Dark Money Targets Supreme Court Race
Secretive Wisconsin Alliance for Reform will do ads, has connections to GOP, Koch Brothers.
This is a conservative phony issue ad group created in 2015 by former GOP legislative and state Republican Party staffers Luke Fuller and Chris Martin to support GOP and conservative candidates for legislative and statewide offices.
The Alliance describes itself as an anti-tax and pro-economic growth and small government organization whose members, which it does not identify, are individuals and community leaders. The group has used a Madison post office box and a Milwaukee phone number as its only contact information. The Alliance’s website was initially registered by Lorri Pickens, a former director at Americans for Prosperity (AFP), which is funded by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch to spend money on Republican and conservative candidates for state and federal offices around the country.
The Alliance’s decision to sponsor issue ads means that it can secretly raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on its outside electioneering activities. The group got involved in the 2016 spring and fall elections by sponsoring mailings and numerous broadcast ads in judicial and legislative races. The Alliance was the biggest spender in the 2016 Wisconsin Supreme Court race where it backed conservative Justice Rebecca Bradley and attacked her opponent, Appeals Court Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg, for her some of her legal decisions. The Alliance spent an estimated $2.3 million to back Bradley, who won the race.
During the 2018 Wisconsin Supreme Court race, the group purchased about $22,000 in ad time at television stations in Eau Claire and La Crosse about two weeks before the February 20th primary. The race features Sauk County Circuit Judge Michael Screnock, Madison lawyer Tim Burns, and Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Rebecca Dallet. Screnock has drawn support from conservatives.
The top two finishers in the primary will go on to the April 3 general election to face off for a 10-year seat on the high court formerly held by Justice Michael Gableman. Gableman, who decided not to seek reelection, is part of the Supreme Court’s 5-2 conservative majority.