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November 15, 2019

11/7/2019 7:30:00 AM
Guns and money: Team Evers uses special session on guns to fundraise

Richard Moore
Investigative Reporter

In a recent radio address, Gov. Tony Evers told Wisconsinites that his special session called ostensibly to curb gun violence was all about public safety, but Team Evers, his campaign arm, saw it as something else: an opportunity to raise money from the Democratic base.

The special session was scheduled for this Thursday. However, Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) indicated beforehand that he would simply gavel the session into order and then quickly adjourn it without taking action on two pieces of legislation the governor was proposing.

The session was scheduled to take place after this edition went to press, but Fitzgerald had already condemned the bills - one to require universal background checks and one to authorize extreme risk protection orders that allow families and law enforcement to temporarily take guns from those they consider a risk to themselves or others.

Fitzgerald called the latter bill a process of gun confiscation.

In his radio address, Evers said the session was about gun safety. He also issued a call to action, asking Wisconsinites to contact their state legislators to show their support for his bills.

While he was doing that, however, his campaign team was issuing a separate call to action in a "Special Session Alert," using the special session to ask for contributions to Team Evers.

In the October 29 email alert, the campaign called the governor's bills popular.

"First, Tony called for a special session to address the gun violence crisis here in Wisconsin," the email stated. "Then, Republicans indicated that they would not cooperate, even though Tony's proposed bills are overwhelmingly popular and bipartisan."

The special session alert then injected the National Rifle Association into the mix, asking for a contribution before midnight on the following Sunday as a way to take on the pro-gun-rights organization.

"Now, we're facing the first end-of-month deadline since Tony called the special session to stand up to the NRA," the email stated. "We must show that the people of Wisconsin stand with our agenda to keep innocent Wisconsinites safe. Click here to donate before midnight on Sunday."

Clicking on the link takes the person to the website of ActBlue and allows a person to donate directly to Evers's campaign "so that he can keep standing up for our families."

ActBlue is a online conduit that facilitates individual donations to various Democratic candidates and left-wing groups, and is heavily promoted by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. For example, as reported by Newsweek, earlier this year U.S. Rep. and democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez heavily promoted ActBlue to raise small dollar donations to progressive campaigns.

"We are blowing through our FEC goal tonight - $50,000 - in just a few hours," Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter. "All of it goes straight to cands who stood strong for working people, climate, gun safety, immigrant youth & more. Thank you all for proving that a different politics is possible."

The Twitter post was accompanied by the slogan "Support Bold Democrats" and the ActBlue logo.

While ActBlue has become a powerhouse in helping left-wing Democrats raise small donations, it has also been dogged by criticism and complaints from donors through the years. One of the more persistent complaints is from people who claim they made a one-time small donation, only to have the donation morph into a recurring monthly donation.

Playing from the playbook

In using gun control to raise money, Evers has taken a page from the playbook of the national Democratic Party, which routinely uses the NRA and gun violence as fundraising foils.

More controversially, some of the party's elected officials have used the tragedies of mass shootings as fundraising vehicles, notably this year in the aftermath of the El Paso and Dayton shootings.

Just after those shootings, for example, the Democratic National Committee sent an email to supporters signed by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, urging Democrats to split a donation between Giffords's gun control PAC and the DNC.

"We can't afford to wait another day, or for another massacre to happen in our country, for lawmakers to address this," Giffords wrote. "Yet the defenders of the status quo - the gun manufacturing lobby and every single politician who is paid to defend it - will tell you that horrific acts of violence are beyond our control."

The appeal linked to the ActBlue website.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren sent out her own appeal.

"It's clear Republicans don't have the courage to do something about this crisis," Warren wrote. "We can't wait for them to act - because they won't. If we're going to address the gun violence epidemic in our country, we need to take back the Senate in 2020. I'll fight my heart out to make sure Democrats win up and down the ballot in 2020 - but if we're going to beat Republicans and the gun lobby, it's going to take a grassroots movement."

Warren also uses the El Paso shooting on her website.

"The shooting in El Paso also reminds us that we need to call out white nationalism for what it is: domestic terrorism," the website states. "Instead of a president who winks and nods as white nationalism gets stronger in this country, we need a president who will use all the tools available to prevent it. It is completely incompatible with our American values, it is a threat to American safety and security, and a Warren Justice Department will prosecute it to the fullest extent of the law."

Her website donation button links to ActBlue.

Perhaps the most aggressive presidential candidate on the issue of gun control, Beto O'Rourke, also used ActBlue as a conduit for donations on his website. O'Rourke infamously embraced gun confiscation with a proposed mandatory gun buy-back program, a proposal Evers has also said he would consider.

O'Rourke dropped out of the presidential race last week.

Since 2004, ActBlue has raised more than $3.5 billion for candidates on its platform. It has also served such left-wing clients as the Center for American Progress Action Fund, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Alliance for Justice Action Campaign,, and Democratic Socialists of America.

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