Buses paid for by the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity (AFP), as part of its "Better Wisconsin" tour, and the Tea Party Express, with its "Reclaiming America" bus tour, converged in Madison, Wisconsin, Friday evening.
Both groups, which do not disclose who is bankrolling their operations, are touring Wisconsin on the eve of the election to rally voters to back controversial Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and his allies facing recall. AFP, a non-profit under the tax code and not a registered PAC, has claimed its bus tour has nothing to do with the pending recall election; the Center for Media and Democracy has asked AFP to reveal who is funding its campaign, and the director of its state operations has refused. The Tea Party Express has also previously indicated that as a non-profit group under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code it need not disclose its funders.
An estimated crowd of about 300 hundred people, both from Wisconsin and from out-of-state, attended the event at the Alliant Energy Center, flanked by numerous AFP paid staffers and others in green shirts, who have been knocking on doors canvassing for voters in Tuesday's recall election. CNN reported recently through a reporter embedded on one the AFP buses that AFP's rallies this past week "haven't really had the biggest crowds I've seen ... some of them have had as few as 25 people, others have been maybe about 100 or 150 people," who are "adamant Tea Party supporters, adamant Governor Walker supporters."
The speakers at Friday's event near the state's Capitol railed against the progressive movement: "They're not traitors," frequent Tea Party speaker Mike Holler said while also exclaiming, "They were never on our side ... these people are domestic enemies of the Constitution." More specific barbs were directed at the recall movement, particularly at Madison activists. Holler's byline includes the book, "The Constitution Made Easy: A Tea Partier's Guide."
Right-wing talk show host, Vicki McKenna, another frequent Tea Party speaker, claimed a typical liberal is someone who "gets up at 10" because "they are a professional protestor." McKenna also defended Beloit billionaire Diane Hendricks as a woman who pays "hundreds of millions of dollars" in taxes despite the fact that her 2010 tax records showed she payed almost nothing to the state of Wisconsin--and she recently gave $500,000 to Walker's efforts to remain governor of the state.
Lloyd Marcus, another regular speaker at Tea Party events, took the stage to sing a song about the end of "this socialist nightmare." He introduced himself by declaring "I am not an African American. I am Lloyd Marcus... American," producing a photo ID. He taunted opponents of ALEC backed bills to make it harder for Americans to vote through restrictive ID requirements, by saying "Look! Black people can have a photo ID!" (The Wisconsin voting restrictions pushed into law by Walker have been stayed by a federal court as unconstitutional.) At the rally, Marcus was also identified as the chairman of the Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama PAC, a mysterious superPAC that recently ran television advertisements throughout Wisconsin, although they are not registered to make independent expenditures in this state.
AFP President Tim Phillips used his stage time to mock those who accuse his organization of breaking independent expenditure laws: "Yesterday" he said, "The Wisconsin Teachers Union filed a complaint trying to intimidate us (but) the days of intimidation are over ... we're gonna continue talking about the good things the governor and this state legislature have done." He closed his speech by insisting that "we're gonna be back in 2013 ... bigger [and] better funded."
Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, who is facing a potential recall in her race against Mahlon Mitchell, the president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, also spoke at the event. Kleefisch, who drew noticeably less applause than Phillips or Marcus, linked the conservative "struggle" in Wisconsin to a national struggle, closing her speech with "We the people are gonna turn out, and we're gonna do right for our kids!"