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GOP Business Leaders Say Tim Michels Has ‘History of Supporting Questionable Economic Policies With His Company’

The GOP business leaders wrote, “Tim Michels has a detailed history of supporting questionable economic policies with his company.”

Several top Republican donors and business leaders, including retired Bradley Foundation President Mike Grebe and major GOP donor/businessman Fred Young, are challenging the national Club for Growth for its deceptive ad against Rebecca Kleefisch, saying that Tim Michels lacks Kleefisch’s “unwavering conviction” to conservative principles.

“To say we are deeply concerned and disappointed in The Club’s decision to launch negative and false attacks ads against former Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch would be an understatement,” they wrote. “It’s also a decision that has led us to question whether to provide any future support.”

The letter, sent to leaders of the national Club for Growth organization, was signed by Grebe, Young, John Anderson, and Anthony and Andrea Bryant. For years, they have all been major forces in conservative politics, donor circles, the Wisconsin business community, and philanthropy.

The powerful GOP group had strong words for Michels, saying, “…Tim Michels does not have the same breadth of experience and unwavering conviction to these conservative principles. Repeated gaffes by the Michels campaign have also demonstrated it lacks the competency and talent demanded to win a competitive statewide race in Wisconsin.”

The donors noted: “Here are the facts: Tim Michels has a detailed history of supporting questionable economic policies with his company. Michels led or was a member of three different organizations which tried to raise Wisconsin’s gas tax. Michels was president of a group that lobbied against a bill banning illegal immigrants from working on projects paid by taxpayer-funded contracts. Furthermore, Michels Corporation was part of a group whose sole focus was opposing right to work and prevailing wage repeal. His company even fired an employee for refusing to pay union dues. These are not the free-market, competition-driven principles that The Club for Growth has historically championed.”

[Note: Wisconsin Right Now was the first in Wisconsin media to break the story that Michels Corp fired an employee for refusing to pay union dues. We were also the first to break the stories on the organizations/gas tax issue and the illegal immigrant bill.]


Mike Grebe

Mike grebe
Mike grebe

According to his bio, Mike Grebe was Scott Walker’s campaign chairman and previously served as state GOP chairman and general counsel for the Republican National Committee. 

Grebe has served in a number of prominent roles in the community, including as co-chairman of the Milwaukee 7 Regional Economic Development Council and chairman of the Greater Milwaukee Committee.


Fred Young

Fred Young has been one of the state’s top GOP donors over the years. He was president of Young Radiator, a company in Racine, Wisconsin, before selling it. He is on the Board of Directors for the Cato Institute and is a trustee of the Reason Foundation. Young Radiator was founded in 1927. The family company “built radiators for Glenn Martin airplanes, the Dusenberg racing car and the B-25 bombers used by Gen. Jimmy Doolittle in his raid on Tokyo in World War II,” according to United Press International.


John anderson
John anderson

John Anderson

John Anderson is the Founder and a Senior Partner of Spring Creek Partners and Anderson Enterprises. He has been in the Venture Capital industry since 1968 when he started his own firm. Throughout his career, he has been active in the acquisition and management of small to medium-sized businesses.


Anthony and andrea bryant
Anthony and andrea bryant

Anthony and Andrea Bryant

The Bryants are major conservative donors and philanthropists with a family business, Century Fence Company based in Waukesha County. “Their devotion to Waukesha County runs deep. Tony’s family stretches back four generations and their commercial fencing company is 95 years old,” the Greater Milwaukee Foundation says.


It’s impossible to trace who is funding the national Club for Growth ads (although a source close to conservative donor Richard Uihlen says he’s not funding them). They’re clearly designed to destroy Kleefisch in the Aug. 9 gubernatorial primary.

Michels is the other leading contender. Wispolitics is reporting that the Club for Growth made a $1.3 million ad buy in the race. Their first ad attacked Kleefisch for her work on a women’s suffrage group; her work making trade job videos for a group that pushed Walker’s reforms; and her overseas trade missions to find new markets for Wisconsin farmers.

Here is the donors’ letter in full:

“Dear Club for Growth Leadership,

As you may be aware, we represent a collection of Wisconsin supporters and financial backers to The Club for Growth. We have supported The Club because of its strong stance on the principles of freedom, lower taxes, reducing government waste, regulatory reform, and expanding school choice. We’ve been proud of the efforts by The Club to elect conservative candidates across the nation who share these principles. That is, until now.

To say we are deeply concerned and disappointed in The Club’s decision to launch negative and false attacks ads against former Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch would be an understatement. It’s also a decision that has led us to question whether to provide any future support. Under the administration of Scott Walker and Rebecca Kleefisch, Wisconsin led the nation in conservative reforms and experienced one of the most prosperous eras in our state’s history.

Rebecca Kleefisch not only exemplifies these conservative principles, she is the only candidate for governor who has never wavered in her conviction and defense of the principles even when faced with the strongest of opposition. To suggest that former Lt. Governor Kleefisch is anything other than a proven conservative reformer is not only a lie, but a disservice to Wisconsin’s conservative movement as a whole. This is why we are so surprised by The Club’s decision to attack Rebecca. Based on various conversations we have had with The Club, it is our understanding the organization is acutely aware, and previously never in question, of Rebecca’s conservative credentials.

Furthermore, it has become increasingly evident throughout this campaign that her opponent Tim Michels does not have the same breadth of experience and unwavering conviction to these conservative principles. Repeated gaffes by the Michels campaign have also demonstrated it lacks the competency and talent demanded to win a competitive statewide race in Wisconsin.

Without doubt, Michels’ campaign is in need of outside help. Sadly, however, it appears The Club for Growth has cast aside its proud record of adherence to conservative ideals and integrity in an attempt to save Michels’ campaign by tearing down Rebecca Kleefisch.

Here are the facts: Tim Michels has a detailed history of supporting questionable economic policies with his company. Michels led or was a member of three different organizations which tried to raise Wisconsin’s gas tax. Michels was president of a group that lobbied against a bill banning illegal immigrants from working on projects paid by taxpayer-funded contracts. Furthermore, Michels Corporation was part of a group whose sole focus was opposing right to work and prevailing wage repeal. His company even fired an employee for refusing to pay union dues. These are not the free-market, competition-driven principles that The Club for Growth has historically championed.

In contrast, Rebecca Kleefisch has never backed down from these principles. Protesters swarmed the Capitol to try and stop Rebecca and Governor Scott Walker from enacting reform to balance the budget, but Rebecca didn’t waver. She didn’t back down when roadbuilders ran ads trying to scare the Walker/Kleefisch administration into raising the gas tax. She stood on principle. When protesters again showed up at the State Capitol to protest right to work legislation, Rebecca Kleefisch proudly stood alongside Scott Walker when he signed the worker freedom bill into law.

To us, there is no question about who conservatives should vote for on Tuesday, August 9th — and that’s Rebecca Kleefisch. We cannot risk voting for a gubernatorial candidate who won’t even commit in writing to vetoing any net tax increases or forced unionization policies.”

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