Non-profit

Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum

Website:

www.wiscef.org

Location:

MADISON, WI

Tax ID:

83-0988188

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Formation:

2017

Executive Director:

Scott Coenen

Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum (WICEF) is an environmentalist energy advocacy organization created in 2017 that is funded by the Conservative Energy Network (CEN), an umbrella organization that receives grants from left-leaning foundations including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Turner Foundation, and the McKnight Foundation. [1] WICEF is also tied to the lobbying firm the Capitol Group, LLC, and includes the firm’s partners Michelle Kussow and Brandon Scholz on their team. [2]

WICEF focuses on persuading Republican lawmakers to support environmentalist energy technologies like wind and solar. [3] The organization cites no specific policy issues, and instead uses conservative-sounding arguments like cost effectiveness, job creation, and economic development, to advocate for support for environmentalist energy sources. [4]

Members of WICEF’s leadership council include activist Benji Backer, founder of the American Conservation Coalition (ACC), and former Republican Governor of Wisconsin Tommy Thompson. [5]

Non-Specific Policy

Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum (WICEF) is a right-leaning non-profit organization that is working to persuade Republican lawmakers about the benefits of environmentalist energy technologies through educational outreach and advocacy, citing no specific policy issues. [6] The group avoids left-of-center messaging points like climate change and fossil fuels,[7] instead trying to make arguments that do not offend conservative ideologies, such as claims that that new technologies will be cost effective, will create jobs, and will stimulate economic development. [8]

Funding

WICEF is funded by the Conservative Energy Network (CEN), a non-profit network launched in 2016. [9] The organization states that it was created “by conservatives, for conservatives,” in order to connect state-based conservative-environmentalist energy organizations with each other. [10]

CEN receives substantial funding from left-of-center foundations, including $339,000 from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund between 2017 and 2019,[11] $200,000 from the McKnight Foundation in 2017,[12] and $200,000 from the Turner Foundation in 2018 and 2019. [13]

People

Team

Scott Coenen is the executive director of WICEF. He is a former clerk for the Senate Committee on Revenue, Financial Institutions, and Rural Issues. [14]

Michelle Kussow is a partner with the Capitol Group, LLC, a lobbying and public relations consulting firm. She is the vice president of government affairs and communications for the Wisconsin Grocers Association (WGA), a trade association for retail food and beverage industries. [15] She is a past president of Wisconsin Women in Government (WWIG). [16]

Brandon Scholz is a founding partner of the Capitol Group. He is the executive director of Wisconsin Small Businesses United (WSBU), and the managing partner of the Wisconsin Propane Gas Association (WPGA). Scholz has been the president and CEO of the Wisconsin Grocers Association (WGA) since 1997 and serves on WGA’s Foundation Board of Governors. He serves on the National Grocers Association’s Government Relations Committee and the board of the Food Industry Association Executives. Scholz is the former Director of Public Affairs for Wisconsin Power and Light. [17]

Leadership Council

Benji Backer is a conservative environmental activist and the founder of the American Conservation Coalition (ACC), an environmental organization claiming to be right-of-center. [18]

Debbie Crave is the vice president of Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese, LLC (CBFC), a family farm that runs on and advocates for renewable energy. [19]

Jon Hochkammer is the outreach manager for the Wisconsin Counties Association (WCA). He is the former Mayor of Verona, Wisconsin. [20]

Mark Honadel is the business development manager at Goodwill TalentBridge. He is a former Republican legislator and served as the Chair of the Committee on Energy and Utilities for the Wisconsin State Assembly. [21]

Matt Neumann is the founder of SunVest Solar, a solar electric installation company. He is the co-founder of Tim O’Brien Homes, a company focused on building energy-efficient homes. [22]

Ryan Owens is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin and former Assistant Professor of Government at Harvard University. [23]

Tommy Thompson is a former Republican Governor of Wisconsin. He was the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during the George W. Bush administration. [24]

