State Donors Give Record Sums to Federal Campaigns

Contributions top $19 million, far outpace 2000 giving

October 27, 2004

Madison - Wisconsin contributions to federal candidates, parties, political action committees and unregulated groups through mid-October of the 2003-04 election cycle total $19.2 million, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analysis shows.

Wisconsin donors have given $4.5 million to nearly 100 candidates around the country for U.S. Senate, including $1.6 million to incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold and $1.2 million to former GOP candidate Russ Darrow.

Federal party committees have accepted $4.3 million from Wisconsin contributors. Three-quarters of these contributions have gone to Republican committees, including $1.4 million to the Republican National Committee and $964,743 to the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Presidential candidates have received $3.4 million, including $1.9 million to President George Bush and $1.1 million to Democratic nominee John Kerry.

More than 200 House candidates around the country received $3.1 million from Wisconsin donors. Most of the contributions went to Wisconsin congressional candidates including $399,482 to Green Bay-area GOP Representative Mark Green and $391,871 to unsuccessful Milwaukee-area Democratic candidate Matthew Flynn.

Wisconsin donors also have given $2.3 million to federal PACs including $135,053 to America Coming Together’s PAC for education and lobbying activities which are distinct from contributions to its 527 fund for electioneering activities. The National Beer Wholesalers Association PAC was next at $106,330.

Soft money donations from Wisconsin contributors to 527 groups totaled $1.5 million in the current election cycle through mid-October, including $400,508 since July 1 when most of the money continued to flow from an elite handful of special interest donors. For example, 15 of the 149 state donors contributed $331,321 or 83 percent of the contributions since July 1.

In the 2000 election cycle, federal contributions from Wisconsin totaled $10.8 million. This does not include Wisconsin contributions to federal PACs or to non-Wisconsin House and Senate candidates, for which figures were unavailable for the 2000 election cycle. A comparable figure for the 2004 election cycle through mid-October is $16.1 million, or 50 percent more than for the entire 2000 election cycle.

Highlighting the latest spate of state 527 contributions in the homestretch of the election season was $48,775 from 84 Wisconsin contributors to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth since July, according to Internal Revenue Service records reviewed by WDC.

Swift Boat is a 527 organization - named for the IRS rules that govern it - that can accept and spend unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations, unions and others to pay for negative broadcast advertising, direct mailings and voter registration drives. Swift Boat has drawn national attention for its ads about Kerry’s war record. Other 527s such as America Coming Together and have drawn attention for their efforts to defeat Bush.

The latest quarterly reports filed by these groups showing contributions through mid-October also shows that a Wisconsin individual leads all others - including corporations, groups and unions - in 527 contributions since January 1, 2003 (see Table). Lynde Uihlein, heir to the Schlitz Brewing and Allen-Bradley fortunes, has contributed $226,000 to these groups through mid-October of the 2003-04 election cycle. Uihlein is a Milwaukee philanthropist who has long been involved in Democratic causes and promoting women’s issues.

Leading recipients of 527 contributions from Wisconsin were the Laborers Political League Education Fund which has accepted $213,478 from the Wisconsin Laborers District Council. The Republican Governors Association was second at $204,640. America Coming Together has received $185,500 - mostly from Uihlein.

Wisconsin Contributors to 527 Organizations