EXCLUSIVE: Actions of Wall for Congress Manager Raise Questions of Illegal Coordination
By Collin Roth
Evidence uncovered by Media Trackers indicates that the campaign manager for Jamie Wall, a Democrat running in the 8th Congressional District, worked for both a left-wing labor organization targeting Wall’s opponent Rep Reid Ribble while working for the Wall Campaign. Paula Zellner, a former aide to Sen. Russ Feingold, was employed as Political Coordinator by the SEIU front group Wisconsin Jobs Now! as early as the June of 2011. And in October of 2011, Zellner was hired on as Jamie Wall’s campaign manager. But evidence indicates Zellner may have continued at her post with Jobs Now!, raising serious questions of campaign coordination between Jamie Wall and the third party labor group.
From Jobs Now! to Jamie Wall
On June 26, 2011, Paula Zellner was listed as the contact for a Wisconsin Jobs Now! town hall meeting for Rep. Gwen Moore, Rep. Tammy Baldwin, and other local Milwaukee elected officials. Wisconsin Jobs Now! describes themselves as a “coalition of community groups, neighborhood associations, faith based organizations and labor united in an effort to bring good jobs to Wisconsin now.” Jobs Now! is actually part of a well-funded operation by the national SEIU called Fight For A Fair Economy.
By October 2011, Zellner jumped on Jamie Wall’s campaign as campaign manager. But a series of documents and an incident in Racine reveal that long after starting work for Wall, Zellner was still deeply involved in organizing protests and actions for Jobs Now!
On October 2, 2011, right around the time that Zellner was hired by Wall, she donated $250.00 to Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine). Listed as her is employer is SEIU/Wisconsin Jobs Now with the title of Political Coordinator.
On October 3, 2011, Zellner donated $150.00 to Jamie Wall and listed her employer as position as Campaign Manager for Jamie Wall for Congress.
Given the proximity to Zellner’s start date with Wall, this is certainly not a smoking gun. According to the GAB, campaigns must simply make a “good faith effort” to determine the employer and position for all donors giving more that $100.00 in a given year. But on May 5, 2012, a full eight months after joining Wall’s campaign, Zellner once again listed Wisconsin Jobs Now! as her employer when she donated to Democrat Assembly candidate Maureen May-Grimm.
Incident in Racine
But it is what occurred three months after Zellner joined the Wall campaign that raises the most questions about Zellner’s continued involvement with Wisconsin Jobs Now! On January 5, 2012, Paula Zellner and 17 other individuals were cited for violating a city ordinance in Racine when Wisconsin Jobs Now! picketed the private residence of Fred Young, the host for a fundraiser for Rep. Robin Vos and special guest Rep. Paul Ryan. According to the Racine Police Department, Paula Zellner was not simply an attendee of the protest, but was one of two organizers of the protest along with SEIU organizer and Wisconsin Jobs Now! operative Todd Stoner.
One attendee of the fundraiser reported to the Racine Police that it was Zellner who was “the main instigator.”
The Racine Police report continually notes that Paula Zellner and Todd Stoner spoke for the group and led the demonstration. This begs the question, why would Paula Zellner organize a protest of just 18 people over 200 miles from her home in Porterfield, Wisconsin? The logical conclusion says Zellner was still on the payroll of Wisconsin Jobs Now!
Jobs Now! takes on Ribble
Just 18 days after the incident in Racine, Wisconsin Jobs Now! showed up in Appleton to launch the first of many protests against Rep. Reid Ribble. On January 31, 2012, the Oshkosh Northwestern reported that Todd Stoner, the organizer from Wisconsin Jobs Now! who partnered with Zellner in Racine, coordinated protests against Ribble that demanded an increase in the minimum wage and tax increases.
From January until August 2012, Wisconsin Jobs Now! activists attempted to occupy Rep. Ribble’s office in Appleton in a similar fashion to other occupations conducted in the last year against GOP lawmakers. After the most recent occupation in late July 2012, Zellner was quoted in the Manitowoc Herald Times saying “Congressman Reid Ribble doesn’t publish a public schedule when he is in Wisconsin, doesn’t hold public meetings and kicks constituents out of his office.” In this quote, Zellner used the actions of Wisconsin Jobs Now!, an organization she was and still may be involved with, to criticize Rep. Ribble while acting as official spokesman for candidate Jamie Wall.
On Facebook, a group sprung up called Where’s Ribble? The group lists Wisconsin Jobs Now! as their website and are known for their cardboard cut-out of Rep. Reid Ribble. The Where’s Ribble group is hosting an event to canvass on behalf of Jamie Wall on September 22.
The close association between Paula Zellner and Wisconsin Jobs Now! while working for Wall is interesting in itself. But once Jobs Now! began targeting Rep Reid Ribble, Zellner’s association and continued work for the organization raises serious questions of coordination between the campaign and the third party group.
Furthermore, SEIU Healthcare WI, the source of funding for Wisconsin Jobs Now!, endorsed Jamie Wall as of July 30, 2012. SEIU Healthcare WI shares office space with Wisconsin Jobs Now! and funded the organization to the tune of $769,023.00 in 2011.
Media Trackers reached out to both Paula Zellner and Wisconsin Jobs Now! to ask for explanations of Zellner’s tenure with the organization. Neither were willing to respond.