Remarkably similar, eh?
We wondered if that might be because there is some absentee ballot application template, or something, made available by the state for outside groups to download and use for such purposes. But, in fact, the absentee ballot application available at the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board's website [PDF] -- the G.A.B. is the state's top election agency -- looks entirely different from the ones sent out by the two Rightwing groups. So does the absentee request form available at the City of Madison's website [PDF].
So these two "different" groups send out absentee ballot request forms that are almost completely identical. Imagine that.
'Paid for by Americans for Prosperity'
Also note that the AFP mailer says it was "Paid for by Americans for Prosperity." The United Sportsmen mailing, however, doesn't say anything about who paid for it. In fact, it's difficult to figure out who the hell the United Sportsmen of Wisconsin actually are.
Local activist and election integrity advocate Barbara With tried to figure out who the group was recently. They appear to be a pro-gun group, but with no web presence to be found, at least not in a simple Google search. With tells The BRAD BLOG that after first mentioning them on her Youtube channel, they hastily slapped together a Facebook page.
"There are no LIKES except election integrity people calling them out for voter caging," says With. In fact, as of now, the page has 15 likes and all the comments on the page, said to be run by the "Non-Profit Organization" of Waunakee, are attacks against them for their mailer.
There is another members-only page on Facebook for the group, with 217 members. The oldest post on that page is July 10. Their mailer was sent out, with misleading dates, not long after that. That page also points to a website at www.unitedsportsmenwi.com. That site has just one, very rudimentary page, and a check of the domain ownership reveals that the domain was established on June 29, 2011. It's privately registered, so the owner of it is unknown.
Are they simply another front group for the Koch brothers and their nearly unlimited money? Why did they just spring up? And why is their mailer so similar to AFP's? We don't yet have answers to that, but we do have a few more questions about who else is working with these groups, and which of them even know they are working with AFP...
[Update: A reader sends in a link to this Google site page for USW, featuring scripts and instructions on how to make automated GOTV phone calls from your home phone in support of Republican recall races. The bare bones page claims "USW is a very unique group in contrast to other hunting or gun organizations because it will be the voice for sportsmen in Madison and stand up against legislation that threatens hunting, fishing and gun rights" and explains the system you will use to make these calls: "The impact dialer allows you to make phone calls efficiently without having to manual dial on your phone. The dialer is a predictive dialer so it will mostly deliver "live" people to your phone." Quite a sophisticated operation. A pretty tech savvy "gun group," eh?]
Anti-choice group claims they didn't even know about mailings
It has been reported that the so-called, "Absentee Ballot Application Processing Center" on the AFP mailer where recipients were supposed to send their forms is, in fact, a PO Box owned by an anti-choice group calling themselves Wisconsin Family Action. The same PO Box was used for a similar mailing sent out by Wisconsin Right to Life prior to the July 12 Democratic primary election for the recall, but after the deadline for absentee applications had already passed. At the time, that group claimed claimed efforts were really intended for the August recalls.
Barbara With called the Wisconsin Family Action group and recorded her conversation in a Youtube video. At the beginning of the call, the woman With spoke to first claimed they were "part of a coalition," but then admitted -- or at least claimed -- that she didn't even know that AFP was using their PO Box for the mailing, and that she hadn't even seen the mailer until someone sent it in with a nasty letter attached a few days earlier.
"We hadn't seen the mailing that AFP had sent out and we didn't know that they were going to be using our address," she tells With during the conversation, expressing what seems to be genuine concern when she's told that fraud complaints are being filed...
The mailer from the United Sportsmen of Wisconsin has a different PO Box for its "Absentee Ballot Application Processing Center." According to With, that address goes nowhere at all.
While that one incorrectly instructs applicants that ballots "must be received by your city clerk before August 4" -- actually, absentee ballots may be delivered to the clerk right up until the close of polls on Election Day, August 9 -- the address where the form is to be sent is "P.O. Box 413, Waunakee, WI 53597-0413."