2018 Wisconsin Supreme Court Race Topped $5.5M

July 20, 2018

Candidates in last spring’s Wisconsin Supreme Court race and the outside electioneering groups that praised or smeared them spent more than $5.5 million, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review found.

A dozen outside groups spent $2.8 million and the three candidates in the races spent a total of $2.73 million, according to final reports filed earlier this week.

Candidate spending was led by Rebecca Dallet, who won the April 3 contest for a 10-year seat on the high court. She spent about $1.27 million to defeat Michael Screnock, who spent about $1.07 million. Primary challenger Tim Burns spent about $394,000.

Outside special interest groups that backed Dallet spent nearly $1.4 million and groups that supported Screnock spent more than $1.4 million (see table below). Throughout the officially nonpartisan race, Dallet drew support from traditional Democratic contributors and groups, and Screnock was backed by traditional Republican and conservative contributors and groups.

The spending on behalf of Screnock does not include about $470,000 in state and local Republican Party support because most of this spending was in-kind contributions by the state GOP to his campaign.

Topping the list of outside spenders in the 2018 election was Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), the state’s largest business group, which secretly raised and spent an estimated $1,225,000 on issue ads to support Screnock and attack Dallet.

Behind WMC was the Greater Wisconsin Committee, which spent about $940,000 to support Dallet and attack Screnock. Greater Wisconsin spent about $274,952 on disclosed independent expenditures and more than $665,000 on undisclosed issue ads.

For more details about the groups and their spending, check out the Democracy Campaign’s Hijacking Campaign 2018 or click on the links in the table below.

Outside group spending in the previous eight Wisconsin Supreme Court races since spring 2007 has ranged from $171,000 to a record $4.8 million.

 

Special Interest Group Spending in the 2018 Wisconsin Supreme Court Race

NamePartisan LeaningAmount
Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce R $1,225,000
Greater Wisconsin Committee and Greater Wisconsin Political Fund D $941,652
National Democratic Redistricting Committee D $165,000
For Our Future D $157,801
Wisconsin Alliance for Reform R $125,000
High Ground Action Fund D $90,000
NRA Political Victory Fund R $44,160
Center for Popular Democracy Action D $34,711
Americans for Prosperity R $12,694
American Majority Action R $10,779
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin D $500
WEAC Region 6 PAC D $151
TOTAL $2,807,448