Hijacking Campaign 2014

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce

Posted: March 7, 2014
Updated: October 30, 2014

WMC is the state’s largest business organization that boasts more than 3,500 business members and one of the most powerful special interest groups in Wisconsin.  The group has spent millions of dollars over the years to lobby the governor and legislature on dozens of state policy and spending issues ranging from taxes to education to environmental, public safety and other business-related regulations.

In addition to its power inside the State Capitol, WMC is notorious for being among the leaders in spending on outside electioneering activities, like negative broadcast ads and mailings, in statewide and legislative elections.  The group has spent an estimated $18.4 million since 2006 on phony issue ads to smear Democratic candidates and support Republican candidates for governor, attorney general and the legislature and conservative candidates for the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

The group reportedly received a subpoena in the latest John Doe probe involving spending by special interest groups in the 2011 and 2012 recall elections.  WMC spent an estimated $4.7 million in the recall races, but it is not known if the group is a target of the investigation.

WMC sponsored two 30-second television ads – here and here via WisPolitics.com – in September 2013 that praised Republican Governor Scott Walker by claiming the governor’s tax and spending cuts and economic development initiatives have improved job creation and Wisconsin’s economy.

Those ads came a month before Mary Burke, an executive in her family-owned Trek Bicycle business and former commerce secretary in the administration of Governor Jim Doyle, began raising money to run for the Democratic nomination for governor to face Walker in the 2014 general elections.

WMC purchased about $115,000 worth of ad time during the second and third weeks of September 2014 in the Green Bay television market and sponsored two 30-second television ads - here and here - that accused Penny Bernard Schaber, a Democratic representative from Appleton who is running for the open 19th Senate District seat, of voting in favor of higher taxes and increased government spending as an Assembly representative.

The business group also sponsored three 30-second television ads - here, here and here - in October that praised Walker's policies for cutting taxes and government spending and accused Burke of having a poor record of creating jobs as Doyle's commerce secretary.

WMC also sponsored two 30-second television ads - one here - that slammed Democrat Pat Bomhack, a candidate in the open 17th Senate District seat, of supporting the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.  The ad says the federal health care program restricts people's health care choices.  The other ad accused Bomhack of supporting policies that would raise taxes.

The group paid for three mailings, like this one, a radio ad and a television ad - here - in the 68th Assembly District race that criticized Democratic candidate Jeff Peck for his stance on clean energy and his leadership role with a local farm organization.

WMC also sponsored a 30-second television ad - here - that criticized 75th Assembly District Representative Steve Smith, a Democrat, for supporting the federal Affordable Care Act.

The group also sponsored two 30-second television ads in support of GOP Attorney General candidate Brad Schimel who faces Democrat Susan Happ in the November 4 general election.  One ad - here - features testimonials from law enforcement representatives around the state who praise Schimel's plan for fighting the state's sharp rise heroin cases.  Another ad - here - accused Happ of seeking a light sentence in a child predator case she handled as district attorney.

Last active election: 2013