State Donors Pitch “527” Groups Record Cash

Democratic groups getting most of the Wisconsin contributions

May 29, 2008

Madison - Wisconsin business, unions and individuals have contributed a record $1.5 million in the first 15 months of the 2007-08 election cycle to unregulated groups most of which raise and spend unlimited amounts on negative advertising, mailings and other outside activities in state and national elections, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analysis shows.

Total Wisconsin contributions to so-called “527 groups between January 1, 2007 and March 31, 2008 shattered the previous high for a comparable period – $1.03 million between January 2005 and March 2006, and more than doubled the $729,555 contributors gave between January 2003 and March 2004 and the $718,397 contributed between January 2001 and March 2002 (see Bar Chart).

Chart: Total WI Contributions to 527s in 1st Five Quarters of Each Election Cycle

The contributions from unions and businesses to 527 groups would be illegal to give directly to state and federal Wisconsin candidates because most of the contributions violate rules governing how much contributors can give and how much candidates can accept and the money comes from business and union treasuries that cannot be used for political donations to candidates.

527 groups are so named for the section of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service code that governs them, but the IRS does not regulate where they can get their contributions and how much they can accept and spend. These groups include the more popularly known GOPAC, Club for Growth, Democratic Governors Association and Progressive Majority.

Aside from the record total in Wisconsin contributions to 527s from January 2007 through March 2008, WDC also found:

  • Seven 527 groups received $100,000 or more led by the Democratic Governors Association at $241,885, the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund at $230,620 and the Progressive Majority at $203,025 (see Table 1). Greater Wisconsin and the Progressive Majority are liberal groups that support Democrats;
  • Wisconsin contributions to Democratic 527s significantly outpace contributions to Republicans 527s. Democratic 527s received $1.06 million or 71 percent of Wisconsin’s contributions while Republican groups received $426,466 or 28 percent. Three 527 groups that supported both parties or were neutral accepted $15,409 from Wisconsin contributors. Seven of the 10 527 groups that received the most money from Wisconsin were Democratic 527s;

Uihlein was followed by the Wisconsin Laborers District Council which sent $157,039 to a Washington D.C.-based 527 tied to labor, and the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.

Terry and Mary Kohler of Sheboygan and their Windway Capital Corporation who contributed a total of $135,200, including $55,200 to American Solutions for Winning the Future, $50,000 to GOPAC, $25,000 to the Club for Growth and $5,000 to America’s PAC. The Kohlers are longtime supporters of conservative and Republican causes and political candidates.

Allergan, a pharmaceutical company in Oshkosh that develops skin care, eye care and specialty products contributed $100,000 to the Democratic Governors Association on January 25, 2008.

Top 527 RecipientsTop Contributors to 527s

  • Top contributors (see Table 2) include Milwaukee philanthropist Lynde Uihlein, a longtime supporter of women’s and Democratic candidates and causes, who has given $458,000 including $170,000 to the Progressive Majority, $138,000 to the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund, $100,000 to America Votes 2006 and $50,000 to the League of Conservation Voters.

Table 1
Top* 527 Recipients of Wisconsin Contributions
January 1, 2007 – March 31, 2008

Committee Name Amount
Democratic Governors Association $241,885
Greater Wisconsin Political Fund $230,620
Progressive Majority $203,025
Laborers Political League Education Fund $147,039
Republican Governors Association $135,600
GOPAC Inc $111,796
America Votes 2006 $100,000
American Solutions for Winning the Future $70,150
League of Conservation Voters $50,000
Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee $27,700
Club for $27,000
National Association of Mutual Insurance Cos. Administrative Fund $26,995
Ironworkers Political Education Fund $18,151
PCI (Property Casualty Insurers) Political Accounts $14,044
Emily’s List Non-federal $12,750
Presidential Coalition LLC $12,675
College Republican National Committee $11,835
Republican State Leadership Committee $11,050
Democratic Attorneys General Association $10,000
America ’s PAC $10,000
International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Legislative Education Fund $8,567
National Federation of Republican Women $6,865

*Table shows 572s that received $5,000 or more from Wisconsin contributors during the 15-month period.

Table 2
Top* Wisconsin Contributors to 527 Groups
January 1, 2007 – March 31, 2008

Contributor City Employer Amount
Lynde Uihlein Milwaukee Brico Fund $458,000
Wisconsin Laborers District Council Madison Not Applicable $157,039
Terry and Mary Kohler Sheboygan Windway Capital Corp $125,200
Allergan Oshkosh Not Applicable $100,000
Johnson Controls Inc Milwaukee Not Applicable $51,600
Daniel Bader Milwaukee Granite Micro Systems $50,000
HNTB Corp Madison Not Applicable $50,000
One Wisconsin Now Action Milwaukee Not Applicable $45,000
Results LLC Oak Creek Not Applicable $25,000
Verax Identity Fusion Center Inc Madison Not Applicable $25,000
Wisconsin People Conference Madison Not Applicable $25,000
Extendicare Health Services Milwaukee Not Applicable $21,000
Kohls Corp Milwaukee Not Applicable $20,000
Grant Abert Hillpoint None Listed $20,000
Tom Talbot Montello Glen Oak Lumber and Milling $20,000
Miller Brewing Co Milwaukee Not Applicable $20,000
Ironworkers Local 383 Madison Not Applicable $18,151
Donald Lynch Milwaukee Old Navy $11,000
Donald Katz Madison Retired $10,000
CUNA Mutual Insurance Co Madison Not Applicable $10,000
Gordon and Judith Faulkner Madison Retired/Epic systems $10,000
Marilyn Domer Washington Island Retired $10,000
Capitol Navigators Inc Madison Not Applicable $10,000
Windway Capital Corp Sheboygan Not Applicable $10,000
Credit Union National Association Madison Not Applicable $10,000
International Brotherhood of Boilermakers
(Locals combined)
Various state
Not Applicable $8,567
Secura Mutual Insurance Co Appleton Not Applicable $8,181
West Bend Mutual Insurance Co West Bend Not Applicable $8,071
American Family Mutual Insurance Co Madison Not Applicable $7,091
James Callan Fox Point James Callan Inc $6,000
Wisconsin Public Service Corp Green Bay Not Applicable $5,000
Wisconsin Insurance Alliance Madison Not Applicable $5,000
Maurice J Reese Madison Retired $5,000
Jackie Boynton Milwaukee Law Office of Jackie Boynton $5,000
Direct Supply Inc Milwaukee Not Applicable $5,000

*Table shows those who contributed $5,000 or more to 527s during the 15-month period.