State Donors Gave $24 Million to Fed Campaigns

Wisconsin residents contributed $23.96 million to federal candidates, parties, political action committees and unregulated groups in the 2003-04 election cycle, including $1.2 million to congressional candidates outside the state, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analysis shows. State Donors Gave $24 Million to Fed Campaigns

Well-heeled donors send $1.2 million to out-of-state candidates

March 28, 2005

Madison -

More than a quarter of Wisconsin contributions - $6.4 million - went to federal party committees and another $6 million went to U.S. Senate candidates, including $727,599 to 102 candidates in races outside Wisconsin.

Wisconsin donors also gave $3.56 million to U.S. House candidates, including $476,367 to 233 candidates around the country.

Fifteen presidential candidates also received $3.56 million from Wisconsin contributors. President George Bush received just shy of $2 million, which was more than all of the nine Democratic and five independent or third party candidates received. Democratic candidate John Kerry followed Bush with $1.13 million in Wisconsin contributions.

Federal PACs received $2.66 million and unregulated 527 groups, which are named for the Internal Revenue Service code that governs them, received $1.8 million from Wisconsin contributors.

Overall, Wisconsin contributors to federal campaigns and committees gave substantially more to Republican candidates and groups than to Democratic candidates and groups - $12.8 million versus $8.31 million. This total excludes the $2.66 million in Wisconsin contributions to federal PACs because many PACs support both Republican and Democratic candidates. Independent and third party candidates and committees received $208,167.

In the 2000 election cycle, federal contributions from Wisconsin totaled $10.8 million. This does not include Wisconsin contributions to federal PACs or to non-Wisconsin House and Senate candidates, for which figures were unavailable for the 2000 election cycle. A comparable figure for the 2004 election cycle is $20.1 million, or 87 percent more than for the 2000 election cycle.

Among the top party committee recipients of Wisconsin contributions were the Republican National Committee at $2.1 million, the National Republican Congressional Committee at $1.2 million and the Democratic National Committee at $876,785.

More than one-third of the $6 million in contributions to U.S. Senate candidates went to Democratic incumbent Russell Feingold who received $2.15 million, followed by Republican challenger Tim Michels who received $1.33 million.

Wisconsin donors gave $727,599 to Senate candidates in other states, including high-profile or targeted races. Wisconsin residents sent $135,400 to South Dakota where Republican challenger John Thune, who received $99,200, defeated incumbent Democratic Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, who received $36,200 from Wisconsin contributors.

Wisconsinites also sent $42,600 to candidates in a heated Republican primary in Pennsylvania where GOP Congressman Patrick Toomey unsuccessfully challenged incumbent U.S. Senator Arlen Specter in a showdown between party conservatives and moderates. Toomey got $30,850 and Specter $11,750 in Wisconsin contributions.

Many of the contributions to out-of-state candidates came from well-heeled Wisconsin donors, including:

  • Terry and Mary Kohler of Sheboygan, owners of Windway Capital and long time backers of conservative Republican candidates, contributed $77,400 to out-of-state candidates;
  • Lynde Uihlein of Milwaukee, heiress to the Schlitz Brewing and Allen-Bradley fortunes and a long time supporter of Democratic candidates, contributed $20,500 to non-Wisconsin candidates;
  • Gary Comer of Waukesha, the retired founder of Land’s End, who contributed $21,500 to both Republican and Democratic out-of-state candidates;
  • Herbert V. Kohler Jr. of Kohler, owner of the Kohler Company, who contributed $32,500 to out-of-state Republican candidates;
  • Grant Abert of Hillpoint, a retired investor who supports Democratic candidates contributed $17,750 to non-Wisconsin candidates;
  • Roger Hoffman of Madison, a self-employed financier who supports Republican candidates, contributed $15,750 to out-of-state candidates.

Topping the list of recipients of Wisconsin contributions to U.S. House candidates was incumbent Mark Green, a Green Bay Republican with his eye on the 2006 race for governor, who received $410,556 followed by Matthew Flynn, an unsuccessful Democratic primary candidate for the 4th Congressional seat in Milwaukee, who received $391,871 from Wisconsin contributors.

Wisconsin contributions to federal PACs included $167,029 to America Coming Together’s PAC for education and lobbying activities which is distinct from contributions to its 527 fund for electioneering activities, $126,952 to the National Association of Home Builders PAC and $106,330 to the National Beer Wholesalers Association PAC.

