Hijacking Justice 2011

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce

Updated: October 13, 2014

Estimated Spending: $1.1 millon

This is the state’s largest business organization, one of the most powerful players in Wisconsin politics and a backer of mostly Republican candidates that has spent about $11 million on phony issue ads since 2006 in Wisconsin fall general elections and the 2007 and 2008 races for the state Supreme Court.

Like other phony issue ad groups, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce refuses to disclose how much money it raises and spends on outside electioneering activities which consist mostly of radio and television advertising.  The Democracy Campaign estimates that WMC spent $1.1 million on the race but the group said later in a 2013 message to its members that it spent $2 million in the Prosser-Kloppenburg contest.

About two weeks before the April 5 spring elections, the group sent its members a fundraising letter urging wealthy business interests to contribute generously to its ad campaign to oppose Supreme Court candidate JoAnne Kloppenburg’s so-called “radical agenda.” Kloppenburg, an assistant attorney general at the time, was running against incumbent Justice David Prosser for a 10-year term on the high court.

At the same time, the group also sponsored a 30-second television ad – via WisPolitics.com – supporting Prosser. It said more than 60 sheriffs and district attorneys praise Prosser’s work as a justice.

A second ad released about a week before the spring election used audio clips of Kloppenburg to accuse her of not being tough on crime.

In 2010, Prosser spearheaded a 4-3 court majority that approved judicial rules written by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and the Wisconsin Realtors Association to allow judges to rule on cases involving their biggest campaign contributors and outside independent groups that sponsored issue ads and other electioneering activities to support or oppose judges at election time.

Last active election: 2010