Thursday, May 24, 2007

Shadowy Is As Shadowy Does

Democratic campaign operative Bill Christofferson took exception recently to a commentary of mine that referred to his Greater Wisconsin Committee as a "shadowy outfit."

In his letter to the editor, Christofferson claims the Greater Wisconsin Committee "operates exactly the same way" as the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. GWC is an electioneering group. It is a receptacle for special interest donations that cannot be legally given directly to candidates, and it uses that extralegal money to pay for campaign ads that plainly aim to influence the outcome of elections. The Democracy Campaign is a watchdog group and does no election campaign advertising whatsoever. Equating these two nonprofit groups is like saying night and day operate exactly the same way.

Christofferson goes on to say I imply Greater Wisconsin Committee is spending corporate money but have no way of knowing. He says "given the progressive, pro-consumer positions Greater Wisconsin takes, corporate dollars are not likely to flow its way."

Internal Revenue Service records show that one of GWC's biggest sources of funds is the Democratic Governors Association, a nonprofit corporation. In 2005 and 2006, the DGA gave Christofferson's group nearly $1.1 million. Where did DGA get the money it then funneled to outfits like Greater Wisconsin Committee? Wisconsin donors included Johnson Bank, Johnson Controls, Madison Gas & Electric, Miller Brewing, Northwestern Mutual Life, S.C Johnson and Son, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, Wisconsin Public Service Corporation and three Indian tribes. And, oh yes, indicted casino developer Dennis Troha, who appears to have figured out a little too late that he could make use of groups like DGA and GWC to get around legal limits on campaign donations.

The list of out-of-state donors to Greater Wisconsin Committee's sugar daddy reads like a who's who of corporate America – AT&T, Coca Cola, Goodrich Tires, Lockheed Martin, Motorola, Toyota, Union Pacific and Verizon Communications, just to name a few.

Documents filed with the IRS also show that another national nonprofit corporation, the Democratic Attorneys General Association, supplied Greater Wisconsin Committee with over $800,000 in 2006. Among the Wisconsin donors who filled the DAGA's coffers were Miller Brewing and Wisconsin Energy Corporation. National contributors included Altria Group (formerly Philip Morris), AT&T, Dow Chemical, GlaxoSmithKline and Hewlett Packard.

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