Two Wisconsin Republicans whose efforts to overturn the result of the presidential election contributed to last week’s assault on the US Capitol are targeted by billboards created by a new political action committee rooted in what’s brewing up north.
Minocqua Brewing Company SuperPAC is a political action committee created prior to the riot by owner Kirk Bangstad, a 2020 Assembly candidate and unabashed progressive living deep in the conservative northwoods. The original intent, he said, was to get an early start on fundraising to spend in 2022 in key races that include the 7th District congressional seat held by Tiffany and the US Senate seat held by Ron Johnson.
In its first week, the PAC raised $32,000. It was also a week when the nation saw an armed mob attack Congress as it was counting electoral votes to confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory over President Donald Trump. Trump supporters gathered—with his oft-Tweeted encouragement—after two months of hearing falsehoods about Biden’s victory being the result of a rigged election.
Even in the aftermath of the riot in which five people died, Tiffany and Johnson continued spreading falsehoods designed to cast doubt on the will of Wisconsin voters and the election outcome. Johnson was among the first senators to say publicly that Congress should object to the results submitted by certain states, despite no evidence of illegal votes. Tiffany voted to object to results from two states. Earlier, he received blistering bipartisan criticism for supporting a Texas lawsuit that sought to have Wisconsin’s votes thrown out so that the Republican-led Legislature could choose who would receive the state’s electoral votes.
Bangstad decided some of the money raised would need to be spent earlier from the new PAC he describes as “dark money meant for good,” in order to criticize Tiffany and Johnson for their role in undermining public faith in US democracy.
Two billboards on Hwy. 29 near Wausau and one on Hwy. 51 near Tomahawk show photos of the two Republicans and the words “They Must Resign” in large red lettering.
Johnson is also the target of more than $100,000 worth of broadcast ads from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, tying his rhetoric to the riot.
Bangstad introduced the PAC in an online post two days before the unrest, acknowledging that if corporations are going to keep being allowed to have an active financial role in American politics, then his corporation should jump in the fray.
“While I disagree that corporations should be able to influence politics through the use of ‘dark money’, which was allowed in the aftermath of the historically awful Supreme Court decision ‘Citizens United,’ there’s nothing I can do to change the fact that today, corporations and the rich are essentially buying elections and in-turn, the politicians who benefit from winning those elections,” Bangstad said.
SuperPACs came into being as a result of the 2010 Citizens United case which allowed corporations to spend unlimited sums of money to independently advocate for and against the election of candidates. Rolling Stone reports that in the 2020 cycle, “nearly 2,300 Super PACs raised an eye-popping $3 billion and spent $2 billion.”
Bangstad currently appears to be leaning against running for office again, focusing instead on a PAC that can be active in multiple races because, he said, “my Republican representation in the Northwoods is poisonous for the people that live here.”
“I will be completely transparent about where our money is going,” he said, “while also asking for further contributions to build a war chest that will hurt these guys just like they’ve hurt us.”
Bangstad believes there is a growing involvement among small business entrepreneurs who are normally hesitant to get involved in politics but see major corporate lobbying efforts working against their needs.
“We have to stick our necks out because we’re being screwed, along with the poor and middle class,” he posted. “Any restaurant or bar who didn’t get any help from the government in the last nine months because Republicans refused to negotiate honestly to pass a stimulus bill need to speak up.”
“Losing a few customers in the short term may help us stay alive in the long term as we lean on our representatives to focus on us instead of large corporate donors,” he adds.
Minocqua Brewing Company had operated a downtown restaurant until the pandemic forced Bangstad to close it for the winter for the first time in its history. Since then, he has sold the restaurant and will focus on brewing craft beers and taking online orders. His most recent batches have had politically themed names, not unusual in a pandemic that has seen other small brewers embrace the moment with beers named “Stay at Homies,” “FVCK COVID,” and so on. Minocqua Brewing quickly sold out its first run of “Biden Beer” and had to make another. “Inauguration Day” beer followed, and the next brew will be named for Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
A Portage County native and Harvard graduate, Bangstad had careers as a Silicon Valley technology strategist and a professional singer in New York City before he and his wife moved to Minocqua after her cancer diagnosis. Since her passing, Bangstad has grown the brewery and become active in fighting cancer before turning to politics. His brash campaign style made the front page of the New York Times and received other national attention. But the attention he wants to draw right now is on the Wisconsin Republicans whose false claims of election fraud have turned America’s political divisions into canyons.
As a new corporate player in politics, he’s already playing hardball with other business donors.
In light of the way in which large corporations are now ending or pausing their donations to members of Congress who objected to counting state-certified election results, Bangstad says the Minocqua Brewing Co. PAC is assembling a list of every Wisconsin business that has donated to his Tiffany’s campaign. He says the object is to ask each donor to renounce Tiffany and pledge no further donations because of the sedition that resulted from sustained attacks on public faith in US elections.
“We will never forget this,” he said.
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