Dark money group targets Wausau Mayor Rosenberg with negative ads

Wausau Mayor Katie Rosenberg (Contributed photo)

By Pat Kreitlow

March 28, 2024

Hit pieces attacking Mayor Katie Rosenberg are from a group led by a current donor “bundler” for former President Trump

A right-wing funded dark money group known to have spread false information in a past election is pouring money into Wausau in an attempt to unseat Mayor Katie Rosenberg—even as one of its leaders is raising money in Wisconsin for former President Donald Trump.

The group, Wisconsinites for Liberty Fund, is independent from any candidate, though their actions are clearly designed to help Rosenberg’s challenger, city council member Doug Diny, who promised “absolutely” he would not accept any support from “dark money groups” or “special interest groups.”

In one recent mail piece from a Waukesha County address, the group attacks Rosenberg as having “made a mess of city government” during a four-year term that coincided with the discovery of PFAS contamination in the city’s drinking supply and Rosenberg’s subsequent securing of funds to build a new drinking water treatment plant.

Wisconsinites for Liberty Fund appears to be connected to Brandon Rosner, whose lengthy Republican resume includes serving as campaign manager for Republican former Assembly Speaker John Gard, a finance director on Tim Michels’ failed 2022 campaign for governor, and a bundler currently for Trump. A bundler is someone who solicits and collects campaign donations from many givers and delivers the “bundle” to the campaign. 

Rosner also serves on the board of a group called Midwest Growth, a significant funder of Wisconsinites for Liberty Fund. Most recently, he was listed in a WisPolitics story about bundling contributions ahead of Trump’s April 2 visit to Green Bay—seeking donations of $25,000 for VIP status at the event.

“Dark money” groups are entities that are not required to disclose their donors as they take advantage of the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that also removed meaningful limits from corporate campaign donations. While there are still donor disclosure requirements on what one type of political group can receive from donors, they are often funded by dark money groups—making it impossible to learn who is putting money into a race like the election for Wausau mayor.

In 2022, mailings sent by Wisconsinites For Liberty Fund contained false information in their attacks on certain Green Bay City Council members. A Green Bay Press Gazette report said the mailings claimed the council members had presided over a 600% increase in “the homicide rate” and eliminated 10 police officers. There had been no such increase in homicide deaths and while the city has struggled to find new law enforcement prospects to replace retiring staff members, it has not laid off officers. 

“These attack ads are coming from outside our community and funded by special interests’

organizations like ‘Wisconsinites for Liberty Fund,’ out of Pewaukee, almost 3 hours away from

Wausau,” said Will Harris, an attorney and Rosenberg supporter. “This organization knows nothing about our community, nor do they care about our community. They certainly don’t know anything about the work Mayor Katie has actually done within the community to bring about real change that will grow Wausau’s economy.” 

Harris praised Rosenberg for her support of local businesses, addressing water concerns, and promoting diversity to foster “a welcoming and growing community.”

Wisconsinites for Liberty Fund first came on the scene in 2021 to provide substantial support to Republicans, with six-figure campaigns to aid Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Republican Leader Devin LeMahieu among others.

Because groups like Wisconsinites for Liberty Fund aren’t allowed to coordinate with candidates and their campaigns, Diny is able to claim he is staying true to a pledge he made during a radio interview last month.

“Are you committed,” asked WSAU Radio’s Meg Ellefson, “to not taking money from outside of, outside of the state to begin with—but especially these dark money groups, these special interest groups?” 

“Oh, absolutely,” Diny responded. “You know, I’m not a politician. So this is not, this is not a game to me. I’m here to become mayor.” 

According to reporting Wednesday from WSAW-TV, Diny has raised nearly $85,000 from the beginning of February through last week: Roughly half of it was from individuals while the other half came from political committees. Rosenberg raised nearly $20,000, with 95% of it coming from individual donors.


  • Pat Kreitlow

    The Founding Editor of UpNorthNews, Pat was a familiar presence on radio and TV stations in western Wisconsin before serving in the state Legislature. After a brief stint living in the Caribbean, Pat and wife returned to Chippewa Falls to be closer to their growing group of grandchildren. He now serves as UNN's chief political correspondent and host of UpNorthNews Radio, airing weekday mornings 6 a.m.-8 a.m on the Civic Media radio network and the UpNorthNews Facebook page.



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