A new video by conservative activist James O’Keefe shows Wisconsin’s Republican Senate president vowing to illegally create his own super PAC in violation of state law.
In the undercover video recorded in a bar, state Senate President Mike Ellis tells O’Keefe and a companion: “I am putting together my own super PAC. My brother Dave is going to be in charge of it. We’re going to have $500,000. I don’t need to kiss anybody’s ass.” He then proceeds to list the funders of the super PAC, along with how much he expects each to contribute. Campaign law bars candidates from coordinating with such independent groups.
In the video, Ellis also said his fundraiser, Judi Rhodes Engels, would help run the super PAC, but she later told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that no such request was ever made. She quit his campaign hours after the video of his comments was posted online.
Ellis, a longtime advocate for campaign finance reform who’s facing his first challenger in 16 years, told the paper that he made the comments but abandoned the idea after discovering the next day that it would be illegal. Some conservatives have called for Ellis to be challenged in a primary for going against the party, according to the Journal Sentinel.
O’Keefe rose to fame for the undercover videos he produced that led to the downfall of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, an advocacy organization for persons of low and moderate income. He produced the video of Ellis for his Project Veritas, an investigative nonprofit.
O’Keefe likens the group, which produces such undercover videos, to a think tank. O’Keefe says he doesn’t advocate any particular policy or political belief, and his videos have targeted liberal and conservative causes. But his highest-profile projects have been ones cheered on by conservatives.
You can watch an unedited version of O’Keefe’s exchange with Ellis here; the relevant super PAC exchange begins at the 43:55 mark.