State Contributions to ‘Shadow Parties’ Top $1 Million

August 25, 2004

Madison - A Milwaukee brewing heir and a state labor union contributed a quarter of a million dollars between April and June to groups that accept and spend unlimited and unregulated donations to influence federal elections, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analysis shows.

Contributions to 527 groups, which are named for the U.S. Internal Revenue Service law under which they are organized, totaled $447,193 in the second quarter of 2004. That was at least triple the total contributions in other quarters in the 2003-04 election cycle (see chart below) and pushed total Wisconsin contributions to national 527 groups in the first 18 months of the cycle to $1,002,340.

Quarterly Contributions from  Wisconsin Donors to 527 Groups

These groups, which include the more popularly known America Coming Together, Club for Growth, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and MoveOn.org, use these unlimited and unregulated contributions - known as soft money - to pay for negative broadcast advertising and mailings and voter registration drives.

There were 106 contributions made to 527s by 96 Wisconsin donors between April and June, putting the average contribution per donor at $4,658. That is more than double the $2,000 limit on direct contributions an individual can make to a federal candidate. Federal law prohibits corporations and unions from making contributions from their treasuries to federal candidates, but not to 527s. Wisconsin law also forbids such contributions to candidates for state office.

But earlier this month, two 527 groups - Democracy for America and the Progressive Majority - announced they would endorse and help the campaigns of at least 15 Democratic candidates for the Wisconsin Legislature.

Leading the list of Wisconsin contributors (see Table 1) in the second quarter of 2004 was Lynde Uihlein, a Milwaukee philanthropist and heir to the Schlitz Brewing and Allen-Bradley Corporation fortunes, who contributed $145,000 to American Coming Together on June 4. Uihlein has contributed a total of $151,000 to 527s between January 2003 and June 2004. In addition, she doled out an additional $50,000 on July 27 to the League of Conservation Voters in Washington, according to Federal Election Commission documents that show the group intends to make electioneering communications.

The Wisconsin Laborers District Council sent $112,060 to the Laborers Political League Education Fund, a Washington D.C.-based 527 group, during the three-month period. The union has used two of its funds to pump $190,039 to the League Education Fund from January 2003 through June 2004.

Terry Kohler, a conservative GOP Sheboygan businessman who owns Windway Capital Corporation, contributed $20,000 between April and June to bring his 2003-04 election cycle total contributions to 527s to $35,000 through June 30.

Terry Kohler, along with his wife Mary and their company, have contributed $76,500 mostly to two GOP 527s - the Club for Growth and GOPAC - from January 2003 through June 2004.

Another Club for Growth contributor, Fred Young of Racine, contributed $15,000 on June 7 to bring his election cycle total contributions to the group to $25,000 through June 30. Young is the retired president of Young Radiator and a long time active contributor to state candidates. He contributed $13,350 to candidates for statewide office and the Legislature between 1993 and 2003.

The latest quarterly reports filed by 527s put Wisconsin contributions to Democratic-leaning 527s ahead of contributions to Republican-leaning 527s for the first 18 months of the cycle - $557,043, or 56 percent, to $444,247, or 44 percent.

The bulk of Wisconsin contributions - $904,034 - from January 2003 through June 2004 went to seven 527 groups (see Table 2) - three Democratic-leaning groups and four GOP-leaning groups. They also are among the top 527 fundraisers nationally. Leading the list was the Laborers Political League Education Fund at $190,039 followed by the Republican Governors Association at $168,250 and the Democratic Governors Association at $159,550.

Earlier this month the FEC decided to start regulating 527 fundraising and spending activities in 2005 which means they are free to raise and spend unlimited money to affect federal elections in the November general election.

Top Wisconsin Donors to 527s Top 527 Recipients

Table 1
TOP* WISCONSIN DONORS TO 527 GROUPS
April - June 2004

NAME CITY OCCUPATION/
EMPLOYER
AMOUNT
Uihlein, Lynde Milwaukee Time Out Enterprises $145,000
Wisconsin Laborers District Council Madison NA $100,000
Kohler, Terry Sheboygan Windway Capital Corp. $20,000
Young, Fred Racine Retired/ Young Radiator $15,000
Wisconsin Laborers Vacation Fund Madison NA $12,060
Heinrich, Joyce B Watertown Retired $11,104
Orr, San Wausau Woodson Family Office $10,000
Wisconsin Public Service Corp. Green Bay NA $10,000
Wisconsin Insurance Alliance Madison NA $10,000
Risk Management Planning, LLC Wild Rose NA $10,000
Richardson, Joe E. II Oostburg Richards Industries Inc. $10,000
Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin Oneida NA $10,000
Miller Brewing Co. Milwaukee NA $10,000
Glen Oak Lumber & Milling, Inc. Montello NA $10,000
Federman, Lena Baraboo Retired $5,916
Driscoll, Timm Waukesha Int'l Brotherhood of Electrical Workers $5,801
Kuettner, Dorothy Oshkosh Retired $5,043
Therkelsen, Richard R. Racine Local Union 430 $5,000
Robertson, Joan R. Milwaukee Homemaker $5,000
Leahy, Laura L. Cochrane Retired $3,448
Marincel, John A. Eau Claire Local Union 953 $3,000
Vecchi, Nello P. Castel Whitewater Homemaker $2,605
Panak, Catherine V Mequon Retired $2,400
Ironworkers Local 383 Madison NA $1,908
Lewis, Bishop E Milwaukee None Listed $1,100
Knauf, Edwin L River Falls Retired $1,090
Kohler, Mary Sheboygan Windway Capital Corp. $1,000
Secura Mutual Insurance Co Appleton NA $1,000
Pilmonas, Nancy Manitowish Waters Homemaker $1,000
Owen, Dorothy H Eau Claire Retired $1,000
* Table shows contributors of $1,000 or more.

Table 2
TOP** 527 RECIPIENTS OF WISCONSIN CONTRIBUTIONS
January 2003 - June 2004

NAME TOTAL
CONTRIBUTIONS
Laborers Political League Education Fund $190,039
Republican Governors Association $168,250
Democratic Governors Association $159,550
America Coming Together - Nonfederal Account $145,000
Club for Growth, Inc. $110,425
College Republican National Committee, Inc. $69,070
GOPAC Inc. $61,700
Republican State Leadership Committee Inc. $15,102
Emily’s List Non-federal $15,000
Ironworkers Political Education Fund $14,731
MoveOn.org Voter Fund $14,325
IBEW Educational Committee $14,282
National Association of Mutual Insurance Cos. Administrative Fund $13,000
National Federation of Republican Women $4,700
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Political Action Fund $1,231
American Bakers Association Political Education Co. $1,100
Professional Insurance Agents PAC Non-Federal $1,050
Democratic Majority PAC $1,000
Voters for Choice Non-federal $1,000
** Table shows 527 groups that received $1,000 or more.