Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Campaign Cash

Legislative Committees Raise Record Cash

Republican committees raise $1.8 million, Democrats $950,000 in first six months of 2020.

By - Jul 28th, 2020 09:57 am
Cash. (CC0 Creative Commons).

Cash. (CC0 Creative Commons).

Four legislative campaign committees (LCCs) that milk special interests for campaign contributions to spend on elections raised and banked record cash during the first six months of 2020.

The four committees collectively raised a record $2.76 million and had a record $4.55 million in their campaign accounts at the end of June (see Table below). The committees’ haul accounted for about 40 percent of the record $7.1 million in total legislative fundraising and about 40 percent of the record $11.3 million in legislative campaign coffers as of June 30.

Legislative Campaign Committee Fundraising in the First Six Months of 2020

Committee Fundraising June 30 Cash Balance
Republican Assembly Campaign Committee $1,321,207 $2,370,692
Committee to Elect a Republican Senate $483,673 $1,251,911
Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee $478,147 $431,912
State Senate Democratic Committee $473,094 $497,385
Totals $2,756,121 $4,551,900

The previous records for fundraising and cash-on-hand by the LCCs in the first six months of an even-numbered year were set in 2018 when they raised $2.4 million and banked $2.9 million.

Fundraising was led by the two GOP committees, which shows that special interest money generally flows to power since Republicans control both houses of the legislature. The Republican Assembly Campaign Committee accepted more than $1.3 million and had nearly $2.4 million in its campaign account as of June 30. The Committee to Elect a Republican Senate accepted about $483,700 and had more than $1.2 million in the bank.

Meanwhile, the Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee raised about $478,150 and had about $431,900 in the bank. The State Senate Democratic Committee accepted about $473,100 and banked about $497,400.

Fundraising by the Republican Assembly Campaign was propelled by more than $828,000 in individual contributions, which mostly came from three contributors:

Elizabeth Uihlein, of Lake Forest, Ill., co-founder of Uline Corp., $600,000;

John Shaffer, of Chicago, chairman of HAS Commercial Real Estate, $100,000;

Diane Hendricks, of Beloit, owner of ABC Supply, $25,000.

Shaffer was also the top contributor by far to the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate, which also received $100,000 from him.

Collectively, the four LCCs have set successive fundraising and cash-on-hand records for the first six months of the year in 2016, 2018, and 2020. That’s in large part due to sweeping changes in campaign finance law enacted in 2015 by former GOP Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled legislature.

Those changes included allowing the four  legislative campaign committees  to create segregated funds and collect contributions of up to $12,000 a year from corporations, trade groups, unions and American Indian tribes. The changes also removed the limits on contributions that individuals may give to LCCs, as well as the limits on the contributions that LCCs can give to candidates or parties. There used to be a $10,000 limit on individual gifts to LCCs.

LCCs are prohibited from using corporate, union and other special interest money from their segregated funds to contribute to candidates or sponsor  independent expenditures , which are electioneering activities, like mailings and broadcast ads that directly tell people how to vote.

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