Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Campaign Cash

How MMAC Peddles Influence

Milwaukee business group has spent $2.4 million on campaigns and lobbying.

By - Jun 1st, 2017 01:09 pm
Tim Sheehy speaking to the media regarding the new Milwaukee Bucks arena. Photo by Michael Horne.

Tim Sheehy speaking to the media regarding the new Milwaukee Bucks arena. Photo by Michael Horne.

The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce has spent or funneled more than $2.4 million since 2010 on elections and lobbying activities to push pro-business policies at the expense of workers and consumers.

As with most powerful special interests and business groups, Republican legislative and statewide candidates have been the Milwaukee chamber’s chief beneficiaries, particularly GOP Gov. Scott Walker. The governor has received about $1.5 million in campaign contributions and election backing through the group, which claims 1,800 Milwaukee-area business members.

Rather than directly spending to influence legislative and statewide elections, the business group has given more than $1.9 million since 2010 to federal 527 electioneering groups, which may raise and spend unlimited money from any source on state and federal elections. The Milwaukee chamber gave nearly $1.9 million to three GOP 527 groups and $55,000 to three Democratic groups, including:

$1,343,025 to the Republican Governors Association;

$406,035 to the Republican State Leadership Committee;

$125,000 to Our American Revival;

$25,000 to the Greater Wisconsin Committee;

$25,000 to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee;

$5,000 to the Democratic Governors Association;

The Republican Governors Association spent an estimated $18.4 million to help Walker in his successful 2010, 2012 and 2014 elections, and the Republican State Leadership Committee spent more than $2.7 million in Wisconsin since 2010 to help elect GOP legislators.

Last year, the Milwaukee business group contributed $28,200 to the Construction Trades Coalition, which spent about $59,000 to support Democrats in six legislative races during the 2016 fall elections.

In addition to funneling money to outside electioneering groups, the Milwaukee business group’s political action committee (PAC) and conduit, which bundles direct individual donations to candidates, contributed nearly $154,000 between January 2010 and December 2016 to legislative and statewide candidates. The vast majority of the contributions, nearly $150,500, went to Republicans. Topping the list of PAC and conduit contributions from the Milwaukee chamber between January 2010 and December 2016 was:

Walker, $30,675

GOP Sen. Alberta Darling, of River Hills, $21,250

Republican Assembly Campaign Committee, $14,000

GOP Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, of Juneau, $12,250

In 2012, the business group’s PAC was fined $500 by the state for collecting $170,000 in excessive donations that were used to finance the PAC’s contributions to Walker’s recall campaign. The PAC was also ordered to retrieve $170,000 in excessive donations to Walker and return the money to the contributors.

The Milwaukee chamber mostly supports deregulation, lower taxes, anti-worker measures, proposals to limit local control, breaks for businesses, and voucher and charter schools. And the business group generally opposes proposals like minimum wage increases, state and local prevailing wages, mandatory family leave, and other policies that cost businesses.

Between January 2011 and December 2016, the group spent about $405,000 on lobbying state spending and policy, including about $180,000 in the last 2015-16 legislative session. Along with other special interest groups, the Milwaukee chamber persuaded the state to put up millions of dollars in state funding for a new downtown Milwaukee Bucks arena. The Milwaukee group also successfully pushed the passage of a state right-to-work law, which prohibits requiring workers to make payments to unions as a condition of employment.

During deliberations on the 2015-17 state budget, the business group asked the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee to cut $300,000 a year in funding for the Citizens Utility Board (CUB), which represents consumers in electrical and gas rate increase requests by utilities that are before the state Public Service Commission.

So far in the current 2017-18 legislative session, the Milwaukee business group supports an Assembly GOP income tax cut and road-funding proposal that would eventually cut taxes for Wisconsin’s wealthiest residents. A Legislative Fiscal Bureau analysis showed that more than $2 billion of about $2.7 billion in tax cuts that the proposal would create just in 2029 would go to taxpayers earning $100,000 or more.

