Published March 10, 2011
Wisconsin Republicans are accusing President Obama's political advisers of backing efforts to recall eight GOP senators for their role in trying to curb union rights and benefits.
State GOP Senate Leader Scott Fitzgerald told Fox News on Thursday that some of the people filing petitions against members of his caucus have "direct links" to President Obama's political team in Chicago. He suggested the president is keen on aiding labor groups in the state so they can deliver for Democrats in 2012.
Republican state Sen. Randy Hopper echoed Fitzgerald's claims, saying, "there's absolutely no question this is an issue for 2012."
"People from Organizing for America have been running the protests in Madison for quite some time now," he told Fox News. "I think that there's no question that the president has some involvement in this. I don't know what."
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney shot down the claim when asked about it Wednesday.
"I have no idea what you're talking about," Carney said.
The petition campaign itself does not bear Obama's name or that of his political unit, Organizing for America. Senate Democrats have also been targeted by recall efforts in Wisconsin, along with daily fines imposed by majority Republicans for playing hooky.
Republicans seemed to be basing their charge on claims that organizers had ties to Obama's vast political network in 2008.
"In my district, the person that's heading up the recall effort in my district was doing some work on behalf of either the administration or big labor in Colorado," Hopper said.
"Some of the individuals that filed petitions against our Republican senators have direct links to the Obama team in Chicago and it doesn't surprise me because Wisconsin is certainly one of the states that's targeted" in 2012," Fitzgerald said.
This week, Fitzgerald told a radio program that the individual with ties to Obama -- who he did not name -- was organizing the recall effort against River Hills Republican Sen. Alberta Darling. Kristopher Rowe, a grassroots organizer for Obama's 2008 campaign, is running the Darling recall effort on Facebook. However, Rowe says he is merely a volunteer and is not taking orders from the Obama re-election camp.
Elsewhere, the most prominent sponsor of the GOP recall effort is the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, which has a "Help Recall the Republican 8" banner on its website home page.
"If we can recall just three senators, we can regain control of the Senate and can end the ugly games Republicans in the legislature have played in the last few days -- unplugging phone lines, bolting windows inside the Capitol shut, and withholding the paychecks of Democratic legislators," the party said in an online appeal.
MoveOn.org and other liberal groups have also made appeals for signatures and donations.
Party leaders are exchanging barbs after the Wisconsin Senate worked around absentee Democrats to vote on a pared-down bill stripping state workers of collective-bargaining rights Wednesday.
But while Wisconsin law allows virtually any public official who's been in office for more than a year to be subject to a recall petition, several hurdles have to first be cleared.
Petition organizers looking to recall state senators would be required to collect a number of signatures equal to 25 percent or more of the number of votes cast for governor in the last election.
In most districts, it would take at least 15,000 signatures to force a recall. Organizers have 60 days to collect the signatures, but even if they get them, the senators would not automatically be forced out of office. Instead, they would be forced to run for re-election before the end of their term.