Hijacking Campaign 2014

Right Direction Wisconsin PAC

Posted: February 28, 2014
Updated: October 31, 2014


This is one of numerous state political action committees around the country that are used by the Republican Governors Association to spend tens of millions of dollars received through the group’s 527 organization from wealthy individual and corporate special interests to support GOP candidates for governor throughout the U.S.

The Republican Governors Association has spent an estimated $16.4 million in Wisconsin on independent expenditures and phony issue ads in three elections for governor since 2006, including an estimated $14.4 million in the 2010 general and 2012 recall elections to support incumbent Republican Governor Scott Walker.  It ranks among the top groups in spending on outside electioneering activities which consist mostly of negative broadcast ads about Democratic candidates.

The group said it planned to spend $8 million on paid media to help Walker win reelection in 2014 and sponsored six television ads between February and September to support him.

The Republican Governors Association sponsored a 30-second television ad – here via WisPolitics.com – in mid-February that smears Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke.  The ad implies Burke is partly to blame for the roughly 130,000 jobs lost in Wisconsin and $3 billion state budget deficit that occurred during her stint as state Commerce secretary in the administration of former Democratic Governor Jim Doyle.  The ad also claims Burke’s family-owned Trek Bicycle business outsourced jobs to China amid high unemployment rates in Wisconsin.  PolitiFact Wisconsin researched the content of the ad and rated it as mostly false.

The group launched a second 30-second television ad - here - in early March that continued to criticize Burke's track record as Commerce secretary under Doyle and that her spending and policy initiatives would take Wisconsin backwards.

A third 30-second television ad - here - launched in mid-March accused Burke of attacking Walker because she has no plan of her own on how to create jobs.

The group sponsored a fourth televison ad - here - in early September that echoed its previous Burke criticisms, accusing her of being in favor of higher taxes and government spending and having a poor record on job creation.

The PAC released a fifth and a sixth television ad - here and here - in late September that criticized Burke for copying parts of job creation proposals from past Democratic candidates from around the country to use as her own.

To help pay for the ads, the Republican Governors Association’s 527 group collected $2.8 million from Wisconsin individuals, companies and trade groups between January 2013 and March 2014 including $1.5 million from Mike and Mary Sue Shannon of Milwaukee.  Mike Shannon is co-founder of KSL Capital Partners, a private equity firm that invests in travel and leisure businesses. As of this posting, the RGA's state PAC is not yet required to report any of its spending on the broadcast ads or other independent expenditures.

Other top contributors to the association during the 15-month period were the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, $268,750; American Transmission Company in Waukesha which owns and operates high-voltage electric transmission lines throughout the Upper Midwest, $250,000; the Robert and Patricia Kern 1992 Revocable Trust, $200,000; USCC Services LLC in Middleton – an affiliate of U.S. Cellular, $150,000; and the Forest County Potawatomi Community which operates a Milwaukee casino whose economic livelihood hinges on an upcoming casino project decision by Walker, $60,000.

The Potawatomi have long opposed a proposed mega-casino project for Kenosha by the Menominee Indian Tribe.  The final decision to build the casino is now before Walker who says he may wait until after his 2014 reelection contest to make an announcement.  The Potawatomi have contributed a total of $160,900 to the Republican Governors Association since July 2011.

Last active election: 2012 Recall