Wisconsin Donors Slather “527” Groups With Cash

Unregulated groups got $1 million in first six months of ’08;
$2 million-plus so far in the 2007-08 election cycle

August 28, 2008

Madison - Unregulated political hit groups responsible for many of the negative ads and outside electioneering activities in federal and state elections received a record $2.2 million from Wisconsin donors during the last 18 months including more than $1 million in the first six months of 2008, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analysis shows.

Wisconsin contributions to so-called 527 groups in the 2007-08 election cycle are substantially ahead of the total state contributions to these groups in previous, comparable periods, WDC found. In addition, nearly $3 of every $4 contributed by Wisconsin sources went to Democratic-leaning 527s.

The $2.2 million contributed by Wisconsin individuals, businesses, unions and trade groups between January 2007 and June 2008 compares to $1.23 million they contributed between January 2005 and June 2006; $1.18 million between January 2003 and June 2004; and $976,358 between January 2001 and June 2002 (see Bar Chart 1).

Bar Chart 1

Chart 1: Contributions to 527 Groups in the first 18 months of each election cycle

The trend was similar for the most recent six-month period when Wisconsin donors gave 527 groups $1.08 million from January through June 2008. Previously, Wisconsin contributors gave 527s $587,548 between January and June 2006, $599,335 between January and June 2004 and $424,370 in the first six months of 2002 (see Bar Chart 2).

Bar Chart 2

Chart 2: Contributions to 527 Groups in the first six months of each election cycle

Wealthy special interests contribute to 527s because many of these contributions would be illegal under federal and state laws. Many of the contributions exceed limits on how much contributors can give and how much candidates can accept. In addition, the money comes from business and union treasuries which cannot be used for political donations to candidates.

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

In addition to the record Wisconsin contributions to 527s so far in the 2007-08 election cycle, WDC also found:

  • Ten 527 groups have received more than $100,000 in Wisconsin contributions, including six which have received more than $200,000 (see Table 1). Eight of those 10 organizations are liberal or Democratic-leaning groups. Topping the list was the Democratic Governors Association at $268,035 followed by America Votes 2006 and the League of Conservation Voters at $250,000 each. The top Republican-leaning groups for Wisconsin contributions were the Republican Governors Association at $210,600 and GOPAC at $114,246.
  • Overall, $1.57 million or 71 percent of all contributions from Wisconsin donors went to Democratic-leaning 527s while $616,077 or 28 percent went to Republican-leaning 527 groups. One percent, or $15,409, went to three 527 groups that supported both parties or were neutral.

This lopsided ratio in Wisconsin contributions to Democratic and Republican 527s began in the 2006 election cycle when 61 percent of state contributions had gone to Democratic 527s in the first 18 months of that election cycle. For the same 18-month period in the 2004 and 2002 election cycles, Republican 527 groups led in Wisconsin contributions (see Bar Chart 3).

Bar Chart 3

Chart 3: Contributions to Demcocratic and Republican leaning 527s in the first 18 months of each cycle

This surge in contributions to Democratic 527s also resembles the increase in direct special interest contributions to Democratic legislative candidates that started with the 2006 election year. In the first six months of 2008, Assembly Democratic candidates raised $1.39 million – well ahead of the $1.05 million raised by Assembly Republican candidates even though the GOP has controlled the Assembly since 1995 and currently holds a 51-47 majority.

  • Fourteen Wisconsin contributors – mostly businesses – have given $25,000 or more to 527 groups during the past 18 months (see Table 2). Topping the list was Milwaukee philanthropist Lynde Uihlein at $808,000. A longtime backer of Democratic and women’s causes, Uihlein has contributed $250,000 to the League of Conservation Voters and America Votes 2006, $170,000 to the Progressive Majority and $138,000 to the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund.
  • Uihlein was followed by Terry and Mary Kohler and their Windway Capital Corporation in Sheboygan at $235,000. The Kohlers – long time supporters of Republican candidates and conservative causes – and their company gave $105,000 to America’s Political Action Committee, $55,000 to American Solutions for Winning the Future, $50,000 to GOPAC and $25,000 to the Club for Growth.

