Special Interests Have Dropped More Than $5.7M in Legislative Races

October 25, 2016

Shadowy Figure and Cash Shower

Business, ideological and other special interest groups have doled out more than $5.7 million in Wisconsin legislative races with two weeks to go until the elections, according to figures compiled by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

Total spending so far on the legislative races surpassed the $4.8 million spent in 2014 and the $5.15 million spent in fall 2012 on legislative races by outside special interests.

Most of the spending by the groups, more than $4.6 million or 80 percent, has been in three state Senate races. Here’s what’s going on in those state Senate races and other high-spending legislative contests around the state:

The biggest spending by outside electioneering groups has occurred in the hotly contested 18th Senate race where Democrat Mark Harris and Republican Dan Feyen are vying for an open seat. Special interests, led by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), the Greater Wisconsin Committee (GWC), and a new group called Prosperity for Everyday People have spent more than $2.8 million.

In the 14th Senate race, where incumbent GOP Sen. Luther Olsen, of Ripon, faces Democrat Brian Smith, special interests, again, led by WMC, GWC, and Prosperity for Everyday People, have spent about $1.3 million.

In the 12th Senate District, where incumbent Republican Sen. Tom Tiffany, of Hazelhurst, faces Democrat Bryan Van Stippen, outside special interests have doled out more than $515,000, led by American Federation for Children (AFC), a Washington, D.C.-based pro-school-voucher advocate, which has spent about $349,500.

For the open seat in the 85th Assembly District, where Democrat Mandy Wright and Republican Patrick Snyder face off, outside special interest groups have spent about $289,500, led by AFC, which has spent about $151,760, and the Jobs First Coalition Political Fund, which has spent about $82,800. Jobs First has supported Republican legislative candidates since it first surfaced in the 2010 general elections.

In the 51st Assembly race, where incumbent Republican Todd Novak, of Dodgeville, faces Democrat Jeff Wright, special interest groups have spent about $201,400, led by the Jobs First Coalition, which has spent about $75,450, and AFC, which has spent about $47,000.

For the open seat in the 67th Assembly District where Democrat Dennis Hunt faces Republican Rob Summerfield, outside special interests have spent about $132,540, led by Jobs First Coalition, which has spent about $55,000, and AFC, which has spent about $54,500.

All told, groups that support Democratic legislative candidates have spent nearly $2.9 million and groups that back Republican legislative candidates have spent more than $2.6 million.