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).
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).
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).
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.
|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|
|Laborers Political League Education Fund||$154,134|
|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.
|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|
|Johnson Controls Inc||Milwaukee||Not Applicable||$102,250|
|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|
|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, |
Sturgeon Bay, Marinette
|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