Republican State Leadership Committee - Judicial Fairness Initiative
Posted: March 25, 2016
Updated: June 1, 2017
This arm of the Virginia-based group Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) was created in fall 2014 to sponsor outside electioneering activities to support conservative candidates in judicial races throughout the country. The RSLC, which was created in 2002, supports Republican candidates for legislative office around the country and spent an estimated $2.4 million on independent expenditures and issue ads on Wisconsin legislative races in the 2010 general election and the recall elections held in 2011 (with issue ad activity) and 2012.
The spring 2016 Wisconsin Supreme Court race marked the first time the RSLC's Judicial Fairness Initiative had gotten involved in a judicial race in Wisconsin.
At the end of March, the group sponsored a 60-second radio ad that criticized challenger Appeals Court Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg for rulings in three cases - the same three rulings and cases that had been cited in television ads sponsored by a secretive issue ad group called the Wisconsin Alliance for Reform. Kloppenburg was running against incumbent Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley who had just been appointed to the office by Republican Governor Scott Walker the previous October.
Reports filed with the state showed that every cent the committee spent on the Supreme Court race came from its parent organization, the Republican State Leadership Committee, the last transfer of funds coming on April 1m four days before the election on April 5. The RSLC does report some of its fundraising and spending activities as a 527 group. 527 groups are organizations registered with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money from any source on elections.
From July 2015 through April 1 - the last day it transferred money to the Judicial Fairness Initiative - the RSLC reported raising over $200,000 from Wisconsin contributors. Topping the list of those contributors were the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, $125,000; MillerCoors Brewing in Milwaukee, $40,000; Michael Best and Friedrich, a Milwaukee law firm, $17,500; and $15,000 from Schneider National, a trucking firm in Green Bay.
This committee's parent organization, the Republican State Leadership Committee, later ran issue ads during the 2016 fall legislative election campaigns.
This organization is registered with the Government Accountability Board/Wisconsin Ethics Commission as an independent expenditure committee following the January 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC.