Wisconsin Donations to Unregulated Groups Topped $5 Million in 18 Months
Republican groups got twice as much as Democratic groups
September 10, 2014
Madison – Wisconsin contributors gave $5.3 million between January 2013 and June 2014 to political groups that can raise and spend unlimited amounts on electioneering activities but must disclose the donations to federal tax authorities, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review found.
The Wisconsin contributions to these so-called 527 groups during the first 18 months of the 2013-14 election cycle were 86 percent ahead of the $2.9 million doled out by state residents, businesses, labor unions and trade and ideological groups during the same period in the 2009-10 election cycle which featured Republican Governor Scott Walker’s run.
The latest 18-month contribution tally was short of the record $6.1 million in Wisconsin contributions to these groups during the first 18 months of the 2011-12 cycle which featured Walker’s high-profile summer recall election, and a fall presidential race and open-seat U.S. Senate contest in Wisconsin (see Bar Chart).
Other key findings in the Democracy Campaign review were:
- Wisconsin contributors doled out $2.84 million to two 527 groups with state political action committees that have spent $2.83 million as of early September in the governor’s race.
State donors, including businesses, individuals and trade groups, have contributed $2.78 million to the Republican Governors Association 527 group. In turn, the group's Right Direction Wisconsin PAC has spent nearly $2.1 million in the Wisconsin governor’s race as of early September.
Wisconsin donors – mostly unions –contributed $63,400 to the Greater Wisconsin Committee’s 527 group which supports Democratic candidates for state and local offices. The group’s PAC had spent $737,183 as of early September to support Walker’s Democratic opponent, Mary Burke.
Wisconsin donors also gave $50,000 to a 527 group run by the League of Conservation Voters and $265,350 to Emily’s List, a national group that supports women Democratic candidates for public office. State arms affiliated with both groups to make independent expenditures had yet to sponsor any outside electioneering activities as of early September in the fall 2014 elections.
- Republican 527 groups received more than twice as much from Wisconsin contributors than Democratic 527 groups. Donors gave $3.5 million or 66 percent of all Wisconsin contributions to GOP-leaning 527 groups compared to $1.6 million or 31 percent to Democratic 527s. About 3 percent or $164,317 in contributions went to groups that supported both parties or were neutral.
- Topping the list (Table 1) of 527 groups that accepted Wisconsin contributions was the Republican Governors Association at $2.8 million, followed by Wisconsin Progress at $481,989, United Association at $324,960, Wisconsin Club for Growth at $272,902 and Emily’s List at $265,350.
The Republican Governors Association supports GOP candidates for governor around the country. The group has been among the top spending outside electioneering groups in state elections, doling out an estimated $14.4 million to support Walker’s initial 2010 election and his 2012 recall contest.
Wisconsin Progress is a Madison-based organization founded in 2009 to recruit and train Democratic candidates to run for state and local offices. The group also provides campaign advice and resources and endorses candidates. Unlike many 527s, Wisconsin Progress does not directly sponsor broadcast ads, mailings or other electioneering activities on behalf of candidates.
United Association is a Maryland-based national plumbing and pipe trades union that operates two 527 organizations and collects contributions from its six local unions in Wisconsin. The union backs federal, state and local candidates that support pro-labor policies through get-out-the-vote and other grassroots efforts, and has not directly sponsored outside electioneering activities in Wisconsin elections.
Wisconsin Club for Growth is the state arm of the national Club for Growth and supports conservative policies and candidates for state and federal offices. The state group doled out an estimated $12.4 million between 2007 and 2013 to support conservative Republican candidates for state and legislative offices, but has yet to directly sponsor any outside electioneering activities in the 2014 elections. Wisconsin Club for Growth is one of the groups involved in the latest John Doe investigation.
EMILY’s List is a Washington D.C.-based group that supports women Democratic candidates for federal and state offices throughout the country. The group spent nearly $265,000 on independent expenditures in the 2011 recall races through a state corporation called Wisconsin Women Vote! In addition, Emily’s List Wisconsin Political Action Committee doled out $106,866 in direct contributions to candidates between 2008 and June 2014. The group has created another state committee to pay for outside electioneering activities in the 2014 fall elections.
- Most of the $5.3 million in Wisconsin contributions to 527 during the 18-month period came from businesses, unions and trade and ideological groups – about $3.2 million or 61 percent. The remaining $2.1 million came from people.
Topping the list of Wisconsin businesses and groups (Table 2) that gave to 527s was American Transmission Company of Waukesha which builds and operates major electrical transmission lines throughout the Upper Midwest at $345,855. The company gave $45,000 to the Democratic Governors Association and the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, and $300,855 to the Republican Governors Association and the Republican State Leadership Committee. Both the Republican and Democratic groups raise and spend unlimited amounts to elect governors and state legislators across the country.
Second on the list were six United Association local unions in Wisconsin that contributed a combined $324,960 to the national union, and third was the Brico Fund at $297,000. The Brico Fund is run by Milwaukee philanthropist Lynde Uihlein. Uihlein is a longtime supporter of Democratic candidates and environmental and women’s causes. The fund contributed $262,000 to EMILY’s List and $35,000 to Emerge Wisconsin, a grassroots organization that recruits and trains women Democratic candidates.
