Wisconsin Cash to 527 Groups Topped $600K in ’05

Support to democratic shadow groups up over past non-election years

March 23, 2006

Madison - Wisconsin contributions to unregulated national groups that can accept and spend unlimited amounts to influence elections set a record for a non-election year, topping $600,000 in 2005 as contributors ramped up their donations to groups that support Democrats, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analysis shows.

A WDC review of Wisconsin contributions to 527 groups, which are named after the Internal Revenue Service laws that govern them, shows 220 Wisconsin individuals, corporations and labor unions gave $610,661 to 23 groups in 2005. That total is 6 percent higher than the $577,413 in 2003 and 11 percent higher than the $551,988 in 2001 to 527 groups from Wisconsin contributors. These groups were not required to file financial disclosure statements until August 2000.

527 groups use unregulated contributions, or soft money, to fund negative broadcast advertising and mailings and voter registration drives. For instance, they can accept millions of dollars in contributions from large corporations, which cannot legally contribute directly to candidates in Wisconsin, to pay for election activities. Some of the more well-known 527 groups from recent years include America Coming Together, MoveOn.org, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and the Club for Growth.

Key findings in the WDC analysis include:

The flip in support coincides with the sagging public opinion polls for President Bush and the Republican-led Congress over their handling of foreign and domestic issues.

  • Wisconsin contributions to Democratic-leaning 527s led contributions to GOP-leaning 527s, unlike contributions in 2003 and 2001. Democratic-leaning 527s accepted $341,375, or 56 percent, of total Wisconsin contributions in 2005. In 2003, Republican-leaning 527s collected $377,186, or 65 percent, of the contributions from Wisconsin, and in 2001, Republican 527s accepted $321,447, or 58 percent, of state contributions.

The Club for Growth, which supports Republicans, collected $94,950. Most of their contributions came from four donors – $25,000 from retired Racine businessman Fred Young and $10,000 each from Wausau paper company executive San Orr, Milwaukee school voucher advocate George Mitchell and conservative Sheboygan businessman Terry Kohler.

  • Leading the list of 527s that received Wisconsin contributions (Table 1) was the Democratic Governors Association which accepted $194,000 from 12 contributors in 2005. The group’s Wisconsin benefactors included longtime Democratic supporter Daniel Bader of Milwaukee and Kenosha businessman Dennis Troha who contributed $50,000 each. Troha and his family are Democratic Governor Jim Doyle’s leading contributors. Troha has partnered with the Menominee and Mohegan Indian tribes to build a controversial $800 million casino in Kenosha. The controversial project needs federal government approval, and then Doyle’s blessing. Three Wisconsin tribes – the Oneida, St. Croix and the Stockbridge Munsee – contributed another $28,000 to the Democratic Governors Association.
  • Thirty-seven Wisconsin contributors doled out $2,000 or more to 527 groups in 2005 (Table 2). Twenty-three contributions came from people and 14 came from businesses, unions, tribes or other special interest groups. Topping the list was the Wisconsin Laborers District Council which sent $83,946 to its Washington-based 527, the Laborers Political League Education Fund. Next were Bader and Troha at $50,000, followed by Terry and Mary Kohler who contributed $10,000 to the Club for Growth and $35,000 to GOPAC.

Table 1
Total Wisconsin Contributions to 527 Groups in 2005

Name Amount
Democratic Governors Association $194,000
Club for Growth $94,950
Laborers Political League Education Fund $83,946
GOPAC $65,326
IBEW Educational Committee* $42,555
College Republican National Committee $42,246
Republican Governors Association $26,425
Republican State Leadership Committee $17,535
Ironworkers Political Education Fund $10,314
National Federation of Republican Women $8,600
Property Casualty Insurers Political Account $7,705
Democratic Attorneys General Association $5,000
National Association of Mutual Insurance Cos. Administrative Fund $4,499
Emily’s List Non-federal $3,380
America Coming Together - Nonfederal Account $1,200
American Bakers Association Political Education Committee $1,100
Democrats for America ’s Future $600
The Cox Administrative Account $500
Amalgamated Transit Union-COPE Special Holding Account $250
Professional Insurance Agents PAC Non-Federal $200
American Dental PAC Education Fund $200
Grassroots Democrats $125
New Democrat Network Non-federal Account $5
TOTAL $610,661

*IBEW refers to International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Table 2
Top** WisconsinContributors to 527 Groups in 2005

Name City Employer Amount
Wisconsin Laborers Vacation Fund Madison Not Applicable $83,946
Dennis Troha Kenosha Kenesah Gaming Development $50,000
Daniel Bader Milwaukee Granite Micro Systems $50,000
Terry & Mary Kohler Sheboygan Windway Capital Corp $45,000
Johnson Controls Milwaukee Not Applicable $30,000
Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin Oneida Not Applicable $25,000
Fred Young Racine Retired $25,000
Daniel Sherman Waukesha IBEW Local 2150** $23,713
Wisconsin Insurance Alliance Madison Not Applicable $20,000
Miller Brewing Milwaukee Not Applicable $15,000
San Orr Wausau Wausau Mosinee Paper Corp $15,000
Credit Union National Association Madison Not Applicable $15,000
Mary E Weitner Milwaukee Homemaker $14,578
Paul Welnak Milwaukee IBEW Local Union 494** $14,089
George Mitchell Whitefish Bay Mitchell Co $10,750
Ironworkers Local 383 Madison Not Applicable $10,314
Joe E Richardson II Oostburg Richardson Industries $10,250
Wisconsin Public Service Green Bay Not Applicable $10,000
Glen Oak Lumber and Milling Montcello Not Applicable $10,000
Johnson Diversity Sturtevant Not Applicable $10,000
Allan Lund Hayward Retired $5,500
Madison Gas & Electric Madison Not Applicable $5,000
National Funeral Directors Association PAC Brookfield Not Applicable $5,000
Michael Grebe Milwaukee Bradley Foundation $5,000
Gregory Breaker Appleton IBEW Local 577*** $4,144
Joyce B Heinrich Watertown Retired $3,807
Dorothy Kuettner Oshkosh Retired $3,665
American Family Mutual Insurance Madison Not Applicable $3,444
Donald K Mundt Elm Grove Retired $3,250
Darlene Ross Shawano Lake Country Republican Women $3,055
Roger S Hoffman Madison None Listed $2,800
Joan R Robertson Milwaukee Homemaker $2,800
Rev Edwin L Knauf River Falls Retired $2,682
Everett E Smith Waupaca Retired $2,168
Tom Metcalf Monona Retired $2,000
St Croix Tribal Council Webster Not Applicable $2,000

**Contributors of $2,000 or more in 2005
***IBEW refers to International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers