Hijacking Special Elections and Recall 2011

Club for Growth Wisconsin

Posted: March 18, 2011
Updated: January 16, 2014

Estimated Spending: $9 million

Club for Growth Wisconsin is the state affiliate of the national Club for Growth, a long time supporter of conservative Republican candidates in federal races. Between 2007 and 2010 the state group spent more than $1 million on mostly broadcast advertising in Wisconsin’s spring and fall elections.

This organization was among the most active Republican groups sponsoring negative television advertising and other outside electioneering activities in nine summer recall elections - three against incumbent Democratic state senators and six against incumbent Republican state senators.  The Democrats were targeted for their opposition to and the Republican for their support of GOP Governor Scott Walker's 2011 bill to end most public employee collective bargaining rights.

The issue ad arm of Club for Growth was not required to report how much it raised and spent, like other phony issue ad groups, but Club for Growth's 527 arm - so-named for the U.S. Internal Revenue Service law that governs 527 groups - reported contributions totaling $718,500 for the summer recall elections.  Leading the list was $275,000 from Kenneth Griffin, chief executive officer of asset management and securities firm Citadel LLC, which has offices in New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, London and Hong Kong.  Other contributions to the group included $250,000 from Texas oilman Trevor Rees-Jones, $91,000 from the American Federation for Chidren Action based in Alexandria, Virginia, $50,000 from the Federal Express political action committee, $25,000 each from Defend America PAC in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and the Bluegrass Committee in Washington controlled by U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and $2,500 from the Free & Strong America PAC in Belmont, Massachusetts controlled by Republican 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

In early August, the organization sponsored two nearly identical ads against Democratic Representatives Fred Clark of Baraboo and Sandy Pasch of Whitefish Bay.  The ads accused the pair of voting to cut tuition benefits to veterans but provide tuition breaks for illegal aliens when they both voted for the 2009-11 state budget.  Clark challenged Republican Senator Luther Olsen of Ripon and Pasch Republican Senator Alberta Darling of River Hills in August 9 recall elections. Neither challenger was successful.

The group also sponsored three additional 30-second television ads accusing Pasch of voting against funding to catch Internet predators and other sex offenders; to increase property taxes and other taxes; and against funding to catch daycare providers who scam the state.

Radio Ad

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In July, Club for Growth sponsored three nearly identical 30-second television ads attacking Clark, Pasch and Democratic Representative Jennifer Shilling of La Crosse and a 30-second radio ad (at left) assailing Pasch in much the same way Democrats traditionally go after Republican candidates.  The television ads - here's the one against Clark - accused the trio of voting for more than $30 million worth of pork-barrel projects to benefit special interests while supporting nearly $300 million in cuts to public education and millions more in cuts to elderly health care programs in the 2009-11 state budget.  Shilling opposed and unseated Republican Senator Dan Kapanke of La Crosse in an August 9 recall election.  Another, similar 30-second television ad said Pasch hurt working families by voting to raise property taxes, as well as nursing home, gas and garbage taxes.

Club for Growth sponsored a 30-second television ad in June composed of video clips of 10th Senate District Democratic candidate Shelly Moore loudly addressing crowds.  The ad ends with a narrator saying, "Tell Shelly Moore we need solutions, not shouting."  Moore, an Ellsworth High School teacher, ran against incumbent Republican Senator Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls. 

In March, Club for Growth Wisconsin sponsored a television ad on behalf of Darling that claimed she supported policies to bring more businesses to Wisconsin and "her leadership will help put Wisconsin back on track and back to work.”

Last active election: Supreme Court 2011