Shell Game Allows Corporate Money to Flow Into Wisconsin Legislative Races

Wisconsin Corporation Major Funder of National Stealth Group DLCC

March 31, 1999

Madison - Corporate money may be banned in Wisconsin, but that doesn’t keep itf rom flowing to our legislative campaigns. A report released today by the Center for Responsive Politics called "Trickle Down Politics"shows how money from Wisconsin corporations and national special interest groups weaves through more than a dozen states and may have landed in our back yard.

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), which operates out of the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C., runs political action committees in at least 16 states. These PACs collected hundreds of thousands of dollars from corporations, wealthy individuals and special interest associations and then redistributed it to targeted state-level races. The DLCC pumped $271,000 into Wisconsin through super-PACs which ran independent expenditures.

"The result is that national political operatives can dump huge, veiled money into our campaigns - often through negative television ads - and Wisconsin voters have virtually no way of knowing where the money comes from," said Gail Shea, executive director for the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a nonpartisan watchdog group that helped CRP with the report.

According to the CRP report: "Since none of the money it raises is spent on federal elections, the DLCC does not file campaign finance reports with the Federal Election Commission. Rather, the DLCC establishes political action committees in numerous states. Many of these states have less stringent campaign finance laws than the federal government, so money can be raised in larger amounts and from a wider range of sources. Without collecting the campaign finance reports from all the individual states, it’s impossible to see how much money is being raised and how it is being spent."

"This clever manipulation of state campaign finance laws opens the flood gates to rivers of special interest money," said Shea. "Voters and candidates trying to discuss local issues get washed away in shallow, 30-second ads."

Twenty-one Wisconsin contributors - including road-builders, labor unions and a prominent lobbyist - contributed a total of $79,209 to DLCC political action committees during the 1998 campaigns. More than half of the money ($42,822) came from eight corporations (led by Central Wisconsin Development Corporation) who are not allowed to contribute directly to Wisconsin candidates. The rest are individuals and political action committees, many of whom also make contributions in Wisconsin legislative races.

Shea said there is an easy way to close this special interest loophole: allow out-of-state money to be used in Wisconsin only if the source of the money has registered with the Federal Election Commission. "Until we have fundamental campaign finance reform that frees candidates from personally chasing special interest money, the least we should do is shut down stealth campaigns that allow otherwise illegal money to flow into Wisconsin."

Wisconsin Contributors to the
Democratic Legislative Campaign Committees
Registered in Sixteen States (1997-98)

Information Provided by the Center for Responsive Politics

Wisconsin Contributors Special Interest Total to DLCC Committees
Central Wisconsin Development Corp.* Utilities $38,633.62
WI Laborers District Council Political Fund Labor/Road Building $13,654.93
Bill Broydrick  Lobbyist $7,000.00
Laurence A. Weinstein Liquor Distributor $5,000.00
Wisconsin Insurance Alliance Insurance $2,481.63
Ameritech Wisconsin State PAC Utilities $2,365.49
Ned W. and Kurt D. Bechthold Road Building $1,250.00
Jere C. Fabick Road Building $1,125.00
Operating Engineers Local 139 Labor/Road Building $1,096.48
Rock Road Companies* Road Building $1,000.00
Wausau Insurance Companies* Insurance $688.12
Citizens for Dave Obey Federal Candidate $639.60
Kind for Congress Federal Candidate $591.37
William Kennedy Road Building $500.00
Edward Kraemer & Sons, Inc.* Road Building $500.00
James Petersons Sons* Road Building $500.00
Mann Brothers, Inc.* Road Building $500.00
Michels Pipeline Construction, Inc.* Road Building $500.00
Timme, Inc.* Road Building $500.00
David Hoffman Road Building $500.00
Barrett for Congress Federal Candidate $182.75
TOTAL $79,208.99

*Corporate contributions not allowed in Wisconsin.