Reported Outside Electioneering at $24M Led by GOP Groups

October 24, 2018

Spending by GOP outside electioneering groups outpaced Democratic groups about 2.5 to 1 as reported spending by special interests in the fall elections neared $24 million.

Republican express advocacy groups have doled out $17.3 million compared to $6.6 million by Democratic groups, according to reports filed by the groups as of Wednesday morning.

Express advocacy groups sponsored broadcast and online advertising, mailings and other electioneering activities that use the magic words “vote for” or “vote against” or their equivalents.

A Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review of the reports showed the vast majority of the outside spending – about $17 million - was in the governor’s race, where GOP Gov. Scott Walker is vying for a third four-year term against Democrat Tony Evers.

By office, reported outside spending topped $3.4 million in 32 of the 116 legislative races on the Nov. 6 ballot. The state attorney general’s race has drawn $3.3 million in outside spending.

Five corporations and committees, including two controlled by one organization, have topped $1 million in reported spending. They are:

Republican Governors Association has spent a total of $7.3 million using two entities, Right Direction Wisconsin PAC and ACC Wisconsin PAC. The association is a 527 group that raises and spends unlimited amounts of money from any source in order to elect GOP governors across the country. Previously the association spent an estimated $18.4 million to help Walker in his 2010, 2012, and 2014 elections.

Americans for Prosperity has spent nearly $5.8 million. Most of its spending, more than $5.5 million, has been on TV advertising to back Walker. The remainder, about $237,400, has been spent on Republican candidates in a dozen state Assembly and Senate races.

Wisconsin Freedom PAC has spent nearly $2.3 million. The PAC is being used by the Republican Attorneys General Association to support GOP Attorney General Brad Schimel’s reelection. Schimel faces Democrat Josh Kaul. The association, which is also a 527 group, raises and spends money to elect state GOP attorney generals across the country.

Greater Wisconsin Political Independent Expenditure Fund has spent more than $1 million. This corporation is one of four entities used by the Greater Wisconsin Committee to elect Democratic candidates to state and local offices. The group spent nearly $877,800 in the governor’s race to back Evers and the remaining $147,240 to support Democratic Sen. Caleb Frostman, of Sturgeon Bay, in the 1 st Senate District.

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 the fall elections.

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.

For more information about the electioneering activities and spending by all of the outside groups involved in the fall legislative and statewide races, go to the Hijacking Campaign 2018 feature on the Democracy Campaign website.