, Michael Ellis of Neenah and Dan Kapanke of La Crosse.  A fifth GOP senator who was targeted by the groups was Dale Schultz of Richland Center who voted against Walker’s collective bargaining rights plan. Ellis and Schultz did not have recall elections called against them.

The two groups also made independent expenditures in the 2011 summer recall elections, Progressive Change Campaign Committee through its poltical action committee and corporation, Democracy for America through its PAC, DFA - Wisconsin.