The Curious Candidacy of Joan Beglinger
Out-of-state group spends on ads for independent to help defeat Tim Michels.
Somebody out there doesn’t like Tim Michels.
A shadowy organization called Wisconsin RINO Hunters spent significant money on ads to attack the Republican candidate for governor as a “RINO” or Republican In Name Only, and promote an independent candidate, Joan Beglinger, as the true conservative in the race. Beglinger got 1% of the vote, more than 26,000 votes, which clearly helped Democrat Tony Evers, though his winning margin — of about 85,000 votes — shows he still would have won even without this help.
Marquette pollster Charles Franklin, however, didn’t expect Beglinger to do very well. As he told Urban Milwaukee via email, “Independents rarely reach even 1% of actual votes. (Green and Libertarians get 2-3%). On the survey, people who are unhappy with both party candidates pick a third alternative if there is one. It doesn’t seem to be an ideological choice but one reflecting anti-partisan feelings or disinterest in politics.”
But in this case voters had an added reason to pick Beglinger. Ads were run, even though Beglinger was officially not a candidate, supporting her as a better choice than Michels. As a story by Wispolitics noted, the narrator in a digital ad running on Facebook let voters know that the mainstream media “says you have no voice. You’ve got to suck it up. They say vote for their hand-picked RINO Tim Michels. But that’s fake news.”
The ad said Beglinger is “actually pro-life, pro-gun, pro-Trump,” and played a clip of Beglinger saying, “If we don’t take back our state, we’re not going to live in a free country.”
The ad was purchased by Wisconsin RINO Hunters, which ultimately spent $624,541 on ads calling Beglinger “the true conservative choice” in the race. The group may have also been behind a fake campaign website created for Beglinger.
It must be a dirty trick by liberals, the story fumed. “The effort is clearly designed to help Gov. Tony Evers by tricking conservatives into throwing away their votes by casting their ballots for a candidate, Joan Beglinger, who is no longer in the race… The language of the fake campaign website and the Google ad are designed to appeal to conservatives, although the website reads like they were written by a liberal who has a stereotypical idea of conservatives.”
But Fox 6 dug deeper and found connections to Republicans. Its story connected Wisconsin RINO Hunters to another one called the Liberty Group, and found both had the same address and suite in Washington D.C. The treasurer listed on the campaign registration form submitted with the state of Wisconsin, the story noted, was listed as Mike McCauley of McCauley and Associates, a firm that says it offers “accounting and compliance services for political campaigns, political organizations, small businesses, and corporations since 2005.”
“McCauley’s bio states he worked for several state Republican parties, including Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming and Utah. It also reports he served as the treasurer of the Utah Republican Party for 13 years. He lists clients including the senatorial campaigns of Republicans Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee,” the story noted.
Meanwhile, how did Beglinger herself fit into this scenario? Her campaign website described her as “A lifelong resident of Wisconsin, married for 49 years to Brad, a retired engineer and Air Force veteran, a “registered nurse with a Master’s degree in Nursing and an Executive MBA,” who had “10 Years of clinical practice” as a “Clinical Nurse Specialist in Critical Care at St. Luke’s Hospital in Milwaukee” and went on to serve as “Vice President of Patient Care and Chief Nursing Officer at Aurora Sinai in Milwaukee.” As for her views, she is anti-abortion and very pro-freedom and certainly sounds like a conservative independent.
At the top of the website it notes that Beglinger withdrew from the race and endorsed Michels. But on her Facebook campaign page, that is less clear: at first glance it looks like she is still running and contains posts where she discusses the issues. Under the tagline “Beglinger for Governor” she posts a story “The closing arguments — it’s time to vote,” and goes on at length about her views before finally noting she has endorsed Michels.
As endorsements go, it’s a bit lukewarm, and probably left Michels steaming mad.