ICYMI: Michels’ Donations Went to Location Tracking and Sidewalk Harassment of Abortion Patients
MADISON, Wis. — Tim Michels’ donations to anti-abortion groups go further than merely advocating for extreme restrictions on abortion. The Wisconsin Examiner reported that Michels’ foundation’s donations also went to a group that targets women who are seeking abortions using their cell phone location data.
The disturbing methods of groups backed by Michels attempt to pressure patients seeking abortions outside clinics, and try to convince them not to seek care, in addition to tracking women who visit abortion clinics through cell phone location data to target them with anti-abortion ads.
“A candidate for governor should not be providing funding to groups that are so extreme on abortion that they are willing to go so low as to intimidate and harass those seeking abortions,” said Democratic Party of Wisconsin Rapid Response Director Hannah Menchhoff. “Where Tim Michels spends his money shows his true values. It’s clear Michels will stop at nothing to take away a person’s right to make decisions about their own body.”
Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels has sought to defend himself against criticism of his charitable giving by saying his support of anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion causes is merely a reflection of his religious values. But his donations supported two groups that use controversial methods, including “sidewalk counseling” and cell phone location tracking, to discourage people from getting an abortion.
Michels’ charitable donations, first reported last week by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, came from the foundation he runs with his wife, the Timothy & Barbara Michels Family Foundation, as well as a foundation in his parents’ names, the Dale R & Ruth L Michels Family Foundation, which he served as a trustee of until 2019.
In 2020, Michels and his wife donated nearly $200,000 to anti-abortion grups in Wisconsin and New York.
In 2020, according to his foundation’s tax records, Michels donated $25,000 to the Pro-Life Wisconsin Education Task Force. Pro-Life Wisconsin is a right-wing anti-abortion group with a platform aimed at outlawing all abortions, without exceptions for protecting the life of the mother. The group also works to ban all forms of contraception and prohibit in vitro fertilization.
The group’s education task force that Michels directed his donation to includes programs that encourage teenagers to refrain from having sex and establishing anti-abortion clubs on college campuses. The task force also runs the “Save Lives: sidewalk counselor training program” which trains people to stand outside of abortion clinics and pressure patients to change their minds about their decision.
Michels, as a trustee of the foundation in his parents’ names, also helped direct thousands of dollars to the Veritas Society. In total, the foundation donated $20,000 to the society, which uses cell phone location data to track women who visit Planned Parenthood locations in order to send them targeted anti-abortion ads.
“Utilizing our advanced Veritas Society digital technology, otherwise known as ‘Polygonning’ we identify and capture the cell phone ID’s of women that are coming and going from Planned Parenthood and similar locations,” the group’s website states. “We then reach these women on apps, social feeds and websites like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat with pro-life content and messaging.”
Michels spokesperson Anna Kelly would not respond to questions about the programs Michels’ donations had funded, instead she asked for “balance” in reporting on charitable contributions made by Gov. Tony Evers.
“Looking forward to the story that I’m sure will be balanced with Evers’ charitable contributions,” she said. “Of course, that requires you asking about his contributions and himdonating to charity at all, so looking forward to reading the results of that ask.”
Evers is not the trustee of a large family foundation required to publicly file its tax documents and a request to the Evers campaign for a list of his contributions went unanswered.
Kelly has previously defended his donations as merely “generosity” in support of Christian causes and said that his “pitchforks and torches” comment was just “a figure of speech.”