With his next election approaching, Gov. Scott Walker is working to build his campaign war chest.
In a March 27, 2013 fund-raising letter to supporters, Walker said the 2014 campaign will be even more difficult than his 2010 race or the 2012 recall election, declaring of Democrats: "We’re bracing for perhaps their biggest effort in 2014."
He said state Democrats are looking to capitalize on the November 2012 victories by President Obama and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and added this head-scratcher:
"Obama for President and Baldwin for Senate have kept their campaign offices up and running in Fox Valley, Eau Claire and La Crosse with their staffs preparing for the next battle."
But Obama has run in his last election and Baldwin is a just few months into a six-year term.
Are their campaign offices really still fired up and now focused on Walker?
As evidence, Walker campaign spokeswoman Nicole Tieman offered links to three news stories "about the ongoing presence of OFA and Wisconsin Democrats in Wisconsin."
Tieman highlighted an article from Politicothat said: "OFA now has paid state coordinators in place in Georgia, Ohio, Missouri, Maryland, Colorado, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Nevada, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Florida, Michigan, Iowa, California, Texas and Arizona."
But that story was from April 24, 2013 -- nearly a month after Walker’s letter went out.
And the group Tieman referred to is not Organizing for America, the president’s campaign operation. It is a newly-formed formed non-profit called Organizing for Action, an outgrowth of the campaign organization.
As for the offices and employees the governor mentioned, we searched the web and got on the phone to see if we could find some lonely campaign workers.
We started with the president’s campaign.
We found a list from last fall of about 60 Obama campaign offices around Wisconsin, including the "Milwaukee Region HQ" listed at 744 N. 4th St., an office building in downtown Milwaukee. When we visited that one, just down the street from us, there was no sign of an Obama office on the building directory. A lobby guard said that during the campaign people occasionally stopped in and asked about the office, but there was not one there.
We called each of the 59 Obama offices that had a phone number listed -- including those in the areas named by Walker: the Fox Valley, Eau Claire and La Crosse. Virtually all of the numbers have been disconnected and not one was for the Obama campaign.
The Obama campaign’s successor group, Organizing for Action, doesn’t yet have a presence in Wisconsin, said the new state coordinator Justin Koehler.
"I’m moving out there tomorrow, actually," he said in an April 30, 2013 telephone interview. "We do not yet have an office for Organizing for Action. It’s me."
The New York Times said Obama operators have converted their massive campaign operation into a lobbying effort, and hope to raise $50 million.
"The goal is to harness those resources in support of Mr. Obama’s second-term policy priorities, including efforts to curb gun violence and climate change and overhaul immigration procedures," the Times said in a Feb. 22, 2013 story about the group. "Those efforts began Friday, when thousands of Obama supporters were deployed through more than 80 Congressional districts around the country to rally outside lawmakers’ offices, hold vigils and bombard Congress with e-mails and phone calls urging members to support stricter background checks for gun buyers."
The tax exempt group will also maintain the connection between the president and his most ardent supporters.
So what about the Baldwin campaign?
We found a frequently updated Baldwin campaign web page. But didn’t locate an office in any of the three cities mentioned, though there is one in Madison.
And after we began our reporting, Tieman of the Walker campaign sent a followup email noting Baldwin’s Madison campaign office was seeking a summer intern. But that posting was made after Walker’s letter went out and is not in the areas cited.
We asked the state Democratic Party if they knew of any offices for Obama or Baldwin.
"Obama for President and Senator Baldwin have closed their field offices," said Democratic Party spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff, via email.
"But Scott Walker is correct that Democrats are preparing for the next battle -- county Democratic party offices remain open and staffed all over the state, and the state party has organizers working in La Crosse, Eau Claire and the Fox Valley as part of our 72 County Strategy."
To be sure, it is not unusual for campaign offices and web sites to remain open between elections -- Walker himself has done it. And political staffers routinely move from job to job between campaigns, political parties, office staffs and interest groups during the "off season."
So, there would be little surprise if, say, a Baldwin staffer in Green Bay was now working for the state Dems -- perhaps even out of the same office space.
But even that is not what Walker claimed.
In a fund-raising letter, Walker told supporters that he needs to build his campaign war chest because Baldwin and Obama have kept their campaign offices open in three Wisconsin locations, and have staff "preparing for the next battle."
There is no evidence of Obama or Baldwin offices. We found only a single employee of the successor to Obama’s campaign group, who didn’t start working until long after the statement was made. The Baldwin campaign has a single office in Madison -- not in the areas Walker mentioned in his claim.
And the limited evidence the Walker campaign provided to in support of the claim all came after the statement was made.
We rate Walker’s claim False.