Hijacking Campaign 2000

Issue Ads

June 1, 2001

Groups that spent undisclosed sums on "issue ads" during the 2000 elections for the Wisconsin State Legislature.

Alliance for a Working Wisconsin

Headed by Todd Rongstad, formerly with the Assembly Republican caucus, the Alliance asked for corporate contributions to finance "issue ads" to promote "a pro-job, pro-taxpayer and pro-family agenda that protects and builds on the legacy of Gov. Tommy Thompson" In January 2001 Rongstad estimated the Alliance spent "at least $150,000" in the November 2000 elections. Rongstad also headed up the independent expenditure group named Project Vote Informed. Rongstad’s consulting firm, The Valkyrie Group, did mailings for the Alliance.

Americans for Job Security

This Washington, DC-based pro-Republican group, originally founded to counter positions advocated by the AFL-CIO, is active on both the federal and state levels. It intervened in Wisconsin state elections in both 1996 and 1998. In the past it has admitted using secret corporate cash to run its phony "issue ads." The American Insurance Association and the American Forest and Paper Association are the only two members of the group it has been willing to identify.

Because Americans for Job Security claims its political activities are not reportable to the State Elections Board, they are difficult to document. According to various reports, in the past election Americans for Job Security:

  • Purchased over $20,000 of TV time in the LaCrosse area in support of Dan Kapanke, the Republican candidate in 32nd Senate District.
  • Spent over $160,000 on Minnesota TV running attack ads against Alice Clausing, the Democratic candidate in the 10th Senate District. (Democratic estimates).

People for Wisconsin’s Future

Headed by Kent Fitch and Bill Christofferson, well known Democratic spin doctors, this raised several hundred thousand dollars from individuals and corporations to finanance "issue ads" for use during the 2000 campaign "to promote the welfare of citizens in Wisconsin and improve their quality of life." Its agenda includes environment, taxes, education, health care and "choice."

Because this group claims that its political activities are not reportable to the state Elections Board, they are difficult to document. Reportedly, People for Wisconsin’s Future:

  • Ran phony "issue ads" on Minneapolis TV supporting Alice Clausing, the Democratic candidate in Senate District 10 (northwest WI). These ads featured health care, education and tax issues. Hundreds of thousands of dollars may have been spent.
  • Ran "issue ads" on TV in the La Crosse area attacking Dan Kapanke, the Republican candidate in Senate District 32, for his "pro-life" position at an estimated cost of $33,000.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC Issues Mobilization Council)

WMC, the state’s major business lobby, pioneered the use of phony "issue ads" in Wisconsin politics in the 1996 elections by spending over $400,000 for ads that clearly indicated support or opposition to named candidates. It continued this activity in the 1998 election, spending at least an equal amount. Since these ads are treated as political -- not election campaign -- ads under current law, WMC does not disclose how much it is spending or where the money is coming from. WMC uses these "issue ads" to escape disclosure requirements applied to political candidates and other bodies doing election work.

Even though it is illegal to use corporate money for political activities in Wisconsin, WMC admits that corporate money is used for its "issue ads." In an election-year solicitation of the state’s largest corporations it offered to send an "issue campaign prospectus" and urged the "largest corporate contribution in your company’s history." Suggested contributions ranged up to $50,000.

Election activities attributed to WMC in 2000 included:

  • Purchasing $8,000 for TV time in Green Bay supporting Gary Drzewiecki, the Republican candidate in Senate District 30.
  • Leading a group doing newspaper ads attacking Alice Clausing, the Democratic candidate in Senate District 10 (northwest WI).
  • Running a 30 second TV spot supporting Garey Bies, Republican candidate in Assembly District 1 (Door County area), dealing with hiring pratices. ($35,000 for two Assembly races.)
  • Running a 30 second TV spot supporting Judy Krawczyk, Republican candidate in Assembly District 88 (Green Bay), featuring education and taxes. ($35,000 for two Assembly races.)
  • Purchasing $20,000 of TV time and $2,700 of radio time in the LaCrosse area (32nd Senate District). The radio and TV ads are focusing on hiring policies dealing with sex offenders and are in opposition to Mark Meyer, the Democratic candidate for that office.
  • Sending out mailings and purchasing TV time in the Wausau area in support of two Republican Assembly candidates: MaryAnn Lippert (70th) and Jerry Petrowski (86th). Expected cost $7,000.

For WMC’s independent expenditure activity, see their PAC, Concerned Business and Industry.

Wisconsin Right-to-Life PAC

Wisconsin Right to Life PAC restricts most of its political activity to independent expenditures. This year it reportedly ran issue ads against Mark Meyer, the Democratic candidate in Senate District 32 (La Crosse area) and, on Minneapolis TV, against Alice Clausing, the Democratic incumbent in Senate District 10 (northwest WI).