Leaked Document Details “Operation Angry Badger”
Institute cries foul, says some memos may be faked
By Bill Glauber of the Journal Sentinel Feb. 16, 2012
A Chicago-based free-market think tank has prepared a strategy to sway the recall debate in Wisconsin, including detailing “the shortcomings of public schools,” according to leaked documents that appeared this week on the Internet.
“Operation Angry Badger” purportedly describes a Heartland Institute proposal that would cost about $612,000 and focus on promoting Wisconsin Act 10, which curtailed collective bargaining for most public-sector workers.
“The recall elections of 2012 amount to a referenda on collective bargaining reform at the state level, making them of national interest,” the document says. “Successful recalls would be a major setback to the national effort to rein in public sector compensation and union power.”
The information from the organization’s purported 2012 fundraising plan appeared with other documents on the DeSmogBlog and ThinkProgress websites.
In a statement Wednesday, the Heartland Institute said, “Some of these documents were stolen from Heartland, at least one is a fake, and some may have been altered.”
The authenticity of the documents had not been confirmed, the organization said, but Heartland declared a two-page document on climate change to be a forgery. The organization also asked for “all activists, bloggers and other journalists” to take down the documents and publish retractions.
Thursday, Jim Lakely, a Heartland Institute spokesman, wrote in an email to the Journal Sentinel: “Our standing policy is to not discuss confidential documents. We are also in the process of taking legal action against the individuals who stole documents, possibly altered them, forged a memo, posted these documents online, and who commented on them without acknowledging that they were stolen or forged. Our previous statement is all we have to say about the matter at present.”
According to its website, the Heartland Institute aims “to discover, develop and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems.” The organization backs “parental choice in education.”
According to tax filings from 2001 to 2010, the Heartland Institute received $905,000 in funding from the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation.
Michael W. Grebe, president and chief executive of the Bradley Foundation said: “It’s the first time we at Bradley have seen or heard about it (Angry Badger). We have not been approached to fund this Angry Badger project and haven’t been told about it by Heartland.”
Grebe added that “over the years we have provided some funding to Heartland. I think last year we gave them some money for some climate-change work. We have a proposal pending from them now in the health care area.”
The document that has circulated on the Internet described five potential projects the Heartland Institute considered for Wisconsin:
“Recruit and promote superintendents who support Act 10.”
“Explain the benefits of Act 10.”
“Document the shortcomings of public schools in Wisconsin.”
“Expose teacher pay in key districts.”
“Create blogs that shadow small town newspaper coverage of the controversy.”
Maureen Martin, a Heartland senior fellow for legal affairs, will be the project’s chief researcher and writer, the document says. Martin, a resident of Green Lake, declined to comment when reached Thursday.
John Johnson, a spokesman for the Department of Public Instruction, said what was contained in the document was “just breathtaking.”
“This year and next year school districts are dealing with the biggest budget cuts ever,” he said. “Instead of supporting 860,000 kids who go to public schools in Wisconsin, people organize money to discredit the schools. It’s pretty sad.”
“When did we lose our clean state?” said Miles Turner, executive director of the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators.
“I wish our local political situation could be left to our local state people,” he added. “I wish Wisconsin was not being such a heavy target of national groups of both sides.”