Wisconsin Supreme Court Race Cost $2.8M

Posted: April 11, 2018
Updated: July 19, 2018


Scales of Justice and Pile of Cash

A dozen special interest groups spent $2.8 million on outside electioneering activities in this year’s Wisconsin Supreme Court race, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review found.

The April 3 race for the open seat on the high court pitted Sauk County Circuit Judge Michael Screnock against Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Rebecca Dallet, who won.

Outside groups that backed Dallet spent nearly $1.4 million and groups that supported Screnock spent more than $1.4 million (see table below). Throughout the officially nonpartisan race, Dallet drew support from traditional Democratic contributors and groups, and Screnock was backed by traditional Republican and conservative contributors and groups.

The spending on behalf of Screnock does not include nearly $300,000 in state and local Republican Party support because these were in-kind contributions by the party committees to his campaign.

Outside group spending in the previous eight Wisconsin Supreme Court races since spring 2007 has ranged from $171,000 to a record $4.8 million.

Topping the list of outside spenders in the 2018 election was Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) , the state’s largest business group, which secretly raised and spent an estimated $1,225,000 on issue ads to support Screnock and attack Dallet. WMC traditionally supports Republican and conservative legislative and statewide candidates.

Behind WMC was the Greater Wisconsin Committee, which spent an estimated $940,000 to support Dallet and attack Screnock. Greater Wisconsin, which supports Democratic and liberal statewide and legislative candidates, has been the top-spending electioneering group in Wisconsin since 2010. Greater Wisconsin’s electioneering activities, which were mostly television ads, were paid for with about $274,952 in disclosed independent expenditures and more than $660,000 in undisclosed issue ads.

For more details about the groups and their spending, check out the Democracy Campaign’s Hijacking Campaign 2018 or click on the links in the table below. To see the latest information about the candidates’ fundraising and spending, go here.

A report on the total cost of the race will be available later this summer when Screnock and Dallet file their final campaign finance reports for the race.

Special Interest Group Spending in the 2018 Wisconsin Supreme Court Race

Name Partisan Leaning Amount
Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce R $1,225,000
Greater Wisconsin Committee and Greater Wisconsin Political Fund D $941,652
National Democratic Redistricting Committee D $165,000
For Our Future D $157,801
Wisconsin Alliance for Reform R $125,000
High Ground Action Fund D $90,000
NRA Political Victory Fund R $44,160
Center for Popular Democracy Action D $34,711
Americans for Prosperity R $12,694
American Majority Action R $10,779
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin D $500
WEAC Region 6 PAC D $151
TOTAL $2,807,452