WMC Gives $1M+ to Outside Electioneering Group to Back Walker

July 24, 2018

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce HQ

An outside electioneering group that helps elect Republican governors in Wisconsin and throughout the country received nearly $1.9 million from Wisconsin contributors during the first six months of 2018.

Reports filed with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service show 11 Wisconsin contributors doled out $1,861,000 to the Republican Governors Association (RGA) in the first half of 2018. The group spent $18.4 million to support GOP Gov. Scott Walker in his 2010 general, 2012 recall 2014 reelection.

Topping the list of Wisconsin contributors to the RGA as of June 30 was Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), the state’s largest business group, which gave $1.25 million. In addition to its contribution to the association, WMC has secretly raised and spent an estimated $9.5 million on its own on outside electioneering activities to support Walker in his last three races for governor.

Rounding out the top three state contributors to the association were the Robert and Patricia Kern 1992 Revocable Trust, of Waukesha, at $250,000, and American Transmission Co., of Waukesha, $100,000.

Robert and Patricia Kern, of Waukesha, founded Generac Power Systems. The couple are longtime givers to Republican and conservative candidates and causes in Wisconsin and throughout the country. Between January 2010 and December 2017, the couple contributed $220,000 to Walker’s campaign.

American Transmission Co. owns and operates high-voltage electric transmission lines throughout the Upper Midwest. Between January 2010 and December 2017, company executives contributed $38,375 to Walker’s campaign.

The RGA raises much of its money from wealthy individuals, corporations, and trade organizations tied to manufacturing, health care, energy, insurance, and other powerful special interests using a 527 organization. 527 groups must disclose fundraising and spending in periodic reports to the IRS, but are unregulated because they raise and spend unlimited amounts of money from any source.

Meanwhile, the Republican group’s counterpart, the Democratic Governors Association, received $69,720 from 32 Wisconsin contributors during the first six months of 2018.

Topping the list of Wisconsin contributors to the Democratic group through June 30 was Johnson Controls, of Milwaukee, at $25,350, followed by American Transmission Co. at $25,000. Rounding out the top three was Laura Peracchio, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee professor, at $10,000. Twenty-nine remaining donors, all individuals, gave between $50 and $700 each to the group.