527 groups, like America Coming Together and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, can accept and spend unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations, unions and others to pay for negative broadcast advertising, direct mailings and voter registration drives.

Wisconsin residents contributed $1.8 million to 39 527 groups in 2003-04 (see Table 1). Top recipients included America Coming Together which got $246,955, the Laborers’ Political League Education Fund which received $233,147 and the Republican Governors Association which received $215,065.

Wisconsin contributions to 527s were split almost evenly between Republican-leaning groups which received $849,091 and Democratic-leaning groups which received $832,685. Two 527 groups that did not appear to have a partisan leaning received $116,550.

Like contributions to out-of-state candidates, most 527 contributions from Wisconsin flowed from a handful of well-heeled donors. There were 650 Wisconsin donors to 527s during the two-year cycle, but only 20, or 3 percent of them, accounted for nearly $1.3 million or 70 percent of all contributions.

Top 527 donors included (see Table 2) the Wisconsin Laborers District Council which contributed $268,147. Lynde Uihlein contributed $226,000 to America Coming Together, the League of Conservation Voters and Emily’s List, and Terry and Mary Kohler of Sheboygan and their company contributed $161,674 mostly to GOPAC and the Club for Growth which are pro-Republican 527s.

Table 1  
Wisconsin Contributions To 527 Committees 2003 - 2004

527 Committee Contributions
America Coming Together - Nonfederal Account $246,955
Laborers Political League Education Fund $233,147
Republican Governors Association $215,065
College Republican National Committee $193,520
Democratic Governors Association $175,550
Club for Growth $170,150
GOPAC $139,024
Committee for Milwaukee’s Future $115,000
Swift Boat Veterans for Truth $68,700
League of Conservation Voters $50,000
Emily’s List Non-federal $41,500
Ironworkers Political Education Fund $22,499 Voter Fund $16,325
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Political Action Fund $15,211
Republican State Leadership Committee $15,102
IBEW Educational Committee $14,282
National Association of Mutual Insurance Cos. Administrative Fund $13,000
Republican Leadership Coalition $10,500
New Democrat Network Non-federal Account $8,419
National Federation of Republican Women $5,820
Progress for America Voter Fund $3,650
Republican National Lawyers $3,500
Citizen Leader Coalition $3,410
Americans for Life $3,150
NJDC Victory Fund $2,625
Americans United to Preserve Marriage $2,500
Professional Insurance Agents PAC Non-Federal $1,550
Democrats for America’s Future $1,350
American Bakers Association Political Education $1,100
Voters for Choice Non-federal $1,000
Democratic Majority PAC $1,000
Texans for Truth $750
Environment2004 $722
Win Back Respect $650
South Dakotans for a Responsible Government $500
American Dental PAC Education Fund $400
Democrats 2000 $300
NEA Fund for Children and Public Education $200
Planned Parenthood Votes $200
TOTAL $1,798,326

Table 2
Wisconsin Contributors* To 527 Organizations 2003 - 2004

Contributor Location Amount
Wisconsin Laborers District Council Madison
Lynde Uihlein Milwaukee
Terry & Mary Kohler** Sheboygan
Johnson Controls Milwaukee
Chris Abele Milwaukee
Miller Brewing Milwaukee
Wisconsin Citizen Action Madison
Kohl’s Milwaukee
Credit Union National Association Madison
Joyce B Heinrich Watertown
Wisconsin Energy Milwaukee
Citizens for Wisconsin’s Future Black River Falls
Fred Young Racine
Ironworkers Local 383 Madison
San Orr Wausau
Wisconsin Insurance Alliance Madison
Wisconsin Public Service Green Bay
Joe E Richardson II Oostburg
Dorothy Kuettner Oshkosh
Johnson Diversey Sturtevant
Operating Engineers Local 139 PAC Madison
Launa & Ralph Stayer Fond du Lac
Lena B Federman Baraboo
Service Employees International Local 150 Milwaukee
Joan R Robertson Milwaukee
Risk Management Planning LLC Wild Rose
Grant D Abert Hillpoint
Direct Supply Milwaukee
Daniel E Meehan Fox Point
Martin Cmeckly Jr Kohler
Glen Oak Lumber & Milling Montello
Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin Oneida
Judith & Gordon Faulkner Madison

*Table shows those who contributed a total of $10,000 or more in 2003-04.
**Includes contributions from their company.