Legislators Raised $2 Million in Large Donations from Special Interests During Budget

November 22, 2019

Current legislators and legislative fundraising committees accepted $2 million in special interest group contributions during the first half of 2019 when they were considering the proposed 2019-21 state budget.

Majority Republicans hauled in twice as much special interest cash as their Democratic colleagues – more than $1.3 million, or 67 percent, versus nearly $665,000, or 33 percent by Democratic legislators, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review found.

The state budget is the most important bill the legislature considers, and the only legislative bill that must pass in some form. With that in mind, powerful and savvy special interests often press to have as much of their legislative wish lists as possible inserted into the budget bill.

The budget, which was proposed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, was considered and substantially amended by Republicans, who control the Assembly 63-36 and the Senate 19-14, before going back to Evers for his final OK.

The large individual, political action committee (PAC) and corporate contributions came from about two dozen special interest groups, including business, manufacturing, health care, construction, real estate, labor, insurance, and agriculture. Large individual contributions are contributions of $100 or more. Small donor contributions under $100 are not included.

The top recipients of these special interest contributions during the first six months of 2019 were:

Republican Assembly Campaign Committee, $381,944

Committee to Elect a Republican Senate, $309,105

Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee, $188,019

State Senate Democratic Committee, $193,498

Democratic Rep. Tip McGuire, of Kenosha, $144,482

The four legislative campaign committees cited above are used by Assembly and Senate leaders to milk special interests for contributions to spend on legislative elections. McGuire was newly elected in an April special election to fill the seat formerly held by Democratic Rep. Peter Barca, of Kenosha, who left the Assembly to become Evers’ revenue secretary.