Heading the list of top individual donors (Table 3) were Mike and Mary Sue Shannon of Milwaukee who contributed $1.5 million to the Republican Governors Association, followed by Uihlein who contributed $150,000 and Terry and Mary Kohler of Sheboygan who contributed $77,000.
The Shannons contributed $500,000 to the Republican Governors Association in March 2013 and followed it up with another $1 million in March 2014 – the largest single disclosed contribution by a Wisconsin donor to a candidate or group in state political history.
Uihlein contributed $100,000 to Wisconsin Progress and $50,000 to the League of Conservation Voters. The league’s PAC spent nearly $530,000 on independent expenditures between 2006 and 2013 to support mostly Democratic candidates for state and legislative offices.
The Kohlers who are longtime backers of conservative causes and Republican candidates for state and federal office in Wisconsin and around the country contributed $40,000 to America’s PAC which supports conservative Republican candidates, $20,000 to GOPAC, $15,000 to the Republican Governors Association and $2,000 to Tim Scott for Senate. Scott is a Republican senator from South Carolina who was appointed to fill a vacancy in 2013 and must run for the seat in a special election in 2014.
The 527 organizations are only part of the constellation of special interest groups engaged in outside electioneering activities and do not include issue ad and other dark money organizations that secretly raise and spend millions of dollars on federal, state and even local elections.
|Republican Governors Association||$2,779,496|
|United Association Political Issues and Action Funds||$324,960|
|Wisconsin Club for Growth Political Fund||$272,902|
|Emily's List Non-federal||$265,350|
|Republican State Leadership Committee||$185,550|
|Democratic Governors Association||$149,189|
|National Association of Mutual Insurance Cos. Administrative Fund||$96,355|
|ActBlue Technical Services||$79,426|
|Jobs First Coalition Political Fund||$76,000|
|Greater Wisconsin Political Fund||$63,400|
|League of Conservation Voters||$50,000|
|Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee||$43,190|
|Reince for RNC Chairman||$42,537|
|Voices for Growth||$38,775|
|Property Casualty Insurers (PCI) Political Accounts||$26,496|
|Ironworkers Political Education Fund||$25,475|
*Table shows 527 groups that received $25,000 or more from state donors.
|Mike and Mary Sue Shannon||Milwaukee||KSL Capital Partnership/Homemaker||$1,500,000|
|Lynde B. Uihlein||Milwaukee||Brico Foundation||$150,000|
|Terry and Mary Kohler||Sheboygan||Windway Capitol||$77,000|
|Paul Jones||Chenequa||AO Smith Corp.||$35,000|
|Michael Grebe||Milwaukee||Bradley Foundation||$25,000|
|Cynthia Torhorst||Milwaukee||None Listed||$25,000|
|Richard Strong||Brookfield||Baraboo Growth LLC||$17,000|
|Grant Abert||Hillpoint||None Listed||$15,000|
|Richard Halmstad||Eau Claire||JAMF Software||$10,000|
|Samir Murty||Eau Claire||Orgel Wealth Management||$10,000|
|Brian McCarthy||Madison||None Listed||$10,000|
|Joseph E. Richardson II||Sheboygan Falls||Richardson Industries||$10,000|
|Donald Katz||Madison||None Listed||$7,500|
|Terence and Mary Kelly||Madison||Weather Central/ Retired||$7,000|
|Michael Eisenga||Columbus||American Lending Solutions||$6,250|
|William Johnson Jr.||Hayward||Johnson Timber||$6,250|
|Steve and Gayle Kagen||Appleton||Kagen Allergy Clinic||$5,500|
|Stephen Ziegler||Oconomowoc||NPRO Corp.||$5,000|
|James Coburn||Whitewater||Coburn Co.||$5,000|
|David Gruber||Milwaukee||Gruber Law Office LLC||$5,000|
*Table shows contributions totaling $5,000 or more from Wisconsin individuals and couples.
|American Transmission Co.||Waukesha||$345,855|
|United Association Locals 75, 118, 183, 400, 434 & 601||Various||$324,960|
|Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce||Milwaukee||$273,750|
|Wisconsin Club for Growth||Sun Prairie||$271,272|
|Robert and Patricia Kern 1992 Revocable Trust||Waukesha||$200,000|
|USCC Services LLC||Middleton||$150,000|
|Forest County Potawatomi Community||Crandon||$101,535|
|Jobs First Coalition||Brookfield||$76,000|
|Integrys Business Support LLC||Green Bay||$72,000|
|American Federation of Teachers||Madison||$57,950|
|Skill Integrity Responsibility Council||Madison||$50,000|
|Burke for Wisconsin||Madison||$40,981|
|American Family Mutual Insurance||Madison||$36,400|
|Miller Coors Brewing||Milwaukee||$36,031|
|Kwik Trip||La Crosse||$31,155|
|AFSCME Wisconsin Councils 40 and 11||Madison||$30,750|
|Michael Best and Friedrich||Milwaukee||$30,000|
|ACUITY Mutual Insurance||Sheboygan||$28,059|
|Ironworkers Locals 008 and 383||Various||$27,975|
|SEIU Wisconsin State Council||Milwaukee||$26,000|
|Greater Wisconsin Committee||Madison||$26,000|
*Table shows contributions totaling $25,000 or more from Wisconsin businesses, unions and groups.