Road Builders Contribute More Than $600,000 to
Governor, Legislative Candidates
June 2, 1999
Madison - Highway interests led by the road builders contributed more than $600,000 to candidates for state office, including at least $235,671 to the governor and at least $26,625 to members of the Legislature’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee, in 1997 and 1998, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign (Table 1).
Campaign finance records gathered by the WDC show that road builders, transportation unions and other special interests with a stake in the state’s Major Highway Program made at least $543,588 in individual contributions to the governor, legislative candidates and legislative campaign committees (Table 2). In addition, political action committees that represent highway interests contributed an additional $58,063 to these campaigns.
These contributions and heavy lobbying by highway interests are part of a strategy to influence the governor, the Joint Finance Committee and the Legislature to approve the generous road building budget, which feeds the industry tens of millions of taxpayer dollars each year.
Road builders and highway interests combine big contributions with high-spending, high-pressure lobbying to make themselves one of the most powerful special interests at the State Capitol. For instance, the Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association spent $190,522 and logged more than 1,300 hours lobbying state lawmakers in 1997 and 1998.
"The average taxpayer stands to lose when road builder money and power dominate the major decisions in the transportation budget. They must make up the difference with higher taxes and fees when local road repair and elderly and disabled ride programs are short-changed because of special interest pressure at the Capitol," WDC executive director Gail Shea said.
Owners and employees of dozens of companies that benefit from state highway construction contributed thousands of dollars to legislative candidates and the governor. For instance, the owner and employees of 22 companies contributed more than $5,000 to the campaigns in 1997 and 1998 (Table 3).
"This is a prime example of the need for a campaign finance reform plan that would reduce special interest influence and limit campaign spending. Reform would help reduce the costly burden that taxpayers must bear when transportation and other important policy decisions are influenced by narrow, powerful special interests," Shea said.
Contributions to Joint Finance Members
Contributions to Candidates Totaling $2,000 or More
Contributions to Candidates for State Office
TOTAL 1997-1998 CONTRIBUTIONS1
FROM ROAD BUILDERS AND HIGHWAY INTERESTS TO
MEMBERS OF THE JOINT FINANCE COMMITTEE
|Kevin Shibilski 2||S24||D||$6,750|
|John Gard (Co-chair) 3||A89||R||4,350|
|Kimberly Plache 2, 3||S21||D||3,500|
|Russell Decker 2, 3||S29||D||1,625|
|Brian Burke (Co-chair)||S03||D||700|
|Antonio Riley 4||A18||D||350|
|Gwendolynne Moore 2||S04||D||100|
1.Figures represent individual and PAC contributions for the period.
2.Member of the former Senate Labor, Transportation and Financial Institutions Committee in 1997-1998. Shibilski is presently a member of the Senate Insurance, Tourism, Transportation and Corrections Committee.
3.Member of the Transportation Projects Commission in 1997-1998. Gard remains a member of the commission this session.
4.Member of the Assembly Committee on Highways and Transportation in 1997-1998.
TOTAL CONTRIBUTIONS FROM OWNERS AND EMPLOYEES
OF ROAD BUILDERS AND HIGHWAY INTERESTS
TO CANDIDATES FOR STATE OFFICE IN 1997-1998*
|Michels Pipeline Construction||$24,720|
|Payne & Dolan||$20,490|
|Edward Kraemer & Sons||$19,966|
|Rock Road Companies||$13,691|
|Mann Brothers Construction||$12,296|
|Fabco Equipment Co.||$10,875|
|Marathon Ashland Petroleum||$8,633|
|U.S. Oil Co.||$7,400|
|H. James & Sons Inc.||$6,677|
|James Cape & Sons Co.||$6,243|
|Vinton Construction Co.||$6,209|
|Genesee Aggregate Co.||$6,091|
|James Peterson & Sons||$5,700|