Hijacking Campaign 2000: Independent Expenditures

Independent expenditures in the 2000 fall campaign for the Wisconsin State Legislature.
Hijacking Campaign 2000

Independent Expenditures

Posted: June 1, 2001
Updated: July 1, 2010

Detailed descriptions for PACs that made independent expenditures in the 2000 fall campaign. with two exceptions: the Wisconsin Hunters PAC ($581 in Senate District 10) and the Fond du LAC PAC, sponsored by the Fond du Lac Chamber of Commerce($173, split equally between Senate District 18 and Assembly District 52.)

Wisconsin Education Association Council

(2000 Independent Spending: $1,051,369)

Wisconsin Education Association Council is the labor union that represents most teachers in this state. Through its PAC, it has a history of spending more money in elections than any other special interest group. In 1998 it was the leader with independent spending at $600,000. It spent $361,900 on a single race, the 27th State Senate District, making it the highest spender in the race, even exceeding the candidates. In this past election it was once again the leader, having spent over $773,000 on one race alone, the 10th Senate District. Also, it made contributions directly to candidates and to groups associated with the Democratic Party.

On September 13, 2000, it registered to do independent spending supporting 67 candidates and opposing 40 candidates. However, it only reported spending money on two races -- the 10th and 32nd Senate districts.

Groups affiliated with WEAC that supported candidates through independent expenditures are: Coulee Region United Educators ($1,431); Eau Claire Association of Educators ($829); South West Education Association ($1,546); Winnebagoland Uniserv - the 14th highest independent spender - ($3,156) and La Crosse Education Association ($871). These sums are not included in WEAC’s total.

In 2000 WEAC was the highest independent spender.

Independent Citizens for Democracy

(Independent Spending: $541,303)

This organization registered with the Elections Board as an independent committee in 1998. That year it spent close to $300,000 supporting Democratic candidates in three state Senate races. It also did independent spending in the special elections that occurred in 1999. Its current treasurer, Scott McCormick, is a former Democratic candidate for the state legislature. It is a classic example of a Super-PAC corralling money for independent expenditures. Most of its money comes from labor unions and national Democratic Party sources not registered with the Federal Elections Commission.

It reported acitivity in the 10th, 30th and 32nd Senate districts.

Independent Citizens for Democracy was the 2nd highest independent spender.

Realtors PAC or R-PAC WI

(Independent Spending: $75,316)

RPAC is the political action committee sponsored by the Wisconsin Realtors Association. While it has not done independent spending recently, it was the driving force behind the formation of the Super-PAC, Citizens for Tax Relief, which was active during the crucial 21st State Senate District recall election of 1996 in which the Democrats took control of the Senate. Also, it makes contributions directly to candidates and engages in a broad range of political activities, including polling.

It reported spending in support of the Republican canidates in the 30th Senate, 36th and 86th Assembly Districts.

Realtors PAC was the 6th highest independent spender.

Wisconsin Voter Education Fund

(Independent Spending : $311,500)

This group registered to do independent spending in support of nine Democratic candidates for the state Assembly on October 3, 2000. It appears to be a reincarnation of "Vote November 3rd" which spent $70,000 supporting Democratic Assembly candidates in the 1998 elections. That group was funded primarily by labor union and national Democratic Party sources.

All of its money came from the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee of Washington, DC. While the DLCC is affiliated with the national Democratic Party, it is not registered with the Federal Elections Commission and does not fully disclose its activities anywhere.

WI Voter Education Fund spent money in support of Democratic candidates in the 34th, 70th, 86th and 88th Assembly Districts.

WI Voter Education Fund was the 3rd highest independent spender.

