Hijacking Campaign 2010

Greater Wisconsin Political Fund

Posted: May 17, 2010
Updated: January 16, 2014

Estimated Spending: $3.04 million

The Greater Wisconsin Political Fund is a Madison-based phony issue ad group affiliated with the Greater Wisconsin Committee PAC and a independent expenditure group of the same name.  Greater Wisconsin was created in 2004 to support Democratic candidates for statewide office and the legislature.  The group also sponsored negative outside electioneering activities on behalf of nonpartisan candidates in the three Wisconsin Supreme Court races held between 2007 and 2009.

The Democracy Campaign estimates the group spent about $8.2 million in Wisconsin's spring and fall elections between 2006 and 2009.  Most of their spending has been on broadcast advertising to smear Republican candidates.

Most of the unregulated group's financial support comes from labor unions and Democratic-leaning ideological groups that are supported by contributions from big business, which is a traditional backer of Republican candidates. 

The Greater Wisconsin Political Fund kicked off its 2010 election season by sponsoring television ads in May that smeared Republican candidates for governor Mark Neumann and Scott Walker for supporting tax cuts for the wealthy and business.  Both ads showed pictures of Neumann and Walker interspersed with pictures of former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.  A portion of one of the ads reads:  "Walker favors cutting health care, even for working families and children.  (Former) Congressman Neumann voted to cut Medicare to pay for tax breaks for the rich.  Let's not repeat the same bad ideas again."

In a mid-September interview, the head of the Democratic Governors Association told reporters his organization had given Greater Wisconsin nearly $1 million to spend on electioneering activities to support Democratic candidate for governor Tom Barrett.  The association operated the same way during the 2006 governors race when it supported Democratic Governor Jim Doyle's reelection by giving money to Greater Wisconsin rather than sponsoring its own ads.  DGA executive director Nathan Daschle said Wisconsin was one of 10 battleground states in 2010 the group would target. 

At the end of September, the group ran a 30-second television ad referring to the "fighter" ad run earlier by the Walker campaign (view here). The ad utilizes the image of Scott Walker wearing boxing gloves to question just who Walker is fighting for, highlighting a number of big money special interests that they explain he has supported over the years.

Greater Wisconsin sponsored a 30-second television ad in October (linked here via PolitiFact) that accused Walker of lying about Milwaukee County's debt and his support of state-run health care programs.  The ad says the county's debt rose 85 percent despite Walker's claim it was reduced by 10 percent under his watch.  The ad also says Walker wants to cut 350,000 families and children off the state-run BadgerCare health insurance program even though Walker claims to support the program.

The group also sponsored a 60-second radio ad that featured two people conversing in a traffic jam and accusing Walker of supporting toll lanes because powerful special interests want them to increase money for road building.

Greater Wisconsin also sponsored negative broadcast ads and mailings against Republican legislative candidates in the few weeks leading up to the November 2 general election.

The group sponsored a radio ad criticizing Republican Dennis Clinard for supporting tax breaks for the rich and corporate interests.  Clinard is running against incumbent Democratic Representative Mark Radcliffe of Black River Falls.  It also sponsored a mailer claiming that Washington politicians who want to privatize Social Security are some of the big money backing Clinard.

The group also sponsored a 30-second television ad criticizing Republican Assembly candidates Jack Cummings and Travis Tranel, saying the pair supports $2 billion in tax breaks but don't say how they will pay for them.  Cummings, of Endeavor, challenged incumbent Democratic Representative Fred Clark of Baraboo and Tranel, of Cuba City, opposed Democratic Representative Phil Garthwaite of Dickeyville. 

A radio ad against Cummings also accused him of being a Tea Party candidate adding that some Tea Party candidates want to privatize Social Security.  Tranel was smeared in a mailing that depicts a well-dressed man lighting a cigar with a burning Social Security card and claims Tranel sides "with those who want to privatize Social Security - and risk our retirements on Wall Street."

A similar mailing against Republican Howard Marklein of Wilson Creek, who ran for the open 51st Assembly District seat, accused him of being "backed by Washington D.C. politicians who want to privatize Social Security."