How Donations to Wisconsin Political Parties Have Changed Dramatically

Posted: January 8, 2015
Updated: October 22, 2015

There has been a dramatic change in who funds the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and the Republican Party of Wisconsin.

The biggest change followed the decision by U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa on September 5, 2014, to tear down the $10,000 ceiling on cumulative donations that any single individual could give to candidates or parties.

In 2010, for instance, the single biggest individual donor to the Wisconsin Republican Party was Terry Kohler, who gave $8,275.

But in 2014, at least through October 20 - the most recent date for which contribution information is available - of the top 20 contributors to the Wisconsin Republican Party, 13 were individuals giving $50,000 or more. Here’s the list:

  • Diane Hendricks: $1,000,000 (Hendricks is the co-founder and chairman of ABC Supply in Beloit)
  • Robert Rasmus: $200,000 (Rasmus is co-founder and co-CEO of Hi-Crush Partners, a producer of frac sand in Wisconsin.)
  • Helen De Vos: $100,000 (Helen De Vos is a conservative philanthropist in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She is married to Richard De Vos, co-founder of Amway. The Richard and Helen De Vos Foundation is a major donor to conservative think tanks around the country.)
  • Richard De Vos: $100,000 (Richard De Vos is the co-founder of Amway, and according to Forbes, he was the 60 th most wealthy person in America in 2012. He is married to Helen De Vos.)
  • Jere C. Fabick: $100,000 (Fabick is President and CEO of FABCO Equipment Inc, with offices in Wisconsin and Michigan.)
  • Stanley M. Herzog: $100,000 (Herzog is the chairman and CEO of Herzog Contracting Corp., based in St. Louis.)
  • Michael Shannon: $100,000 (Shannon is managing director of KSL Capital Partners, a private equity firm in Denver)
  • Rex Sinquefield: $100,000 (Sinquefield is president of the Show-Me Institute, a free-market think tank based in Missouri.)
  • Richard Colburn: $50,000 (Colburn is vice president of Consolidated Electrical Distributors, based near Appleton, Wisconsin.)
  • Louis Gentine: $50,000 (Louis Gentine is CEO of Sargento’s Cheese, based in Plymouth, Wisconsin. )
  • Kim Hendricks: $50,000 (Hendricks, daughter of Diane and Ken Hendricks, works at ABC Supply in Beloit, Wisconsin)
  • Bruce Kovner: $50,000 (Kovner is a billionaire investor based in New York.)
  • Richard Roberts: $50,000 (Roberts is the former CEO of URL Pharma in New Jersey.)

In 2010, for the Republican Party of Wisconsin, the top 20 biggest donors were all campaign committees. Here were the top five.

  • Friends of Scott Walker: $183,876.
  • Republican Assembly Campaign Committee: $165,000.
  • Friends of Alberta Darling: $30,000.
  • Jeff Fitzgerald for Assembly: $24,231.95
  • Scott Fitzgerald for Senate: $23,205.

As far as the Democratic Party of Wisconsin goes, in 2010, only one person gave $10,000.

That was Kim Mamalakis, a homemaker in Brookfield.

In 2014, however, from January 1 through October 20, three people gave more than $50,000.

  • Lynde Uihlein: $1,000,000 (Uihlein is head of the Brico Fund in Milwaukee.)
  • Chris Abele: $160,000 (Abele is Milwaukee County executive.)
  • Grant Abert: $120,000 (Abert is a liberal philanthropist in Wisconsin.)

In 2010, the top 20 biggest donors to the Democratic Party included three individuals. But the top five were from unions or campaign committees:

  • AFSCME: $251,492.51*
  • Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee: $174,188.32
  • State Senate Democratic Committee: $130,374.09
  • AFT-Wisconsin National Solidarity Fund: $45,537.25*
  • Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee: $25,589.05

In 2014, at least through October 20, the top 20 included only three individuals again, albeit with vastly higher sums.

Another difference for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin is that in 2010, unions or union-affiliated groups represented nine of the top 20 donors, with the single biggest donor of all being AFSCME.

In 2014, of the top 20 donors, only two were unions or union-affiliated.

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*Strictly speaking these were not donations. Reported by the party as data purchases by the unions.