Monday, February 09, 2009

Wisconsin Donors Gave Record $3.8 Million To Shadow Groups

Wisconsin contributors gave a record $3.78 million in the 2007-08 election cycle to unregulated political hit groups that spend most of their money on negative advertising, mailings and other electioneering activities to foul state and federal elections with special interest propaganda, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analysis shows.

Fundraising and spending reports filed with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service by these so-called 527 groups, which are mostly business, union and ideological organizations, also show some of them sent millions of dollars back to Wisconsin political and phony issue ad groups that smeared candidates in several legislative races last November.

The $3.78 million Wisconsin individuals, businesses and unions gave to 527s in 2007 and 2008 shatters the previous record $2.57 million Wisconsin contributors gave to 527s in the 2001-02 election cycle (see Bar Chart).

The key findings and highlights of the 527 groups’ Wisconsin fundraising and spending include:

Seven Wisconsin political groups, including three phony issue groups, got $2.48 million from mostly out-of-state 527 organizations to help fund their electioneering activities in legislative elections and campaigning on behalf of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

A big beneficiary was the Greater Wisconsin Committee’s 527 group – the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund – which got $1.07 million to spend in key legislative races against Republicans. Advancing Wisconsin, a pro-Democratic grassroots group that campaigned around the state on behalf of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and in about two dozen legislative races, got $918,393. Building a Stronger Wisconsin, which attacked Republican candidates in at least three legislative races, got $225,000 and Club for Growth Wisconsin, a conservative, pro-Republican group, received $100,000.

Seven Wisconsin contributors, which included individuals, unions, businesses and ideological groups, gave more than $100,000 to 527 groups during the two-year period including Milwaukee philanthropist Lynde Uihlein who gave pro-Democratic 527s $1.16 million (see Table 1).

Fourteen 527 groups received more than $100,000 in Wisconsin contributions (see Table 2). In all, more than $2 of every $3 in Wisconsin contributions in 2007 and 2008 went to Democratic 527 groups - $2.63 million or 69.7 percent.

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