WMC Creates New Electioneering Arm

October 11, 2016

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce Headquarters

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), one of the top spending special interest groups on outside electioneering activities, has created another electioneering arm to attack Democratic candidates in legislative and statewide races.

Paperwork filed with the state showed that WMC has created an independent expenditure committee called WMC Jobs Fund. In early October, the committee spent more than $259,000 on broadcast and online ads in the 14th Senate District race. WMC’s television ad – here – accused Democrat Brian Smith of writing a letter to a court in 2008 in support of an individual accused of stealing money from a veteran’s organization. Smith is challenging incumbent GOP Sen. Luther Olsen, of Ripon.

Olsen has been criticized in recent weeks for his vote on a legislative measure in 2013 that blocked lawsuits against lead paint manufacturers. Olsen’s vote came after a lead paint industry billionaire secretly contributed $750,000 to Wisconsin Club for Growth, an outside electioneering group that helped Olsen win his recall election in 2011.

WMC is the state’s largest business group and a heavyweight among special interests when it comes to influencing state spending and policy. As an outside electioneering group, WMC has traditionally sponsored phony issue ads, which allows it to secretly raise and spend money on its election activities. Since 2006, WMC has doled out nearly $26 million to help Republican and conservative candidates win legislative and statewide races.

The creation of WMC Jobs Fund marks the first time in nearly a decade that the organization will make reported independent expenditures in state elections.

In addition to the spending by its new committee, WMC has also sponsored more than $535,000 worth of phony issue ads in the hotly contested 18th Senate District where Republican Dan Feyen faces Democrat Mark Harris. Outside groups on both sides are spending big in the race because it’s an open seat. The incumbent, GOP Sen. Rick Gudex, of Fond du Lac, is not seeking reelection.

For more details about the outside groups involved in the 2016 legislative races, please visit the Democracy Campaign’s Hijacking Campaign 2016 feature.