Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Campaign Cash

Outside Liberal Groups Lead in Legislative Races

Groups backing Democrats have spent $2.9 million versus $1.8 million for Republicans.

By - Oct 18th, 2020 12:19 pm
Cash. (CC0 Creative Commons).

Cash. (CC0 Creative Commons).

Outside electioneering groups have spent more than $4.7 million as of Friday morning in this fall’s legislative races and groups backing Democratic candidates have sharply outspent their Republican counterparts.

A Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review found that Democratic groups have spent more than $2.9 million and Republican groups have spent $1.8 million.

Spending by express advocacy groups in the legislative races has ranged from about $300 to more than $700,000 in 96 of the 115 state Senate and Assembly races on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Express advocacy groups sponsor broadcast and online advertising, mailings and other electioneering activities that use the magic words “vote for” or “vote against” or their equivalents.

The top-spending express advocacy groups were:

A Better Wisconsin Together Political Fund, which supports Democratic candidates, $1.3 million

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) spent about $522,951 using two electioneering arms – here and here

Americans for Prosperity, a rightwing Koch-backed group, about $511,255

Jobs First Coalition, which supports Republican candidates, about $472,326

Wisconsin Conservation Voters, which supports Democrats, $292,064

The legislative races that were besieged by the highest outside spending were:

The 30th Senate District, an open seat in Green Bay, $700,439. Seven groups backing Democrat Jonathon Hansen have doled out $413,472 and four groups backing Republican candidate Eric Wimberger have spent $286,967;

The 10th Senate District in northwestern Wisconsin, $399,532. Five groups backing Republican candidate Rob Stafsholt have spent $371,334 and four groups backing incumbent Democratic Sen. Patty Schachtner, of Somerset, have spent $28,198;

The 32nd Senate District, an open seat in the La Crosse area, $396,336. Six groups supporting Democrat Brad Pfaff have spent $316,608 and two groups supporting Republican Dan Kapanke have spent $79,728.

Express advocacy groups spent $6.7 million on electioneering activities in the 2018 fall legislative races.

The WDC review of outside spending does not include unreported spending by phony issue ad groups, which smear or praise candidates without explicitly telling viewers who to vote for or against. An issue ad group run by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s largest business organization, has sponsored a mailing and a television ad in the 32nd Senate and 85th Assembly races to back Republican candidates.

Special interest electioneering groups doled out a record $8.9 million in the 2016 legislative elections with groups that supported Democrats outspending groups that supported Republicans $4.8 million to $4.1 million.

For more information about the electioneering activities and spending by all of the outside groups involved in the fall legislative and statewide races, go to the Hijacking Campaign 2020 feature on the Democracy Campaign website.

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