Hijacking Campaign 2009
Updated: July 22, 2011
Groups that made issue ads during the 2009 campaigns for Wisconsin Supreme Court and Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Estimated Spending: $25,000
Americans for Prosperity is a conservative, anti-tax group that wants the size of government cut. It was created in 2003 with money from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. The Koch family’s fortune was made in the oil and gas business.
The group’s state director is Mark Block who was a top fundraiser for former Republican President George Bush. Block instigated a scheme to illegally funnel money into the 1997 reelection campaign of former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Jon Wilcox from wealthy, out-of-state backers of Milwaukee’s school voucher program. Block, who was Wilcox’s campaign manager, was later fined $15,000 and banned from consulting and working for state campaigns until 2004.
Americans for Prosperity sponsored a phony issue ad about a week before the 2009 spring elections. Its 60-second radio ad supported state school superintendent candidate Rose Fernandez who is facing deputy school superintendent Tony Evers on April 7 for the four-year post. The ad touted Fernandez because she said she wanted to overhaul standards to improve education without raising taxes. Fernandez believes “great teachers should earn more while bad teachers are shown the door,” the ad said.
In February 2006 the group teamed with Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s largest business lobby, to sponsor issue ads urging limits on how much state and local governments and school districts can raise taxes without a referendum.
Past issue ad activity: 2006
Estimated Spending: $200,000
Advancing Wisconsin is a Madison-based group organized in 2008 to campaign on behalf of Democratic candidates for state and local offices. The group distributed fliers door-to-door in the 2009 nonpartisan spring elections on behalf of state school superintendent Tony Evers and incumbent
Advancing Wisconsin flier for Abrahamson and Evers.
In the 2008 November elections, the group used several hundred volunteers in a statewide door-to-door campaign on behalf of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and spent nearly $243,000 on behalf of Democratic candidates in 26 legislative races.
Past Independent Expenditures: 2008
Estimated Spending: $465,000
This Milwaukee-based phony issue ad group was organized in 2004 to support Democratic candidates for statewide office and the legislature. Most of its cash comes from labor unions and Democratic-leaning ideological groups that are supported by contributions from big business.
The Greater Wisconsin Committee refuses to disclose how much it raises and spends on electioneering activities which mostly consist of negative television and radio ads about Republican candidates. However, the Democracy Campaign estimates the committee spent about $5.85 million on phony issue ad activity in the 2008 and 2006 general elections and another $1.85 million in the 2007 and 2008 races for Wisconsin Supreme Court.
The group sponsored two 30-second television ads within two weeks of the April 7 contest between incumbent Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and her challenger Jefferson County Circuit Judge Randy Koschnick.
The Greater Wisconsin Committee’s first ad (via WisPolitics.com) was launched about two weeks before the election. The ad praised Abrahamson for decisions that protected people harmed by bad medical care or injured by dangerous or shoddy products. The ad concluded by accusing Koschnick of rulings in favor of big business and wealthy special interests.
The second ad released a few days before the election praised Abrahamson as a nationally recognized judge and panned Koschnick as a judge whose decisions are frequently overturned by higher courts. “Even his decision on a traffic ticket was incorrect,” the ad says.