Last week we took a look at one of the most recent campaigns launched by "Citizens for Responsible Government". In that blog posting, I suggested that they should be disclosing what could be perceived as conflicts between the personal business interests of one of the "two guys" that run the outfit and their chosen actions as a group. The more that I looked at the situation the more I began to question things in this specific area and in others.
For example, in my blog last week I specifically mentioned Orville Seymer being a landlord of numerous properties and one time head of the local Apartment Association and the possible personal benefit that he could see as a result of the latest CRG fight. As it turns out the lines between Orville's personal business interests and CRG are more blurred than I first realized. When I looked at the letter again, I noticed that they use the same P.O. Box on the mailing that Orville uses for his own personal business as a landlord. Here is just one recent example of Orville filing an eviction case in Milwaukee County Circuit Court and the address listed is the same P.O Box that is on the recent CRG mailing. All of these things blur way too many lines in my own opinion and this should cause even some of their most fervent supporters to question some of CRG's motives and credibility.
Yet another question arose in my mind after a closer inspection of the recent letter from CRG. Before I address it let me explain a bit more about their organizational structure. The Shepherd Express did a great job of addressing some of this in a report last week. What we know as CRG is actually made up of the following three entities:
- CRG Network - which is a Political Action Committee and can come the closest to targeting a candidate or an election.
- CRG Advocates - which is a 501(c)(4) "nonprofit" which is supposed to do "issue advocacy" but that can't directly seek to influence actual elections in the same way the PAC can.
- CRG Foundation – which is a 501(c)(3) "nonprofit" and it is supposed to focus strictly on "education" and has the most rigid restrictions and prohibitions regarding issue advocacy and political actions.
So we were talking about blurred lines with CRG right? When I looked closer at their recent mailing I saw that it declared itself as being paid for by "CRG Advocates, Inc." which is the proper entity to send such a mailing. But then I noticed at the top of the letter they display what appears to be the logo for "CRG Network" which is the PAC. They also list "CRG Network" and the logo in the return address area. So exactly which one sent out and paid for this letter?
This apparent blurring of important organizational lines was curious to me, so I looked at a few other recent mailings that were supposed to be sent and paid for by CRG Advocates. Namely the October 2009 mailing, that promoted their Pro-Scott Walker rally at Serb Hall. That mailing also said that it was paid for by CRG Advocates but it also included what appears to be the CRG Network's (the PAC) logo. So which is it? Was this mailing (and the rally that it advertised) a function of your "issue advocacy" group or of your Political Action Committee? I think it might be a good thing to know, specifically for elected officials that showed up, in some cases using County resources and staff in the process.
I am guessing that someone noticed what appears to be the PAC's logo on the October mailing because then on a similar mailing in November, the logo did not appear. So what's going on here and what is with all of these blurred lines at CRG? Supporters of the organization should start asking some questions and maybe the undisclosed donors should spring for someone to clear up what appears to be some very blurry lines.