Influence Peddler of the Month – High Ground Political Fund

February 1, 2019

This new outside electioneering group, which shares the same Milwaukee address as a political consultant and aide to two former Democratic governors, spent more than $700,000 on Wisconsin legislative races last fall.

High Ground Political Fund made first-time independent expenditures totaling $715,480 in six state Senate races. Some these races were targeted by several Democratic and Republican special interest groups because Democrats saw a chance to narrow or upend the GOP’s 18-15 majority at the time.

High Ground spent all of its money to pay for digital advertising that either supported the Democratic candidates or opposed the Republican candidates, including:

$166,550 in suburban Milwaukee’s 5 th Senate District where Republican Dale Kooyenga defeated Democrat Julie Henszey;

$164,110 in southwestern Wisconsin’s 17 th Senate District where Republican Howard Marklein beat Democrat Kriss Marion;

$146,670 in eastern Wisconsin’s 1 st Senate District where Republican Andre Jacque defeated Democrat Caleb Frostman;

$118,400 in central Wisconsin’s 19 th Senate District where Republican Roger Roth defeated Democrat Lee Snodgrass;

$77,320 in western Wisconsin’s 31 st Senate District where Democrat Jeff Smith beat Republican Mel Pittman;

$42,430 in west-central Wisconsin’s 23 rd Senate District where Republican Kathy Bernier defeated Democrat Chris Kapsner.

High Ground’s election spending was funded by two contributions totaling $810,000 in September and October from a federal SuperPAC called PACRONYM.

PACRONYM raised $2.4 million and spent $2.3 million in the 2017-18 election cycle, according to Federal Election Commission records. The SuperPAC’s largest contributor, at $2 million, was another new national Democratic group called the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, headed by former Attorney General Eric Holder, which spent $225,000 in Wisconsin state elections last year.

High Ground Political Fund has the same address as Nation Consulting, a campaign consulting and lobbying firm headed by Thad Nation. Nation was an aide to former Democratic Govs. Jim Doyle in Wisconsin and Frank O’Bannon in Indiana.

Since January 2010, employees of Nation Consulting have contributed about $36,900 to legislative and statewide candidates – all Democrats.

High Ground’s treasurer is John Zapfel, who is also the political director for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 494 in Milwaukee. Zapfel has also worked for Doyle as well as former Democratic U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin and Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele.

IBEW Local 494’s PAC has doled out almost $83,000 in contributions since January 2010 to legislative and statewide candidates – all Democrats.