Who’s Courting The Sweet 16?

Special Interest Contributions to Members of the Joint Finance Committee

April 23, 2001

State programs and policies that serve millions of Wisconsin residents either grow or wither on decisions made by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, which reviews all spending and taxation proposals before they are considered by the Legislature. Once every two years, the 16-member committee’s chief task is to determine how billions in Wisconsin taxpayer dollars, fees and federal aid will be spent when it reworks the governor’s proposed two-year budget.

As they prepare to revise the proposed 2001-03 state budget, some of the policy and spending decisions they make may be better understood by looking at the cozy relationship that has developed between the committee members and special interests. One key measure of this relationship is the sources and size of campaign contributions the committee members have accepted before and during their tenure on the committee. The following tables and charts summarize the history of large special interest contributions to the Legislature’s most powerful decision-making committee.

The Senate and Assembly lawmakers chosen by legislative leaders to serve on the Joint Finance Committee accepted $2,043,754 in identifiable, large individual contributions from 1991 through 2000 and political action committee contributions between 1993 and 2000 (Table 1)

The committee members who have accepted the most special interest contributions (Table 2) are Republican Sen. Alberta Darling of River Hills with a total of $426,007, followed by Republican Sen. Robert Welch of Redgranite at $265,903 and Democratic Sen. Kevin Shibilski of Stevens Point at $175,217. The committee’s co-chairs, Democratic Sen. Brian Burke of Milwaukee has received $136,266 and Republican Rep. John Gard of Peshtigo has received $122,190.

Breakdowns that identify these contributions by special interest category for each Joint Finance Committee member can be found here.

An analysis of the special interests that are most active with the committee shows the banking and finance industry contributed the most money to the campaigns of committee members - $259,185. It is followed by health professionals, which include doctors, dentists, chiropractors, nurses and podiatrists, at $217,442. Lawyers/law firms/lobbyists were third, contributing $145,890 and manufacturing and distributing interests were fourth at $134,546.

The lineup of top special interests that contribute to the committee members nearly mirrors the rankings for 1991-98 contributions to the current legislature as a whole. Health professionals ranked No. 1, followed closely by banking and financial interests, manufacturing and then lawyers/law firms/lobbyists. These interests seek greater influence with legislators because of the large range of important issues on the legislature’s plate that affects them, including health care, taxes and business, labor and environmental regulations.

In each of the four top special interest categories, Darling led all committee members in contributions (Table 3), in part, because she is a successful fund raiser who represents a wealthy suburban Milwaukee district. Welch, a committee newcomer, was second to Darling in three of the four special interest categories - banking and finance, manufacturing and health professionals. Democratic Sen. Kimberly Plache of Racine was second to Darling in contributions among the legal community and lobbyists.

Special interest groups and their lobbyists are required to report the bills they lobby on to the state Ethics Board, making it possible for the public to track some of the legislative activities of these groups. As the committee begins revising the budget bill for full legislative consideration later this year, special interests have already identified hundreds of budget items and other legislative proposals that they intend to support or oppose during this session.

Banks are pushing budget proposals to create new universal banking rules and oppose other measures to restrict ATM fees and put payment of employee wage claims ahead of lender’s claims when a business goes bankrupt. Health professionals want increases in medical assistance reimbursements. Various business and manufacturing interests want a proposed $80 million corporate tax cut and new alcohol regulations and oppose a $53 million a year computer software tax.

Tables Mentioned in Text

Special Interest Contributions to All Members of Joint Finance
Special Interest Group Contributions to Individual Members of Joint Finance
Contributions of Top Special Interest Groups to Members of Joint Finance

Table 1
SPECIAL INTEREST CONTRIBUTIONS* TO ALL MEMBERS
OF THE JOINT FINANCE COMMITTEE

INTEREST AMOUNT
Banking & Finance $259,185
Health Professionals $217,442
Lawyers/Law Firms/Lobbyists $145,890
Manufacturing & Distributing $134,546
Business $131,097
Construction $128,739
Insurance $114,473
Tourism/Leisure/Entertainment $112,907
Real Estate $101,038
Natural Resources $96,485
Labor Unions $88,114
Transportation $78,081
Retired/Homemakers/Non-income earners $75,854
Road Construction $73,209
Health Services/Institutions $66,089
Energy $46,208
Telecommunications & Computers $44,358
Civil servant/public employee $37,473
Agriculture $37,125
Education $28,513
Political/Ideological $14,593
Non-Profit/Social Services $12,085
Defense $250
TOTAL $2,043,754
*Figures represent individual contributions since 1991 and PAC contributions since 1993 through 2000.

