October 10, 2018
Reported election spending by special interest groups totaled about $13.7 million in the governor’s race, where Republican groups are outspending their Democratic counterparts by nearly 8 to 1.
GOP express advocacy groups have spent more than $11.7 million to support Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s bid for a third four-year term. Democratic groups that report their spending doled out about $1.5 million to support Democrat Tony Evers, according to reports filed with the state as of Friday morning.
Express advocacy groups sponsor broadcast ads and mailings that use the magic words “vote for” or “vote against” or their equivalents.
Four groups are backing Walker or opposing Evers. The rightwing, Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity reported spending nearly $5.5 million, followed by the Republican Governors Association, which spent more than $5.3 million through its Right Direction Wisconsin PAC. The National Rifle Association (NRA) has spent about $819,500 and the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation has doled out about $112,300 to support Walker.
The $1.5 million in reported outside support for Evers came from 10 groups. They were mostly labor unions or Democratic ideological groups, including Greater Wisconsin, For Our Future, Service Employees International Union, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, NextGen Climate Action, Planned Parenthood, Center for Popular Democracy, End Citizens United, American Federation of Teachers, and Voces de la Frontera.
The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which profiles special interest electioneering activities and spending in legislative and statewide races, found express advocacy group spending in all legislative and statewide races totaled about $17.5 million as of Friday morning. Overall, Republican groups were outspending Democratic groups about 4 to 1, according to their reports.
The WDC review of outside spending does not include unreported spending by phony issue ad groups, which smear or praise candidates without explicitly telling viewers who to vote for or against. Seven issue ad groups – five Republican and two Democratic – are also spending millions of dollars in Wisconsin’s legislative and statewide races.
Those phony issue ad groups are Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, Americans for Prosperity, Greater Wisconsin Committee, Democratic Governors Association, Republican State Leadership Committee, Wisconsin Alliance for Reform, and Wisconsin Firearms Owners.