Hijacking Justice 2011

Greater Wisconsin Committee

Updated: January 16, 2014

Estimated Spending: $1.6 million

The Greater Wisconsin Committee is a Madison-based group that spent an estimated $11.2 million between 2006 and 2010 in Wisconsin’s fall elections to support Democratic candidates for statewide office and the legislature and another $2.3 million to back nonpartisan candidates in Wisconsin Supreme Court races in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Most of the Greater Wisconsin Committee’s financial support comes from organized labor and Democratic ideological groups supported by wealthy business interests.

The group operates four entities – a political action committee and a corporate arm that makes independent expenditures as well as a phony issue ad group and a 527 group called the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund.  Most of Greater Wisconsin’s outside electioneering activities consist of negative broadcast ads, but much of its fundraising and spending for those activities does not have to be disclosed to the public.

The group sponsored two television ads only days before the April 5, 2011 spring election critical of incumbent Justice David Prosser, who faced Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg in his bid for another 10-year term on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.  One 15-second ad showed film footage of an angry looking Prosser while the narrator recounted recent media reports about Prosser calling Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson a "total bitch" and threatening to destroy her.  The other ad portrayed Prosser as anti-middle class by claiming he opposed employee collective bargaining rights and retirement benefits, presumably in past cases before the court.  It said Prosser lacked independence and would be a rubber stamp for the policies of Republican Governor Scott Walker. 

The group also sponsored two 30-second television ads in March 2011 against Prosser.  One of the ads condemned Prosser for declining to prosecute a Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing two boys when Prosser was Outagamie County's district attorney in the late 1970s.  The lurid ad tells viewers to call and "tell David Prosser judges should protect our children, not sex offenders."  Shortly after Greater Wisconsin issued the ad, one of the priest's victims condemned it and asked the group to pull it.

The second television ad compared Prosser to Walker saying they voted the same 95 percent of the time in 1995-96 when they served together in the legislature and they now side with major corporations at the expense of workers and middle class families.  Walker has been vilified in recent weeks for successfully pushing through a bill that abolished most public employee collective bargaining rights. The proposal drew massive protests at the State Capitol for weeks and spawned recall efforts against eight Republican state senators who voted for the bill.  “Now Prosser has promised to act as a complement to Walker because his views closely mirror Walker’s. Tell Prosser judges should be independent, not a rubber stamp for Scott Walker,” the ad says.

The Greater Wisconsin Committee also made independent expenditures in the Supreme Court race through its corporate arm.

Last active election: 2010