WI Contributions to 527 Groups Hit $1.1M

Shadow groups funnel another $322,000 to pro-Doyle issue ad group

July 20, 2006

Madison - Wisconsin contributions topped $1.11 million in the first 18 months of the 2006 election cycle to groups that can collect and spend unlimited amounts of money on negative ads to manipulate voters and elections, a preliminary review by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign shows.

WDC also found that two of these so-called 527 groups – the Democratic Governors Association and the Heartland Political Action Committee – funneled $322,000 between May 11 and June 7 to an another type of unregulated group called the Greater Wisconsin Committee. The committee is a Democratic-leaning issue ad group which has been running television and radio ads throughout the state for the past several months in favor of Democratic Governor Jim Doyle and critical of his Republican opponent this November, Mark Green.

Last August, the Democratic Governors Association contributed $300,000 to the committee to pay for pro-Doyle and anti-Green advertising. The association’s latest activity consisted of two contributions, one for $220,000 on May 11 and another for $62,000 on June 7, to the committee. The Heartland PAC, which is a fundraising committee for Iowa Democratic Governor Tom Vilsack, gave the Greater Wisconsin Committee $40,000 on May 16.

The association and Heartland PAC are among hundreds of unregulated political nonprofits known as 527 groups, a reference to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service code that governs them. These groups include the more commonly known America Coming Together, Club for Growth, GOPAC, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and MoveOn.org. These groups can accept and spend as much as they want on negative ads and direct mail.

Wealthy special interests contribute to these groups because many of their contributions would be illegal under Wisconsin law. Individuals may not contribute more than $10,000 in a calendar year to political candidates, parties and committees. And corporations and unions have been prohibited since 1906 from contributing to candidates, committees and parties from their treasuries.

Wisconsin contributions to 28 of these shadow groups (Table 1) during the first 18 months of the 2006 election cycle were slightly less than the $1.18 million during the first 18 months of the 2004 election cycle and 14 percent higher than the $976,358 in state contributions to the groups in the first 18 months of the 2002 election cycle.

Table 1
Wisconsin Contributions to 527 Groups
January 1, 2005 – June 30, 2006

Committee Name Amount
Democratic Governors Association $361,300
Republican Governors Association $126,425
GOPAC $117,276
Club for Growth $112,750
Laborers Political League Education Fund $98,690
Emily’s List Non-federal $81,380
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Educational Committee $75,690
College Republican National Committee $45,772
Ironworkers Political Education Fund $21,055
Republican State Leadership Committee $17,535
Property Casualty Insurers Association of America $12,225
National Association of Mutual Insurance Cos. Administrative Fund $10,749
National Federation of Republican Women $9,649
AFL-CIO Cope - State and Local Voluntary Fund $6,443
Democratic Attorneys General Association $5,000
Engineers Political Education Committee Education Fund $2,000
American Bakers Association Political Education Committee $1,600
Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee $1,250
America Coming Together - Nonfederal Account $1,200
Heartland PAC $1,010
Democrats for America ’s Future $900
Sheet Metal Workers International Association $741
The Cox Administrative Account $500
Professional Insurance Agents PAC Non-Federal $450
Amalgamated Transit Union-COPE Special Holding Account $250
American Dental PAC Education Fund $200
Grassroots Democrats $125
New Democrat Network Non-federal Account $30
TOTAL $1,112,195

Topping the list of Wisconsin contributors (Table 2) between January 1, 2005 and June 30, 2006 was Lynde Uihlein at $175,000. She is a Milwaukee philanthropist who is heir to the Schlitz Brewing and Allen-Bradley family fortunes and a longtime supporter of Democratic causes and women’s issues.

Second to Uihlein was Johnson Controls at $145,000, a multi-national Fortune 500 company that produces dozens of automotive, building heating and safety products, among others. The company contributed $90,000 to the Republican Governors Association and $55,000 to the Democratic Governors Association, a sign that it is hedging its bets in order to have access to which ever party is in power.

Table 2
Top* Wisconsin Contributors to 527 Groups
January 1, 2005 – June 30, 2006

Name City Employer Amount
Lynde Uihlein Milwaukee Brico Fund $175,000
Johnson Controls Inc Milwaukee Not Applicable $145,000
Wisconsin Laborers Vacation Fund Madison Not Applicable $98,690
Mary & Terry Kohler Sheboygan Windway Capital Corp $80,000
Dennis Troha Kenosha Kenesha Gaming Development $50,000
Daniel Bader Milwaukee Granite Micro Systems $50,000
Daniel Sherman Waukesha International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2150 $39,016
Credit Union National Association Madison Not Applicable $30,000
Fred Young Racine Retired $25,000
Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin Oneida Not Applicable $25,000
Monster.Com Milwaukee Not Applicable $25,000
Ironworkers Local 383 Madison Not Applicable $21,055
Wisconsin Insurance Alliance Madison Not Applicable $20,000
Miller Brewing Co Milwaukee Not Applicable $15,000
San Orr Wausau Wausau Mosinee Paper Corp $15,000
Mary E Weitner Milwaukee Homemaker $14,578
Paul Welnak Milwaukee International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 494 $14,089
George Mitchell Whitefish Bay Mitchell Co/ School Choice WI $15,750
Joe E Richardson Oostburg Richardson Industries $10,500
John J Keller Sheboygan Sheboygan Oral and Maxillofacial Association $10,000
Michael Grebe Milwaukee Bradley Foundation $10,000
Johnson Diversity Sturtevant Not Applicable $10,000
Wisconsin Public Service Green Bay Not Applicable $10,000
Glen Oak Lumber and Milling Monticello Not Applicable $10,000
Shawn Reents Madison International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 965 $9,800
John Marincel Eau Claire International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 953 $7,800
American Family Mutual Insurance Madison Not Applicable $5,820
Joan R Robertson Milwaukee Not Applicable $5,800
Allan Lund Hayward Retired $5,800
National Funeral Directors Association PAC Brookfield Not Applicable $5,000
Madison Gas & Electric Madison Not Applicable $5,000
Wisconsin Education Association Council Madison Not Applicable $5,000
Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Appleton Not Applicable $5,000

*Table shows sources whose contributions totaled $5,000 or more during the period.