TABLE 2
SPECIAL INTEREST CONTRIBUTIONS** TO INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS OF THE JOINT FINANCE COMMITTEE

COMMITTEE
MEMBER
PARTY DISTRICT YEAR
ELECTED
JOINT FINANCE
PPOINTMENT
AMOUNT
Alberta Darling R S08 1990 2000 $426,007
Robert Welch R S14 1984-92, 1995 2001 $265,903
Kevin Shibilski D S24 1995 1997 $175,217
Michael Huebsch R A94 1994 2001 $152,040
Brian Burke D S03 1988 1995 $136,266
Kimberly Plache D S21 1988 1999 $126,213
John Gard R A89 1987 1997 $122,190
Robert Wirch D S22 1992 2001 $117,405
Antonio Riley D A18 1992 1999 $114,625
Gwendolynne Moore D S04 1988 1999 $96,306
Sheryl Albers R A50 1991 1997 $77,036
Russell Decker D S29 1990 1995 $57,463
Dean Kaufert R A55 1990 1997 $57,131
Marc Duff R A98 1988 1999 $47,150
David Ward R A37 1992 1999 $43,377
Greg Huber D A85 1988 1993-94, 1999 $29,425
TOTAL $2,043,754
**Figures represent large individual contributions from 1991 and PAC contributions from 1993 through 2000.
TABLE 3
CONTRIBUTIONS FROM TOP SPECIAL INTEREST CATEGORIES TO MEMBERS
OF THE JOINT FINANCE COMMITTEE

Banking and Finance

COMMITTEE MEMBER AMOUNT
Darling, Alberta $89,225
Welch, Robert $23,460
Huebsch, Michael $19,570
Shibilski, Kevin $18,422
Riley, Antonio $18,235
Plache, Kimberly $16,480
Moore, Gwendolynne $14,250
Burke, Brian $13,273
Kaufert, Dean $10,730
Ward, David $9,444
Gard, John $9,225
Albers, Sheryl $5,351
Duff, Marc $4,570
Wirch, Robert $3,475
Huber, Greg $1,975
Decker, Russ $1,500

Health Professionals

COMMITTEE MEMBER AMOUNT
Darling, Alberta $36,042
Welch, Robert $21,660
Wirch, Robert $20,380
Shibilski, Kevin $19,235
Huebsch, Michael $17,915
Gard, John $16,650
Burke, Brian $16,613
Decker, Russ $13,450
Plache, Kimberly $10,145
Albers, Sheryl $8,700
Moore, Gwendolynne $8,285
Huber, Greg $7,780
Kaufert, Dean $6,402
Riley, Antonio $6,275
Duff, Marc $5,205
Ward, David $2,705

Lawyers/Law Firms/Lobbyists

COMMITTEE MEMBER AMOUNT
Darling, Alberta $37,780
Plache, Kimberly $21,200
Wirch, Robert $13,500
Riley, Antonio $11,545
Moore, Gwendolynne $10,820
Burke, Brian $10,725
Shibilski, Kevin $8,050
Welch, Robert $7,790
Decker, Russ $6,830
Gard, John $4,950
Huebsch, Michael $3,725
Kaufert, Dean $3,300
Huber, Greg $2,550
Duff, Marc $1,375
Albers, Sheryl $900
Ward, David $850

Manufacturing & Distributing

COMMITTEE MEMBER AMOUNT
Darling, Alberta $33,935
Welch, Robert $22,425
Huebsch, Michael $15,730
Riley, Antonio $7,462
Shibilski, Kevin $7,254
Albers, Sheryl $7,125
Gard, John $6,344
Burke, Brian $6,150
Plache, Kimberly $4,951
Decker, Russ $4,645
Wirch, Robert $4,550
Moore, Gwendolynne $4,250
Duff, Marc $3,750
Ward, David $3,350
Kaufert, Dean $1,975
Huber, Greg $650

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