MILWAUKEE — A woman who contends the U.S. government orchestrated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks has raised $8,427 in response to the Ozaukee County Board's decision to cut that amount from the University of Wisconsin Extension budget to protest a UW-Madison lecturer.
Cait Burgess, 35, of Fort Worth, Texas, said she donated the money to a scholarship fund for needy University of Wisconsin-Madison students.
The amount she raised, much of it her own, was the same amount UW-Madison pays Kevin Barrett to teach a class on Islam. Barrett has also said the U.S. government orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks.
"I heard about the Kevin Barrett issue, and it upset me. I thought that it was incredibly wrong" what the board in the suburban county north of Milwaukee did, said Burgess, who works part time running a Web design business from her home.
She said she acted after hearing about the Ozaukee County Board's 18-11 approval in August of a resolution to cut funding to the county UW Extension program by the same amount UW-Madison is paying Barrett. The UW Extension is a separate institution of the UW System.
Burgess said she contacted James Fetzer, a retired University of Minnesota-Duluth professor and founder of Scholars for 911 Truth, and leaders of Veterans for 911 Truth. Both groups support the Sept. 11 conspiracy theory held by Barrett.
She said she offered to create a Web site to help raise money to match the cut imposed by Ozaukee County supervisors, and she also added money of her own.
"I contacted people within the 9-11 truth movement across the world, and people just kept sending in donations," Burgess said. "They worked their tails off to raise the money to tell politicians that they can't stop free speech. It wasn't like a big public fundraiser. It was more like people telling their friends."
About 100 people from around the United States, Australia, France and other countries donated from $1 to $1,000 toward the project, she said. Burgess said she also donated thousands of dollars herself, but declined to say just how much.
"That's how strongly I believe in this. I'm just trying to do the right thing by my country and the American people," she said.
University of Wisconsin Foundation president Sandy Wilcox said the check from Burgess was put into the university general scholarship program for students with financial need.
Ozaukee County Supervisor Joe Sopko, who co-authored the resolution to cut funding to UW Extension, congratulated Burg-ess and other critics of the board's action for raising the money.
"They have every right to exercise their freedom of speech and spend their money any way they want. As long as it wasn't the taxpayers' money being used, I don't care," he said.
Sopko is a lieutenant colonel in the Air National Guard and earlier spent two months stationed in Afghanistan.
Sopko, who chairs the Ozaukee County's Environment and Land Use Committee which oversees the county's UW Extension Office, had hoped other counties would follow their lead, but he said none has done so thus far.