On Monday morning, Walker spokeswoman Ciara Matthews announced "we are not filing any specific challenges to any specific signatures today," which led to aflurry of articles repeating the claim. Monday was the deadline for Walker to file challenges to the recall petitions. "That put us in an impossible timeline," she said.
Walker's filing with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board says his campaign has only been able to evaluate around 350,000 signatures, far short of the 540,000 minimum necessary for a recall.
However, Walker also asked the Boar to take into account the findings of the “Verify the Recall” initiative, a joint project between the Houston-based nonprofit "True the Vote" and the Wisconsin Tea Party groups, Grandsons of Liberty, and We The People of the Republic. However, it now appears that Walker and others are working to distance themselves from "True the Vote" and its parent group, the King Street Patriots.
Out-of-State Groups Review Signatures
Since early February, the groups involved in the "Verify the Recall" effort have been recruiting volunteers from around the country to enter the Wisconsin recall petitions into a massive online database.
The database was reportedly developed by "True the Vote," a project of the Texas Tea Party group King Street Patriots, which has been accused of a variety of voter suppression tactics, and is working with a national right-wing organization to purge voter rolls in several states.
Last month, the Texas-based King Street Patriots / "True the Vote" and the two Wisconsin Tea Party groups behind the Verify the Recall initiative asked the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board for the chance to officially challenge signatures. Their request was turned down, but they nonetheless continued to analyze the recall petitions and released their findings Monday.
Walker's campaign is also asking the Board to incorporate Verify the Recall's analysis of the recall petitions. The groups say that if the Board does not consider their analysis they may bring a lawsuit.
Walker Seeks Distance From Texas Groups?
Since January, the "Verify the Recall" effort had been described as "a joint endeavor" between "True the Vote" and the Wisconsin Tea Party groups (see here and here). However, in his filing with the Government Accountability Board, Walker only refers to the two Wisconsin Tea Party groups when describing the Verify the Recall effort -- the Houston-based "True the Vote" is not mentioned.
Likewise, the Verify the Recall website now says the effort was co-organized by the Wisconsin Tea Party groups, and "True the Vote" is nothing more than a "contracted partner." As of publication time, "True the Vote's" website still refers to Verify the Recall as a collaboration between itself and the Wisconsin groups.
Why might Walker be seeking to suppress the involvement of the out-of-state groups?
One issue is that Walker has long claimed the recall effort against him was led by "out-of-state special interests" (despite the governor relying on out-of-state donors for most of his fundraising). Relying on out-of-state groups and individuals to do the legwork for his campaign may not play well, especially when upwards of 20,000 in-state-residents braved the cold and snow to gather recall signatures in the first place.
Another issue is that "True the Vote" is a 501(c)(3) "charitable" or non-profit organization prohibited from intervening in political campaigns, and getting officially involved in the Walker campaign might threaten the group's (c)(3) status. In recent months, a number of other 501(c)(3) groups have gotten involved in defending Walker against recall, including the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity Foundation and the Illinois-based Heartland Institute.
Last week, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin filed a complaint alleging the Americans for Prosperity Foundation violated its charitable status by running ads supporting Walker's reelection. "True the Vote" and its parent group, the King Street Patriots, have previously been accused of violating their nonprofit status and state election laws (and for their defense attorney they hired James Bopp Jr., the anti-campaign finance crusader behind the infamous Citizens United case).
Finally, Walker might want to distance himself from "True the Vote" and King Street Patriots based on their alleged history of voter suppression.
King Street Patriots Accused of Voter Suppression
The King Street Patriots are not only fanatic about “voter fraud” in Wisconsin, but around the country. And they have been involved in a variety of efforts that border on voter suppression.
In the 2010 election, the King Street Patriots’ “True the Vote” program reportedly recruited thousands of volunteers to patrol Harris County, Texas polling places for “fraud and other problems at the polls.” While the volunteers were unable to find any hard evidence of intentional voter fraud, they did draw accusations of voter intimidation from election officials, with volunteers “hovering” behind people as they cast their ballot, "getting into election worker's faces," and blocking or disrupting lines of voters. The incidents, which were described as "systematic and organized," occurred in minority districts and were directed at African-Americans and Latinos.
After those elections, the Civil Rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice launched an investigation into the group and its voter intimidation efforts. Despite this, the King Street Patriots are seeking to expand the same initiatives that led to accusations of voter suppression. The group held a national summit last year featuring Andrew Breitbart to highlight their efforts to prevent "voter fraud," and pledged to recruit 1 million Tea Party poll watchers for the 2012 elections.
The group also elevates individuals who advocate for other limits to the franchise. In November, the King Street Patriots hosted a $100 per plate fundraiser featuring right-wing columnist Michael Vadum. Earlier that year Vadum authored an article titled “Registering the Poor to Vote is Un-American:”
"Registering [the poor] to vote is like handing out burglary tools to criminals,” he wrote. “It is profoundly anti-social and un-American to empower the nonproductive segments of the population to destroy the country."
Vadum also wrote Subversion Inc.: How Obama’s ACORN Red Shirts are Still Terrorizing and Ripping Off American Taxpayers. The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, registered low-income voters, among other projects, and closed its doors in 2010. The invitation to the event from King Street Patriots says ACORN was a “criminal organization with the goal of the destruction of America and the installation of a totalitarian government.”
The invitation also included a blurb from Vadum’s book: "America is under siege by radicals who are determined to pulverize the U.S. Constitution, deliberately bankrupt the nation, destroy the electoral system, and drive the economy into the ground. Subversion Inc. isn’t just the story of ACORN. It’s the story of how community organizers just like President (Barack) Obama are undermining America from within.”
Link to original article may be found on AlterNet