Joe Bast| March 10, 2023
Leaders of some 30 grassroots patriot groups in Wisconsin met on March 4 in West Bend to share information and discuss ways to work together to advance freedom, elect conservatives to office, and protect the unborn.
The meeting was convened by Common Sense Citizens of Washington County, a self-described “group of constitutional conservative voters determined to help elect like-minded individuals to office.” Bernie Newman, the group’s leader, organized the day-long event and acted as master of ceremonies.
Speakers included a Who’s Who of the conservative movement in Wisconsin including Judge Shelley Grogan speaking for the Daniel Kelly for Supreme Court campaign, the McIver Institute’s Brett Healy, Eli Huber with Heritage Action, former gubernatorial candidate Tim Ranthum, Eric Searing from the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), and Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney.
As impressive as that line-up of speakers was, even more impressive was the number of grassroots activists present and the victories and growth they reported. Bernie Newman, the host, reported hearing from more than 100 groups in all and approximately 30 were represented at the meeting.
Many of these grassroots groups might be overlooked by media and the state’s political leaders, but they had a tremendous story to tell. There are more groups active at the county and local level than anyone at the meeting was previously aware of. They are organizing, educating, and winning local and county elections. As one speaker put it, “we are fired up, pissed off, and not going to take it anymore!”
Orville Seymour with Citizens for Responsible Government in Milwaukee ([email protected]) gave a 15-minute talk about effective organizing, how to set up a PAC, how to get absentee ballots for neighbors and friends, and even “a suggested reading list for freedom lovers.”
Ken Dragotta ([email protected]) described his “Congress of Conservatives” efforts. Rich Woldt ([email protected]) described the resources available from the Freedom Hill Patriots project headquartered in Sturgeon Bay. See www.freedomhillpatriots.com.
Brock Maddox with Freedom Fighters of Central Wisconsin (find them on Facebook) gave an impassioned talk on the history of mankind’s struggle for freedom, where we are now, and how we can achieve victory going forward. Paris Procopis from News Undone (www.newsundone.com) summarized his reporting on the internal workings of the state and county Republican Party organizations.
Lou Kowieski from The Five Riders (www.the5riders.com), a new group based in Oconomowoc, spoke great words of encouragement about what they are doing and seeing. From their website: “Building a better life for ourselves and our families is a personal responsibility and that ability is protected by our Constitution and does not reflect a guarantee of outcome but of access.”
Dan Siegmann from Free in Dodge (www.freeindodge.com) gave an electric talk about how the resistance he has faced in Dodge County has only strengthened his resolve. He won a seat on the county board and is involved in filing a lawsuit against the Dodge County DA and sheriff for refusing to enforce county ordinance violations.
Steve Paske, with We the People – Sauk County (www.wethepeoplesaukco.com), described creation of the Liberty Alliance of Wisconsin (www.libertyalliancewisconsin.com), a new statewide coalition of patriot groups devoted to “becom[ing] the hub of a statewide network of patriotic organizations based in Wisconsin and devoted to supporting and defending the Wisconsin and U.S. Constitutions, in order to restore freedom and the rule of law.” It is hosting a meeting of patriot leaders in Chetek on March 18.
Steve Welcenbach described his publication, Reality News (www.realitynewsmedia.com), the only monthly newspaper produced in Wisconsin “committed to Constitutional Government, Individual Liberty and Dissemination of Truth.” From his website: “The goals of Reality News are quite clear and simple. We are responding to the desire of the TEA Party movement to have a voice in the marketplace of ideas and a mechanism to interact with each other in both political and business circles.”
Joe Bast (the author of this article!) described the publications and newsletters available from his previous workplace, The Heartland Institute (www.heartland.org) and his and wife Diane’s current “retirement project,” the Wisconsin Patriots Toolbox (www.wipatriotstoolbox.com). He shared a handout containing directories of national and state conservative groups and advice on launching and marketing websites.
There was general agreement that we need to start using some of the same tactics as the left to win elections, in particular early voting and more aggressive get-out-the-vote programs. Nearly everyone agreed that focusing on county, municipal, and school board races is where a small group of patriots can make a big difference. There are many success stories, and many organizations are providing assistance to conservative candidates who ask for it.
Nearly everyone also agreed that the Supreme Court race is extremely important, that supporters of Dan Kelly are being vastly outspent by the Democrats, and that we need to give money, knock on doors, and encourage others to vote for him in advance of the April 4 election.
There were, however, some disagreements among friends. There is a lot of anger directed at the GOP leadership, especially Speaker Robin Vos and the leadership of some county parties. They were charged with “picking bad candidates,” refusing to fund conservatives when they win primaries, and failing to pursue election integrity efforts.
Some of the pro-life activists are upset that the three leading pro-life groups in the state are “sitting on millions of dollars and doing nothing” to protect the unborn. They wondered why the Dobbs v. Jackson decision, overturning Roe v. Wade, wasn’t more widely celebrated by the pro-life groups and why they weren’t running ads for Justice Daniel Kelly, the pro-life candidate in the Supreme Court race.
Plans are underway for more meetings around the state. See the calendar at the Wisconsin Patriots Toolbox for more information.