The Utah-based "American Patriot Recall Coalition" (APRC) registered recall committees online February 18 for eight of the 14 "AWOL" Wisconsin Democratic senators, leaving the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB) -- and many Wisconsinites -- with raised eyebrows.
"Any group from anywhere can register a recall committee, however that group must have a local person who lives in the district of the officeholder who's being recalled," explained Wisconsin Government Accountability Board Public Information Officer Reid Magney.
"Basically, what happened is after the 14 left for Illinois, the group in Utah registered with us online to form a recall committee to recall all of them. We contacted them and said, 'Wait a minute, you have to have a person in each of these districts,'" Magney continued. "And so, in a couple of those senate districts, they have now provided us with the name of a local person who has signed on."
Led by Salt Lake City, Utah resident Dan Baltes, who is also the executive director of Americans Against Immigration Amnesty, APRC has recall efforts buzzing for eight Wisconsin Democrats, Pima County, Arizona Sheriff Clarence Dupnik and five Parkersburg, West Virginia city council members.
Why approach a Salt Lake City-based organization for these efforts? Baltes claimed he was "contacted by several people in Wisconsin. I actually have family and in-laws in Wisconsin. I am not as far removed from the situation as people may think I am."
"Our whole idea and the word 'coalition' is a combination of groups seeking to achieve the same goal, working in concert with each other," Baltes said. "Quite frankly it's in no ones best interest for national groups to descend up on Madison. But this has to be a national effort because it's a national issue."
"What difference would it make?"
But when pressed for further details on who actually encouraged him to file the recall efforts, Baltes pointed to one Wisconsin organization in particular: the Germantown Tea Party.
Germantown Tea Party organizer Diana Kline, however, seemed to have only vague recollections of approaching Baltes with the recall efforts idea and did not respond kindly to the Center for Media and Democracy's questioning of APRC's out-of-state status.
"Well, what difference would it make?" Kline said when asked about the group's lack of connection to Wisconsin. "So what? So what? So what?! The point is we want to get the recalls. Okay, who's criticizing who? Who gives a flip if it's coming from whatever state? The fact is, they [the Democratic recall efforts of Republicans] are being funded by some massive funding from some lefty organizations."
Kline, as well as other Republican organizers leading recall efforts in Wisconsin, continually referred to allegations by the conservative MacIver Institute that a Wisconsin Progress ad seeking paid field organizers was proof of Obama "operatives" funding Wisconsin recall efforts targeting Republican state legislators.
The Democratic Party of Wisconsin officially endorsed and consolidated recall efforts of Republican state legislators Wednesday, March 2.
"Who are these people?"
So, with Baltes' efforts underway in Utah, and other grassroots efforts seeking to recall the Democratic 14 statewide, the movement seems like it would be comprehensive. Not so much, report some Wisconsin Republicans organizing recall efforts.
Kim Simac, organizer of the Recall Jim Holperin effort, said APRC filed papers for recalls with the GAB the same day she did. "I thought, 'Who are these people?' So I contacted them and we talked," she explained, saying APRC asked her to get on board with its efforts, to consolidate the cause. "But then after a few hours of thinking about it, I thought, 'Why would I work with them -- we've been doing this on our own.' I thought it was weird that he [Baltes] would have interest in the 12th district of Wisconsin."
Dan Hunt, organizer of the Recall Robert Wirch effort, spoke similarly regarding APRC:
"They're not local. We are strictly local. As a local resident I spearheaded the effort here. I encouraged him [Baltes] to get out of the effort here so that there wouldn't be confusion here. I regret the fact that there might be confusion over the two efforts. We have separate petitions," Hunt said, emphasizing the volunteer-driven, grassroots nature of the Recall Wirch campaign. "I don't appreciate outside interference -- I wouldn't go with an outside group myself. But if you have to have outside organizers to do it there's something wrong. Every signature we get by volunteer."
Magney clarified that the two groups could decide to work together before the recall signatures are filed with the GAB. At that point, grassroots efforts and the APRC could, indeed, pool petitions; however, the petitions must all be filed together.
Baltes maintained that the APRC wants to consolidate the recall efforts. "I'm not one of those people that likes to work across people and to be working against each other. I don't think it's wise at all," he said. "The invitation has been extended to them to combine our efforts but I haven't heard back from them yet."
Barring these logistical confusions -- and seeming lack of a consolidated effort -- Kline emphasized that the Republican had valid reasons for attempting to recall the Democratic 14.
"They are the antithesis of democracy. It's a pitiful shame that it's come to this -- that they're not even operating within democracy guidelines. Who cares? Who cares who's helping us? We're going to get those senators recalled," she insisted. "Now if the other side, if they had gotten some plausible criteria for Republicans being recalled -- if i hear anyone trying to recall a epublican senator, I will denounce them. They lie. Those are radicals. That's the left."
"Numbers coming in by the hundreds"
Kline's anger, probably typical of Tea Partiers around the state during this time, implies the recall efforts are going strong. Every organizer though, including the Democrats, remains tight-lipped on numbers of signatures obtained thus far.
Simac reported "numbers are coming in by the hundreds" for the Recall Holperin campaign, while Hunt said the Recall Wirch effort has "thousands" of signatures. Baltes gave a marginally firmer figure, saying that the APRC effort has about one-quarter of the signatures it needs for each of the eight Democratic senators the group targets. The bottom line remains, though, and Wisconsin Republicans are determined to unseat the legislators they feel "have made a sham of democracy."
"So I'm here to do what's right what's morally right and honest," Kline spouted. "And those 14 senators who fled the state are a disgrace."
Earlier the Center for Media and Democracy reported on Democratic recall efforts in Wisconsin as well.