527 Groups Get Record $1 Million From Wisconsin
Wisconsin Democrats gave more than Republicans to unregulated groups in 2007
February 26, 2008
Madison - Wisconsin contributors gave a non-election year record $1 million in 2007 to unregulated groups that collect and spend unlimited amounts on negative advertising, mailings and other outside electioneering activities, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analysis shows.
The 2007 contributions to so-called 527 groups were 58 percent higher than the previous non-election year record of $610,661 in 2005, and 75 percent higher than the $577,413 in Wisconsin contributions made in 2003.
The contributions in 2007 to these groups, which include the well-known Club for Growth, GOPAC and Progressive Majority, were made by 302 Wisconsin individuals, businesses, labor unions and others. These organizations are named after the U.S. Internal Revenue Service laws that govern them. They can accept and spend money from virtually any source, including businesses and unions which are prohibited from making direct contributions from their treasuries to candidates in Wisconsin.
Key findings in the WDC review include:
- Democratic-leaning 527 groups collected $664,967, or 66 percent, of the Wisconsin contributions, compared to $335,161, or 33 percent, that went to Republican-leaning 527s. Three 527 groups that got $11,743, or 1 percent, supported both parties or were neutral;
The substantial lead in Wisconsin contributions to Democratic 527s follows 2005 when Democratic 527s got 56 percent of the contributions Wisconsin donors made that year to these groups. Before that, in 2003 and 2001, Republican-leaning 527 groups got substantially more Wisconsin contributions than Democratic 527s.
- Leading the list of 527 groups that received Wisconsin contributions (Table 1) was the Progressive Majority, a liberal organization that supports Democrats, at $202,775. It was followed by the Republican Governors Association at $125,600. Two other 527s, the Laborers Political League Education Fund and America Votes 2006, which support Democrats, each got $100,000 or more in Wisconsin contributions. Fourteen additional 527s representing ideological, labor, insurance and conservation interests accepted $10,000 or more from Wisconsin contributors;
- Thirty-two Wisconsin individuals, businesses, labor unions and others contributed $2,000 or more to 527 groups in 2007 (Table 2);
The contributors were led by Milwaukee philanthropist Lynde Uihlein, a long time backer of Democratic and women’s causes, at $358,000. She contributed to the Progressive Majority, America Votes 2006, the League of Conservation Voters and the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund.
Uihlein was followed by the Wisconsin Laborers District Council, which sent $120,313 to the Laborers Political League Education Fund, a Washington D.C.-based 527 connected to labor, and the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.
Terry and Mary Kohler, of Sheboygan, and their Windway Capital Corporation contributed a total of $95,200 to the Club for Growth, GOPAC and American Solutions for Winning the Future. The Kohlers have been long time supporters of Republican and conservative candidates and causes.
- For anyone who believes 527 groups are attractive to small, individual contributors and give them a better opportunity to affect elections than giving directly to candidates, think again. The top 17 – those who gave $10,000 or more – of the 302 Wisconsin contributors to 527s in 2007 gave $859,130, or 85 percent of the total contributions. Those 17 contributors – 10 of which were businesses or unions – gave 527s an average $50,537 apiece. That is 22 times more than the maximum direct contribution they can make to a federal candidate and five times more than the maximum $10,000 annual limit on total contributions to candidates for statewide office and the legislature;
- The Greater Wisconsin Political Fund, whose issue ad and political action committee counterparts doled out $4 million in the 2006 state elections to back Governor Jim Doyle and other Democratic candidates, got a $620 contribution from Republican Attorney General JB Van Hollen’s campaign. Van Hollen, who was the object of negative advertising by the Greater Wisconsin Committee in his successful 2006 election, agreed to make the contribution to pay for the group’s legal costs in a defamation suit he brought against it and later dropped.
|Republican Governors Association||$125,600|
|Laborers Political League Education Fund||$110,313|
|America Votes 2006||$100,000|
|Greater Wisconsin Political Fund||$83,620|
|Democratic Governors Association||$50,375|
|League of Conservation Voters||$50,000|
|American Solutions for Winning the Future||$40,950|
|Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee||$26,200|
|Club for Growth.net||$26,000|
|Ironworkers Political Education Fund||$14,242|
|National Association of Mutual Insurance Cos. Administrative Fund||$13,500|
|Presidential Coalition LLC||$11,675|
|Republican State Leadership Committee||$11,050|
|College Republican National Committee||$10,835|
|Property Casualty Insurers Political Accounts||$10,378|
|Democratic Attorneys General Association||$10,000|
|International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Legislative Education Fund||$6,622|
|National Federation of Republican Women||$4,455|
|Indian’s List Indigenous Democratic Network||$3,900|
|Emily’s List Non-federal||$2,750|
|National Education Association Fund for Children and Public Education||$1,370|
|Last Chance for Patient Choice||$1,365|
|Friends of Fred Thompson||$1,250|
|American Bakers Association Political Education Committee||$700|
|Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund||$500|
|Sepracor Inc God Governance Fund||$500|
|Democrats for America ’s Future||$50|
|Hospira Political Action Committee, LLC||$25|
|Wisconsin Laborers District Council||Madison||$120,313|
|One Wisconsin Now Action||Milwaukee||$45,000|
|Verax Identity Fusion Center||Madison||$25,000|
|Extendicare Health Services||Milwaukee||$21,000|
|Ironworkers Local 383||Madison||$14,242|
|CUNA Mutual Insurance||Madison||$10,000|
|Windway Capital Corporation||Sheboygan||$10,000|
|Wisconsin Public Service||Green Bay||$5,000|
|Wisconsin Insurance Alliance||Madison||$5,000|
|American Family Mutual Insurance||Madison||$4,719|
|Womens Choice Wisconsin||Milwaukee||$4,300|
|Church Mutual Insurance||Merrill||$4,193|
|Forrest County Potawatomi||Crandon||$3,900|
|Sentry Insurance||Stevens Point||$3,650|
|Secura Mutual Insurance||Appleton||$3,181|
*Table shows contributors who gave a total of $2,000 or more in 2007