The Milwaukee business group also praised a proposed GOP bill that would attach seven-year expiration dates to state rules and regulations that would require state agencies to get approval from the legislature to keep them in force.

Among the group’s top leaders is its longtime president, Tim Sheehy, and Steve Baas, vice president of governmental affairs. Fifteen years ago, Baas was an aide to former GOP Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, who was among five legislative leaders convicted in the Caucus Scandal, which investigated the illegal use of state personnel and resources on legislative campaigns. Baas was among about two dozen Capitol staffers granted immunity in the investigation.

9 thoughts on “Campaign Cash: How MMAC Peddles Influence”

  1. Vincent Hanna says:

    They give a lot of money to politicians who do not have Milwaukee’s best interests at heart despite being a group allegedly dedicated to making Milwaukee the best it can be.

  2. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    And what does the Milwaukee metro area get in return for the MMAC’s payoffs to the GOP? The largest job loss of any metro area in America!

    These oligarchs merely want to grab more for themselves and do not care what happens to anyone else in the community. Hey GOP blue-collars, you like the fact that MMAC and WMC lobbied for right-to-work and tax cuts? And promptly cut 3,776 manufacturing jobs and lowered wages.

    It’s time for Sheehy and these other lazy, mediocre suits to hear two words they’ve never been told as an owner. “YOU’RE FIRED!”

  3. Vincent Hanna says:

    It’s so frustrating. MMAC wants to draw younger people to the city, to work and live, and yet they support a GOP that opposes almost everything those young people say they want in a city.

  4. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    That’s the thing, Vincent. Real business leaders would want to attract talent and improve the entrepreneurial vibe in a city, to increase demand and attractiveness for more talent, which helps their businesses. This is the model that has been successful in the Twin Cities and in Madison. But all Sheehy, the MMAC and their fellow greedheads at WMC want to do is rent-seek and grab more market share and profit without having to work to do it.

    And then we wonder why we see this stat for job growth in Midwestern metros over the last 12 months

    Change in jobs, metro areas, April 2016-April 2017
    Detroit +38,100 (1.9%)
    Minneapolis-St. Paul +29,200 (+1.5%)
    Columbus, Ohio 22,700 (+2.2%)
    Indianapolis +18,400 (+1.8%)
    Cincinnati +17,900 (+1.7%)
    Grand Rapids +11,900 (+2.2%)
    Des Moines +10,400 (+2.9%)
    Cleveland +10,300 (+1.0%)
    Madison +5,100 (+1.3%)

    Milwaukee -4,700 (-0.5%)

    These oligarchs are hurting Milwaukee, and the state’s economy as well. No elected official that cares about keeping the Milwaukee areas as a vibrant destination for talent and economic growth should be listening to the self-interested tripe that these mediocre businessMEN want.

  5. JPK says:

    Jake – Minimum wage increases, prevailing wage schedules, company paid family leave of absence, and regulations proliferated by autonomous state agencies do not drive job growth. It appears the MMAC is in fact promoting job growth?

  6. Vincent Hanna says:

    Then what they are promoting isn’t working JPK because Wisconsin, with the help of MMAC and WMC, has been “Open for Business” for more than six years now and the job growth isn’t there.

  7. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    Actually JPK, those protections and higher wages do drive job growth through higher demand and less poverty.

    If that’s the mentality the geniuses have at the MMAC, no wonder Milwaukee is dead last. Race to the bottom is a loser for everyone other than a few well-connected sociopaths.

  8. JPK says:

    Jake, actually they do not drive job growth. They have a temporary impact on income levels until prices catch up. Then they have a stagnation effect on the economy. Any benefits are extremely short term.

    Vince, perhaps you are right.

  9. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    JPK- Your 1985 econ book might say that, but the actions of actual people and HISTORICAL RESULTS say differently. Especially when it comes to attracting talent and innovators

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