Special Interest Contributions Skyrocket
$5.2 million spent in state for first six months of 2020, more than double the same period in 2016.
Special interest political action committees (PACs), corporations, and candidate and party committees contributed $5.2 million to legislative and statewide officeholders during the first six months of 2020, according to their campaign finance reports.
The contributions for the first half of 2020 were more than double the nearly $2.1 million that PACs, parties, corporations, and political committees doled out in the first half of 2016, and more than triple the $1.6 million they contributed to candidates in the first half of 2014.
In the first half of 2018, these committees and corporations contributed slightly less than $5.2 million.
The top recipients of PAC, corporate, and committee contributions during the first six months of 2020 were statewide candidates and legislative fundraising committees used by Republican and Democratic leaders to raise money from special interests to spend on elections.
Topping the list of PAC, corporate, candidate, and party contributions recipients between January and June was:
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Jill Karofsky, $1.6 million;
Republican Assembly Campaign Committee, $488,450,
Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee, $451,141,
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, $429,980,
Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly, $380,286.
Karofsky’s largest contributor was the state Democratic Party at $1.36 million. Karofsky defeated Kelly last April. Kelly’s largest contributor was the state Republican Party, which made about $321,000 in in-kind contributions to his campaign.
The top contributing PACs and political committees in the first half of 2020 were the:
State Democratic Party, just over $2 million,
State Republican Party, about $321,000,
Republican Assembly Campaign Committee, nearly $151,000,
Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) PAC, $113,500,
Wisconsin Realtors PAC, just over $103,000.
The sharp increase in PAC, party, and political committee contributions in recent years was the result of changes in Wisconsin’s campaign finance law in 2015 that were pushed through by the Republican-dominated legislature and signed by former GOP Gov. Scott Walker.
The 2015 changes included doubling PAC contribution limits to legislative and statewide candidates, removing the limit on total PAC contributions a candidate may accept, and legalizing corporate contributions to legislative campaign committees and political parties.
To find out how much PACs and other political committees gave to elected officials as well as how much your legislator received, go to the Democracy Campaign’s PAC contribution search feature. The feature allows you to search PAC contributions by candidate, PAC name or special interest group for any period of time between 1993 and June 2020.