Thursday, August 30, 2007

WI Contributors Giving Big To Shadow Groups

Unregulated electioneering groups that often sponsor negative ads, mailings and auto calls against political candidates received $619,820 from Wisconsin businesses, labor unions and individuals in the first half of 2007, a Democracy Campaign review shows.

These so-called 527 groups are tax-exempt, political nonprofit organizations named for the U.S. Internal Revenue Service code that regulates them. The groups may raise and spend as much as they want on electioneerings activities. Some of the better known 527s are America Coming Together, GOPAC, Club for Growth and the Democratic Governors Association.

WDC's review of fundraising reports filed by the groups shows Wisconsin special interests are dolingout sharply more than in past, comparable periods and much of it is going to Democratic-leaning 527s.

The $619,820 in Wisconsin contributions in the first half of 2007 compares to $291,410 in the first six months of 2005, $282,544 in the first half of 2003 and $345,791 in the first six months of 2001.

Roughly $412,000 in contributions went to Democratic 527s and about $203,000 went to Republican groups.

Six groups got $50,000 or more from Wisconsin contributors. They include the Progressive Majority which accepted $182,425; the Republican Governors Association, $91,000; the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund, $83,000; GOPAC, $71,936; the Laborers Political League Education Fund, $57,458; and the Democratic Governors Association, $50,375.

The top Wisconsin contributor to these groups in the first six months of 2007 was Milwaukee philanthropist Lynde Uihlein, heiress to the Schlitz Brewing and Allen-Bradley fortunes and a long time backer of Democratic and women's causes, who gave $218,000. Uihlein was followed by the Wisconsin Laborers District Council at $50,816 and Johnson Controls at $50,375.

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