Hijacking Special Elections and Recall 2011 - Information on the Greater Wisconsin Committee

Hijacking Special Elections and Recall 2011

Greater Wisconsin Committee

Posted: March 21, 2011
Updated: January 16, 2014

Estimated Spending: $1.8 million

The Greater Wisconsin Committee is a Madison-based phony issue ad group that spent an estimated $13.5 million in Wisconsin’s fall and spring elections to support Democratic candidates for statewide office and the legislature and nonpartisan candidates in Wisconsin Supreme Court races between 2006 and 2010.

Most of the Greater Wisconsin Committee’s financial support comes from organized labor and Democratic ideological groups supported by wealthy business interests.  The group operates four entities – a political action committee and a corporate arm that makes independent expenditures as well as a phony issue ad group and a 527 group called the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund.

Most of Greater Wisconsin’s outside electioneering activities consist of negative broadcast ads, but much of its fundraising and spending for those activities does not have to be disclosed to the public.

The committee sponsored two ads in late July 2011 condemning incumbent Republican Senator Luther Olsen of Ripon.  One ad said Olsen had "the wrong priorities for our families" because he supported GOP Governor Scott Walker's state budget which cut $800 million in state aid to public schools and gave $200 million in tax exemptions to corporations and wealthy individuals.  Another ad accused Olsen of endangering families by opposing policies to restrict or regulate cyanide, mercury and other kinds of water pollution.

Greater Wisconsin also sponsored an ad supporting incumbent Democratic Senator Jim Holperin of Conover, saying he supported policies important to northern Wisconsin's economy, including create jobs and preserve state aid for public schools and job training programs.

In March, Greater Wisconsin sponsored television ads attacking five other Republican state senators who also were targeted for recall elections by organized labor and their supporters.  The ads, which were virtually identical, criticized Senators Alberta Darling of suburban Milwaukee, Robert Cowles of Green Bay, Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls, Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac and Dan Kapanke of La Crosse.  The six senators were targeted for recalls because they voted to strip Wisconsin’s public employee unions of most of their collective bargaining rights with state and local governments. The measure was part of Republican Governor Scott Walker’s budget repair bill.  The ads said Walker and the senators abolished collective bargaining rights in a “backroom maneuver,” and that Walker’s proposed 2011-13 state budget assailed middle class families with its cuts of hundreds of millions of dollars to public schools and elderly health care programs.

Greater Wisconsin also sponsored mailings in mid-July attacking Cowles and Kapanke.  The anti-Kapanke flyer said the senator supports Walker's anti-middle class agenda which cut $800 million from public education in favor of preserving or creating tax breaks for big business and wealthy individuals.

Kapanke and Hopper were defeated in the recall elections.

For information on the organization's independent expenditure activity see the Greater Wisconsin Commitee PAC and the Greater Wisconsin Political Independent Expenditure Fund.

Last active election: Supreme Court 2011