Republican candidate for state senate Dan Kapanke released a statement on Thursday celebrating his endorsement by what his campaign called the “passionate grassroots organization” Americans for Prosperity-Wisconsin.
The “grassroots” Americans for Prosperity in 2018 received 85% of its total contributions from just two donors, or $81 million. In other words, a couple of extremely wealthy individuals bankrolled almost the entire operation. As a tax-exempt nonprofit, Americans for Prosperity is allowed to shield the identity of those donors.
Founded by the billionaire Koch brothers, Americans for Prosperity played a key role in former Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s successful mission to gut public sector unions in Wisconsin. Since then, the organization has been at the forefront of the conservative assault against unions, raising the minimum wage, and public services across the U.S.
Koch brothers David and Charles (David died last year) amassed a huge fortune, estimated at $50 billion each, after inheriting Koch Industries from their father. They expanded the privately-held business across multiple sectors, including chemical manufacturing and energy production. They also plowed huge sums into conservative causes and candidates, and worked to mask those efforts as coming from below, rather than from two of the wealthiest people in the world.
Americans for Prosperity is currently led by former Tea Party organizer Tim Miller who, according to the most recent public records, is paid about $460,000 by the tax-exempt organization. Meanwhile Chase Downham, Americans for Prosperity’s “senior vice-president of state ops and grassroots strategy,” is paid $356,000.
All of this is to say that Americans for Prosperity is the furthest thing from a “grassroots” organization imaginable. What the group’s endorsement of Kapanke does mean is that he can expect to have some serious financial clout in the fall as he tries to reclaim the District 32 seat he lost in 2011. Kapanke will face the winner of the August 11 Democratic primary between Jayne Swiggum, Paul Michael Weber, and Brad Pfaff in the November general election.
By Eric Timmons. Questions? Email lacrosse firstname.lastname@example.org. Top photo: Former Governor Jeb Bush of Florida speaking at the 2015 Defending the American Dream Summit at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. Credit: Gage Skidmore/CC BY-SA 2.0