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Saturday, December 10, 2016

By Don Walker, Tom Kertscher and Jason Stein, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

MILWAUKEE — Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has a new opponent this year — a super PAC heavily funded by liberal billionaire George Soros.

In anticipation of Walker’s re-election campaign this fall and possible presidential bid in 2016, American Bridge 21st Century is already hard at work in Wisconsin.

The group unveiled on Wednesday a new website called JohnDoeWalker.com, devoted to exposing information about Walker. The site was launched the same day emails were released from a secret John Doe investigation into links between Walker’s staff and his political campaign.

American Bridge received $1 million from the Soros Fund Management firm during the 2012 election cycle and funding from individual donors and labor unions. Organizers say they have committed about two dozen of their Washington, D.C.-based staff to poring over the 27,000 pages of emails.

Soros is a backer of Hillary Rodham Clinton, widely viewed as the Democratic front-runner in the 2016 presidential race.

Founded in November 2010 by author and liberal activist David Brock, the group grew out of a left-wing media watchdog group, Media Matters for America.

American Bridge does opposition research on Republican office holders and candidates for president, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and for governor.

American Bridge has worked in Wisconsin before.

In the 2012 campaign for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin, American Bridge provided documents for an Associated Press story showing that GOP candidate and former Gov. Tommy Thompson had earned more than $8.5 million in compensation since 2005 from companies that included a prominent Washington lobbying firm, a medical device manufacturer and a globally recognized consulting firm. Thompson lost to Democrat Tammy Baldwin.

American Bridge turned its sights to Walker this past November, using a project it launched called Correct the Record.

Correct the Record highlighted what it called Walker’s apparent failure to fulfill a campaign promise to create 250,000 jobs before his term as governor ends next January.

The offshoot group, led by Clinton’s 2008 campaign strategist Burns Strider, according to Politico, issued that news release less than a week after Walker criticized Clinton as a “product of Washington” during a meeting of conservatives in New York.

American Bridge spokeswoman Gwen Rocco said Thursday that JohnDoeWalker.com hasn’t revealed anything about the emails that hasn’t already been reported by other media, but that the site is the only one created exclusively for coverage of the emails.

Walker is running up against an inescapable fact of political life — the higher your aspirations, the bigger target you become for your foes.

As expected, Democrats from around the country leapt on the documents, dissecting the emails and trying to link the story to other embattled national Republicans such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who faces criticism over the closure of lanes on the George Washington Bridge in a political dispute, and former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, who faces federal charges of accepting gifts.