Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Campaign Cash

Liberal Groups Far Outspend Republicans

$5.3 million spent on legislative races by Democratic advocacy groups, $2.9 million by GOP groups.

By - Nov 3rd, 2020 11:00 am
Cash. (CC0 Creative Commons).

Cash. (CC0 Creative Commons).

Outside election spending on legislative races topped $8.2 million as of Monday morning as Democratic groups continued to spend far more than Republican groups.

A Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review found spending by Democratic express advocacy groups totaled more than $5.3 million while spending by Republican express advocacy groups totaled nearly $2.9 million – almost a 2-to-1 advantage for the groups supporting Democrats.

Spending by express advocacy groups ranged from about $300 to $993,467 in 98 of the 115 state Senate and Assembly races on Tuesday’s 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, $2,029,576

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) spent $847,127 using two electioneering arms – here and here

Americans for Prosperity, a rightwing Koch-backed group, $748,146

Jobs First Coalition, which supports Republican candidates, $674,002

American Federation for Children, which mostly supports Republicans, about $598,977

Legislative races that have seen the highest outside spending were:

The 30th Senate District, an open seat in Green Bay, $993,467. Ten groups backing Democrat Jonathon Hansen have doled out $544,344 and four groups backing Republican candidate Eric Wimberger have spent $449,123;

The 32nd Senate District, an open seat in the La Crosse area, $782,331. Eight groups supporting Democrat Brad Pfaff have spent $639,415 and two groups supporting Republican Dan Kapanke have spent $142,916;

The 10th Senate District in northwestern Wisconsin, $681,864. Six groups backing Republican candidate Rob Stafsholt have spent $589,408 and seven groups backing incumbent Democratic Sen. Patty Schachtner, of Somerset, have spent $92,456.

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.

Three issue ad groups are in play to support Republicans. An issue ad group run by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s largest business organization, has sponsored television ads in the 8 th and 32 nd Senate races and a mailing in the 85th Assembly race to back Republican candidates.

A second GOP issue ad group called the Wisconsin Alliance for Reform has sponsored television ads in the 32nd Senate race.

A third issue ad group sponsored by the Wisconsin Realtors Association has sponsored digital ads in the 30th and 88th Assembly races to support Republican incumbents.

Express advocacy and issue ad groups spent a record $12.2 million on outside activities in the 2018 legislative elections. Groups that supported Democrats spent more than $6.7 million and groups that supported Republicans spent nearly $5.5 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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