    Rounding out the top three was the Wisconsin Laborers District Council which sent $154,134 to a Washington D.C. labor group and the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.

  • Wisconsin contributions to 527 groups are likely to set an election cycle record in 2007-08. With $2.2 million in contributions through June 30 and the hottest six months remaining in the election cycle, it appears likely the current two-year election cycle will exceed the record $2.57 million in Wisconsin contributions in 2001-02.

Tables

Wisconsin Contributions to 527sWisconsin Contributors to 527s

Table 1
Wisconsin Contributions* to 527 Groups
January 1, 2007 – June 30, 2008

Committee Name Amount
Democratic Governors Association $268,035
America Votes 2006 $250,000
League of Conservation Voters $250,000
Greater Wisconsin Political Fund $230,620
Republican Governors Association $210,600
Progressive Majority $203,525
Laborers Political League Education Fund $154,134
GOPAC $114,246
America ’s PAC $110,000
Progressive Wisconsin Political Fund $106,000
American Solutions for Winning the Future $75,980
Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee $35,575
Club for Growth.net $27,000
National Association of Mutual Insurance Cos. Administrative Fund $26,995
Ironworkers Political Education Fund $20,618
Presidential Coalition LLC $14,825
PCI (Property Casualty Insurers) Political Accounts 1 & 2 $14,044
College Republican National Committee $13,635
Emily’s List Non-federal $13,000
Republican State Leadership Committee $11,050
Democratic Attorneys General Association $10,000
International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Legislative Education Fund $9,978
National Federation of Republican Women $7,346

*Table show 527 groups that received a total of $5,000 or more from Wisconsin donors during the 18-month period.

Table 2
Top Wisconsin Contributors* to 527 Groups
January 1, 2007 – June 30, 2008

Name City Employer Amount
Lynde B Uihlein Milwaukee Time Out Enterprises LLC $808,000
Terry & Mary Kohler
and Windway Capital Corp
Sheboygan Windway Capital Corp $235,000
Wisconsin Laborers District Council Madison Not Applicable $164,134
Grant Abert Hillpoint Retired $108,000
Johnson Controls Inc Milwaukee Not Applicable $102,250
Allergan Oshkosh Not Applicable $100,500
Daniel Bader Milwaukee Granite Micro Systems $50,000
HNTB Corp Madison Not Applicable $50,000
One Wisconsin Now Action Milwaukee Not Applicable $45,000
Verax Identity Fusion Center Inc Madison Not Applicable $25,000
WE Energies Milwaukee Not Applicable $25,000
Wisconsin People Conference Madison Not Applicable $25,000
Results LLC Oak Creek Not Applicable $25,000
Monster Worldwide Inc Milwaukee Not Applicable $25,000
Extendicare Health Services Milwaukee Not Applicable $21,000
Ironworkers Local 383 Madison Not Applicable $20,618
Tom Talbot Montello Glen Oak Lumber and Milling $20,000
Miller Brewing Co Milwaukee Not Applicable $20,000
Kohls Corp Menomonee Falls Not Applicable $20,000
Capitol Navigators Inc Madison Not Applicable $15,000
Judith R and Gordon T Faulkner Madison Epic Systems/Retired $10,000
Donald Katz Madison Retired $10,000
Leonard J Sobczak Milwaukee Eastmore Real Estate $10,000
American Federation of Teachers Madison Not Applicable $10,000
Credit Union National Association Madison Not Applicable $10,000
CUNA Mutual Insurance Madison Not Applicable $10,000
Donald Lynch Milwaukee None Listed $10,000
Marilyn Domer Washington Island Retired $10,000
International Brotherhood
of Boilermakers (seven locals)
Milwaukee, Cudahy, Algoma,
Auburndale, Manitowoc,
Sturgeon Bay, Marinette
Not Applicable $9,978
Secura Mutual Insurance Appleton Not Applicable $8,181
West Bend Mutual Insurance West Bend Not Applicable $8,071
American Family Mutual Insurance Madison Not Applicable $7,091
Maurice J Reese Madison Retired $7,000
James J Callan Fox Point James Callan Inc $6,000

*Table shows Wisconsin contributors who gave a total of more than $5,000 during the 18-month period