Little known Wisconsin foundation behind 'voter fraud' billboards

theGRIO REPORT - A joint investigation by One Wisconsin Now and theGrio revealed the name of the family foundation that purchased the 'voter fraud' Wisconsin billboards in 2010 and 2012...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

And like the billboards in Ohio, the ones in Milwaukee were taken down after Clear Channel determined that the anonymity of the funder violated its policy of disclosing the identity of political advertisers. A Clear Channel representative who spoke to theGrio on background did not explain why the billboards were allowed to go up at all, if they violated the anonymity policy.

A web of dark money

Wisconsin has become a veritable laboratory for tea party ascendancy in government and public policy.

The state’s Governor, Scott Walker, who has been heavily supported by both the Koch brothers and the tea party (the Bradley Foundation’s president and CEO, Michael Grebe, was Walker’s campaign co-chair) delighted the right by successfully stripping public sector unions of collective bargaining rights after he was elected in 2010. Ryan became a darling of the right when his austere budget proposal, which slashed funding for anti-poverty programs and turned future Medicare into a voucher program, got the votes of all but a handful of House Republicans, and he was selected as GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s running mate. And former Wisconsin Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus took the helm of the Republican National Committee in 2011 after defeating the previous chairman, Michael Steele, and three other candidates.

Ross believes there is no coincidence that Wisconsin-style tea party politics is spreading nationwide under Priebus’ tenure as national party chair

“When voter suppression allegations have surfaced in Wisconsin for the past decade, the name Reince Priebus has always been close behind,” Ross told theGrio. In 2010, Priebus was cited by name, in an aborted voter caging plot targeting minorities and college students involving the Republican Party of Wisconsin, Americans for Prosperity and Wisconsin’s Tea Party leaders, including documents that referenced ‘billboards’ as part of the scheme multiple times.”

“In 2002, the Wisconsin state Elections Board enacted new guidelines for poll-watchers in response to a Priebus-led racially-charged voter intimidation scheme in Milwaukee,” Ross continued. “In 2008, Priebus’ Republican Party of Wisconsin sent out an email recruiting volunteers for alleged ‘inner city’ voter intimidation in Milwaukee. In 2012, it was uncovered Priebus’ RNC is behind an anonymous lawsuit intervening in a case involving our unconstitutional voter identification law. That this anti-American garbage is turning up in other states now that Priebus is running the RNC is of no surprise to us in Wisconsin given his career of scheming to deny legal voters their right to the franchise. Americans have always rejected politicians, like Reince Priebus, manipulating the voting system for partisan advantage and they will do it in this case as well.”

Reached by theGrio, a spokeswoman, Kirstin Kukowski, declined to provide comment, and pushed back strongly against the premise of this story.

One Wisconsin Now contributed to this report.