After WisconsinEye, a nonprofit public affairs cable channel, released a statement excoriating Planned Parenthood for using its footage in an attack ad against Senate President Mike Ellis, R-Neenah, Democrats and progressive groups have struck back at the organization’s leadership, accusing it of straying from its stated mission to provide nonpartisan reporting on the Legislature.

In his original statement, WisconsinEye President Jon Henkes not only criticized Planned Parenthood for using its footage in a political ad thinly disguised as an “educational ad,” but he asserted that the ad was inaccurate.

“The TV ad creates the false impression that Senate debate was inappropriately shut down by Senator Ellis,” he said. “What Planned Parenthood chose to show you was 5 seconds of a 39-minute Senate session, which followed a day-long debate of the issue in question. No one was shut down. All voices were heard.”

Democrats were infuriated by the assertion, which they called patently false.

“The 15 Democrats were totally shut down,” wrote Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, on Facebook.

“Since when is WisconsinEye the arbiter of what interpretation of legislative events is right,” asked Jenni Dye, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin, on Twitter.

In response, Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, announced he would be meeting with Henkes to discuss his concerns about the statement.

The meeting apparently did nothing to ease the tension.

“It was two ships missing each other completely,” said Larson aide Justin Sargent. “They talked right past us.”

“We were alarmed that they did not acknowledge or address our concerns,” he added.

Larson released a statement asking the organization to withdraw its “biased, inaccurate press release.”

“When I saw your statement, I was reminded of the horrible Badger-Sun Devil referee call,” said Larson, referring to the controversial end to Sept. 14 football game between Wisconsin and Arizona State. “Unlike those referees, you have the opportunity to rescind your erroneous, biased, judgmental statement and work to restore integrity to WisconsinEye’s reputation.”

Reached by phone, Henkes said his organization had no further comment on the matter, and that it stood by its original statement.

Sargent said that Henkes told Larson that he would take the issue to the organization’s board, which is composed of a number of political veterans from both parties, although it currently appears to tilt Republican. As noted previously, the chair of the board, former Lt. Gov. Margaret Farrow, is a Republican. Her son, state Sen. Paul Farrow, R-Waukesha, was involved in the Senate debate in question.

The board includes billionaire Republican donor Diane Hendricks and Susan Mitchell, a major donor with ties to the school choice lobby.

Sargent expressed optimism that the board would take seriously its commitment to impartiality when assessing the controversy.

“I think this situation where they overstepped is an opportunity for them to show Wisconsin that they will take pains to be nonpartisan and objective,” he said.


  • Jack Craver is the Capital Times political reporter, focusing on elections, candidates and campaign finance.

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(12) comments


I think WiscondsinEye provides a valuable service but they have stepped outside their mission. Does the state (we the taxpayers) put any money into this operation?

Wis Eye does provide a valuable service but it is based on trust and the understanding that none of the footage will be used in political commercials. PP undermined that trust and violated the rules by using this footage. If they do it again they will simply stop filming and we will no longer be able to see it. If the Right did something like this Larsen would be the first one screaming and Barca would be whining, They are incredible hypocrits for not calling this out and for defending it. Pathetic.


Ok Norwood raise your right hand. Now, what would you say about the political makeup of the WisEye board? Equal representation from both parties? More Democrats? More Republicans?

I don't know how to compute "pretty bipartisan." It would seem better not to have any big donors on the board at all. WisEye has pretty much an IT function. I don't get how they feel entitled to interpret what they see, especially when they are contradicting people who were there.


My point is that the names don't indicate a strong political dominance either way. It is a common practice for politically neutral entities to not allow people to use their materials in a political way, thus allowing them to remain neutral and above partisanship. This seems to a fair position for WE to take so that we can keep an eye on both parties.


That list is pretty bipartisan, although there are private sector companies mentioned, which is verboten to radical Dems because they sell goods and services for profit. Never mind that they pay taxes on said profit, it is still profit, ergo, it is evil.


Any mention that WEAC was/is a major sponsor of WisEye? Might be less of a sponsor, now, since they have no money, but they were there @ the beginning.


Not wanting to get my facts incorrect, and to further point out that facts don't seem to matter to you I followed up (via the Internet, of course) on funding for WisEye.

WisconsinEye is a non-profit, private public affairs cable network … The channel is being financed by private donors including Wisconsin billionaires Ken and Diane Hendricks, who have contributed more than $1 million.

You remember Diane Hendricks, Chairman of ABC Supply, who offered Scott Walker her help to turn our state RED. Oh, and you might remember Margaret Farrow, our former Republican Lieutenant Governor.


From - never doubt DaTruth:

In-Kind Services

Foley & Lardner

The Gialamas Company

Kahler Slater Architects

Godfrey & Kahn

M&I Bank

Quarles & Brady

Sean Boyce


Urban Land Interests


Wisconsin Broadcasters Association

Wisconsin Education Association Council

Wisconsin Physicians Service

Xcel Energy

ZD Studios


So, you got this list from their own website (kind of like believing Walker's own websites, huh). What are the financial contributions associated to this PAC by these people/companies? Because it is registered as a PAC and money buys the politician.


Thanks, Chris. I appreciate all the time and effort you put into being non-partisan.


Given today's political climate and who's on the board, if you think they will be "nonpartisan and objective", I have a bridge I'd like to sell you.

Does that excuse the obvious violation of the rules by PP? Has Wis Eye ever done anything to promote the right? I don't care if they are funded by Rush. If they haven't Done anything partisan, then they Are non-partisan.

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