Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Campaign Cash

Police Groups Have Big Capitol Clout

They spent $2.3 million on state lobbying and elections over 10 years, pushing many bills they favor.

By - Jun 10th, 2020 12:56 pm
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Police Administration Building, 951 N. James Lovell St. Photo by Christopher Hillard.

Police Administration Building, 951 N. James Lovell St. Photo by Christopher Hillard.

Police groups and unions have spent $2.3 million on state lobbying and elections over 10 years.

The bulk of the spending was on lobbying state government. About a half-dozen groups spent a combined $1.9 million on lobbying between January 2010 through December 2019. The groups lobbied on dozens of bills including drunken-driving penalties, gun laws and penalties, false crime reporting, impersonating an officer, retirement benefits, body cameras, possession and use of tobacco and vaping products, and tougher penalties for traffic, bodily injury, and property crimes.

The top lobbying spenders between January 2010 and last December were the:

Wisconsin Professional Police Association, about $706,700,

Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association, about $307,500,

Milwaukee Police Association, about $286,750.

About a dozen city, county, and state law enforcement groups and unions also made about $316,800 in corporate and political action committee (PAC) contributions to legislative and statewide candidates and fundraising committees over the 10-year period. The largest corporate and PAC contributors were the:

Milwaukee Police Association PAC and corporation, $170,900;

Wisconsin Professional Police Association PAC, about $119,900; and

Dane County Deputy Sheriffs Association, $11,500.

The partisan breakdown of the corporate and PAC contributions was nearly even. Republican candidates and fundraising committees received $157,750, or 50 percent of the contributions, compared to about $146,950, or 46 percent, for Democrats, and $12,100, or 4 percent, for so-called nonpartisan Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates.

The vast majority of contributions to Republican candidates, $138,350, came from the Milwaukee Police Association.

In addition to the Milwaukee Police union’s contributions to Republicans, it also contributed $12,000 to four conservative state Supreme Court candidates. Three of those candidates won election to the Supreme Court, which is controlled 5-2 by conservatives until Aug. 1, when it will be 4-3, as Justice-elect Jill Karofsky replaces conservative Dan Kelly.

Finally, one law enforcement group spent money on outside electioneering activities to support legislative and statewide candidates in the past 10 years. The Wisconsin Professional Police Association doled out about $65,140 on express advocacy in the 2010 elections. The group spent $20,000 on behalf of Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and about $45,140 on Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett and a suburban Milwaukee Democratic state Senate candidate.

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