References

  1. Mooney, Kevin. “What is the Conservative Energy Network and Why is it Backed by Leftist Funders?” The Washington Examiner. September 17, 2019. Accessed September 16, 2019. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/what-is-the-conservative-energy-network-and-why-is-it-backed-by-leftist-funders ^
  2. “Our Team.” Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum. Accessed September 16, 2019. https://www.wiscef.org/ our-team ^
  3. Bauer, Scott. “New Conservative Group to Tout Value of Renewable Energy.” AP News. December 13, 2017. Accessed September 16, 2019. https://www.apnews.com/68a65a95441443639ce5c369ad24d3ff ^
  4. “New Group Seeks Alternative Energy Conservative Ideology.” The Superior Telegram. December 19, 2017. Accessed September 16, 2019. https://www.superiortelegram.com/news/4375973-new-group-seeks-bridge-alternative-energy-conservative-ideology ^
  5. “Our Team.” Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum. Accessed September 16, 2019. https://www.wiscef.org/ our-team ^
  6. “New Group Seeks Alternative Energy Conservative Ideology.” The Superior Telegram. December 19, 2017. Accessed September 16, 2019. https://www.superiortelegram.com/news/4375973-new-group-seeks-bridge-alternative-energy-conservative-ideology ^
  7. Stein, Jason. “Tommy Thompson, Conservative Group Launch Effort to Promote Renewable Energy.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinal. December 13, 2017. Accessed September 16, 2019. https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/politics/2017/12/13/tommy-thompson-conservative-group-launch-effort-promote-renewable-energy/947727001/ ^
  8. “New Group Seeks Alternative Energy Conservative Ideology.” The Superior Telegram. December 19, 2017. Accessed September 16, 2019. https://www.superiortelegram.com/news/4375973-new-group-seeks-bridge-alternative-energy-conservative-ideology ^
  9. “New Group Seeks Alternative Energy Conservative Ideology.” The Superior Telegram. December 19, 2017. Accessed September 16, 2019. https://www.superiortelegram.com/news/4375973-new-group-seeks-bridge-alternative-energy-conservative-ideology ^
  10. “About Us.” Conservative Energy Network. 2019. Accessed September 16, 2019. http://www.conservativeenergynetwork.org/about-us/ ^
  11. “Conservative Energy Network Grants.” Rockefeller Brothers Fund. 2019. Accessed September 16, 2019. https://www.rbf.org/grantees/conservative-energy-network ^
  12. “Search Our Grants: Conservative Energy Network.” McKnight Foundation. 2019. Accessed September 16, 2019. https://www.mcknight.org/grants/search-our-grants/?grant-keyword=conservative&date_start=&date_end=&grant_program=#main-content ^
  13. “2019 Turner Foundation Awarded Grants.” Turner Foundation. Accessed September 16, 2019. http://www.turnerfoundation.org/files/documents/2019-grantees.pdf; “2018 Turner Foundation Awarded Grants.” Turner Foundation. Accessed September 16, 2019. http://www.turnerfoundation.org/files/documents/2018-grantees.pdf ^
  14. “Our Team.” Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum. Accessed September 16, 2019. https://www.wiscef.org/ our-team ^
  15. “Our Team.” Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum. Accessed September 16, 2019. https://www.wiscef.org/ our-team ^
  16. “Our Team.” Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum. Accessed September 16, 2019. https://www.wiscef.org/ our-team ^
  17. “Our Team.” Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum. Accessed September 16, 2019. https://www.wiscef.org/ our-team ^
  18. “Leadership Council.” Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum. Accessed September 16, 2019. https://www.wiscef.org/leadership-council ^
  19. “Our Green Story.” Crave Brothers Farmstand Cheese. 2019. Accessed September 16, 2019. https://cravecheese.com/our-green-story/ ^
  20. “Leadership Council.” Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum. Accessed September 16, 2019. https://www.wiscef.org/leadership-council ^
  21. “Leadership Council.” Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum. Accessed September 16, 2019. https://www.wiscef.org/leadership-council ^
  22. “Leadership Council.” Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum. Accessed September 16, 2019. https://www.wiscef.org/leadership-council ^
  23. “Leadership Council.” Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum. Accessed September 16, 2019. https://www.wiscef.org/leadership-council ^
  24. “Leadership Council.” Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum. Accessed September 16, 2019. https://www.wiscef.org/leadership-council ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Benji Backer
    Leadership Council Member
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: February 1, 2019

  • Available Filings

    No filings available.

    Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum

    10 W MIFFLIN ST STE 205
    MADISON, WI 53703-2565