Republican Group a Leading Fundraiser
Since 2010 it's raised $3.27 million from donors like the MMAC and Diane Hendricks.
The Republican State Leadership Committee is a Virginia-based group created in 2002 that accepts unlimited contributions from powerful special interests to support Republican and conservative candidates for legislative and statewide offices across the nation.
The committee has routinely sponsored outside electioneering activities in Wisconsin state elections since the fall of 2010. The group spent an estimated $6.15 million on disclosed independent expenditures and secretive issue ads aimed at candidates between fall 2010 and spring 2021.
The committee’s largest election spending occurred in the 2019 Wisconsin Supreme Court race, where it doled out more than $1.2 million in the final week of the spring campaign to oppose moderate Appeals Judge Lisa Neubauer and support conservative Appeals Judge Brian Hagedorn.
The group peppered northern and central Wisconsin, which tend to vote for Republicans, with ads smearing Neubauer. One 30-second television ad claimed Neubauer was supported by “radical out-of-state special interests.” A second 30-second ad repeatedly referred to Neubauer as “liberal Lisa” and claimed she was supported by special interests pushing a social agenda soft on crime.
Hagedorn won the seat on the high court in what many observers viewed as an upset due to the late spending by the committee.
The group pays for its outside activities with corporate and individual contributions to its 527 group. Such groups are tax-exempt political nonprofits that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money from any source on elections. Many times, the size and source of contributions to 527 groups would be illegal if made directly to candidates and political committees under state and federal laws.
Wisconsin contributors gave the Republican State Leadership Committee’s 527 group $3.27 million between January 2010 and December 2020.
The top Wisconsin contributors, who gave more than $100,000, were:
Forest County Potawatomi Community, of Crandon, $440,535,
American Transmission Co., of Waukesha, $354,090,
Kwik Trip, of La Crosse, $290,491,
MillerCoors (now Molson Coors), of Milwaukee, $254,676,
Diane Hendricks, of Beloit, owner of ABC Supply, $250,000,
Wisconsin Insurance Alliance, of Madison, $102,500.
In addition to its outside electioneering activities in Wisconsin, the committee has a state political action committee (PAC) to contribute directly to Wisconsin candidates. The PAC has made two contributions – one for about $12,940 to former Republican Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch in 2015 and a $10,000 contribution to former GOP Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen in 2009.
Like many other special interests that engage in electioneering activities, the committee does not lobby on any of the state spending and policy issues that it uses to praise or attack candidates in its electioneering activities.