Hijacking Campaign 2016

Greater Wisconsin Committee

Posted: March 23, 2016
Updated: May 31, 2017

This is the phony issue ad arm of the Greater Wisconsin Committee, which is mostly funded by labor unions and ideological groups to support Democratic and left-leaning candidates for local and statewide offices and the legislature.

In addition to issue ads, Greater Wisconsin also uses a 527 group to raise money, and a corporation and a political action committee to make independent expenditures, which are electioneering activities that directly tell viewers how to vote. All told, the four entities operated by Greater Wisconsin spent an estimated $33.6 million between 2006 and spring 2016 on statewide and legislative elections. 

In 2016 the organization was involved in both the spring Supreme Court and the fall legislative elections.

Supreme Court Activity

The Greater Wisconsin Committee supported Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg's challenge to incumbent Wisconsin Supreme Court Rebecca Bradley in the April election. Kloppenburg had unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Justice David Prosser in 2011. This was Bradley's first Supreme Court election as she had only been appointed to the position by Republican Governor Scott Walker in October 2015.

About a week before the April 5 spring elections, the organization spent about $600,000 in television markets around the state to run a 30-second TV ad which asked how Bradley could be a fair judge because of columns she penned abouts gays and birth control in the early 1990s when she was a college student.

In addition, Greater Wisconsin's independent disbursement committee spent more than $100,000 on online advertising against Bradley.

Bradley won the election.

Fall Election Activity

The group sponsored a 30-second TV ad in mid-October that accused GOP Sen. Luther Olsen, of Ripon, of knowing about health care problems at the Veterans Home at King and doing nothing about them. Olsen survived the challenge for his 14th Senate District seat by Democrat Brian Smith. 

GWC also sponsored two 30-second TV ads - here and here - in the hotly contested 18th Senate District race. Both ads accused Republican candidate, and eventual winner, Dan Feyen of favoring tax breaks for the wealthy over adequate funding for public schools and roads. Feyen faced Democrat and Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris for the open seat.

At least some of Greater Wisconsin's funding for their fall electioneering activities came from a 527 organization controlled by the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing & Pipefitting Industry. One of the union's 527 groups - United Association Political Action Fund - contributed $150,000 on Sept. 30 to Greater Wisconsin.

Last active election: 2015