Hijacking Recall 2012

Greater Wisconsin Committee

Posted: December 29, 2011
Updated: January 21, 2014

Estimated Spending: $400,000*

The Greater Wisconsin Committee is a Madison-based group that has spent an estimated $19.2 million on outside electioneering activities in Wisconsin elections since 2006, including $15.2 million to support Democratic candidates for statewide office and the legislature in the fall partisan and 2011 summer recall contests and another $4 million to support nonpartisan candidates for the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Like all phony issue ad groups, Greater Wisconsin refuses to disclose much of its fundraising and spending in detail, but it's support comes from organized labor and Democratic ideological groups supported by wealthy business interests.  Greater Wisconsin operates four entities - a political action committee, a corporate arm that makes independent expenditures, a phony issue ad group and a 527 group called the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund. Greater Wisconsin's executive director is longtime Democratic political operative Michelle McGrorty.

In December 2011, Greater Wisconsin reportedly spent $800,000 to air three versions of a television ad amid a second round of recalls launched against Republican Governor Scott Walker, the lieutenant governor and four state senators. The ads featured interviews with people identified as teachers, parents and grandparents who said Walker slashed state aid to education and hurt the quality of Wisconsin's public schools in order to pay for tax cuts and other breaks for corporations and wealthy special interests.  At least one of the versions of the ad ran in the Green Bay and Wausau areas.

A lot of that spending was paid for by Greater Wisconsin's 527 group which raised nearly $3 million in the last half of 2011 mostly from $1.75 million in contributions from the Washington D.C.-based America Votes, an electioneering group that backs Democrats, and $1 million in contributions from the Wisconsin Education Association Council - the state's largest teachers union and a powerful supporter of Democratic candidates.

In April, the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund announced it would sponsor a series of television ads to run weekly up to Walker's June 5 recall election.  One ad said Wisconsin was last among the 50 states in job creation during Walker's first 15 months in office and also criticized the governor for cutting worker training programs and giving corporations billions of dollars in tax breaks.  The Greater Wisconsin Committee received a $55,000 contribution from a 527 group controlled by a Maryland-based transportation union called United Association Political Issues Fund.

A second ad released in early May by Greater Wisconsin's 527 group cited the John Doe investigation being conducted by the Milwaukee County District Attorney's office that has resulted in several felony misconduct and other charges against three members of Walker's staff when he was Milwaukee County executive.

In mid-May, the Greater Wisconsin's 527 group released a batch of television advertisements that criticized Walker and incumbent Republican senators also up for recall.  A 30- and 60-second version of the same ad showed a film clip of GOP Senator Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls struggling to answer a question about the number and nature of job creation bills he sponsored in the last legislative session. 

The Greater Wisconsin Political Fund also sponsored an ad - here - that attacked Walker for repealing a law that guaranteed equal pay for women.

Last active election: Recall 2011

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*Total refers to unreported spending. The group credits all its advertising to the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund but some of the spending described in the text was also reported as independent expenditures by the group's Greater Wisconsin Political Independent Expenditure Fund.