Special Interests Doled Out $4.3M in Wisconsin Supreme Court Race

April 10, 2019

Special interest groups spent nearly $4.3 million on outside electioneering activities leading up to last week’s Wisconsin Supreme Court election, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review found.

The April 2 race saw Appeals Court Judge Brian Hagedorn defeat fellow Appeals Judge Lisa Neubauer, though outside groups for her outspent those for Hagedorn. Neubauer drew support from Democratic contributors and groups, and Hagedorn was supported by Republican and conservative contributors and groups in the so-called nonpartisan contest.

Outside groups that backed Neubauer spent an estimated $2.7 million and groups that supported Hagedorn doled out nearly $1.6 million (see table below).

Outside group spending in previous Wisconsin Supreme Court elections since spring 2007 has ranged from $0 to a record $4.8 million.

Topping the list of outside spenders in the 2019 election was the Greater Wisconsin Committee (GWC), which spent an estimated $2.1 million, mostly on television and online advertising to attack Hagedorn. Greater Wisconsin, which supports Democratic and liberal statewide and legislative candidates in partisan elections, spent about $906,000 on disclosed independent expenditures and an estimated $1.2 million on undisclosed issue ads.

Behind GWC was the Republican State Leadership Committee, which spent more than $1.2 million, mostly on broadcast and online advertising and robocalls to support Hagedorn and attack Neubauer. This group generally supports conservative and GOP candidates in partisan legislative elections nationwide, but has backed conservative candidates in state judicial races in recent years.

For more details about the groups and their spending, check out the Democracy Campaign’s Hijacking Campaign 2019 or click on the links in the table below. To see the latest information about the candidates’ fundraising and spending, go here.

A report on the total cost of the race will be available later this summer when Hagedorn and Neubauer file their final fundraising and spending reports for the race.

Special Interest Group Spending in the 2019 Wisconsin Supreme Court Race

NamePartisan LeaningAmount
Greater Wisconsin Committee and Greater Wisconsin Political Fund D $2,100,000
Republican State Leadership Committee R $1,245,572
Americans for Prosperity R $206,263
For Our Future D $161,204
Service Employees International Union Committee on Political Education and SEIU State Council D $145,298
Planned Parenthood D $123,695
Wisconsin Conservation Voters D $100,000
Center for Popular Democracy D $50,180
Midwest Growth Fund R $46,017
Wisconsin Family Action R $27,402
FreedomWorks for America – Wisconsin R $26,220
American Majority Action R $16,109
Susan B. Anthony List R $11,000
Wisconsin Right to Life R $8,883
Leaders Igniting Transformation Action Fund D $8,053
Voces de la Frontera D $4,747
Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) Region 6 PAC D $17
TOTAL $4,280,660