Corporate Contributions Totaled Nearly $1.7M in 2018 to State Parties, Legislative Campaign Committees

February 4, 2019

The state Democratic and Republican parties and four legislative fundraising committees accepted nearly $1.7 million in corporate contributions in 2018, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign preliminary review found.

The state GOP and the two Republican legislative fundraising committees accepted nearly $1.4 million in corporate contributions, or 83 percent. The state Democratic Party and the two Democratic legislative campaign committees accepted nearly $300,000 in corporate contributions, or 17 percent of the contributions.

The parties and committees and the amount of corporate contributions they collected in 2018 were:

Republican Assembly Campaign Committee, $496,950

Committee to Elect a Republican Senate, $476,200

Republican Party of Wisconsin, about $416,600

State Senate Democratic Committee, $167,550

Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee, $103,150

Democratic Party of Wisconsin, $17,750

The corporate contributions came from business, union, tribal and trade associations representing a wide array of special interests, including business, real estate, manufacturing, tourism, energy, construction, and telecommunications. The top corporate contributors to the parties and committees in 2018 were:

Charter Communications, St. Louis, MO, $52,000 to the four legislative campaign committees and both state parties.

Herzog, St. Joseph, MO, a transportation contractor, $48,000. Four divisions of the company each made $12,000 contributions to the state GOP.

Kwik Trip, La Crosse, WI, $43,000 to the four legislative campaign committees.

Wisconsin Beer Distributors Association, Madison, WI, $40,000 to the four legislative campaign committees.

Altria Client Services, Richmond, VA, a tobacco manufacturer, $39,659 to the four legislative campaign committees and the state GOP.

Corporate contributions were allowed for the first time in 2016 under sweeping changes to state campaign finance laws by the GOP-controlled legislature and former Republican Gov. Scott Walker. For more than 100 years prior to this, corporate contributions were illegal.

State campaign finance laws now allow corporate contributions of up to $12,000 a year to each party and legislative campaign committee with segregated funds for the money. The law prohibits the parties and committees from using corporate contributions for direct contributions to candidates or for express advocacy in a political campaign.

At nearly $1.7 million, corporation contributions in 2018 were the highest yet. Corporate contributions totaled more than $1 million in 2017 and $1.3 million in 2016.