2019 Supreme Court Race Cost Record $8.2 Million+

July 17, 2019

Candidates and outside special interest groups spent a record of more than $8.2 million in last spring’s Wisconsin Supreme Court race, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review found.

The two candidates combined to spend a record $3.7 million, according to campaign finance reports filed this week. Candidate Lisa Neubauer led spending at just over $2 million – the first time a high court candidate has exceeded $2 million in spending. Brian Hagedorn, who won the April 2 contest for a 10-year seat on the high court, spent nearly $1.7 million – the second largest amount spent by a candidate in a state Supreme Court race.

Neubauer and Hagedorn spent nearly $1 million more than the previous record of more than $2.7 million spent by the candidates in the 2018 Supreme Court race.

About 20 outside groups doled out more than $4.5 million. Outside groups that backed Neubauer spent nearly $2.9 million and groups that supported Hagedorn doled out nearly $1.7 million (see table below ). Neubauer drew support from Democratic contributors and groups, and Hagedorn was backed by Republican and conservative contributors and groups in the so-called nonpartisan contest.

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 nearly $2.3 million on disclosed independent expenditures and undisclosed issue ads. The group mostly used television and online advertising to attack Hagedorn. Greater Wisconsin supports Democrats in statewide and legislative partisan elections.

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 GOP candidates in partisan legislative elections nationwide and conservative candidates in state judicial races across the country.

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.

Special Interest Group Spending in the 2019 Wisconsin Supreme Court Race

NamePartisan LeaningAmount
Greater Wisconsin Committee and Greater Wisconsin Political Fund D $2,275,000
Republican State Leadership Committee R $1,245,572
Americans for Prosperity R $291,755
For Our Future D $161,204
Service Employees International Union Committee on Political Education and SEIU State Council D $142,046
Planned Parenthood D $123,695
Wisconsin Conservation Voters D $100,000
Center for Popular Democracy D $50,180
Midwest Growth Fund R $46,017
American Majority Action R $27,417
Wisconsin Family Action R $27,402
FreedomWorks for America – Wisconsin R $26,220
Susan B. Anthony List R $11,000
Leaders Igniting Transformation Action Fund D $8,053
Wisconsin Right to Life R $5,346
Voces de la Frontera D $4,747
Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) Region 6 PAC and Region 7 PAC D $58
TOTAL $4,545,712