Milwaukee Business Group Behind Cut to Consumer Board

April 23, 2015

A Milwaukee business group that spent almost $200,000 to help elect Republican legislators is behind a plan to kill funding for a group that represents consumers before the state Public Service Commission.

The plan to cut $300,000 a year in funding for the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) was inserted into Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed 2015-17 state budget by the GOP-controlled Joint Finance Committee on a 12-4 party line vote.

The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, which asked the committee to cut CUB’s funding, contributed $105,000 between January 2010 and December 2014 to the Republican State Leadership Committee. The committee is a Washington, D.C.-based 527 organization that raises and spends unlimited amounts of money from powerful special interests to pay for electioneering activities to help elect Republican legislative candidates throughout the country. The 527 group spent a total of $2.4 million between January 2010 and December 2014 to support Republican legislative candidates in Wisconsin elections.

In addition to its contributions to the 527 group, the Milwaukee business group’s political action committee and conduit, which bundles individual donations to candidates, directly contributed $78,900 between January 2010, and Oct. 20, 2014, to GOP legislative candidates, including $20,450 to Sen. Alberta Darling of River Hills, who is co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee; $10,750 to Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau; and $10,000 to Sen. Van Wanggaard of Racine.

The Milwaukee business group, whose board of directors includes We Energies chairman Gale Klappa, routinely favors utility rate increases in cases before the Public Service Commission.

The state’s largest utilities have taken no position on the Joint Finance Committee’s decision to cut CUB funding. Customers First, a group that represents Madison Gas & Electric and smaller municipal utilities, opposes the funding cut.

The Joint Finance Committee’s changes to Walker’s proposed state budget will be considered early this summer by the full legislature before it goes back to the governor for final approval.