Greater Wisconsin Political Independent Expenditure Fund
Posted: December 29, 2011
Updated: January 14, 2014
This is a corporation created in 2010 to make independent expenditures and an affiliate of a group most commonly known as the Greater Wisconsin Committee. Greater Wisconsin, which discloses little of its fundraising, gets the bulk of its cash from labor unions and Democratic ideological groups that are also supported by wealthy business interests.
Greater Wisconsin's entities, which also include a political action committee, an issue ad group and a 527 organization, collectively spent an estimated $24.25 million on independent expenditures and phony issue ads between 2006 and June 2012 in partisan and nonpartisan elections, backing Democrats in the former case. This spending includes an estimated $10.75 million in the 2011 and 2012 recall elections involving the governor, lieutenant governor and 13 state Senate seats. The recall elections were a response to passage of Republican Governor Scott Walker's 2011 plan to slash public employee collective bargaining rights.
Greater Wisconsin corporation spent more than $1.2 million to support Democrats in 10 Assembly races and two Senate contests. The bulk of the group's spending - just over $1 million - from mid-September onward was for television and online advertising in the targeted Senate 18th and 30th District races.
The group sponsored a 30-second television ad in early October against Republican challenger Rick Gudex in the 18th Senate District. The ad claimed Gudex's policies would have negative impacts on women's health and reproductive rights. Another ad accused Gudex of opposing common forms of birth control and emergency contraception for rape victims and supporting restrictions on stem cell research.
After recall petition efforts began against Walker, Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and four state senators, and before recall elections had been approved, Greater Wisconsin reportedly spent $800,000 in December 2011 to air three versions of a television ad featuring interviews with people identified as teachers, parents and grandparents who said Walker slashed state aid to education and hurt the quality of Wisconsin's public schools in order to pay for tax cuts and other breaks for corporations and wealthy special interests. At least one version of the ad ran in the Green Bay and Wausau areas.
A week before the June 5, 2012 recall elections, the corporation had spent more than $3 million - nearly all of it on television advertising largely in the Eau Claire/La Crosse, Green Bay and Wausau television markets.
Greater Wisconsin sponsored a 30-second television ad that claimed Walker deceived Wisconsin by slashing state aid to public education and then giving $1billion in tax breaks to large corporations, and that he was not forthcoming when asked about a secret John Doe probe by the Milwaukee County district attorney into activities during his stint as Milwaukee County executive.
The group also sponsored ads - here and here - that attacked Walker for Wisconsin being last among the 50 states in job creation since he took office and for cutting health care programs that serve poor, elderly and disabled state residents.
Greater Wisconsin also sponsored a 30-second ad that criticized Republican Senator Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls for supporting cuts to health care and education while people continue to struggle to find jobs. Moulton's is one of four GOP Senate seats that also face recall elections June 5. Another 30-second ad attacked GOP Senator Van Wanggaard of Racine, another recall target, for supporting big tax cuts, big corporations and big donors at the expense of state aid to education.
Days before the election, the 527 group sponsored a mailing to some residents in Stoughton, Janesville, Madison and other parts of Wisconsin that drew fire because it identified whether the recipients and their neighbors voted in the 2010 and 2008 general elections and urged people to contact their neighbors and tell them to vote in the recall elections. The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board released a statement in response to the large number of complaints received on this mailer.
Last active election: Recall 2011
This organization is registered with the Government Accountability Board following the January 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC as a corporation making independent disbursements.