Americans For Prosperity Hosts Wisconsin Phonebank At RightOnline Conference
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- Wisconsin was a central theme at the dueling conservative and progressive conferences for online activists here, with both sides gearing up for the summer's state Senate recall elections that are widely seen as a referendum on Gov. Scott Walker's (R-Wis.) fight with public unions.
At the RightOnline conference, conservative activists were calling Wisconsin residents about the nine recall elections at a phone bank sponsored by Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the conservative group funding the conference. Midday on Saturday, about 10 people were in the small room making calls.
"It's called the Wisconsin Freedom Phonebanks," said Matt Seaholm, state director of AFP-Wisconsin. "It's set up for citizen identification, asking people where they stand on the issues -- just kind of identifying people to see what they think of the recalls going on, but also the governor's plan on collective bargaining."
A "Frequently Asked Questions" list given out to participants told them the purpose of the calls was not to educate residents about the candidates but "merely to get the pulse of the community." It also told callers that they could give out the names of the candidates in the recall elections but could not show preference for any of them.
Nevertheless, it was clear that RightOnline participants are on Walker's side in the fight.
Marjorie Haun, a public school teacher in Colorado, said she was closely following events in Wisconsin and decided to phonebank because she felt the collective bargaining issue was a national fight.
She called about half a dozen people. Two hung up, one was unsure on the issue, and one replied, "I have to think about it."
"The main question I had was, 'Do you support Scott Walker's efforts to balance the budget by limiting the public sector union ability to collectively bargain?'" Haun told The Huffington Post.
"I've been very concerned about the way that the unions in Wisconsin have reacted to his effort to balance his budget -- through not taking away what they have, but through limiting the way that they can take taxpayer money to support their pensions, which are huge and very lavish, especially compared to the one I have in Colorado," she added.
According to Seaholm, there were approximately 150 activists from Wisconsin at the conference. Collective bargaining rights came up in several of the major speeches, and on Friday, the Wisconsinites at the event gathered together for a "brainstorming session" about the recalls and other policy matters.
"Everyone wants to know what's going on in Wisconsin," said Seaholm. "It's such a unique experience to live through, to put it nicely."
Wisconsin was also on the tip of everyone's tongues at the progressive Netroots Nation conference happening at the Minneapolis convention center, just a few blocks from RightOnline.
One of the event's main speakers was former Wisconsin senator Russ Feingold, who is many activists' first choice to run for U.S. Senate or governor in the state. Labor leaders were also present at the conference, and there were at least two panels focused on the fight in Wisconsin.
On Sunday, Democracy for America (DFA) was busing participants over to Wisconsin to knock on doors on behalf of candidates in the recall elections. According to a tweet from DFA Deputy National Field Director Nick Passanante, about 20 volunteers joined up with them to canvass.
AFP's Phonebanking FAQ Sheet: