Corporations Gave $1.3 Million to Politicians
Allowed by new state law. $827,000 given to state GOP, $479,000 to Democrats.
The state Democratic and Republican parties and four legislative fundraising committees accepted about $1.3 million in corporate contributions in 2016. The contributions from corporate, union, trade association, and tribal treasuries were allowed for the first time last year under sweeping changes to state campaign finance laws by the GOP-controlled legislature and Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
The new laws approved in late 2015 allow corporate contributions of up to $12,000 a year to each party and legislative campaign committee if they create a segregated fund for the money. The law prohibits corporate contributions from being subsequently used for direct contributions to candidates or for express advocacy in a political campaign.
The parties, committees and the amount of corporate contributions they collected last year were:
Committee to Elect a Republican Senate, $404,050
Republican Assembly Campaign Committee, $362,500
Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee, $232,920
State Senate Democratic Committee, $138,650
Democratic Party of Wisconsin, $107,000
Republican Party of Wisconsin, $60,600
Rounded and combined, that’s $827,000 for Republicans and $479,000 for Democrats.
About 200 businesses, trade groups, unions and tribes made the corporate contributions. The businesses and trade groups spanned a wide array of special interests, including utilities, health care providers, insurers, labor, check-cashing outfits, large farms, beer and alcohol distributors, and big-box retailers.
Topping the list of corporate contributors was:
Wisconsin Progress, a group that recruits and trains Democratic candidates to run for state and local offices, contributed a total of $97,340 to the Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee’s segregated fund for corporate contributions. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign filed complaints on March 21 against the committee and the group with the Wisconsin Ethics Commission to investigate because the contributions appear to exceed the $12,000 legal limit;
Ho-Chunk Nation, which doled out a total of $53,000 to the four Democratic and GOP legislative campaign committees and the state Democratic Party;
Wisconsin Homeowners Alliance, which is affiliated with the Wisconsin Realtors Association and contributed a total of $52,500 to the four legislative campaign committees and both parties;
MillerCoors, which contributed a total of $50,000 to the two state parties, the Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee, and the two Republican legislative campaign committees.
The following table shows corporate contributions that totaled $10,000 or more to the legislative campaign committees and two state parties.
2016 Corporate Contributions to the State Parties and Legislative Campaign Committees
|Wisconsin Progress Action||$97,340|
|Ho-Chunk National Tribal Operations Account||$53,000|
|Wisconsin Homeowners Alliance||$52,500|
|Forest County Potawatomi Community||$43,000|
|ABC – Associated Builders & Contractors of Wisconsin||$36,000|
|WBD Corporate – Wisconsin Beer Distributors Association||$36,000|
|WEC Energy Group||$36,000|
|Wisconsin Education Association Council||$36,000|
|Altria Client Services||$34,000|
|Alliance of Health Insurers UA||$30,000|
|American Transmission Co.||$24,000|
|Building Industry Council||$24,000|
|MMAC – Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce||$24,000|
|WI State Council of Carpenters||$24,000|
|Agents Assistance Corp. of Wisconsin||$23,000|
|Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin||$20,000|
|PLS Financial Services aka Payday Loan Store||$19,000|
|Wisconsin Power & Light – Alliant Energy||$18,000|
|Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin||$17,000|
|Operating Engineers 139||$16,000|
|Wysocki Produce Farm||$16,000|
|Michael Best & Friedrich||$15,000|
|Tavern League of Wisconsin||$13,000|
|State Farm Agent & Associate Conduit||$12,100|
|AFSCME – Wisconsin State Employee Union||$12,000|
|American Federation of Teachers AFT Solidarity||$12,000|
|DLCC – Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee||$12,000|
|Select Management Resources||$12,000|
|WI Laborers District Council||$12,000|
|Wisconsin Funeral Directors Association||$10,500|
|Couri Insurance Agency||$10,000|