Leading Walker Donor to Buy Lake Frontage Property from DNR

September 21, 2015

The state plans to sell several hundred feet of premium frontage on a northern Wisconsin lake to an Illinois businesswoman and her husband who have contributed more than $3.3 million to Wisconsin legislative and statewide candidates and Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign for president.

The deal calls for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to sell Elizabeth Uihlein 1.75 acres that contains 765 feet of frontage on Rest Lake in Manitowish Waters in Vilas County for $275,000. The frontage property, which was valued at $238,000 and $384,000 in two different appraisals, is adjacent to property Uihlein already owns that has an 11-unit condominium complex without lake access.

The sale, which will be reviewed by the Natural Resources Board on Wednesday, was criticized by former DNR Secretary George Meyer, who now heads the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation. Meyer had three criticisms of the deal: He said it appeared to show “some kind of special treatment” toward Uihlein; it was done without public input; and it set a precedent by not getting comparable property in return.

Elizabeth Uihlein and her husband, Richard, of Lake Forest, Ill., are millionaire founders of Uline Corp., which distributes shipping and packaging supplies. The Uihleins are longtime contributors to conservative and Republican causes and state and federal GOP candidates and committees.

Earlier this year, the couple contributed a total of $2.7 million to Unintimidated PAC, which is a Washington, D.C.-based Super PAC created to support Walker’s 2016 run for president, and Our American Revival, a federal 527 group also formed to support Walker’s presidential bid.

In addition, the couple contributed about $626,000 between 2010 and June 2015 to Wisconsin legislative and statewide candidates and political party committees, including $284,500 to Walker and $220,000 to the state Republican Party.

The property sale to Uihlein is among numerous property sales being conducted by the DNR. The Republican-controlled legislature ordered the agency in 2013 to offer 10,000 acres of state land for sale by July 2017. DNR documents show Uihlein asked to buy the property.