A tax-exempt nonprofit group used by the Republican Governors Association to collect unlimited contributions to spend on elections received the largest single contribution ever from Wisconsin – $1 million from a Milwaukee-area couple.
The contribution to the association’s 527 group was made March 7 by Mike and Mary Sue Shannon. The group’s report filed with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service identifies Mike Shannon as a managing partner of KSL Capital Partners, a private equity firm that invests in travel and leisure businesses, and Mary Sue as a homemaker.
Combined with a $500,000 contribution last March and another $25,000 in 2012, the Shannons join two other individuals, two union groups, a business and a trade organization from Wisconsin that have each made multiple contributions totaling more than $1 million to these unregulated fundraising and spending organizations since 2000.
The Republican Governors Association’s 527 group reported a total of $22.4 million in contributions from wealthy individuals, corporations and trade groups during the first three months of 2014, including $1.27 million from Wisconsin contributors. In addition to the Shannons, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce – another $1 million-plus donor to 527 groups – donated $256,250, followed by Bill Johnson Jr., a Hayward timber company owner, at $6,250, Johnson Controls in Milwaukee at $5,556 and Sheboygan businessman Terry Kohler, a longtime supporter of Republican candidates and conservatives causes, at $5,000. Johnson Controls and Kohler have each made multiple contributions totaling more than $1 million to 527 groups.
Contributions to the Republican Governors Association paid for three television ads since February that attacked Republican Governor Scott Walker’s likely Democratic opponent, businesswoman Mary Burke. Before this year, the group had spent an estimated $16.4 million in Wisconsin on independent expenditures and phony issue ads in three elections for governor since 2006, and the bulk of it was spent in the 2010 general and 2012 recall elections to support Walker. The association ranks among the top groups in spending on outside electioneering activities in Wisconsin.
The Republican group’s counterpart, the Democratic Governors Association, reported $11.7 million in special interest contributions during the first quarter of 2014, including $14,112 from Wisconsin contributors. The Wisconsin cash came from Johnson Controls at $11,112 and eight individuals who gave a few hundred dollars each.
The Democratic Governors Association reported direct spending of only about $36,000 during the 2012 recall against Walker, but it contributed more than $4.3 million since 2006 to other Democratic groups to help pay for their electioneering activities.