WISCONSINREPORT.COM (05/29/08) - Wisconsin business, unions and individuals have contributed a record $1.5 million in the first 15 months of the 2007-08 election cycle to unregulated groups most of which raise and spend unlimited amounts on negative advertising, mailings and other outside activities in state and national elections, according to a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analysis. Total Wisconsin contributions to so-called 527 groups between January 1, 2007 and March 31, 2008 shattered the previous high for a comparable period ($1.03 million) between January 2005 and March 2006.
The contributions from unions and businesses to 527 groups would be illegal to give directly to state and federal Wisconsin candidates because most of the contributions violate rules governing how much contributors can give and how much candidates can accept and the money comes from business and union treasuries that cannot be used for political donations to candidates.
527 groups are so named for the section of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service code that governs them, but the IRS does not regulate where they can get their contributions and how much they can accept and spend. These groups include the more popularly known GOPAC, Club for Growth, Democratic Governors Association and Progressive Majority.
Aside from the record total in Wisconsin contributions to 527s from January 2007 through March 2008, WDC also found:
Seven 527 groups received $100,000 or more led by the Democratic Governors Association at $241,885, the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund at $230,620 and the Progressive Majority at $203,025. Greater Wisconsin and the Progressive Majority are liberal groups that support Democrats.
Wisconsin contributions to Democratic 527s significantly outpace contributions to Republicans 527s. Democratic 527s received $1.06 million or 71 percent of Wisconsinís contributions while Republican groups received $426,466 or 28 percent.
Three 527 groups that supported both parties or were neutral accepted $15,409 from Wisconsin contributors. Seven of the 10 527 groups that received the most money from Wisconsin were Democratic 527s.
Top contributors include Milwaukee philanthropist Lynde Uihlein, a longtime supporter of womenís and Democratic candidates and causes, who has given $458,000 including $170,000 to the Progressive Majority, $138,000 to the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund, $100,000 to America Votes 2006 and $50,000 to the League of Conservation Voters.
Uihlein was followed by the Wisconsin Laborers District Council which sent $157,039 to a Washington D.C.-based 527 tied to labor, and the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.
Terry and Mary Kohler of Sheboygan and their Windway Capital Corporation, contributed a total of $135,200, including $55,200 to American Solutions for Winning the Future, $50,000 to GOPAC, $25,000 to the Club for Growth and $5,000 to Americaís PAC. The Kohlers are longtime supporters of conservative and Republican causes and political candidates.
Allergan, a pharmaceutical company in Oshkosh that develops skin care, eye care and specialty products contributed $100,000 to the Democratic Governors Association on January 25, 2008.