Wisconsin Public Radio

Eric Hovde’s Brother Gives $1 Million to Group Attacking Tammy Baldwin

Steven Hovde supporting Super PAC running digital ads slamming US Sen. Baldwin.

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - Apr 24th, 2024 10:24 am
Republican Eric Hovde announces his campaign for U.S. Senate on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024, in Madison, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Republican Eric Hovde announces his campaign for U.S. Senate on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024, in Madison, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

A super PAC that has spent more than $220,000 on digital ads this month attacking Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin as a “career politician” is almost entirely funded by the brother of Republican challenger Eric Hovde.

According to Federal Elections Commission records, which were first reported by Axios, Steven Hovde gave $1 million to the Fix Washington Political Action Committee days after it was created in February. Steven Hovde is the chair of real estate development company Hovde Properties. Eric Hovde is the company’s CEO. The two also run the Hovde Foundation, which spent just more than $2 million in 2023 to support impoverished children around the world.

This isn’t the first time Steven has contributed to his brother’s political aspirations. In 2012, he donated the maximum federal contribution of $5,000 to his brother’s Senate campaign.

Steven Hovde hasn’t donated any money to his brother’s campaign this cycle, but under FEC rules, he’s able to donate unlimited funds to the “independent expenditure-only” super PAC running ads supporting him and attacking his Democratic opponent.

Steven Hovde did not respond to a request for comment on his donation to the PAC.

A statement sent to WPR from the Hovde campaign says neither it, nor Eric Hovde, have “control of or insight into this independent group.”

The digital ad attacking Baldwin uses the tagline “not working for us anymore.” The language is similar Baldwin’s 2012 campaign ads attacking former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson, whom she defeated that year.

Data from Google’s Ads Transparency Center shows the Fix Washington PAC ad has been shown hundreds of thousands of times around Wisconsin and is being targeted only toward men. Super PACs are relatively new in American politics, according to the nonprofit watchdog group OpenSecrets. In the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, justices overturned campaign finance restrictions, enabling corporations and outside groups, like the Fix Washington PAC, to raise and spend unlimited amounts on elections.

“It opened the floodgates, as we like to say, to unlimited political donations to groups that can essentially spend almost however they want, other than that they cannot donate to candidates nor coordinate directly with them,” OpenSecrets research director Sarah Bryner told WPR. “And so, that coordination restriction is really what is doing a lot of the legal legal work here.”

Bryner said those coordination rules are “more academic than they are real” and she’s not aware of many cases of them being enforced. She said it’s “tricky” when a major donor to a PAC is a sibling of a Senate candidate. “I would assume that the family knows, generally, what each member is doing, so that does make it hard,” Bryner said.

Regardless, she said nothing about the donation is illegal under current rules.

The Fix Washington PAC spending complements Eric Hovde’s $8 million loan to his campaign, which helped him quickly close the gap with Baldwin, who raised $5.4 million and spent $3.2 million during the first three months of the year. Hovde outspent Baldwin by around $500,000 during that period.

Listen to the WPR report

Eric Hovde’s brother spends $1M on super PAC attacking Tammy Baldwin was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.

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One thought on “Eric Hovde’s Brother Gives $1 Million to Group Attacking Tammy Baldwin”

  1. blurondo says:

    The U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision was as brutal an attack on democracy as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was on women’s rights.

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