Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Campaign Cash

Koch Group Leads Outside Spending

63% of special interest spending on state legislative races backs Republicans.

By - Sep 16th, 2020 12:02 pm
Cash. (CC0 Creative Commons).

Cash. (CC0 Creative Commons).

About a dozen outside electioneering groups have spent nearly $613,000 so far on the November legislative races, according to a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign tally.

Four of the groups that back Republicans account for $388,685, or 63 percent, of the spending while 10 groups that back Democratic candidates have spent $224,261, or 37 percent.

All but 19 of the 115 legislative races on the Nov. 3 ballot have seen outside spending by special interest groups ranging from about $313 to $260,583, according to reports filed by the groups.

The spending is being done by express advocacy groups, which are special interest political action or independent expenditure committees, corporations, and unregistered committees. These groups are required by law to report their spending because they sponsor broadcast ads, mailings, and other tactics that explicitly tell viewers or listeners who to vote for or against.

Topping the list of outside spenders was the rightwing Koch-backed group, Americans for Prosperity, which has doled out nearly $152,800 to back Republican candidates in four races. Most of the group’s spending, about $89,100 so far, was in western Wisconsin’s 10th Senate District, where freshman Sen. Patty Schachtner, of Somerset, faces GOP Rep. Rob Stafsholt, of New Richmond.

The 10th Senate is one of a handful of targeted races, which are contests where one party believes it can pick off a seat held by the other party.

Behind Americans for Prosperity was the Wisconsin REALTORS Political Fund, which spent $145,500 in 10th Senate race also to support Stafsholt and oppose Schachtner. This group is the electioneering arm of the Wisconsin Realtors Association, a longtime backer of Republican and conservative candidates for legislative and statewide offices.

Rounding out the top three spending groups was Make Liberty Win, a conservative Alexandria, Va.-based group that has spent about $70,700 in three races, including about $35,350 in the 55th Assembly race to support Republican Rachael Cabral-Guevara, of Fox Crossing. Cabral-Guevara faces Democrat Daniel Schierl, of Clayton, for the open seat. The incumbent, Republican Rep. Mike Rohrkaste, of Neenah, did not run for reelection. This is the first year that Make Liberty Win has played in the Wisconsin political arena.

The race that has seen the most spending is the 10th Senate seat, where six groups have spent a total of $260,583. Three Republican groups, Americans for Prosperity, Wisconsin Realtors Political Fund, and Make Liberty Win have spent about $252,250 to support Stafsholt and three Democratic groups, Citizen Action of WisconsinNEA Advocacy Fund, and A Better Wisconsin Together Political Fund, have spent about $8,340 to support Schachtner. That means the Republican outside groups spent about 30 times more than their Democratic counterparts in this race so far.

The race that has brought in the second-most spending is the 55th Assembly contest, where three groups have spent about $57,380. Americans for Prosperity and Make Liberty Win have spent nearly $57,100 to support Cabral-Guevara and A Better Wisconsin Together Political Fund has dropped about $313 to back Schierl.

Rounding out the top three races for group spending is the Senate 30th, an open seat in the Green Bay area where longtime incumbent Democratic Sen. Dave Hansen is retiring. Five Democratic groups have spent nearly $46,600, led by Citizen Action at nearly $22,000, to support Democratic candidate Jonathon Hansen, of De Pere, who faces Republican Eric Wimberger, of Green Bay.

To learn more about the all the groups involved in the fall legislative races and their activities and spending go to the Democracy Campaign’s Hijacking Campaign 2020 feature.

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