Wisconsin Right-to-Life PAC

(Independent Spending: $69,417)

Wisconsin Right to Life PAC restricts most of its political activity to independent expenditures. It rarely makes contributions directly to candidates. Their activity usually involves some mass media advertising, and mailings and telephone calls to the organization’s supporters urging them to vote for candidates endorsed by Wisconsin Right to Life. In addition, Wisconsin Right to Life engages in undisclosed "issue ads." They cite their involvement with issue ads as a reason they are opposed to any attempt to require disclosure of this type of political activity.

Between the general election in fall and special elections, the Right to Life PAC spent a little more than $24,000 on independent expenditures in 1998.

In 2000, Right to Life reported spending in the following Senate races: 10th, 12th, 14th, 18th, 22nd, 28th, 30th and 32nd districts.

It reported spending in sixty-four Assembly races.

In addition, 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 candidate in Senate District 10 (northwest WI).

In 2000 WI Right to Life was the 7th highest independent spender.

Pro-Life Wisconsin Victory Fund

(Independent Spending: $3,848)

This is a new committee active for the first time in this election. The officers listed on the registration form include a Secretary from Chicago. Among its major contributors are six members of the Zignego family from the Waukesha area, active contributors to pro-life candidates.

It made independent expenditures on behalf of fourteen candidates, not all of whom made it through the primaries. Races in which its favored candidates contested the November elections were the 30th and 32nd Senate Districts and the 27th, 34th, 36th, 39th, 66th, and 88th Assembly Districts.

Pro-Life WI Victory Fund was the 13th highest independent spender.

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin Inc

(Independent Spending: $14,274)

Planned Parenthood Advocates is associated with Planned Parenthood of WI. In the past it has done limited independent spending, usually not more than a few thousand dollars.

It spent money in support of 18 Democratic candidates in the following races: The 10th, 16th, 22nd and 32nd Senate Districts. The 22nd, 28th, 29th, 46th, 47th, 48th, 52nd, 68th, 70th, 71st, 72nd, 79th, 88th, and 95th Assembly Districts.

Planned Parenthood Advocates was the 11th highest independent spender.

Volunteers for Agriculture

(Independent Spending: $231,818)

Volunteers for Agriculture is affiliated with the WI Farm Bureau Federation. It has a long history of doing independent spending, usually involving newspaper ads, radio ads and direct mail. It spent close to $20,000 in 1998, considerably less than the $96,000 it spent in 1996. In 2000 it began its independent spending in February when it spent $12,000 for radio and newspapers ads in support of several incumbent legislators in a coorodinated effort with Building a Better Wisconsin.

For the entire year, it reported spending on the 10th, 12th, 16th, 24th, 30th and 32nd Senate Districts and the 1st, 28th, 36th, 39th, 47th, 49th, 56th, 69th, 70th, 71st, 79th, 86th and 94th Assembly Districts.

Volunteers for Agriculture was the 4th highest independent spender.

Building a Better Wisconsin

(Independent Spending: $39,829)

Building a Better Wisconsin is associated with the Wisconsin Builders Association. While it has not been directly involved in independent spending until this year, it has participated in the Super-PAC efforts lead by the Wisconsin Realtors. In February 2000, well before the campaign season had gotten underway, Building a Better Wisconsin had already spent $22,000 on radio and newspaper ads in acoordinated effort with Volunteers for Agriculture to support incumbent legislators early this year.

It reported independent spending in the 10th, 12th, 24th, 30th and 32nd Senate Districts and in the 28th, 47th, 71st, 79th and 86th Assembly Districts.

Building a Better Wisconsin was the 8th highest independent spender.

Sierra Club Wisconsin PAC

(Independent Spending: $2,318)

The Sierra Club, a pro-environment membership organization with a major focus on lobbying, has been active in the last two election cycles spending several thousand dollars on independent ads and mailings. It has also done phony "issue ads" and was a party to the Wisconsin Supreme Court case concerning ads which ran during the 1996 campaign. It is very active nationally with "issue ads" in presidential races.

It has registered in support of and in opposition to 6 candidates but reported independent expenditures on only two races, the 10th and 32nd Senate District.

