Erik Gunn
Campaign Cash

$38 Million Spent on High Court Race

$23.7 million by outside groups and $14.6 million by campaigns, with Kelly still behind in total spending.

By , Wisconsin Examiner - Mar 29th, 2023 06:32 pm
Wisconsin Supreme Court. Photo by Mariiana Tzotcheva.

Wisconsin Supreme Court. Photo by Mariiana Tzotcheva.

Already breaking records, fundraising and spending on the Wisconsin Supreme Court Race by the campaigns as well as by outside groups continues to soar, the latest numbers show.

According to reports compiled this week by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, the election campaign of Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz has raised $12.4 million through mid-March. That is five times as much as the  campaign of former Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly has raised in the same period, $2.2 million.

Both campaigns in the nominally nonpartisan contest have been fueled by donations from political parties, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign reported. Republican Party committees contributed $552,000 to the Kelly campaign, about $1 out of every $4 he collected. The state Democratic Party has contributed $8.86 million to Protasiewicz, $2 out of every $3 given to her campaign.

Individual contributors are limited to donating $20,000 to a candidate’s campaign in a calendar year. So far, 18 donors have given Kelly the maximum and 28 donors have given Protasiewicz the maximum, according to the Democracy Campaign. Both campaigns’ maximum donors include couples in which each partner contributed the maximum $20,000.

Most of Protasiewicz’ maximum donors are from outside Wisconsin, reflecting the national attention that the race has drawn because of its potential to swing the ideological balance of the court, particularly on cases involving gerrymandering and abortion rights.

Most of Kelly’s maximum donors are Wisconsin residents, most of them current or retired owners, co-owners or top executives of major corporations.

Information on the donors’ employers or occupations was compiled by Democracy Campaign research. Changes enacted by the Republican majority in the Legislature and then-Gov. Scott Walker in 2015 to Wisconsin campaign finance laws “allow the candidates to provide little to no useful employer information about their large campaign contributors,” the Democracy Campaign stated.

Among prominent Kelly maximum donors are Diane Hendricks, of Beloit, owner of ABC Supply and a longtime bankroller of Republican candidates as well as outside spending groups, and Leonard Leo, of MacLean, Virginia, who has been identified as a major funder of right-wing causes and candidates, particularly aimed at reshaping state and federal courts.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a billionaire venture capitalist and longtime financial backer of Democrats, and retired Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig are among the high profile maximum donors to Protasiewicz.

While Protasiewicz has so far had an outsized advantage in campaign fundraising, outside spending has favored Kelly, according to the Democracy Campaign.

Through Wednesday morning, outside groups have spent more than $24 million to help or attack candidates for the high court seat, the Democracy Campaign calculates. So far almost $13.1 million has been spent on Kelly’s behalf, including ads attacking Protasiewicz, and $10.6 million has been spent on behalf of Protasiewicz, including ads attacking Kelly. The numbers include spending in the primary as well as in the general election.

Reports: Protasiewicz holds strong lead in high court fundraising, outside spending boosts Kelly was originally published by the Wisconsin Examiner.

Categories: Campaign Cash, Politics

One thought on “Campaign Cash: $38 Million Spent on High Court Race”

  1. Ryan Cotic says:

    I thought money in politics was bad?

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