Hijacking Special Elections 2003
September 3, 2003
Wisconsin Citizen Action, a public interest organization, spent undisclosed amounts on an issue ad campaign that started July 11. The advertisements on Milwaukee-area television stations tout Al Foeckler (D-Assembly District 21) as the best qualified candidate to find ways to lower health care costs and control property tax increases.
Representing over 4200 members, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce is the state’s largest pro-business lobbying organization. It uses its PAC, Concerned Business and Industry, and its conduit, Capitol Gains Club, to make direct contributions to candidates. Concerned Business and Industry has also done independent expenditures in the past.
Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce reportedly spent over $15,000 on radio ads opposing Al Foeckler, the Democratic candidate for the 21st Assembly District. The ads began on July 1. WMC claimed these were "issue ads" and exempt from the same reporting requirements as independent expenditures. The ads claimed that Foeckler opposed the proposed proprty tax freeze.
WMC (as Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce) also sent out two mailings similar to its radio ads that framed the special election as a referendum on the property tax freeze plan majority Republicans in the Legislature inserted in the proposed 2003-05 state budget and sent to Governor Jim Doyle.
The mailings encouraged readers to contact Doyle and ask him not to veto the freeze, as well as identifying Foeckler as being opposed to the freeze and Republican opponent Mark Honadel as being in its favor.
WMC is also sponsored a phone campaign which portrayed Foeckler as an opponent of the property tax freeze before telling the listener to call Governor Doyle and encourage him to sign on to the freeze.
WMC’s PAC, Concerned Business and Industry, also reported making independent expenditures in favor of Honadel.