Meet Mike

He’s as Wisconsin as they come.

Mike McCabe is as Wisconsin as they come - or as one veteran newspaperman put it, “as Wisconsin as cheese curds.” Mike is farm raised, getting his start in life milking cows and working the land with his family, first in Rock County and then in Clark County. He was born in Stoughton and lived on an 80-acre farm near Evansville in the early part of his childhood, but did most of his growing up on a 200-acre farm outside of Curtiss, a town of about 150 people.

about_standing_mike.jpgMike is the founder and president of Blue Jean Nation, a grassroots group dedicated to getting regular people in the driver's seat of our government. He is the author of Blue Jeans in High Places: The Coming Makeover of American Politics, which inspired the formation of Blue Jean Nation.

“...Mike McCabe, who is as Wisconsin as cheese curds”

Avrum Lank, 5/11/17 - Journal Sentinel

For much of his adult life, Mike worked for two of Wisconsin's most highly respected and fiercely independent government watchdogs - the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign and the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance. In the early 1980s, he ran a statewide civic education program for the nonprofit Taxpayers Alliance, known for watching over tax collections and bird-dogging how the public's money is spent.

In 1995 Mike helped start the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a nonpartisan watchdog group that specializes in tracking the money in state elections and works to make people matter more than money in politics. He led the group for 15 years as its director and during that time was a leading government whistle blower and earned a reputation as one of the nation's best political money trackers.

Before the Democracy Campaign came along, the only way to see who was donating to elected officials and candidates for office was to travel to the old state Elections Board office in Madison and personally examine mountains of paper reports. The Democracy Campaign entered all of the information on those reports into an electronic database and published it online, making it vastly easier to follow the money in Wisconsin politics. For its efforts under Mike's leadership, the Democracy Campaign was named the Citizen Openness Advocate of the Year in 2012 by the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council and the state chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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Mike's heart never left the farm, and he has remained active in advocating for sustainable farming practices. His efforts were recognized in 2015 when the Wisconsin Farmers Union gave him its Friend of the Family Farmer Award. Mike also believes passionately in protecting Wisconsin's precious natural resources and was named Environmental Advocate of the Year in 2004 by the Clean Water Action Council.

Before running the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Mike worked for six years as communications director and legislative liaison for the Madison schools. He also formerly worked as a newspaper reporter and as a legislative aide for three Republican members of the Wisconsin State Assembly. In addition, he served with his wife of 29 years in the Peace Corps in the west African country of Mali. Marilyn and Mike have a high school-age son.

Mike is a 1978 graduate of Owen-Withee High School, which inducted him into its Alumni Hall of Fame in 2014, and a 1982 graduate of the University of Wisconsin School of Journalism, which honored him with its Distinguished Service Award in 2015.

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