Sierra Club Wisconsin was the 15th highest independent spender.

Project Vote Informed

(Independent spending: $116,202)

This group appears to be a reincarnation of The Teddy Roosevelt Fund, a Super-PAC that used Republican Party of Wisconsin money to do independent spending in opposition to Democratic assembly candidates in 1998. Project Vote Informed used the same post office box number as The Teddy Roosevelt Fund and its treasurer is Todd Rongstad, also head of the Alliance for a Working Wisconsin. In 1998, the Teddy Roosevelt Fund’s treasurer was his sister Tami Rongstad. Project Vote Informed specializes in highly negative attacks, late in the campaign, using such inflammatory language as "wife beater" and "child killer." In 2000 it used radio ads and mailings to contact voters.

This group did not register with the state Elections Board until after the deadline for the pre-election campaign finance report and did not file any required reports of contributions received during the election period and was eventually fined $5,500 by the State Elections Board for campaign finance law violations. It was subsequently learned that $145,000 of Project Vote Informed’s $147,000 in contributions came from the state Republican party, the remaining $2,000 from TDS Telecom State PAC. Recent stories in Madison’s Wisconsin State Journal provide evidence that the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee, a taxpayer funded legislative body, assisted Project Vote Informed in its production and distribution of ads. At least $14,000 of Project Vote Informed’s money went to Rongstad’s political consulting firm The Valkyrie Group.

Project Vote Informed ran ads favoring -- and, more frequently, attacking opponents of -- Republican candidates in the 1st, 5th, 28th, 34th, 35th, 36th, 70th, 87th, 88th, 90th, and 95th Assembly Districts. Project Vote Informed was the 5th highest independent spender.

NRA Political Victory Fund

(Independent Spending: $25,214)

The NRA Political Victory Fund is the political arm of the National Rifle Association. It operates out of Fairfax, Virginia. It has been active in Wisconsin state elections in the past and in 1998 spent more than $40,000.

It reported independent spending in support of candidates -- all incumbents except for three open seat candidates -- in the 26th, 32nd, 34th, 39th, 47th, 56th, 69th, 79th, 83rd, 87th, 94th and 96th Assembly Districts.

NRA Political Victory Fund was the 9th highest independent spender.

Concerned Business and Industry

(Independent Spending: $24,998)

This political action committee is associated with the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. WMC does its reported independent spending through this group. However, its activities are minimal compared with the massive spending WMC does through its phony "issue ads."

It reported spending in support of Republican candidates in the 10th, 30th and 32nd Senate Districts and the 34th Assembly.

Concerned Business and Industry was the 10th highest independent spender.

Wisconsin Nurses Association PAC or WIN PAC

(Independent Spending: $6,589)

This political action committee is sponsored by the Wisconsin Nurses Association, an organization representing registered nurses in Wisconsin. While this PAC makes contributions to candidates, it has rarely done so in the last three general elections, contributing only a total of $300. In the 1996 election, it made $4,905 in independent expenditures.

Inactive in the 1998 election, in the 2000 campaign, it spent only nominal sums on 88 of the 115 legislative races, usually in support of the incumbent -- where there was one.

Districts in which Wisconsin Nurses Association favored the challenger were the 30th Senate, 28th, 31st, 36th, 37th, 67th, 83rd, and 86th Assembly Districts.

Wisconsin Nurses Association was the twelfth highest independent spender.

Fond du Lac PAC

(2000 Independent Spending: $173)

This is the political action committee of the Fond du Lac Area Association of Commerce. It spent in support of the Republican candidates in two area races, Senate District 18 and Assembly District 52.

In 2000 Fond du Lac PAC was the 21st highest spender.

Wisconsin Hunters Association

(2000 Independent Spending: $290)

A sportsmen’s organization, all of its spending was in support of the successful Republican challenger in Senate District 10.

In 2000 the Wisconsin Hunters Assocation was the 20th highest spender.